Best of Lists

Top 10 Kid Friendly Destinations

Pools, Parks and Paddleboards

By
Doug
Simmons

Looking for a fun, child-friendly spot for your next family getaway or summer vacation? Here are 10 places the whole family will love!

1. Block Island, Rhode Island

The Narragansett Indians called it Manisses Island, meaning island of the little gods. It's fitting then that Block Island is now one of the top kid-friendly destinations in New England. Just 10 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island, this glacial remnant remains blessedly unspoiled in fact, more than one-third of it is conservation land. Start your day by enjoying any of the 17 miles of beautiful beaches, then hike or bike inland along the many stone-line roads that crisscross the rolling hills and open meadows. An abundance of wildflowers, migrating birds and other animals inhabit Block Island, including camels, llamas, sheep and emus at Abram's Animal Farm & Petting Zoo. It's just a short walk from New Shoreham, the island's only town, where you can poke around the Historical Society Museum and dine on fresh seafood.

WHERE TO DOCK

Block Island Boat Basin (401-466-2631)

Champlin's Marina (401-466-7777)

2. Cape May, New Jersey

Known as the nation's oldest seashore resort, Cape May hasn't lost a step since it became a popular leisure destination in the 1880s. In fact, the passage of time has only made its authentic Victorian buildings more charming. Kids will love the boardwalk, with all of the kitschy shops you would expect and the white sandy beaches (you'll need to purchase beach tags for the family). The list of things to do is so long it's impossible to include it all here. Take a ghost tour, hit a water park, rent a bike, kayak or paddle board, hire a fishing guide, go dolphin and whale watching, play mini golf or explore the zoo. Visit the Nature Center of Cape May that offers summer children's programs every week including birding expeditions, ocean exploration, whale and dolphin excursions and a youth fishing camp. Even on a rainy day you won?t be bored! For families who want modern amusement park attractions, North Wildwood makes a great day trip and is just a short drive away.

WHERE TO DOCK

South Jersey Marina (609-884-2400)

Canyon Club Resort Marina (609-884-0188)

3. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Looking for a family-friendly spring break vibe along a picturesque sprawl of sand? This is the place. Virginia Beach is prime resort territory, featuring a two-mile boardwalk and oceanfront strip with high-rise hotels, restaurants, shops and entertainment galore. The beach is the main attraction, of course, with jet ski rentals,parasailing, kiteboarding, surfing lessons and sport fishing. But the excitement doesn't diminish away from shore. Ocean Breeze Waterpark, two miles south, offers 16 waterslides and a million-gallon wave pool. Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center has hundreds of hands-on exhibits, including an outdoor aviary and marshlands. And you can't miss First Landing State Park, where the Jamestown colonists alighted in 1607. Camp, hike, swim, boat, bike and explore while soaking in the historical and educational displays.

WHERE TO DOCK

Rudee's on the Inlet (757-425-1777)

Virginia Beach Fishing Center (757-491-8000)

4. Hilton Head, South Carolina

This congenial low-country resort island has a lot to offer families beyond the popular golf, spa, tennis and shopping pursuits for mom and dad. Its pristine beaches and marshes rank high with nature lovers, and several outfits offer guided kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking and horseback riding tours to experience them. The Coastal Discovery Museum teaches about the local ecology and cultural heritage, which includes Native Americans, European colonists, African-Americans, pirates and soldiers, and you can tour important historic sites on your own or with an organized group. Sea Pines Resort, at the southwest end of the island, has hiking and biking trails, a beach club, and waterside dining plus, you can take a ride on the America's Cup sailing yacht Stars & Stripes or the replica pirate ship Black Dagger.

WHERE TO DOCK

Harbour Town Yacht Basin (843-671-2704)

Skull Creek Marina (843-681-8436)

5. Duck Key, Florida

This secluded islet is unique among the Florida Keys in that it was developed primarily with family in mind. (If you want rowdy nightlife, look elsewhere.) The key player is Hawks Cay Resort, a 60-acre property surrounded by private homes. Designed for casual luxury, the resort is a destination unto itself, featuring five pools, five eateries (one an ice cream parlor), villas, shops, tennis courts, a spa and a fitness center. Water lies at the heart of the action: There's deep-sea as well as flats fishing, diving and snorkeling along a live coral reef, kayak and paddleboard tours, jet ski rentals and kiteboarding classes. Like dolphins? The on-site research facility let?s you view, feed, swim with and even help train these amazing animals. No wonder Travel + Leisure magazine readers voted the kids program here to its 'best of' list.

