As a conglomerate of culture, die-hard sports fans and incredible food, Chicago is one city that you’re going to want to check off that bucket list. The city sits on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and is known for being a melting pot for culture and the diversity of its neighborhoods (77 of them in total).
Chicago is a city of firsts. From having the nation’s first skyscraper, to the start of Historic “Route 66,” it’s no secret that Chicago has a unique history. It is also full of 26 miles of lakefront, 36 annual parades, and 552 parks.
With its megawatt downtown and world-famous attractions, it’s not surprising to see the Windy City listed as a popular destination. Navy Pier, once a shipping and military training facility, is now a major tourist draw with 50 acres of promenades, shops, eateries and amusements. Shoreline Sightseeing operates nine touring boats and 11 water taxis that offer guided skyline tours, fireworks cruises, and special events such as Brew Cruises and Wine Tasting Cruises. Then, of course, there’s Michigan Avenue, Shedd Aquarium, Millennial Park, the Field Museum of Natural History and much more.
Looking for a fun, child-friendly spot for your next family getaway or summer vacation? Here are 10 places the whole family will love!
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Imagine places where your children can swim with dolphins in a tropical lagoon, paddle their kayaks by the light of the moon, build wooden sailboats that are sturdy and sleek, explore hidden shipwrecks that have sunken down deep.
This might sound like fanciful dreams in Peter Pan's Neverland, but it's a taste of what's happening in today's summer boating camps. It's more than s'mores accompanying campfire sing-alongs. Counselors at seaside retreats artfully blend whimsical summer past times with unforgettable water adventures and hands-on marine science discovery.
The good news for parents who love boating: Summer camps offer options to fit your family's maritime style. You can deliver children to professionals who lay the groundwork for lifelong fun on the water. Girls can live the life of a mermaid or a marine biologist, and boys can be swashbucklers or scientists whatever suits their fancy. When their summer boating session is done, kids' new-found knowledge of the seas will prevent them from being bored on board your family vessel.
You can also dive in and get involved with activities that forge family bonds. Combine a summer vacation with camps where parents build sailboats with their kids or snorkel with colorful fish in coral reefs. You can fuel a sense of ocean excitement, bolster boating skills and instill a sense of environmental stewardship in the next generation of boaters.
So, let's get kids off the couch and on the water to share in family boating experiences this summer. The accompanying sampling of camps illustrates the variety of water-related activities available around the country.
The Wooden Boat School - Brooklin, Maine (207-359-4651) The 64-acre saltwater campus of The Wooden Boat School is located on the gorgeous coast of Brooklin. For 36 years, the school has presented hands-on classes on boatbuilding and seamanship that foster maritime traditions. Family Week (July 31- August 6) o ffers day courses that bring families together for fun boat-crafting experiences. Adults and children age nine to 15 work side-by-side on vessels and can choose to construct a Bevin ski , wood duck kayak or Echo Bay dory ski . Families can also learn how to sail, and your classroom will be on the water.
The WaterFront Center - Oyster Bay, N.Y. (516-922-SAIL) The WaterFront Center is dedicated to educating people of all ages to become active stewards of the marine environment and promoting community sailing to enjoy and protect the waters of Oyster Bay. Junior Summer Programs run from June to August, with half- and full-day classes available. All ages are welcome to sign up, from Bay Buccaneers (grades 1 to 2) to Mariners (grades 9 to 12). Camps fall into two categories: Marine Discovery & Taste of Sailing and Sailing Only. Enroll for a week-long session and you'll want to come back for more.
The Whale Camp - Grand Manan Island, NB, Canada (610-399-1463) Established in 1984, The Whale Camp takes kids age 10 to 17 on board a 64-foot sailboat to gain hands-on experience hauling lines, raising sails and charting a course through the Bay of Fundy. The campus is located in the crystal clear waters between Maine and Nova Scotia and is surrounded by fishing villages, lobster boats and lighthouse stations. Campers use professional marine biology and scientific equipment to discover ocean life big and small from whales, porpoises and seals to microscopic sea plankton. Enroll in one, two or three week sessions that run from June to August.
Downtown Sailing Center of Baltimore - Baltimore, Md. (410-727-0722) A new program at the Downtown Sailing Center proves that learning science is no longer boring. The STEM Summer Sailing Camp gets Baltimore City students jazzed up about the sport of sailing while they discover the exciting and practical aspects of science, technology, engineering and math. The session is held in July and lasts for nine days. Campers in grades 3 to 7 are encouraged to join the fun on the water. Before and after care is available for children enrolled in full-day lessons.
