Travel's Best Amusement Parks and Water Parks 2014

From Tokyo’s DisneySea to Tennessee’s Dollywood, our advisors handpicked the most thrilling theme parks for our family fun list, Travel's Best Amusement and Water Parks 2014.

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ScareHouse (Pittsburgh, PA)

ScareHouse (Pittsburgh, PA)

ScareHouse is the place to be this year, especially because it has an exclusive partnership with Legendary Entertainment to help create the scariest Halloween to date. Featured attractions include The Summoning, Pittsburgh Zombies: Black Out and The Basement. This Halloween haunt offers a big-budget sensibility without losing its hometown appeal. “ScareHouse is my pick because sociologist and ‘fear expert’ Margee Kerr is always on staff to research and develop new ways to truly disturb visitors,” says geek culture and paranormal pop-culture expert Aaron Sagers. 960 1280

ScareHouse  

Fright Dome (Las Vegas, NV)

Fright Dome (Las Vegas, NV)

Located in Circus Circus’ Adventuredome, the Fright Dome is one of Las Vegas’ largest and longest-running Halloween attractions. With 6 new haunted houses, the theme park is transformed into a pitch-black, lights-out, haunted spectacle – easily making it the scariest on the Strip. The 5-acre theme park also includes 25 rides and attractions, multiple live shows at night and 4 new scare zones, including the Clown Overload Zone. “My personal nightmare of clowns with glowing eyes surrounding me came to life,” says Zak Bagans, lead investigator of Ghost Adventures. “I had the worst panic attack. Needless to say, I’ll go back again, because it was badass!” 960 1280

  

Netherworld (Atlanta, GA)

Netherworld (Atlanta, GA)

With more than 200 animated monsters and 100 live actors, Netherworld is one of the nation’s most famous attractions. Having been featured on TV and in movies such as Zombieland, this spooky attraction has amazingly detailed sets. “And unlike other Halloween attractions, Netherworld’s creepy characters greet patrons in the parking lot before they purchase tickets, scaring them off before they even enter,” says Larry Kirchner, owner of HauntWorld.com and Halloween Productions. 960 1280

  

The 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

The 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

The 13th Gate is one of the most, if not the most, elaborately detailed haunted houses in America, thanks to a construction crew that includes award-winning set designers, lighting and sound technicians, and special-effects artists. Sets are over-the-top and feature live animals, including snakes and gators. In each of the 13 themed indoor and outdoor areas, more than 100 professional actors and 12 special makeup artists help bring the horror to life. “Hollywood production companies have rented the attraction multiple times to film movies such as The Reaping,” says HauntWorld Magazine owner Larry Kirchner. “The 13th Gate is, without any doubt, one of the best haunted houses in America.” 960 1280

  

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Haunted House (Weston, WV)

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Haunted House (Weston, WV)

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is one of the most memorable haunted locations for Ghost Adventures lead investigator Zak Bagans, who completed a live 7-hour investigation with the Ghost Adventures crew. The spirits that roam the asylum’s halls are extremely active, and tours are offered to see how the mentally insane lived and died within these walls. “It is undeniably the scariest overall haunted attraction that I’ve been to in the US, outside of the Fright Dome,” Zak says. Additionally, visitors can participate in zombie paintball, a fall festival and the Asylum Ball, which includes a costume contest. 960 1280

  

13th Floor Haunted House

13th Floor Haunted House

The 13th Floor Haunted House is the largest and longest indoor haunted attraction in Colorado. It was renovated this year with 2 new attractions. “Watch evil take control of unwilling bodies in Undead: The Possession, or run for your life as terrifying ghouls and monsters come alive as you walk through Dwellings of the Dead,” says TravelChannel.com video project manager Arthur Hsu. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as Microsoft Kinect, the robotic monsters are more than capable of frightening the victims who dare to venture into the 13th Floor. 960 1280

  

Bennett’s Curse (Jessup, MD)

Bennett’s Curse (Jessup, MD)

This haunted spectacle outside Baltimore is one of the top Halloween attractions in the mid-Atlantic region. It features 3 terrifying haunted houses — Medieval Underworld, Inferno 3D and Sanctuary of Insanity — and the owners of this popular haunt continue to add monsters and twists to keep the attractions exciting for new and returning visitors. Arthur Hsu says, “Not only has Bennett’s Curse been featured on Travel Channel’s America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions 3, but it has consistently been ranked by several sources as one of the best Halloween attractions in the US.” This spooky spot is also among the first to frighten its victims with the latest cutting-edge technology. 960 1280