WHERE TO DOCK

Hawks Cay Marina (305-743-7000)

6. Paradise Island, Bahamas

When you're talking about Paradise Island as a family getaway, you're talking about Atlantis, the beach resort metropolis that resembles a cross between SeaWorld and Oz. Its 141-acre Aquaventure Waterpark features 18 water slides and a mile-long river ride with waves, rapids, tunnels and more. Eleven different pools beckon, or you can snorkel alongside tropical fish in mythical, man-made ruins. Dolphin Cay lets you interact with dolphins and sea lions. There's even the CRUSH nightclub and cafe for kids 9 to 17. Atlantis Kids Adventures & Camps offers supervised activities and expeditions for children ages 3 to 15, including junior scuba, junior golf and marine adventures. And did we mention the miles of on-site shopping, restaurants, spas, gaming and private beaches? Atlantis truly offers a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation experience.

WHERE TO DOCK

Marina at Atlantis (242-363-6068)

7. Sandusky, Ohio

Ohio?s Lake Erie shore is a great coastal retreat for Midwest boaters, with the town of Sandusky topping the list of family hot spots. Along with its beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets, this city tucked between Toledo and Cleveland is home to the roller coaster capital of the world in Cedar Point Amusement Park. In addition to 17 coasters (rated from aggressive thrill to mild thrill), the park has live family entertainment, a water park, a beach and kids camp programs. There are no less than three other water parks nearby - Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge and Castaway Bay - plus diverse attractions such as the Sandusky Maritime Museum, Lagoon Deer Park and Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, a year-round haunted house, that up the ante with bouncy houses and a skate park. For auto racing fans, the Sandusky Speedway offers high-speed thrills from April through October.

WHERE TO DOCK

Cedar Point Marina (419-627-2334)

Battery Park Marina (419-625-6142)

8. Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City has long been a stopover for those traveling the Great Loop, and with its outstanding family attractions, it's not hard to see why some find it hard to leave. Navy Pier, once a military training facility but now a major tourist destination, consists of 50 acres of parks, promenades, shops, eateries and more. Take a ride on the 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel, see an IMAX movie or check out the childrens museum. Speaking of museums, Chicago has a zillion of them - the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium for starters. A new Chicago Maritime Museum is scheduled to open soon in a facility adjacent to the Chicago River. Visit it on foot or see it from one of the many guided boat tours offered throughout the city.

WHERE TO DOCK

Burnham Harbor (312-747-7009)

DuSable Harbor (312-742-3577)

9. San Diego, California

A visit to sunny, mild-weathered San Diego can take on many different themes: historic, natural, adventurous ... or all three. Start at the downtown waterfront with the Maritime Museum of San Diego and its full-rigged iron sailing ship, Star of India. Nearby, the USS Midway Museum on the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century features 60 exhibits, a collection of 29 restored aircraft and two light simulators. Next, head over to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where you can ride a expedition truck into the field. SeaWorld San Diego turns 50 this year with special surprises, gifts and performances throughout the year. Last but not least, LEGOLAND California Resort offers rides, shopping, dining, a water park and an aquarium, all built around connecting fun and learning.

WHERE TO DOCK

Sunroad Resort Marina (619-574-0736)

10. Seattle, Washington

Wait, the birthplace of slackers makes a great family vacation destination? You bet! People forget that long before grunge music, Seattle was known as the outdoor playground of the Northwest. A prime example is Discovery Park, a 534-acre green space overlooking Puget Sound that includes two miles of tidal beaches as well as dramatic sea cliffs, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. You can rent a boat for the afternoon or take classes at the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union or just check out its historic photos and exhibits. Seattle has no shortage of world class museums, including the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Pacific Science Center and the Seattle Children's Museum. The Olympic Sculpture Park offers art activities, performances and much more. Finish the day with a thrilling trip to the top of the Space Needle.

WHERE TO DOCK

Bell Harbor Marina (206-787-3952)

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Back to School Bucket List
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The days are growing shorter, and the final weeks of summer are upon us. So, before the school bell rings, Marinalife is wondering if you’ve checked off everything on your must-do list this season. If you’re looking for ways to wrap up summer, consider the following ideas for last-dash, fun activities.