Eastport Yacht Club Learn to Sail - Annapolis, Md. (410-267-9549) The Eastport Yacht Club combines classroom time with on-the-water experience to teach the essentials of sailing, seamanship, navigational skills and an intro to racing. Kids age 6 to 15 and adults 16 and older learn boater safety and respect for the marine environment. Several types of sailboats are used, and paddleboards and kayaks are on hand as fun learning alternatives for days when the wind doesn't cooperate. Classes on powerboat handling for students age 12 and older are also available. Yacht club members and non-members are welcome to take summer sessions.
Audubon Summer Nature Camp - Cape May, N.J. (609-898-8848) With so many fun camps at the Audubon Center, it's hard to pick just one. Exploring beaches, streams, ponds and forests helps kids develop a connection to the natural environment, while learning about science through hands-on activities. Session highlights: Ocean Explorers discover secrets beneath the waves from the shallow harbors to the deep sea, Macro & Mico Marine Monsters campers drag big nets through the water to investigate aquatic animals in the marine food chain, and Youth Fishing blends classroom projects with an off shore fishing trip to experience the thrill of a big catch. Children age 6 and older are grouped according to grade level.
YMCA Camp Sea Gull and Camp SeaFarer - Arapahoe, N.C. (252-249-1111, 252-249-1212) Six-year-old little skippers to 16-year old wannabe sea captains can hone their water skills during day or overnight sessions. Activities concentrate on three areas. Fishing classes begin on piers dropping lines and nets and grow into day trips with guides who show how to handle boats, plot courses and read charts. Sailing sessions involve a range of watercrafts from small Optis and Sunfish to Flying Scots and Keelboats. Powerboat lessons are taught on a fleet of outboards from 15-horsepower Scots to 18-foot Parkers, where campers tackle land and marine skills for water skiing and fishing fun.
4-H Sea Camp - Oak Harbor, Ohio (419-898-3631) With lovely Kelleys Island as home base, campers age 13 to 18 can explore the waters of Lake Erie. Adventures include fishing on a charter boat and feasting on your catch, snorkeling amidst shipwrecks, conducting marine science experiments at Ohio State University Stone Lab, paddling kayaks through this Great Lake's gentle waves and sailing around the islands on a 35-foot sloop. Teen voyagers can also learn to sail or operate powerboats, with special attention to safety and rescue techniques. Full-day sessions take place in July.
Shedd Aquarium Summer Road Trip - Chicago, Ill. (312-939-2438) Turn your city kids into outdoor enthusiasts! Chicago-area youth in grades six to 12 use Shedd Aquarium as a launching pad for open-air summer adventures. They touch swimming sturgeons while learning about their habitat, investigate regional aquatic animals and their role in the Great Lakes ecosystem and travel by canoe or kayak to help restore local lagoons and wetlands. Campers develop an appreciation for marine life and the natural environment by working with researchers and gaining hands-on experience with real scientific tools and equipment.
4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resource Camp - Presque Isle, Minn. (906-774-0363) Your teens won't want to text on their cellphones when they come to Camp Chickagami. Instead, they'll be engaged in marine fun and scientific discovery. Fishing activities take them out on a charter boat to learn techniques and equipment for reeling in Lake Huron's bounty. Watershed & Marine Debris sessions use a research vessel to collect mud samples and experience the freshwater spin on marine biology. Climate Change classes explore woods, wetlands and waterways to reveal long-term climate patterns effecting the Great Lakes. The overnight camp runs during the first week of August for kids age 13 to 15 who will enter 8th to 10th grade in the fall.
Texas A&M Sea Camp - Galveston, Texas (409-740-4525) Since 1986, Sea Camp has helped young mariners explore the wonders of the sea and its aquatic residents. Professional staffers engage students in hand-on experiences using research vessels, oceanographic equipment and laboratory facilities. Activities cover a bushel of topics including marine biology, coastal ecology, nautical archaeology, sea turtle biology, ecotourism, fishing skills, marine engineering, sharks and much more. Sea Camp is overnight for kids age 10 to 18; Sea Campus Kids is a day program for campers age 6 to 11. Talented & Gifted sessions work with high-ability kids age 14 to 18.