  

Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando, FL)

Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando, FL)

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando should be at the top of anyone’s Halloween bucket list, especially fans looking for big-budget scares. Aaron Sagers says, “Movie industry experts craft haunted houses so loaded with detail that visitors walk through and feel like they’ve been dropped into an episode of The Walking Dead or the movie From Dusk Till Dawn.” Other popular attractions featured at the theme park include Bayou of Blood, Dollhouse of the Damned and Roanoke – Cannibal Colony. Those willing to face their fears can also enter, at their own risk, the Halloween house for a face-to-face meeting with Michael Myers, the iconic masked slasher from the movies. 960 1280

ROBERTO GONZALEZ  

Festival of the Dead (Salem, MA)

Festival of the Dead (Salem, MA)

Salem, MA, is historically known for the 1692 Witch trials that left 20 people executed. This year’s Festival of the Dead includes 2 weeks of events and parties designed to bring out your inner Witch. Attend a séance to speak with the dead, share your stories with others at the Mourning Tea, pick up new ghost-hunting techniques or learn about death’s macabre customs and strange rituals. Finish the festival with the Official Salem Witches’ Ball on Oct. 31, and you’ll leave this town spellbound. Author, TV personality and paranormal expert Jeff Belanger says, “This town will cast a spell on you.” 960 1280

Chad Champoux  

Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)

Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)

The Queen Mary was built in the early 1930s as a luxury trans-Atlantic ocean liner, but it was pressed into military service to carry troops during World War II, when hundreds died in and around the ship. This Halloween, the haunted ship is offering its Dark Harbor tours with 4 new attractions: the Soulmate maze, the B340 maze, Voodoo Village and Monster Midway, which features a freak show, a mechanical monster and a new ride, the Sinister Swings. “Keep your eyes open, because those ghostly apparitions you see may not just be another special effect,” says Jeff Belanger. And before you go, make sure you check out the Ghost Adventures’ lockdown and investigation of the Queen Mary. 960 1280

  

Fan Favorite: Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, KY)

Fan Favorite: Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, KY)

We asked and the majority of the people who responded on Twitter and Facebook told us that Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in Louisville, KY, should be the fan favorite pic for Travel’s Best Halloween Attractions 2014. Built in 1908, the original building was designed to accommodate up to 50 tuberculosis patients. Today, it’s the site for paranormal investigations, tours and creepy sightings. Add it to your must-see spooky spots on Halloween. 960 1280

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Best Country to Keep Watch On: Cuba

Best Country to Keep Watch On: Cuba

Airlines, hotel chains, cruise companies and US travelers alike are all hopeful for an official removal of the travel ban on Cuba after President Obama’s announcement of plans to re-establish diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country. With the possibility of this once-difficult-to-visit destination’s rigid travel restrictions easing up, our dreams of mojito-fueled nights of salsa dancing in colorful, classic-car-lined streets will be that much easier to attain.  960 1280

Walter Bibikow  

Best Meal-to-Go: Beefsteak

Best Meal-to-Go: Beefsteak

Move over, bacon: Veggies are getting the celeb-chef treatment this year. Chef José Andrés is taking on the trend of fast-casual restaurants and opening a vegetable-focused chain in early 2015. It’s called Beefsteak (named after a type of tomato, for those who don’t know) and will serve up healthy food, fast. While steering away from calling it a vegetarian restaurant, Andrés wants merely to make meat the side dish for once and celebrate the unsung power of vegetables while bringing wholesome food to the masses.   960 1280

The Washington Post  

Best Under-the-Radar Destination: Guatemala

Best Under-the-Radar Destination: Guatemala

While other Latin America countries have been more on the radar for travelers — especially Mexico and Costa Rica — Guatemala hasn’t received the tourism spotlight it deserves. With 33 volcanoes, a World Heritage Site in the city of Antigua, Mayan ruins, and the mystical volcano-ringed Lake Atitlán​, Guatemala is brimming with intriguing history, colonial grandeur and outdoor adventures that will keep every type of traveler intrigued. Take in the breath-taking beauty of Guatemala at Casa Palopo, a boutique hotel with panoramic views of Lake Atitlán and 3 majestic volcanoes across the shore. ​ 960 1280

