Planning a Beach Reunion for 14 - My Family Travels
Q. I am a grandfather of five from Kansas City trying to host our annual week-long, three-generational family reunion of 14 (five kids and nine adults). We need six bedrooms and would enjoy a pool and a beach locale with activities for kids from 1 to 13-years old. My far-flung family is willing to fly up to four hours. Help!     J.W., Kansas City, Missouri 

A. Renting a house that will accommodate several generations under one roof is not only economical, it enables you to spend time together and have privacy as well. The following destinations are easily reachable, have enough varied activities to please most kids, parents and grandparents, and offer fair weather almost year-round. Call the FTF office for recommended real estate agencies; large rental homes are rare and booked far in advance, so you will probably have the most choices available early in the year.

Traditional Cape Cod, Massachusetts offers the simple pleasures of bygone days. With 77 beaches, the peninsula’s seaside activities range from sand-castle building to whale-watching. Plan to tour the 40-mile-long Cape Cod National Shoreline, a lifeguard-supervised area offering dramatic dunes and free ranger-guided tours. Other than high summer, beach-goers will find a cold and sometimes rough Atlantic Ocean. Visitors can also bicycle the 25-mile paved Cape Cod Rail Trail, explore cranberry bogs, visit lighthouses and enjoy local theatre. Winter can be bleak or beautiful; on rainy or cold days visit the Railroad Museum and playground in Chatham, the Children’s Museum in Mashpee, and the National Marine Fisheries Service Aquarium in Woods Hole.

Boisterous Galveston, Texas offers 32 miles of white sand beach about 50 miles south of Houston. In its colorful history it has been an Indian burial ground, the world’s leading cotton port, a haven for bootleggers, and now, a restored, lively Victorian-era resort town. Besides strolling by the many shops and galleries on the Strand, or lounging on the beach fringing the calm Gulf of Mexico, families will enjoy a tram-tour or horse-drawn carriage tour of the East End and Silk Stocking Historical districts. Stormy weather is rare and Galveston remains a popular year-round tourist destination, with peak rates in summer and on weekends.

Classy Newport Beach, California is a long-time favorite, upscale weekend getaway. Families love the broad sand beach and the relatively warm Pacific. The active Newport Pier is ‘reserved’ for serious fishermen weekdays and for rollerbladers, cyclists and strollers on weekends. Nearby is the famous old Balboa Pier, host to fishermen, souvenir shops and games. From here you can catch the seaside bicycle path, visit the ca. 1906 Balboa Pavilion, or drive past the marina to the Fun Zone, with its old-fashioned roller coaster, rides and ice cream parlors. At Newport Dunes Aquatic Park, you can rent a pedalboat or kayak for play in the warm, shallow protected lagoon.

Sunny San Diego, California rightly boasts about its cultural attractions: its Mexican heritage, world-renowned zoo in Balboa Park, and the Victorian-era resort at Coronado provide many sightseeing opportunities above and beyond the lush sand beaches. Visit nearby Mission Bay to stroll the boardwalk, take rides in the amusement park and visit SeaWorld. And, if anyone in your family is a “LegoManiac,” don’t pass up the new Legoland in Carlsbad.

Low-key Sanibel Island, Florida invites you to bring a pail to the “Shelling Capital” of the Western Hemisphere. Sanibel’s east-west orientation in the calm Gulf of Mexico allows over 275 kinds of seashells to wash up on the rustic beaches. Also of interest are the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, home to alligators, otters and manatees. There’s no nightlife or thrills, but you’re guaranteed a chance to relax, stroll or rent a bike for flat cycling. You may also avail yourselves of the wonderful children’s program at the active Sundial Beach Resort which accepts non-guests when space is available.

Lively Virginia Beach, Virginia‘s busy boardwalk and hotel strip can be crowded, but there are more secluded spots perfect for reunions, including the “North End” and Sandbridge in the southern end of town. Some of Virginia Beach’s summer activties include: Boardwalk Art Show & Festival (mid-June) which features more than 40,000 pieces of art and the Viva Elvis & Legends of Rock & Roll Show (mid-late June) in which numerous impersonators sing and dance their hearts out on the sandy shores.  In addition, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge provides opportunities to view acres of beach, marshland and woods on foot and bicycle trails. Ocean Breeze, a small seasonal water park, is great for little ones. Year-round daytrips include Colonial Williamsburg, the Children’s Museum in Portsmouth, the Zoo in Norfolk, the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, and the Air and Space Center in Hampton.

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