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 Top five family beaches across America

(ARA) - The economy may be tottering like a newborn calf, but that won't stop families from heading to the beach this summer.

Eighty-one percent of travelers still plan to go somewhere for a summer vacation, according to a survey by consumer travel website Orbitz. And while the notion of the "staycation" is so 2009, rising gas prices will likely keep travelers close to home, as six in 10 families say it was important to go on vacation this year despite increased fuel costs, according to a recent USAToday/Gallup poll.

But where is there to go? Sure, big waves, romantic sunsets, and turquoise waters are great. But carrying a crying toddler across miles of burning sand or having your family picnic ruined by some boozing 20-somethings can really ruin a beach vacation. These five beach towns offer a great balance of family friendliness (think: extracurricular activities, nearby hotels, parking) and surf and sand.

Waikiki, Hawaii

From surfing to visiting the zoo, from restaurants to parks, Waikiki has something for everyone in your family. Found in Honolulu, Waikiki used to be a retreat for Hawaiian royalty. Today, the beachfront is lined with hotels and resorts and hosts many events throughout the year, including surf competitions and outdoor performances. There is also the iconic Diamond Head Crater, the 500-acre Kapiolani Park, a zoo and an aquarium for when you get too much sun.

Cannon Beach, Ore.

Cannon Beach, 80 miles west of Portland, is named for a cannon that washed ashore in 1846 from the shipwrecked USS Shark. The area offers an abundance of activities including an annual castle-building contest in June. Many well-known natural landmarks such as the Haystack Rock and Needles can be seen from the coastline. With a quaint downtown filled with small businesses and a farmers market every Tuesday, Cannon Beach will let you sit back, relax and enjoy food, family and friends. Travel information website even named Cannon Beach its No. 1 cheap beach vacation spot.

Ocean City, N.J.

Nicknamed "America's Greatest Family Resort," Ocean City has miles of guarded beaches, a 2.5-mile boardwalk with amusement parks, a water park, miniature golf and many unique restaurants and shops. Families can find many fun things to do from fireworks to concerts to auto shows. Cape May, to the south, makes for a great day trip as well.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Myrtle Beach has camping, resorts, outlet malls, go-cart parks, waterslides, thousands of restaurants, plenty of shows and 60 miles of wide, soft sandy beaches. Plus, it boasts some of the best (and, with more than 250, most) golf courses in the south, some created by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Greg Norman. With the average high hovering in the high 80s and a wide variety of activities for all ages, it is one of the top family beach destinations in the United States.

Clearwater, Fla.

Considered one of America's best beaches, Clearwater will offer your family a fun, relaxing vacation. The clear, warm waters are shallow and the lifeguards on duty are attentive. The beaches include a pier and accessible restrooms. The kids will enjoy building sandcastles while the parents keep an eye out from underneath their umbrella. Older kids can rent jet skis if they get restless.

Courtesy of ARAcontent



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