Sanibel Sea School - Sanibel, Fla. (239-472-8585) Sanibel Sea School wants everyone to fall in love with the ocean and become good stewards of the water. Programs combine family vacations with memorable learning activities in topics such as barrier islands, biodiversity, critters from crabs to jellies, manatees and mangroves, pirate legends, intertidal zones, the motion of waves, and lots more. Summer Camp, for children age 4 to 18, teaches watermen skills, surfing, snorkeling, seining and a little biology. Just picture all this happening on one of the Atlantic's most beautiful islands.
Marathon Dolphin Research Center - Grassy Key, Fla. (305-289-0002) From a kid's perspective, it's hard to imagine anything more fun than spending a week with dolphins. This seven-day program introduces campers to the fantastic world of marine mammals. Dolphins take center stage, but other aquatic creatures make cameo appearances including sea lions, Baleen whales and sea turtles. Other hands-on activities: dolphin research, biology, conservation, husbandry and a dolphin dip in the water for face time with these amazing creatures. Campers age 10 to 14 are welcome to apply for classes that run from June to August.
Northwest Maritime Center Youth Summer Programs - Port Townsend, Wash. 9360-385-3628) These summer programs offer nine weeks of day camps, and all of them are in boats. Messing About in Boats (age 5 to 10) launches kids into the maritime scene by meeting real captains and heading out to sea in rowboats, powerboats and sailboats. They also learn critical skills such as knot tying, basic weather, sea life, conservation and boat types and parts. Learn to Sail (age 10 to 16) takes kids out on the windy Port Townsend Bay to hone sailing skills on its challenging waters. Beginners start in an Opti dingy, and advanced sailors learn racing techniques. This year an all-girl beginner sailing class and a new marine biology program are available.
SEACAMP San Diego - San Diego, Calif. (858-268-0919) Marine education is the name of the game in this California summer overnight camp. From June to August, three levels of programs make the most of local resources from aquariums and zoos to the cool Pacific waters. Students in grades seven to 12 experience a gamut of activities that observe aquatic life from tiny plankton to sharks and whales, kayak and snorkel to explore the ocean's movement and waves, take trips on one of southern California's largest live-aboard dive boats and study deep sea fish ecology.
Catalina Island Sea Camp - Avalon, Calif. (800-645-1423) California sunshine, a fine-looking island and the pristine waters of Toyon Bay create an idyllic setting for summer camp. One-week sessions for kids age 8 to 13 spark their imagination with kayaking and snorkeling, boat trips, interactive marine science labs, and schools of sea life to investigate. Three-week sessions for campers age 12 to 17 focus on diving, sailing, learning to scuba, exploring marine biology and tackling adventure courses. Campfires, beach parties and water sports top off the experience.
I rolled out of my bunk at 6 a.m. still aching and stiff from the night before. The alarm blared in direct competition with the snoring of my husband, our captain. The rest of the boat was quiet; the crew was asleep, using every last minute they could before our 8 o'clock start time. But not me.It was market day in Chicago. The Green City Market is an organic haven for foodies: a source for the area's most outstanding meat, cheeses, flowers and produce. Chefs and home cooks alike flock to the center of Lincoln Park to purchase directly from the farmers. Like a ritual, every Wednesday and Saturday I got up early to beat the crowds and the heat.
This morning, I ventured out into traffic still half asleep and blurry eyed. Barely aware of my surroundings, my first stop was a small independent coffee shop that brewed cups full of foam and robust richness.Latte? The woman behind the counter remembered my early morning order.
My eyes began to open with the invigorating smell permeating the car. I whizzed down Lake Shore Drive and drove through the streets. My mind stumbled to life, thinking about the day to come.By the time I pulled into the park, I was nearly coherent. I stumbled toward the stalls, finishing the last of my coffee, but when I hit the first vendor, I was in a full food mind set.
Nick, a young agriculture student and a throwback to the '60s generation, greeted me like an old friend. He quickly steered me to what was perfectly ripe.These zucchinis were just picked yesterday. He caressed them lovingly. These are the first of the summer tomatoes. We each handpicked a variety of heirloom tomatoes ranging in color from stoplight green to Tour de France yellow. He talked me into cranberry beans for my salad, and I picked out the tiniest banana potatoes, no bigger than a child's finger. As I paid, Nick slipped a long seedless cumber into my bag assuring me I would fall in love with its flavor.
Within minutes, I was on to my next friend, who supplied me with local organic quail eggs, yogurts and goat cheeses, all handcrafted in a European style. I moved on, this time to a shy taciturn man who didn't need to speak to convince me to try the honey from wildflowers just west of the city. Next was the woman who grew all her own herbs. I couldn't escape the distinctive citrus tang of lemon balm, the smell of rosemary and the lingering scent of fresh dill. This was the way to begin a day.Brightly colored vegetables greeted me at every turn. Carrots the color of Tigger lay with their long feathery tops still attached beside piles of shiny purple eggplant and deep emerald green zucchini. Sweet-smelling fuzzy peaches sat next to a pyramid of dark red cherries on the fruit stand.
