— -- Family Vacation Critic has announced its annual list of the best beaches for families, naming the best beaches in the U.S. for groups traveling with children. Every beach on the list must meet strict criteria of specific interest to families: lifeguards, convenient restrooms, nearby activities and lodging, and clean and calm waters.
This year’s list of winning beaches are:
-- Clearwater Beach (Clearwater Beach, Florida)
Insider tip: "For fun off the beach, families can head to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to visit Winter the Dolphin -- the inspiration behind the movie 'Dolphin Tale,'" according to Family Vacation Critic.
-- Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York)
Insider tip: Family Vacation Critic said, "The popular Luna Park amusement park, right off the boardwalk, is free to enter -- visitors can pay on a per-ride basis, or purchase an unlimited pass."
-- Coronado Beach (Coronado, California)
Insider tip: "For families looking to visit in the fall, San Diego will be hosting its 7th annual Kids Free program in October 2018 -- kids can visit popular attractions for free with a paying adult, special Kids Free deals are offered in local restaurants and hotels offer special amenities for guests 12 and under."
-- West Beach (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – Gary, Indiana)
Insider tip: "As part of the National Park Service," the website said, "kids can take part in the Indiana Dunes Junior Ranger program, with two activity levels for kids ages 5 through 15."
-- Gulf Shores Main Public Beach (Gulf Shores, Alabama)
Insider tip: "For 2018, Gulf Shores is adding a boardwalk and walking paths for beach visitors to enjoy, along with a handful of new restaurants within a few blocks of the beach."
-- Massengale Park (St. Simons Island, Georgia)
Insider tip: "Nearby Neptune Park Fun Zone has something for all members of the family, with an 18-hole mini golf course; water attraction with a pool, water gym and lap lanes (all monitored by American Red Cross-certified lifeguards) and state-of-the-art playground."
-- Virginia Beach Oceanfront (Virginia Beach, Virginia)
Insider tip: The web sire said, "JT’s Grommet Island Park is an oceanfront beach playground and park specially-designed for those with special needs. The park and playground is 100% handicap-accessible, with 15,000 square feet of ramps and decking, soft play sculptures, accessible play equipment and special beach wheelchairs."
-- Old Orchard Beach (Old Orchard Beach, Maine)
Insider tip: A new roller coaster – Sea Viper -- is coming to the popular Palace Playland in 2018. The coaster is 70 feet tall and travels at speeds over 40 miles per hour," according to Family Vacation Critic.
-- Siesta Beach (Siesta Key, Florida)
Insider tip: "Just a short drive from Siesta Key, Sarasota Jungle Gardens is home to 150 native and exotic animals on display -- feed flamingos, pet a reptile and take in one of their interactive animal shows."
-- Surfside Beach (Surfside Beach, South Carolina)
Insider tip: "Surfside Beach is the first certified autism-friendly destination in the world -- staff at most hotels, attractions and restaurants are trained and certified by the Champion Autism Network."