Where to Eat: Post adventure, swing by the Half Moon Bay Brewery for classy pub fare, made with organic and locally grown ingredients, or kick back with the locals and a Maverick's Amber Ale on the waterfront deck (650-728-2739, www.hmbbrewingco.com).
Where to Stay: For five-star luxury set atop sea bluffs, check into the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (from $305, 650-712-7000, www.ritzcarlton.com/resorts/half_moon_bay/). Don't miss the alfresco fare at the new Ocean Terrace Restaurant overlooking the sea and be sure to enroll the kids in the year-round Ritz Kids program. For even more alfresco living, book one of the 52 ocean-side campsites at Francis Beach's state campground, which, last year, began offering beach-wide Wi-Fi access. In April 2004, the campsite facilities were remodeled-and now include hot showers ($25 a night; 800-444-7275, www.reserveamerica.com).
7. Oregon: Newport, South Beach State Park/Kite flying and Whale Watching
From historic Nye Beach to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Interpretive Center -- home to Oregon's tallest lighthouse -- your car will be a sandbox by the time you're ready to head home. Our favorite beach for kids is South Beach State Park (www.oregonstateparks.org/), two miles south of Newport. This long, wide stretch of sand is perfect for kite flying and sand-castle building. Stop in at the Kite Company in Newport, a behemoth 6,500-square-foot retail space, pick your poison from a selection of delta, dragon, box, diamond, stunt, or parafoil kites, then take it for a spin at South Beach. Or head to Depoe Bay, the official Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast.
During the week of August 28 through September 4 is Fall Whale Watch Week (503-986-0707). For surfers, Moolack Beach is as good as it gets in Oregon. Get started at Ossie's Surf Shop, where they'll give you the lowdown on gear and the best surf conditions (541-574-4634, www.ossiessurfshop.com/).
Surf camps and lessons are available up the coast at Cannon Beach's Surf Adventures (503-436-1481, www.oregonsurfadventures.com).
Where to Eat: Try the Cioppino (a fish stew) or New York Pan Roast at Shark's Seafood Bar and Steamer, which stakes claim as the only non-fried seafood restaurant on the Oregon coast (www.sharkseafoodbar.com, 541-574-0590).
Where to Stay: Book one of the 27 yurts available at South Beach ($29 per yurt; 541-867-4715; www.reserveamerica.com). Starfish Point condominiums (www.starfishpoint.com/) offer two-bedroom, two-bath condos with Jacuzzis, full kitchens, and panoramic views. From $165 for weekend nights off-season, from $175 during high season.
8. Florida: Sanibel and Captiva Islands/Finding Seashells
Not every family fun-time activity has to be adrenaline packed. Slow it down on Gulf Coast neighbors Sanibel or Captiva with seashells. The two islands are like one giant shovel that scoop up the millions of seashells that migrate to the Gulf Coast from the Caribbean.
Search long enough and you'll find perfectly intact conchs, welchs, scallops, clams, and starfish. Sanibel's well-maintained bike paths cover 25 miles of shopping districts and back roads, and meander through friendly neighborhoods, beneath shady tree canopies, across wooden bridges, and along quiet waterways. On Rabbit Road Trail, which runs along a canal, you might see small gray marsh rabbits and the alligators who want to eat them.