The Best City Beaches
These urban beaches prove that some of the best can be found within city limits.
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Miami Beach, Miami
Unlike many cities, where urban beaches tend to be an afterthought, Miami Beach is one of the city’s top draws. The long, sandy stretch is comprised of South, Mid- and North Beach, and literally offers something for everyone. Scenesters still descend upon South Beach, but you can’t beat its location, hotel selection and spate of new restaurants. However, Mid-Beach, which resides between 23rd and 63rd streets, has become increasingly popular among trendsetters thanks to an influx of hip hotels and eateries. The Faena district, anchored by the Faena Hotel, is the latest buzzy attraction. Alternatively, escape the crowds altogether in North Beach, which extends to about 88th, without sacrificing the famed white sands and clear warm water.
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu
Waikiki Beach has become synonymous with Honolulu, and its popularity attracts tourists the world over. It’s perfect for those who want the convenience of city offerings, but less perfect when it comes to staking out a patch of sand. Luckily, Waikiki actually consists of numerous sections. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, named after the famed surfer, tends to be one of the most crowded parts, while the Fort DeRussy and San Souci beaches are less packed and more family friendly. If you care more about watersports, then Royal Hawaiian Beach is your best bet, where you can while away your days surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, or riding in an outrigger canoe.
Santa Monica State Beach, Los Angeles
Thanks to the Santa Monica Pier, odds are that you’ve seen this iconic beach on TV and film many times. It’s also on the map as the official end of the road for Route 66. But the beach is equally famous for being one of the most beautiful in the country, and with 3.5 miles of wide soft sand, there’s usually a good chance of securing a prime spot. Take advantage of the café and amenities at the Annenberg Community Beach House, from yoga classes to stand-up paddleboard rentals. Biking (or roller skating) along the boardwalk to Venice Beach is also de rigueur. Of course, make time to visit the Pier, complete with shops, dining, rides and the famous Ferris wheel.
Revere Beach, Boston
Unless you’re from the Boston area, you probably didn’t know that Revere Beach is the country’s oldest public beach. This National Historic Landmark was founded in 1896, and while technically not within city limits, it’s just five miles north. In fact, you can even catch the blue line train there. The long crescent-shaped beach has maintained its popularity throughout the years, but without the madding crowds. Come for the low-key vibe, stay for the promenade and food options. Don’t miss the annual sandcastle competition, which takes places at the end of July.
Mission Beach, San Diego
As with other climes that enjoy year-round sunshine, San Diego boasts about a dozen beaches that could vie for the title of best. However, Mission Beach offers more than a mile of white sand, along with a boardwalk and plentiful shopping and dining options. When you need a beach break, Belmont Park beckons with a roller coaster and other amusement park rides, plus wave-riding attractions. Of course, you can always take surf lessons from Mission Beach Surfing School, or learn how to stand-up paddleboard like a pro.
Jacob Riis Park, NYC
Though popular, “the people’s beach” is wide and long enough to accommodate the locals that throng here on the weekends. Part of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, getting here by ferry is half the fun. The rest of the fun happens thanks to the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, a recent addition to the scene that offers artisanal eats from the likes of Ample Hills Creamery and Bolivian Llama Party, boutique shopping and live music. This summer will bring new additions such as ping pong, meditation and yoga classes. The Beach Bazaar is also the place to fulfill any and all chair and umbrella rental needs.
Baker Beach, San Francisco
San Francisco’s temperatures rarely warm up to beach-going weather, but that doesn’t mean you should skip its picturesque beaches. In fact, iconic Baker Beach features not only a mile of smooth sand and picnic areas, but also spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to sweeping views of Lands End and the Marin Headlands, keep your eyes trained on the water and you might spot porpoises or sea lions. If you have children in tow, just a heads up that the northern section of this beach is popular among nudists. Also be forewarned that Baker isn’t a swimming beach due to dangerous undertows and rip currents.
Alki Beach, Seattle
Amazing views of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle, a seemingly endless length of sand and a 2.5-mile promenade elevate this urban beach in West Seattle. Plentiful tables and seating beg for a picnic, or take your pick of the many restaurants lining the road. Leave time to rent a bike, kayak, or skateboard, and keep an eye out for the small-scale version of the Statue of Liberty. Don’t feel compelled to leave Alki when night falls: Unlike many beaches around the country, not only can you enjoy an evening bonfire, but there are even designated fire pits.
Coney Island Beach, NYC
This legendary beach has been a fan favorite among city dwellers since the 1800s. Although it’s undergone numerous iterations, constants include the boardwalk, the original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, which celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2016, and amusement park holdovers (The Cyclone and The Wonder Wheel). The current Luna Park also offers more than two-dozen rides and games. Then there’s the beach itself, a three-mile long expanse ensuring less crowded pockets the further you get from the Coney Island end. (You’ll also find authentic Russian restaurants lining the boardwalk.) Don’t miss the annual Mermaid Parade, a popular Coney Island tradition. The best part to all of this is that the subway gets you within minutes of all the action.
North Avenue Beach, Chicago
Bordering Lake Michigan, North Avenue Beach is beloved by locals and tourists alike, and offers exceptional skyline views. It also offers a full lineup of beach activities, including yoga, volleyball, kayaking and jet skiing. When you need a break from swimming and sunbathing but aren’t ready to leave the beach, grab a bite at Castaways Bar & Grill, a casual spot resembling a docked ship. Or rent a bike and explore Lake Shore Drive, a paved 30 mile-stretch with some of the best city and lake views around.
Bradford Beach, Milwaukee
Sure, beaches aren’t the first thing associated with Milwaukee, but that’s what makes Bradford Beach a true find. While the water is chilly (it is Lake Michigan after all), the soft sandy beach is wide and clean. Concession stands sell traditional beach fare like burgers and hot dogs, a tiki hut bar supplies all your frozen drink needs, and volleyball courts are a plenty.