- Learn how to do a back dive, canon ball or jump off the back of the boat into the water.  Rope swings are also an invigorating option.

- Have a tiki party on a boat and serve your guests tropical blender drinks. Bonus points for Hawaiian shirts and grilled pineapple or savory Polynesian snacks.

- Pick a dozen crabs on your boat or at a waterfront dock bar, along with all the classic fixins’ of corn on the cob, hushpuppies, coleslaw and a cold brew.  If crabs aren’t your preference, a lobster, clam or crawfish boil will do just fine.

- Ride down a giant slide, roller coaster or death-defying ride at a waterpark while letting out a mighty yell.

- Body surf in the Atlantic waves or build a sandcastle strong enough to withstand the tide.

- Explore a hidden cove or a dream destination that you’ve never visited before on your boat.

- Go fishing and catch something big enough for dinner.

- Get pulled on a raft or inflatable behind a boat or learn how to waterski.

- Catch lightening bugs in a jar to make a glowing lantern.  But be sure to poke holes in the lid and release them when the fun is done.

- Under the stars, go to an outdoor movie, music festival or seafood feast.

- Learn how to shuck an oyster, clean a fish or pick a crab, then invite friends over to taste dishes made from the fruits of your labor.

- Invent a nautical cocktail to commemorate the summer of 2022.

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Nauti Shopper: Identify your new discoveries with these apps and guides
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RESOURCEFUL APPS


FISHVERIFY

Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Galaxy Store

This fish finder app lets anglers discover saltwater and freshwater catches with the snap of a picture. Take a live shot or import photos and the AI technology works its magic. Learn about marine habitats and check weather conditions including winds, tides, water temperature and barometric pressure. (Free download; premium subscription is $29.99/year) fishverify.com

SHELL MUSEUM: IDENTIFY SHELLS

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store
Take photos of your shoreline discoveries and this innovative app helps you figure out what they are and the sea creature that built it. Thanks to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, FL, beachcombers can now identify most common shells found across Florida beaches in seconds. ($1.99 download) shellmuseum.org

ARGO: BOATING NAVIGATION

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

This navigation and social boating app offers satellite, terrain and NOAA map features, depth and contours, trip planning, voyage tracking and a captain’s log for itineraries. Find points of interest such as fuel docks, anchorages, marinas and restaurants. The social boating features helps you connect with the boating community (Free download) argonav.io

SPECIES GUIDEBOOKS

REEF FISH IDENTIFICATION — FLORIDA, CARIBBEAN, BAHAMAS

By Paul Humann and Ned Deloach

Whether you’re a southern angler or marine wildlife documenter, you’ll love combing through 1,000 photographs of more than 683 species in this book. Designed as a reference guide, this new 4th edition identifies fish and aquatic creatures throughout the waterways of Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas. ($44.95) reef.org/products/reef-fish-identification-florida-caribbean-and-bahamas-4th-edition

KAUFMAN FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA

by Kenn Kaufman Kaufman Field Guides

This guide has been a leading birdlife guidebook for decades. Vibrant photos, detailed descriptions and range maps illustrate a lively key for bird-watching excursions. The book is compact, easily portable and studies most species in North America. (Prices vary)
kaufmanfieldguides.com/birds.html

THE TRACKER’S HANDBOOK: HOW TO IDENTIFY AND TRAIL ANY ANIMAL

By Len McDougall

Whether you’re hunting for dinner, hiking or being an avid nature lover, this guide makes animal tracking easy. Discover North American species such as the American Elk and Whitetail Deer. Identify footprints, habitats and range. This book isn’t just for hunters; it’s for explorers of all kinds. ($34.56)

barnesandnoble.com/w/the-trackers-handbook-len-mcdougall/1118940778

JUNIOR EXPLORER

SKY GUIDE APP

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

Point a smartphone to the sky and suddenly you appear in your own planetarium with this stargazing app. Sky Guide locates your position and follows the stars in real time while superimposing constellations and figures interactively. Find planets in rotation, discover where Pisces is currently rising or catch the next meteor shower.($1.99 download) apps.apple.com/us/app/sky-guide/id576588894