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Best Reason to Take a Cruise: Total Solar Eclipse

Best Reason to Take a Cruise: Total Solar Eclipse

Think all cruises are the same? How about a cruise to see a rare eclipse? A total solar eclipse on March 20, 2015, will be visible from the remote Faroe Islands, between Norway and Iceland.  Several companies are offering cruises to witness this rare event, which will not happen again until 2026 and, if you’re lucky, could include another awe-inspiring show from Mother Nature — the northern lights. With pricey tickets selling out for a phenomenon that lasts no more than 2 minutes, 47 seconds, we imagine there will be many prayers made for a clear day. 960 1280

Karl Lehmann  

Best Extreme Sport: Volcano Boarding

Best Extreme Sport: Volcano Boarding

With new luxury eco-resorts cropping up, Nicaragua seems to be on every travel list for 2015. There’s 1 extreme sport in particular here that’s catching our attention: volcano boarding. Racing down an active volcano at speeds of up to 30 mph on a wooden sled — sounds like a life highlight, right? That is, if you don’t fall.  Adventure junkies should proceed with caution and wear protective gear, because you don’t want to get cut by volcanic ash on a tumble.  960 1280

Matthew Micah Wright  

Best Outdoor Adventure: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Best Outdoor Adventure: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Hollywood isn’t the only one trying to re-create Cheryl Strayed’s Wild journey; throngs of fans inspired by the best-selling author’s 1,100-mile solo trek are hitting the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the country’s longest and wildest thru-hikes, in record numbers. With the film adaption of <i>Wild</i>, we expect 2015 to usher in even more rookie hikers on the PCT. Embracing the growing interest, the Pacific Crest Trail is sharing fans’ stories and even Strayed’s exact route, so you can follow in the author’s footsteps. We suggest wearing better-fitting boots, though. 960 1280

Anne Marie Fox  

Best Reimagined Destination: Haiti

Best Reimagined Destination: Haiti

A Caribbean island nation with a vibrant Creole culture and stunning beaches, Haiti was a hot travel destination back in the 1970s, when the Clintons even honeymooned there. Now, 5 years after the devastating earthquake that shook the country, curious travelers and sustainable travel companies are trying to put this often-overlooked and feared destination back on the tourism map. Using local suppliers in an effort to keep money in the country, G Adventures is one of the pioneering companies that firmly believes tourism can be a force for good in Haiti — and it’s launching 5 Haiti trips in 2015 to prove it. 960 1280

  

Best US Comeback City: New Orleans

Best US Comeback City: New Orleans

Marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2015, New Orleans is celebrating its resiliant nature and welcoming travelers more than ever as it looks forward to its tricentennial in 2018.  So if you haven’t been to Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest or eaten your way through the city, overindulging in beignets and shrimp po’boys, don’t go another year without visiting America’s comeback city.   960 1280

Franz Marc Frei  

Best Travel Gadget: Apple Watch

Best Travel Gadget: Apple Watch

With the highly anticipated Apple Watch going on sale in 2015, the travel world is gearing up to support wearable technology. A watch that doubles as a smartphone is the latest advance that will make it easier to plan and manage travel. Hotels, airlines and travel companies are now offering smartwatch apps that let you check in, book flights and download boarding passes … all from your wristwatch. With a hands-free device, it’s that much easier to score fleeting travel deals on the go, too.  960 1280

  

Best Travel App/Website: EatWith.com

Best Travel App/Website: EatWith.com

With the rising success of peer-to-peer websites such as Airbnb, start-ups are popping up using similar concepts but connecting travelers to foodies around the world. One of our favorites, EatWith.com, connects hosts who love to cook with travelers who want a taste of local cuisine. From a 9-course meal on a family farm in Florence, Italy, to sampling typical Peruvian dishes in the Andes Mountains, what could be a better way to experience a destination than to connect with locals over a homemade meal? 960 1280

  

