Let this be the year you expand your sun-filled horizons to include hot cultural spots, wander-worthy museums, and tantalizing culinary scenes. Here are 10 cities for beachgoers looking for a little bit extra.
1: Carmel by the Sea, California - Few beach towns are as storybook-scenic as Carmel by the Sea—California’s answer to centuries-old artists communities like England’s Stratford-upon-Avon. Many picture-perfect historic buildings here, like Carmel Mission, date back hundreds of years. Galleries and cozy fine-dining restaurants appropriately define its narrow streets.Carmel even famously has its fair share of celebrities serve as mayor, including actor turned Hollywood director Clint Eastwood.
2: Provincetown, Massachusetts - Cape Cod, too, gets overrun with visitors every summer. But for good reason: Chilly New England deserves these sunny beaches and sleepy beach towns. But one popular destination at the tip of the Cape in particular is anything but sleepy.Provincetown is many things—boutiquey, beachy, an arts haven—but it’s especially gay friendly, which makes it a hot spot for Pride month every year. Head there in June for block parties, bustling bars, and club events.
3: Kihei, Maui, Hawaii - If you’re going to do Hawaii, do it right. Nothing is as innately Hawaiian as the untouched parts of Maui—and plenty of them coexist with bustling tourism and local-filled restaurants in Kihei.Rent a beachside condo in Kihei during low season (fall) for your best shot at getting the soft sands and calm snorkeling waves to yourself. Take up surfing in classes taught by locals, paddleboard alongside sea turtles, or test the array of pints at Maui Brewing Company.
4: San Diego, California - Another truly urban beach getaway, San Diego is popular with visitors year-round thanks to its perpetually sunny skies and famous beach spots like seal-dotted La Jolla Cove. You can escape the summer crowds by heading to North County’s Carlsbad Beach, which has kid-friendly tidal pools, towering palm trees, waves perfect for surfing, and ample parking. North County is about 40 minutes north of downtown, and largely free of tourists.
5: Orange Beach, Alabama - Southern destinations are often frequented for decadent food, lively music scenes, and year-round warm weather—but Orange Beach, Alabama, makes a case for adding beaches to that list. Tourism to Gulf Shores is increasing as the region adopts more and more food festivals, breweries, and raved-aboutrestaurants. White sand beaches and bright blue waves beckon just as much as annual art, music, and beer festivals.
6: Portland, Maine - If the only Portland on your radar is in Oregon and not Maine, it's time to reevaluate. Maine’s Casco Bay houses this hidden gem of a port city, adorned with scenic fishing ports, historic Victorian architecture, and underrated art museums and breweries.Sandy East End and Willard beaches welcome summer-loving Mainers with open arms after every harsh winter, and the college town’s shopping, dining, and Monet-filled museums keep tourists busy even during the winter months.
7: Clearwater, Florida - Arguably the best beach in the country, Clearwater Beach also happens to be flanked by the Tampa Bay area’s paradisiacal happenings and some world-class art. Home to the three miles of restaurant-lined, crystal-blue shallows that make up TripAdvisor’s #1 ranked U.S. beach, Clearwater is also a place to find hatching sea turtles and rehabilitating dolphins at the local Marine Aquarium.
8: Chicago, Illinois - The Chicagoan shores of Lake Michigan are teeming with visitors and locals alike every summer. The perfect pit stop after gallivanting the sweltering city,Oak Street Beach is my personal favorite spot for sweeping skyline views,beach volleyball, bike rentals, or simply wading in the waves.
9: Newport, Rhode Island - Pristine beaches, cliff trails, and colonial history coexist harmoniously in Rhode Island’s sea-front city of Newport, 35 miles south of the tiny state’sunderstated capital. Newport is rife with 19th-century mansions-turned-museums that were once summer “cottages” to many old-money American elite—Vanderbilts and Kennedys included. The original Great Gatsby film adaptation was also filmed at Newport's famous Rosecliff mansion (pictured).
10: Long Beach, Washington - Pacific Coast cliffs and cool white waves are staples of Washington's breathtaking beaches, and Long Beach’s surroundings make it a win-win for sea adventures and culture-loving escapees alike.Long Beach lives up to its name, with 28 miles of seacoast lined by boardwalks, sand dunes, and summer festivals, not to mention the quirky pastimes of downtown. Discover live music, fit in some nearby zip-line adventures, or catch a show at the PAPA theater.