Halfway through, I stopped at a tent for a fresh-baked croissant and another round of early morning greetings. Wiping the crumbs off my shirt, I was off to see the 5 year-old girl with big bouncy ringlet curls who helped her mom with flower sales.
I picked the sunflowers yesterday. Her innocent eyes turned me into a puddle, and I bought more than I could ever possibly use on the boat.I quickly unloaded the bags into the car and headed back for one final sweep of the market. Mounds of fragrant basil filled the air, and I couldn't resist buying numerous bunches for fresh pesto. I grabbed two pints of pencil-thin green beans to toss with it and enough zucchini blossoms to stuff with a cheese mousse for an appetizer that night. In all too short of a time, I jumped back in the car and headed for the boat.
This time, my thoughts raced while I drove back down Lake Shore Drive, flipping from one recipe to another like riffling a deck of cards. All I could think of was how to best use what I had procured. With ingredients so fresh and perfect, I made a point of keeping the dishes simple to showcase their flavors. I would have to roast the peppers and butcher the free-range chickens before I started on a soup with the tomatoes and zucchini. My mind jumped from stall to stall, replaying what had gone into each of my bags.
If I poached the peaches in champagne I could preserve their sweetness without overpowering them. And the baby arugula would be the perfect base for a salad, maybe with the banana potatoes.By the time I was back at the boat I had my menu set and was wide awake, wishing I could start every morning energizing at the Chicago Green City Market.
Bring a pot of water to a boil with the potatoes and sea salt and simmer for 10 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain. Place in a large bowl. Bring a pot of water to a boil with quail eggs, sea salt and vinegar. Simmer for three minutes. Drain and place eggs in ice water to cool. Drain and peel. Slice eggs in half. In a large bowl, whisk together Dijon, egg yolk, lemon zest, and juice. Slowly, drizzle in the oil, whisking continually to thicken. Season with sea salt and piment d'espellette. Toss with potatoes and mix gently. Add the arugula, tuna, peppers, black olives, capers and scallions and toss gently. Garnish the salad with the quail eggs.
Sited on the banks of Carter Creek where it flows into the Rappahannock River, Irvington boasts deep, protected waters and a quaint Colonial ambiance. The village once thrived as a stop for steamboats carrying goods and travelers across southern Chesapeake Bay, which is why The Steamboat Era Museum here is so popular today. For more history, head to Christ Church (finished in 1735), where you can tour one of the nation's finest examples of Georgian architecture. Hit the farmers' market for fresh seafood, meat and vegetables or visit one of the vineyards in the area. Dock at The Tides Inn Marina.
Chesapeake Bay possesses a seemingly endless array of temptations for boaters, yet St. Michaels remains a perennial favorite for its sheer beauty and well-roundedness. Yes, it has picturesque streets lined with vintage homes leading to a gorgeous harbor. Yes, is has charming storefronts, trendy retailers and fine art galleries. Yes, it has spas and retreats for pampering and relaxation. Yes, it has fine dining from waterfront crab houses to gourmet brasseries. And yes, it even has the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the St. Michaels Museum on St. Mary's Square. What's not to love? Dock at St. Michaels Marina or at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, a members-only marina.
The entire city of Cape May is designated a National Historic Landmark due to its unprecedented concentration of Victorian buildings. It's also called the nation's oldest seashore resort and has all the trappings to back it up, including a two-mile boardwalk paralleling the beach with arcades, seafood joints and shopping galore. Cape May makes a great base for outdoor fun bird-watching, boat tours, dolphin cruises, kayaking and canoeing and the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is just a short cab ride away. Dock at South Jersey Marina or Canyon Club Resort Marina.
This village at the eastern end of Long Island's North Fork is modest and casual with the look and feel of an authentic whaling town. Vessels of all sizes are moored in the deep-water harbor, seagulls soar overhead, and, occasionally, there's a whiff of fried clams on the air. From the waterfront, you can walk to restaurants, shops and even a vintage carousel. Visit the East End Seaport Museum & Marine Foundation and the famous S.T. Preston and Son Chandlery for some nautical seasoning. Dock at Mitchell Park Marina or Brewer Yacht Yard at Greenport.