Best Destination Wedding Spot: Florence, Italy

Best Destination Wedding Spot: Florence, Italy

With some of the world’s biggest celebrities — including most eligible bachelor George Clooney and internet-breaking Kim Kardashian — tying the knot in Italy in 2014, brides-to-be are imagining their own Italian fairy-tale weddings. Feel like a superstar yourself by saying your “I do’s” at the luxury hotel Il Salviatino, an exquisitely restored, 15th-century villa perched on the hillside of Fiesole with sweeping views of Florence and the rolling Tuscan countryside. Even if your groom isn’t George Clooney, you couldn’t have dreamed of a more romantic wedding destination.  960 1280

Antonio Pistillo  

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Best Site for Travel Packages: HolidayPirates.com

Best Site for Travel Packages: HolidayPirates.com

"For great package deals, check out the website HolidayPirates.com. They find incredible deals for packages, flights and more departing to and from Europe. I've found some incredible, hard-to-find offers on that website, like $500-roundtrip flights to Europe or $50 flights from Europe to Turkey." -- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Matt 960 1280

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Best Times for Off-Peak Travel: Jan. 15 to Feb. 28; Oct. 15 to May 15

Best Times for Off-Peak Travel: Jan. 15 to Feb. 28; Oct. 15 to May 15

"US Airways offers economy round-trip tickets to Europe from North America for just 35,000 miles from Jan. 15 to Feb. 28. If you have their co-branded credit card, that price drops to 30,000 miles roundtrip. American Airlines also offers off-peak discounted award tickets to Europe from Oct. 15 to May 15 for 40,000 miles, down from the usual 60,000. If you have their co-branded credit card, you can even get 10% of those redeemed miles back, up to an annual cap." -- Summer Hull, Mommy Points 960 1280

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Best Hotel Rewards Program: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Hotel Rewards Program: Starwood Preferred Guest

"Starwood Preferred Guest is a great hotel program, with a vast portfolio of hotels throughout the world. Redemptions start at just 2,000 points and members have the option to transfer points to dozens of airlines at a 1-to-1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus on every 20,000 points transferred." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

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Best Phone App for International Travel: Viber

Best Phone App for International Travel: Viber

"Calling, texting and emailing while abroad can rack up thousands of dollars in fees. However, there are great apps like Viber that you can use for free with an internet connection. Viber users can send free text messages, photo messages, video messages and more with other users, and it’s compatible with iPhone, Android, and other major mobile and desktop devices." -- Brian Kelly, The Points Guy 960 1280

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Best-Value Trip: Eastern Europe

Best-Value Trip: Eastern Europe

"For a great-value trip, head to Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine) for very cheap destinations, great food, friendly people and few tourists. It's the medieval Europe you want without the crowds in Prague or Tallinn." -- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Matt 960 1280

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Best Car Rental Option: Costco Travel

Best Car Rental Option: Costco Travel

"If you have a Costco membership, you can get good deals from Costco Travel such as no additional driver fees with certain rental companies. If booking abroad, AutoEurope.com gives good rates in Europe. I used it to book a wagon for a trip to Paris which saved me about 40% off booking directly with the rental company." -- Arthur Hsu, Mileage Runner 960 1280

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Best Frequent Flyer Program: United MileagePlus

Best Frequent Flyer Program: United MileagePlus

"United MileagePlus is a great program, as it offers access to an extensive route network and award inventory. In short, they make it easy to redeem your miles. United miles are also easy to earn, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offering instant 1-to-1 transfer of points to United." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

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Best Site for Fare Alerts: Yapta

Best Site for Fare Alerts: Yapta

"If you don’t want to constantly check and recheck websites for the best fares, then sign up for Yapta’s fare alerts. They will automatically keep you updated on the fares you are interested in. All you have to do is set the date(s), city pairs and the price point, and they will alert you via email." -- John E. DiScala, Johnny Jet 960 1280

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Best Site for Blind Travel Bids: BiddingForTravel.com

Best Site for Blind Travel Bids: BiddingForTravel.com

"When I shop around for hotels and car rentals, I don't think there is any better place than Priceline. But keep in mind when you use their Name Your Own Price feature, you can't cancel. Before I make a blind bid, I always log on to BiddingForTravel.com to see what other people's luck was with their bids. It shows how much people paid for which dates and will give you a pretty good idea of which hotel you will end up with." -- John E. DiScala, Johnny Jet 960 1280

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Best Credit Card for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best Credit Card for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred

