The clean beaches are the main draw in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but there's more to this vacation hot spot than its 60 miles of brown sand. One of the most popular East Coast family vacation destinations, Myrtle Beach boasts amusement parks that offer everything from water slides to roller coasters to race tracks. While the shopaholics of the family spend time at the outlet malls, golfers of all skill levels can flock to one of the area's more than 100 courses, and then the whole family can enjoy pirate or medieval-inspired revues during dinner. When you're not on the beach, attractions like Ripley's Aquarium and the Broadway Grand Prix can entertain family members of all ages. Plus, there's a minor league baseball team for sports lovers. In short, Myrtle Beach is the ideal destination for budget-minded families looking for a multitude of entertainment options without spending a fortune.
Hearing "20 miles of beachfront" will tempt many vacation-seekers, but the typical Daytona beachgoer usually has something else in mind. Despite recent efforts to appeal to families (Orlando, amusement park central, is just an hour away), Daytona annually attracts thousands of visitors in search of speed and spring break. And although many college kids have moved to trendier locales (Miami Beach, for one), this east Florida city still remains a frequented spot. Its reputation as the "it" party place has welcomed a different type of celebratory atmosphere -- the ever-expanding NASCAR empire. Best known for the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona draws travelers who hope to see their favorite race car drivers up close.
Residents and visitors alike share a passion for all motor vehicles. Daytona Bike Week and Biketoberfest are regular events that bring thousands to the shore. In addition, supercross and kart racing take place regularly. People love their cars so much that vehicles are actually allowed on the beach. So gather your family or your friends, pile into your car and motor down to the sand. It's sure to be a high-octane vacation.
Cancún is nothing if not resilient. Consider the debilitating effects Hurricane Wilma had on the region in 2005 — drowned shores, destroyed storefronts and capsized boats. But now, this skinny "7"-shaped barrier island in southeastern Mexico is once again a go-to spot for beaches, golfing and nightlife. Cancún also remains one of the most affordable vacation destinations in the Western Hemisphere — you could pay less than $600 per person for an all-inclusive vacation along these Yucatán sands, even during the self-indulgent spring break season.
So what's there to do here? Cancún's beaches are spectacular spots to try some jet skiing and parasailing. And there's also a host of after-hours activities; be sure to check out the acrobatic dance performances at the Coco Bongo Cancún. This area is also close to one of the most recognizable sites of Mexico — don't miss out on the chance to behold Chichén Itzá, a large Mayan archaeological site that is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Determining Puerto Rico's charm is a no-brainer. Less than a three-hour flight from Miami, this island is a U.S. territory (in case you didn't recall from high school history class). So when you're shopping in San Juan, you can pay for your souvenirs with American bills. But don't be mistaken: This isn't quite a home away from home. Puerto Rico has both 20-foot waves for surfers and calm, clear waters for families. It's a stroll back through time (El Morro) and an up-close look at the contemporary (Calle del Cristo). It's an exhilarating mix of landscapes, from the serpentine jungle of El Yunque to the corkscrew caves of Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy. And if you want to get away from civilization entirely, you can ferry over to the secluded — not to mention jaw-droppingly gorgeous -- islands of Vieques and Culebra. Convinced?
If not, we can drive a few further points home. When other Caribbean isles put a premium on wintertime at the beach, Puerto Rico offers year-round affordable packages so travelers can relax along its blanched sands. And while other regional spots like to advertise exciting nightlife, the capital city of San Juan actually delivers. Follow a pulsating beat to the dance clubs in the Santurce neighborhood, catch some live music in a Ponce lounge or grab a casual drink at a San Sebastián bar.
Every March, like clockwork, students would cram into cars and head to South Padre Island for spring break fun in the sun and 24-hour beach bashes. Times have changed, and while some of today's college kids still plan beach trips to South Padre, the area has seen a rebirth of sorts as a popular family vacation destination. That's because South Padre, or SPI, delivers with wide sandy beaches, sparkling blue water and a mixture of funky hotels and bars that emphasize character.
Even though the ghosts of greats like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash mingle with present-day headliners like Taylor Swift and Keith Urban (not to mention his glamorous wife, Nicole Kidman), Nashville exudes a modest, down-to-earth vibe. It's been characterized as a big back porch, teeming with storytellers and old timers picking on six strings. But one look at Hillsboro Village's trendy boutiques and hipster bars proves that Nashville is not only for graying country crooners. Music City affords visitors a mix of grandstand glitz, down-home Southern hospitality and an energetic collegiate populace.
The sugary sand of a Punta Cana beach is so soft, so perfectly golden that you might think it was synthetic. And in fact, in this easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic, it's possible. By definition, Punta Cana is a manufactured Caribbean getaway, completely catering to the needs of sun-seeking vacationers who like all-inclusive resorts but care little about venturing away from their hotel.
But this area is not only popular for its abundant lodging and comprehensive amenities — Punta Cana beckons to jet-setters because it provides so many options (more than 24,000 hotel rooms) for such affordable rates. Many travelers are able to book a weeklong trip that includes airfare, lodging, meals and some resort activities, for much less than $1,000 per person in the shoulder seasons. While this destination isn't necessarily the most extreme, visitors can get their fill of thrills hiking to Hoyo Azul or taking on challenging golf courses like Punta Espada or La Cana. Overall, this reasonably priced, Caribbean hideout is made for travelers of all ages seeking a relaxing turn from the norm.
Consistently sunny weather and 70 miles of magnificent coastline are what draw active types to San Diego throughout the year: that and the mouthwatering cuisine, thriving nightlife and one of the country's favorite zoos. And then there are the beaches: Retreat to Mission Beach to soak up the rays, to La Jolla to catch a wave and to Coronado for a leisurely seaside stroll. When you're ready to ditch your flip-flops and board shorts for more formal attire, you'll find pockets of vivacious nightlife throughout, especially near the historical Gaslamp Quarter.
America's Finest City is a confluence of different communities defined by the area's military and Hispanic heritage: San Diego is home of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and sits adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border. In spite of constant growth (and its title as California's second-largest city), San Diego maintains a small-town feel, making it a popular destination for families and anyone looking for a laid-back, Southern California getaway in the sun
Known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," Austin boasts more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the nation. It has witnessed the early careers of several famous musicians, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin and the Dixie Chicks. Despite significant growth in recent years, Austin maintains a quirky, laid-back atmosphere that you won't find in other Texan cities. Outsiders tend to see the city as a home base for wacky characters, but Austinites revel in their eccentricity and proudly flaunt the city's motto, "Keep Austin Weird."
Aside from its buzzing live music and nightlife scenes, the main reason to visit is to enjoy the outdoors. With an average of about 230 sunny days per year and large swaths of green space like Zilker Park, many experts consider Austin one of the Best Places to Live in America. It's probably because there's something here for everybody: Whether you're a history buff (LBJ's library is here as well as the Lone Star State-sized Texas State History Museum) an art lover (Blanton Museum of Art), a sports fan (University of Texas at Austin football) or a budding musician (6th Street). After your visit, you might be asking: Why don't I live here?
Photos from GOOGLE.com