OCEAN ANIMALS COLLECTION SERIES

National Geographic Kids
Children will become overnight marine biologists with this fun learning series. Young readers can spot sea otters, manatees, turtles and much more. Teach your kids about aquatic habitats with photography and unique fun facts on each species. ($17.99)

barnesandnoble.com/w/ocean-animals-collection-national-geographic-kids/1123056379

OUTDOOR SCIENCE LAB

SmartLab Toys

This outdoor set brings out kids’ inner scientific explorer. Examining bugs, plants, dirt, weather and more. Activities include testing various samples and tracking findings in a science log. Kids can enjoy after-dark exploration with the UV night scope. ($45)

shopsweetthreads.com/products/smartlab-toys-outdoor-science-lab-bugs-dirt-plants

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Top 10 New England Sailing Regattas
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What do a media mogul, movie maker and American President have in common? Taking part in yacht racing, one of our nation's oldest sports, and New England, the cradle of this sport in America. Ted Turner won the 1977 America's Cup in Newport. Roy Disney sailed from Newport to Bermuda with record-breaking speed in 2002. And in 1936, JFK earned a winner's cup racing Stars in the Hyannis Port Yacht Club race to Edgartown.

With more than 6,000 miles of shoreline, survival built on the sea from olden days of fishing and trading to today's seasonal tourist dollars, it's a natural that racing sailboats is a time-honored tradition and rite of passion for most New Englanders. Many sailors here boast blood as blue as the surrounding seas, yet everyone can find a home to race. Here's a sampling of some of the region's best-known regattas.

MAINE

Camden Classics Cup - new england regattas - marinalife
Camden Classics Cup | Alison Langle

Camden Classics Cup

July 28-30

Competition and camaraderie combine in this relative newcomer event sailed in Penobscot Bay and celebrated shoreside in downtown Camden. Over 100 sailboats, everything from vintage yachts to very fast one-designs like J/46s and J/42s, race. Classes are available for day sailors and cruising yachts, too. Dockage at Lyman-Morse is included in the race fee, so the party starts ashore when the racing ends, says organizer Mackenzie Lyman, who adds the marina operator and boat-builders have rebuilt the waterfront after a fire in 2020. Spectators can have just as much fun. Maine's Wind- jammers offer two-hour tours to view the racing, while landlubber's best bet is watching the parade of sail as dressed yachts with costumed crew parade through Camden harbor on the morning of July 30.

Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club Annual Regatta & Shipyard Cup Classics Challenge

July 23-24

A trend toward classic yacht racing and a nod to the area's deep sailing roots combined for the first time last year at the Shipyard Cup. This new addition to the nearly 50-year-old annual regatta put lots of eye-candy on the water. The 1926-built NY-40, Marilee and 1937-constructed 12-meter America's Cup contender, Gleam, plus classic Boothbay Harbor one-designs like the 21-foot, Geerd Hendel-designed, 1938-launched sloops, are expected back this year along with contemporary race yachts. We invited several America's Cup contenders to join Gleam this year on the start line, says co-chair Bob Scribner. Spectators can observe from Spruce Point, McKeown Point or Southport. A narrated parade of participants in the inner harbor starts at 10:00 a.m. on July 24.

MASSACHUSETTS

Marblehead Regatta - new england regattas - marinalife
NOOD Marblehead Regatta 2021 | Bruce

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Marblehead

July 28-31

The 1889-founded Marblehead Race Week joined with National Offshore One-Design concept a few years back, and the result is close to 200 boats racing. We now have all our regular classes like J/70s, Rhodes 19s and Viper 640, plus there are usually one or two guest classes like RS21s, Skuds, 2.4's and J/24s, that hold regional championships as part of the week, says Leslie Rousseau, race committee chair for the host Boston Yacht Club. We expect to see the return of Jud Smith, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and local J-70 favorite. Spectators on land can get a bird's eye view of the racing from Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. Those with a fast center console can watch the boats line up to start off Turkey Point in Middle River or set their chutes at the windward mark in Middle River.

Edgartown Race Weekend

June 23-25

Since 1938, celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard is home to this week of combo coastal, offshore and round-the-island racing hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club. The history, charm and summer activity on Martha's Vineyard is a meaningful draw, in addition to fantastic wind and ideal sailing conditions, says Alex Nugent, one of the event's co-chairs. Plus, we typically host a big welcome party that's sponsored by Mount Gay Rum. New is the ‘Round-the-Sound series of races, which features 20-some nautical mile coastal sprints around Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound and replaces the around-the-buoy series. There's monohull and multihull, racing and cruising, double-handed and many-handed entrants including teams from state and federal service and maritime academies.