"The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers generous sign-up bonuses and flexible points that can be transferred to both airline and hotel partners. The Sapphire Preferred makes it easy to amass points quickly, with 2x points on travel and dining. The original signup bonuses can be worth over $500 in travel after you meet the required minimum spend, within the first 3 months typically." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

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Take a Road Trip Through Belgium

Take a Road Trip Through Belgium

“Rent a car and don’t miss the vibrant university towns of Ghent and Mons,” say Kristin Henning and Tom Bartel of Travel Past 50. Along the way, stop in Bruges, which was made even more popular by the 2008 film In Bruges. It’s a picturesque city of scenic canals and bridges, art, relics, classic bell towers and historic civic squares. Another must-see is the gorgeous city square in Brussels, where you are never far from a fresh beer, chocolate and fantastic seafood and fries. “There is a whole world of history in Belgium,” Tom says. “Visit Bastogne’s Peace Forest memorial (think Band of Brothers) and the War Museum, newly updated for D-Day’s 70 year anniversary.”  960 1280

Gonzalo Azumendi/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images  

Explore Utah’s Surreal Parks

Explore Utah’s Surreal Parks

In southern Utah, five parks are close enough to string together: Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Arches (home of the much photographed Delicate Arch). Spend a couple days in each. Bryce is home to surreal sandstone spires and some peaceful picnic and camping areas. “Zion hosts a spectacular hike up the Virgin River canyon,” says Kristin Henning and Tom Bartel. “Use walking sticks and prepare to get wet to your thighs. Reaching the Delicate Arch can be a long hot trek, but it’s rewarding.” 960 1280

Aaron Meyers/ Moment/ Getty Images  

Go Off the Beaten Path in Italy

Go Off the Beaten Path in Italy

After you’ve seen Italy’s big 3 — Venice, Rome and Florence — go off the beaten path in Northern Italy. The “Cinque Terre is magical: beautiful scenery, good accommodations, easy access and several travel options between the villages that make it suitable for all fitness levels,” say Alison Armstrong and Don Read of Adventures in Wonderland. The 5 tiny, colorful villages clinging to Liguria’s rugged coastline are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and very few cars are allowed, but you can easily get around by ferry, foot or train.  960 1280

Amoklv/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Adventures at Sea in Beaufort, SC

Adventures at Sea in Beaufort, SC

Find solace in a Deep South filled with towering oak trees strung with Spanish moss, genteel mansions, and tranquil waterways in the picturesque town of Beaufort, SC, known as the "Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands." “The area's 64 islands are perfect for exploring by boat or kayak, and the area's plentiful population of birds and sea life make it a top destination for aviary enthusiasts and anglers,” says Valerie Conners of Retire There. “Travelers will encounter horse-drawn carriages winding through the downtown historic district and more than 300 acres designated a National Historic Landmark.” 960 1280

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Roadtripping in Western National Parks

Roadtripping in Western National Parks

Two weeks of rugged scenery, abundant wildlife watching and adventure for all ability levels make this Western national parks road trip unforgettable. “Begin by exploring the hiking trails, glaciers and lakes of Glacier National Park,” says Donna Hull of My Itchy Travel Feet. “Of course driving the engineering marvel, Going-to-the-Sun Road, is a must do.” Next, visit America’s version of the Serengeti where bison, wolves and elk roam vast Yellowstone National Park and don’t miss the geyser watching at Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful puts on a show. “A float down the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park completes this western road trip,” Donna adds. 960 1280

Wyoming Office of Tourism  

Discover Why Paris Is Always a Good Idea

Discover Why Paris Is Always a Good Idea

“Paris may seem like a surprising haven for retirees, but its manageable size, level terrain and superb transportation system make it a remarkably senior-friendly destination,” Lynne Martin of Home Free Adventures says. “Add fabulous food, art, history and undeniable beauty, and you’ll discover why it’s become (my) favorite European destination.” 960 1280

Iakov Kalinin/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Make Memories on a Un-Cruise in Alaska

Make Memories on a Un-Cruise in Alaska

“Swap ports for the quiet bays of Alaska’s Inside Passage with an expedition cruise that’s about doing rather than seeing,” says Donna Hull. “You’ll bond [with loved ones] while kayaking in Thomas Bay, riding a jet boat up the Stikine River or floating with icebergs in LeConte Bay.” 960 1280

