This Is the No. 1 Family Beach Vacation Spot in the U.S.

While Alabama might not be the obvious choice for a beach vacation, Gulf Shores claims the top spot.

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If your idea of a perfect summer involves soaking up warm sunrays and splashing in refreshing waves, America’s coastlines are brimming with delightful seaside towns just waiting to be discovered. U.S. News and World Report recently analyzed destinations across the U.S., considering factors like safe waters, kid-friendly attractions, restaurants, accommodations, and prices to determine the best family beach vacations in the U.S.

While Alabama might not be the obvious choice for a beach vacation, Gulf Shores claims the top spot, with 32 miles of pristine white sands. Whether you're seeking a taste of history at Fort Morgan, exhilarating thrills at Waterville USA, or peaceful hikes at Gulf State Park, there’s something to keep every family member engaged. Stay at the Beach Club Resort, an 86-acre village-style property offering beachfront condos, lakeside cottages, and an array of amenities, including two pools, five dining options, an arcade, and a playground.

Outer Banks, North Carolina, is second on the list, a premier surfing destination on the East Coast. This idyllic cluster of barrier islands is home to the wild horses of Corolla, five historic lighthouses, and the iconic Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, where the world’s first powered flight took place. While there are several luxury properties like Sanderling Resort, renting a vacation house near the beach is also an excellent option, especially for large families.

Anna Maria Island in Florida takes third place, with seven miles of glistening beaches, mesmerizing sunsets, and various family-friendly activities ranging from interacting with marine life at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to painting sand dollars at Shiny Fish Emporium. Of course, seafood is a must when visiting the island and the nearby Cortez Historic Fishing Village, with local spots like Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Tide Tables, and Sandbar Seafood & Spirits serving fresh catches daily. Exploring the island has never been easier, thanks to a free trolley system and a new ferry service that links the island to downtown Bradenton’s Riverwalk.

Ranked fourth is Kiawah Island, South Carolina, which is home to the luxurious Kiawah Island Golf Resort. With a vast portion of its land designated as protected habitat, this Lowcountry hideaway south of Charleston invites visitors to revel in a slower pace of life and reconnect with nature. The best way to see the island is to hop on a bike and pedal along its 30-mile network of paths, including Kiawah Beachwalker Park, the island’s only public beach.

Destin, Florida, rounds out the top five family beach destinations. Alongside its sister city, Fort Walton Beach, this jewel of a town is renowned for its crystal-clear emerald waters and sugar-like sands. Kids will love taking a dolphin cruise with companies like Smile and Wave Adventures, learning about marine animals at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and visiting Gator Beach, where they can safely interact with alligators. As for dining and accommodations, options are numerous, with kid-approved restaurants like Rockin’ Tacos, Harbor Docks, and Lulu’s and cozy beach resorts like Henderson Beach Resort and Beal House Fort Walton Beach.

For a complete list of the rankings, visit

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