If you’ve ever been the victim of a relative with a travel trivia book, chances are you’ve had to answer the query, “Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?” For me, that question has always brought a host of fond memories. While I’ve enjoyed every trip I’ve taken as the daughter of a pair of travel aficionados, I will always have a soft spot for Bethany — a sleepy Delaware beach town that has been the site of many of my summer vacations, including one this past June, when I spent several days with my old friends at their beach house.
Honorable Mention 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
We arrived from Route 26 and eastern Maryland’s miles of cornfields. I smiled, like always, at the familiar 24-foot-tall totem pole that has guarded Bethany since 1976. If you continue past it into the center of town for some shopping, ignore the traditional East Coast beach chains. We did. The true pulse of Bethany is in the locally owned shops like the Fudge Factory, my friends’ favorite, where you can drool over two counters of fudge in every flavor imaginable. The rest of the sweets aren't half bad, either!
I fancied a hot treat, so I followed the smell of warm sugar to the next-door Nutty Bavarian, which offers candied almonds, pecans, and cashews. The free samples are generous, but only because the employees know you’ll get addicted.
Bethany is, of course, a beach town, so we were constantly in danger of having our heels nipped by the electronic toys tethered outside of the myriad trinket shops. They’re the most eye-catching stores, with their brightly-colored stock of beach towels, kites, Frisbees, and gag jokes. As a little kid, though, I paid the hermit crabs out front much more attention. It was always tradition for us to bring a few home to “race” in mazes made out of overturned books. Though I didn’t get a new pet this trip, I still enjoyed watching the crabs peering back at me from their painted shells.
Since I’m a bookworm, my favorite new discovery was the renovated library on Kent Avenue. It’s stocked with enough videos and novels to keep the whole town entertained, on the sand or off. But even I had trouble focusing on a book while I was on Bethany’s actual beaches. If the lifeguards signaling each other with semaphore flags didn’t distract me, then the perfect sculpting sand begging to become a castle did. Eventually, though, I heeded the ocean's call. It's cold, but that’s a good thing in the heat of the summer. If you’re lucky like we were, you will spot dolphins frolicking not far offshore.
Bethany is thirteen miles from Rehoboth and fourteen from Ocean City, so if you ever felt the need to empty a pocketful of quarters at Funland or see the ocean from the top of a carnival Ferris wheel, you’re only a short car or bike ride away. On our most recent trip, though, we only left Bethany once for Nic-O-Bolis from Rehoboth’s Nicola Pizza (a can’t-miss experience). That’s because Bethany is special for its lack of high-octane entertainment. There’s something alluring about small towns; maybe it’s that infusion of warmth they give that curls around your heart and tells you, “You are special. You are not one of the masses.” In my opinion, the only thing that could improve upon that feeling is a beach, and Bethany has one. For me, that makes it a secret eighth wonder of the world.
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