State of Alaska/ Brian Adams  

Find Out Why People Fall in Love With San Miguel de Allende

Find Out Why People Fall in Love With San Miguel de Allende

An easy flight from most parts of the country, this UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Mexico has become a frequent stop for retirees. “It is not uncommon for tourists to visit and then purchase property within 3 days of arriving in San Miguel,” Alison Armstrong and Don Read say. Chalk it up to the welcoming people, mild climate, rich cultural opportunities, beautiful colonial architecture, safe environment and world-class shopping. They add, “We often wondered if we were in Mexico or Europe, until we saw some fabulous giant puppets at a Mexican wedding celebration.”  960 1280

JD Estevao/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Aspen, Any Time of the Year

Aspen, Any Time of the Year

Part of the appeal of an Aspen retreat in the Rockies is that while it’s located smack in the middle of Colorado, it’s slightly off the beaten path. “The attraction in winter is, of course, the skiing and winter sports–both at Aspen Mountain and nearby Snowmass, says Kristen Henning. “But the rest of the year, especially autumn, is equally stunning.” Maroon Bells Wilderness area, home to bear, moose, beaver and brilliant Aspen trees, offers hiking for all levels as well as bike trails that wind along rivers, connecting parks, neighborhoods and towns.  960 1280

Barrett Friel  

Premiere Golfing in Naples, FL

Premiere Golfing in Naples, FL

Well-heeled Naples has long been a popular haven for retirees and families and with good reason. “The small town along Florida's postcard-perfect Gulf Coast lets retirees enjoy a charming downtown filled with upscale shopping and dining, as well as cultural attractions,” says Valerie Conners. Still, this self-proclaimed, “Golf Capital of the World" draws scores of experienced and novice golf fans to play on the region's 70-plus greens, many designed by golf icons like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. 960 1280

Jeremy Sterk/ Getty Images  

Best Exotic Beach: Tavarua, Fiji

Best Exotic Beach: Tavarua, Fiji

There are not many beaches in the world that offer as diverse and incredible experience as Fiji's tropical paradise of Tavarua. "You can dive, fish, snorkel, and surf in the crystal clear seas surrounding the vibrant coral reefs teeming with sea life," says Alison Teal, host of Alison's Adventures. "As an avid surfer, it's a dream come true to sit along the white sandy beach and then head out into a world-class surf break. The moment that sealed my love affair with this place is when I saw it from the sky: The island is shaped perfectly like a heart." 960 1280

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Sexiest Beach: White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

Sexiest Beach: White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

According to Beach Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant, White Bay's secluded half-mile stretch of beach has the ideal balance of undisturbed white sand and turquoise sea at one end and secluded caves where you can watch the sun go down (with mouthwatering cocktail in hand) at the other. "Head down to the Soggy Dollar bar at night to stargaze with your loved one before retiring for the night in one of the islands stunning hotels," Marchant says. "What more could you want?" 960 1280

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Best Family Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

Best Family Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

"The sand at Clearwater Beach is as soft as baby powder, and the gradual slope to the warm Gulf water makes it an ideal beach for babies and toddlers" according to Have Baby Will Travel founder Corrine McDermott. "Parents will love the shaded jungle gym, as well as full facilities and a snack bar with healthy options." The Gulf Coast beach has many accommodation, food, and public transportation options, appealing to many families' tastes and vacation budgets. 960 1280

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Best Party Beach: Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Best Party Beach: Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil's Maracanã Stadium will be center stage for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but the real party is on Ipanema Beach, where there’s always a steady stream of vendors selling beer and Cachaça. "Rio has already revamped Post 9 (the area right off Rua Vinícius de Moraes) with a new look, new changing facilities, lockers for surfboards, and showers." says managing producer Kwin Mosby. Watch Cariocas -- Rio natives -- play volleyball, foot volley, soccer or surf. Mosby adds, "After the sun goes down, eat at the popular churrascaria Porcao and go bar hopping at some of the best nightspots in the world like the exclusive Baronneti nightclub." 960 1280

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Best Romantic Beach: The Maldives