Nantucket Race Week

August 13-21

Nine days of racing, parties and awards ceremonies take the concept of race week to the extreme. There's something afloat for everyone: kids in Optis and 420s, women in Rhodes 19s, kiteboarders, radio-controlled model boats and some of the country's top sailors competing in high-performance big boats and classic wooden yachts. This year we celebrate the 50th Opera House Cup Regatta, the grand dame of classic wooden boat regattas. The Cup, named after a legendary Nantucket restaurant, attracts some of the finest wooden boats on the East Coast and Europe. There is a big awards party on the beach after the race, says Diana Brown, chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. The Parade of Wooden Boats offers a brochure that describes each participating boat. The public can watch the parade from Brant Point Beach.

RHODE ISLAND

Annual Regatta

June 10-12

Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) out of its facilities in Newport, this is North America's oldest continuously held sailing event going on its 168th year. The format features two days of buoy racing, prefaced by a race around Conanicut Island. The sight of 100-plus spinnakers running north in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from Fort Adams, Castle Hill or Beavertail Light is breathtaking. Entries are invited to one-design classes, and boats more than 24 feet race under a variety of handicaps. The Annual Regatta is one of my perennial favorites, says Paul Zabetakis, NYYC commodore and a regular participant on his Swan 42, Impetuous. The race management is impeccable with multiple course configurations. Few other venues offer the perfect combination of offshore racing in Rhode Island Sound and inshore racing on Narragansett Bay. The Saturday night regatta party is one of the biggest occasions of the Newport regatta season with sailors converging on Harbour Court for cocktails and dinner.

Edgartown Race Weekend - new england regattas - marinalife
Edgartown Race Weekend | Daniel Fors

Newport to Bermuda Race

June 17

The lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are ringside seats to watch nearly 200 vessels start in the East Passage on a 635-mile passage south to Bermuda. Fort Adams State Park also provides close-up views of many of the boats as they depart from Newport Harbor. The fleet then sails past Brenton State Park as it clears Brenton Reef and turns to the southeast. Charter boats and private yachts assemble to watch the start from the water as well, says John Burnham. It's one of the oldest regularly scheduled ocean races, happening biennially since 1906. This year, three high-speed multihulls -- two MOD 70s, Argo and Snowflake, and the 78' trimaran Ultim'Emotion 2 -- are entered, and each has a good chance of breaking the elapsed time race record of 34h:42m:53s set in 2016 by the 100' maxi yacht, Comanche.

Ida Lewis Distance Race

August 18-20

The fleet goes where the wind blows. The Ida Lewis Distance Race is like no other in that the Race Committee chooses from among four different courses, based on the weather. Each course incorporates some of the most storied cruising grounds in New England and is just long enough for the fleet to be offshore overnight, yet not so long to prohibit inviting family and friends to join for a first-time adventure, says Anselm Richards, event chair. The goal: get about 60-some teams to compete on race boats 28-foot and longer in double-handed, youth, collegiate and different handicap classes back to the dock in under 24 hours. The start happens off Fort Adams and ends inside Newport Harbor, where each team is handed a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco.

CONNECTICUT

Block Island Race

May 27

Stamford is the start of this Memorial Day weekend regatta that for many sailors kicks New England's offshore racing season. The 186-nautical mile course down Long Island Sound and around Block Island and back also acts as a ‘warm up' for many teams that are racing some two weeks later in the Newport to Bermuda Race, says Kate Wilson Somers, who handles media for the event. The race marks its 75th anniversary this year and is organized by the Storm Trysail Club, based in Larchmont, NY.

Cedar Point One Design Regatta

June 4-5

A 20-year+ tradition on the first weekend in June, this one-design keelboat event hosted out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT, can draw as many as 800 competitors on over 100 boats. The key is that all the boats in a class are the same; no handicap scoring is needed. This makes it easy to watch, as first over the finish line is the winner. Currently, the event is open to J70, J88, J105 and J109, and Beneteau 36.7 fleets, but other fleets are welcome if they meet the requirements, says Joyce Oberdorf, who handles the club's communications.

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