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Summer vacation is never too far away to start planning.
However, for many families, finding that one special little town on the water with white beaches and family-friendly activities can be tough. So here are five top small beach towns across the U.S. for families to find their perfect getaway.
Wildwood, New Jersey
Head to Wildwood, located on the Jersey shoreline. With a 2.5-mile-long boardwalk lined with carnival games, little shops and, of course, lots of food, families won’t have to look hard for kid—and parent—friendly activities. There are free concerts throughout the week and a firework show every Friday night.
Best of all, there’s plenty of amusement park fun available with a light-up Ferris wheel. Or take the little ones to see interactive displays on military and aviation history at the Wildwood Aviation Museum.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s Summer Vacation Spending Report
Santa Cruz, California
Sunny Santa Cruz is a throwback to the traditional beach boardwalk and a gateway to California’s other family-friendly attractions. Start on the Beach Boardwalk for old-fashioned amusement park rides. Be sure to spot the seals: You’ll hear them barking across the entire beach.
Swing into the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, then learn to surf from Cowell’s Beach Surf Shop. Then head inland on the Roaring Camp Railroads Train for a day trip to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head has 12 miles of perfect white sand, so families can take their pick of where to go. Driessen Beach and Islanders Beach Parks are popular with families for their playgrounds and picnic spots. The boardwalk is close to the sand dunes and tidal marsh, so stop and spot ocean creatures and sea turtle nests, or collect seashells at any of the beaches.
Then trek into the Harbour Town area to climb the picturesque candy-cane-striped lighthouse and climb to the top for great views. Then go to the Sandbox, a children’s museum with a play plane, bank and supermarket – perfect play areas for young children.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach, a small town situated on the Delaware coast, is popular spot for families looking for a cozy environment on their beach vacation. There’s only 1.5 miles of beach complete with lifeguards. Walk into town for the weekly farmer’s market on Tuesdays for some delicious healthy food to eat on the beach.
Kids love the boardwalk, with its carousel, Ferris wheel and wooden boats. There’s even a haunted mansion dating back to the 1940s. Parents enjoy strolling into the town filled with little boutique shops selling local favorites saltwater taffy and ice cream.
» Learn more: Get personalized travel advice in our community of experts
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Nestled on the shores of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island provides old-fashioned thrills for kids with horse-and-carriage rides around the island, kite-flying exhibitions, butterfly displays and a theater. Be sure to stop by Mackinac Island State Park, which takes up 80% of the land on the island, for a day hike and picnicking.
Motor vehicles are banned on the island, so your kids will have the chance to walk and bike around the island with no worries. Treat them with a stop in any of the fudge shops on the island, a famous snack still made in the traditional method.