Best Romantic Beach: The Maldives

Startlingly turquoise seas and shimmering white sands ring the islands comprising the Maldives archipelago, a chain of 26 atolls, or rings, in the Indian Ocean. "These postcard-perfect isles are home to ultra-exclusive resorts, where long stretches of private beach unfold before sprinklings of overwater bungalows complete with private decks and outdoor showers," says travel writer Valerie Conners. "Let romance kindle while enjoying sunset strolls, snorkeling exquisite coral reefs and lounging -- cocktail in hand -- under thatched umbrellas in paradise." 960 1280

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Best Beach for Adventure: Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CA

Best Beach for Adventure: Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CA

"For surfers, the 1.5-mile stretch of rocky coastline creates the perfect point break with slow rolling lines good for longboarders and an outside takeoff for shortboarders," says Cali local and our resident beach host Marianela. One of the few beaches boasting both wind and waves depending on the weather, Leo Carrillo attracts kite and windsurfers, as well as kayakers and stand up paddle boarders. An array of marine life lurk in hidden caves and tidal pools. "There are also tons of challenging trails offering wonderful ocean overlooks," Marianela adds. "I've seen many brave souls bike the trails hugging the steep cliffs and others scaling down the rocks to climb out onto the staggering bluffs." 960 1280

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Best Beach Bars: Rick's Cafe, Negril, Jamaica

Best Beach Bars: Rick's Cafe, Negril, Jamaica

A Jamaican mainstay since 1974, Rick's Cafe, nestled in Negril's West End Cliffs, takes this title for the second year in a row, as it's much more than your average beachfront watering hole. For the price of a refreshing Jamaican beer, you'll witness an unrivaled view of the sunset and some unforgettable entertainment. "Don't miss the locals launching themselves from 30-foot-high cliffs into the water below" says interactive producer Ben Breslerman. "And if you're feeling really adventurous, go ahead and take the dive for yourself … Just be safe!" 960 1280

Chris Ford, flickr  

Best Unusual Beach: Vik, Iceland

Best Unusual Beach: Vik, Iceland

Stunning beaches aren’t only in the tropics. "Driving through Iceland, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the beach at Vík, a small village at the southernmost tip" says interactive producer Kathleen Rellihan. "Black volcanic sand covered with ice and snow with the legendary “troll” rock formations jetting out from the sea -- I have never seen a beach so jaw-dropping beautiful in my life.” Vík is only 110 miles from Reykjavik, so it makes for a perfect stop on a road trip along Iceland's Ring Road. You'll have plenty of other reasons to stop your car along the way — such as seeing the volcanic Lake Myvatn. 960 1280

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Best Beach You Haven't Heard of ... Yet: Don Pedro Island State Park, FL

Best Beach You Haven't Heard of ... Yet: Don Pedro Island State Park, FL

This off-the-beaten-path beach park located in Charlotte County on the Southwest coast of Florida is only accessible by private boat or ferry -- but once you've made the trip you're in for a treat, according to Dr. Beach. The island beach is a mile of fine, white sand adorned with a plethora of shells and black petrified shark teeth! In addition to beachcombing, Don Pedro is a great place for swimming in the clear, clean waters, and for fishing both on the island itself and the park's mainland. "I recommend that you bring your kayak or canoe for the trip across the bay and to explore the mangrove tunnels," Dr. Beach adds, "keep your eyes peeled for manatees, oystercatchers and bald eagles." 960 1280

VISIT FLORIDA  

Best Beach Boardwalks: Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ

Best Beach Boardwalks: Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ

Still standing after Superstorm Sandy, there's never been a better time to visit the Atlantic City Boardwalk, America's first boardwalk and the home of Miss America, according to senior interactive producer Sara Gilliam. "For a mix of old and new, take a ride in an iconic rolling chair while snacking on salt water taffy and people watching, indulge in some high-end shopping at Louis Vuitton or Gucci at The Pier Shops at Caesars, and splurge on a night out at one of the city's spectacular casinos or see some of the world's top entertainers perform at Boardwalk Hall," Gilliam says. Families with kids of all ages will find endless amusement at the Steel Pier across from the Trump Taj Mahal. 960 1280

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Best Overall Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

Best Overall Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

We asked you to weigh in on our expert picks and determine the Best Overall Beach. Travel Channel fans voted and chose Clearwater Beach, FL, as their fan favorite, lauding its "laid-back family atmosphere," blue waters and "snow white sand." 960 1280

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