Well known as an old shipbuilding town, Mystic is also home to some of the finest modern marine facilities on Long Island Sound. There's plenty to do, particularly for those cruising with kids. The waterside streets are lined with shops, galleries and restaurants, and there's also a planetarium and children's museum. No trip here is complete without a tour of Mystic Seaport, the nation's leading maritime museum or the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration. Dock at Mystic Shipyard, Brewer Yacht Yard at Mystic or Seaport Marine.
The Vineyard, as locals call it, is the bigger, more outgoing sister of Nantucket. The island is closer to Cape Cod, making it a more convenient, and is adorned with picturebook beaches, elegant inns, and upscale dining and shopping, which draw celebrities and serious vacationers alike. Brightly painted gingerbread cottages line the streets of Oak Bluffs (also the home of the Flying Horses, the oldest working carousel in the U.S.). Visit Aquinnah Beach to see the famous color-streaked cliffs there. Dock at Oak Bluffs Marina, Vineyard Haven Marina or Edgartown Town Docks.
The world's former top whaling port is now a remote summer vacation spot with a serene seaside look and feel. Restaurants and boutique stores line the streets of Nantucket Town, where you will also find the majority of dining and nightlife options, and the Museum of Nantucket History includes exhibits on the history of the island. Beachcombing, swimming, surfing and fishing are all glorious ways to spend a day, or a week, here. Bring your bike, too, as that is the best way to get around the 50-square-mile island. Dock at Nantucket Boat Basin.
Boston is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and has an amazingly rich history and culture. You can still visit where many of the crucial events of the American Revolution occurred along the Freedom Trail, which is marked by a red line of bricks embedded in the ground. The Inner Harbor is home to the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard as well as the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum at Fort Point Channel. It also offers the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area and numerous waterfront restaurants. Dock at The Boston Yacht Haven, Constitution Marina or Marina Bay.
It's the Maine coast as it was meant to be. Lobster boats and schooners ply the harbor in front of a charming downtown studded with locally owned shops, galleries, seafood eateries and cafes there's even a beautiful public library right on the waterfront. Take a day-trip to the outlying islands and their 18 lighthouses, or head inland and experience Camden Hills State Park, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts featuring 30 miles of scenic hiking and mountain biking trails, breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and lakes and well maintained campgrounds. Dock at Wayfarer Marine.
Dotted with historic homes and featuring the nation's third-tallest monument, the 352-foot Doric column Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, this village on South Bass Island is Americana at its best. It ranks in the top five confectionary destinations in the state, and its largest souvenir shop reportedly has 1,000 items with the town's name on it. Enjoy winery tours, park tours, cave tours and home tours via rented golf cart, or spend your days kayaking, parasailing, fishing, biking, hiking or golfing. It's the quintessential choose-your-own-adventure family vacation spot. Dock at Miller Marina or The Crew's Nest.
The world's largest freshwater island, Manitoulin in northern Lake Huron has been called a place of convergence. Indeed, history, culture and natural beauty merge in the two-dozen settlements spread across its 1,000 square miles of boreal forest, bluffs and meadows. The Holy Cross Mission and Ruins in Wikemikong commemorates early Jesuit visits to the island, which began around 1648. Sheguiandah holds a prehistoric quarry that has yielded stone pools and arrowheads dating back 9,000 years. Gore Bay, one of the larger communities, offers modern amenities such as shopping, restaurants and facilities for tennis and golf. Dock at Spider Bay Marina in Little Current.
With its megawatt downtown and world-famous attractions, it's not surprising to see the Windy City listed here. Navy Pier, once a shipping and military training facility, is now a major tourist draw with 50 acres of promenades, shops, eateries and amusements. Shoreline Sightseeing operates nine touring boats and 11 water taxis that offer guided skyline tours, fireworks cruises, and special events such as Brew Cruises and Wine Tasting Cruises. Then, of course, there's Michigan Avenue, Shedd Aquarium, Millennial Park, the Field Museum of Natural History and much more. Dock at DuSable Harbor, Burnham Harbor or 31st Street Harbor.
The hundreds of islands breaching the sparkling blue waters here are everything you've heard rugged, wild and richly fertile in scenery. May through September is the ideal time to visit, when the weather is mild and the whales (orcas, mainly) are on the move. You can take advantage of the many lovely resorts and lodges, the attractions of the charming seaside towns, or simply find your way to remote anchorages and deserted bays. Dock at Port of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island or Deer Harbor Marina on Orcas Island.