Siesta Key, Florida

david-grahamDavid Graham
davidwgraham@hotmail.co.uk
Professional journalist and Silver Travel Advisor
Silver tier writer 250

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair bit, both for work and pleasure, often gratefully combining the two, and I reckon I’ve found a Key to contentment and real relaxation.

Siesta Key is the place, linked to classy Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida by couple of causeways; and linked, for me, to the sort of laid-back vibes you might have found in a mellow slice of San Francisco back in the day.

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Siesta Key beach – and it is that white!  It all hinges on being of a certain age, with echoes of the 60s when you glance around and see just how many of the people around you are contemporaries; and how many longish-haired chaps, just like me, will crowd round a nicely-customised Harley Davidson parked by the kerb and go to the nearest old-school ‘run wot-u-brung’ drag race meeting on a weekend morning!

It’s not just retro charm, although there’s no shortage of that, for the friendly, easy-going vibe seems to be shared by everybody you meet, of all ages, whether they are Siesta Key residents or seasonal student workers or just visiting for a day, a weekend or for a ‘proper’ vacation, taking in what is consistently voted one of the very best beaches in the country, if not the world.

The Key is handy enough to reach for just an hour’s fishing or sunbathing or a picnic lunch from the busy centre of Sarasota via Siesta Drive and the North Bridge, which gives easy access to Siesta Key Village itself, the main settlement and where the action is in terms of shops, restaurants and watering holes, and where being laid back is something of an art form.

The Key is separated from the mainland by Roberts Bay at this ‘top’ end, and then by Little Sarasota Bay stretching south on the way to Venice, which is crossed at its narrowest point about five miles out of town by the second link, South Bridge, on Stickney Point Road. Just inland is Stickney Point Road’s junction with main Highway 41, the famous South Tamiami Trail, and it’s near this major intersection, boasting nigh-on 20 suspended traffic lights, where I found a great base at the Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway.

It’s a long enough name for a hotel, but the ‘Gateway’ is very apt as it’s only a matter of minutes to get from there to Boatyard Village and the drawbridge across to Siesta Key South, at the bottom end of the huge, award-winning expanse of Crescent Beach.

The hotel is a good spot in its own right, across the road from trendier-by-the day Gulf Gate Village, with a splendid long-term staff underlining that popular general manager Mark Petersen knows what he’s about, with all the facilities you learn to expect in this part of the world and a fair helping of care and attention on top.

dscn4721For a start, the deck-access en-suite rooms are spacious and clean, with essentials like a good-sized fridge and a coffee machine as well as the inevitable large-screen TV and, if you’re fussy on your happy hols, there’s even an iron and ironing board. No on-site restaurant, although there is a well-appointed Sand Dollar Bar by the garden-surrounded pool with a good range of hot and cold snacks, with all transactions charged to your room so there’s no messing about with cash if you just want to chill out poolside or use the hot tub without having the fuss of watching handbags and jackets. Coffee is available round the clock in the hotel lobby, where there’s also a 24-hour hot popcorn machine for those munchie moments and where there are free cookies every afternoon around 4pm if you’re passing through to maybe get changed for an early foray into town, or to plan where to go for the always-gorgeous sunsets.

florida2015-416 No in-house restaurant, maybe, but there’s kitchen enough to lay on a help-yourself breakfast with enough goodies on offer to keep you going all day, including pancakes and toast and other varied hot items, as well as the usual ‘continental’ breads, pastries, muffins and fresh fruit, plus endless juice and/or coffee and even tea.

Mealtimes are no problem because there are excellent eateries nearby, like a Carabbas across the car park and a Stonewood Grill only yards further on, both part of major chains, but none the worse for that, and with reputations to maintain and invariably popular. To finish with, there’s always delicious Abel’s ice cream, with a friendly, neighbouring parlour open until late for those muggy nights when only a huge waffle cone under the stars will do, stuffed with what looks like half a gallon of family-made magic (mine’s a pistachio!).

You’re never far away from food in this part of the world and as well as the very active Harry’s Sports Pub and Restaurant on the other side of the car park, there are familiar national restaurants over the road at Gulf Gate Village, or more local fare on Siesta Key itself. If you don’t fancy driving, pop down to reception and summon Johnny’s Free Rides, an on-demand island shuttle working on driver tips only, which will whisk you across to the Key, where the first thing you’re likely to see is Captain Curt’s Crab and Oyster Bar, which almost always has a queue to get in at popular times.

dscn5225And popular times here are usually very early by our standards, with early-bird dinner specials aimed at us ‘seniors’ often well under way by 4 or 5pm and lasting only an hour or so. If you set your warm weather dining clock to Mediterranean time with the idea of going out to eat Greek or Spanish-style at 9 or 10 o’clock, be warned, for a good many ‘sit down’ restaurants will have finished service before you’ve had chance put your glad rags on, and the chefs will have cleaned down and either be at home or in a tiki bar with their pals. You can find food later on, but it’s more likely to be of the burger and bites variety, so it’s as well to plan ahead for any night you want a dressed-up meal out on the town.

Dressing up for the Key is at your discretion and dependent on temperature and temperament, even in the heart of Siesta Key Village, where you can also pick up a Johnny’s Free Ride home after a day or night doing the beaches and bars like the Daiquiri Deck or Gilligan’s, after a burger at The Old Salty Dog and promenading long after the sun has gone down.

Nightlife isn’t just confined to the Village, either, with music and ‘happenings’ of various sorts near the swish new pavilion on Siesta Public Beach, although the stunning sunsets always take pride of place.

There are nearly a dozen access points to Crescent Beach off aptly-named Beach Road, plus a few other access points to the Gulf along the length of the Key, notably at Turtle Beach way off to the south, which is a ride well worth taking for the sunsets, and, naturally enough, the much-loved, protected turtles.

One particular access is my favourite, along a short, dead-end lane with only a very few parking spaces, which means that the small, semi-shaded stretch of snow-white beach bordered by private gardens has an exclusive feel and is never likely to be crowded.

Here, with folding chair deployed next to a sheltering mangrove canopy, I can wade out yards and yards into the shallow, crystal-clear water and catch a tan as well as hopefully catching a fish or two, although the occasional pelican visitor, even more laid back than the other locals, always seems to do far better.

Where is this? I’m keeping this bit of Key locked away!

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David Graham visited Siesta Key on an extended trip to Florida, flying from Manchester to user-friendly Tampa with Virgin Atlantic and partner Delta; and staying in St Petersburg, Bradenton, Sarasota and Venice.

Turtle Beach Gets a Facelift with New Sand

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Tucked away at the south end of Siesta Key is a less frequented stretch of beach known as Turtle Beach.  Known mostly for its quiet kayak and boat launches with easy access into the Intracoastal Waterway and nearby Jim Neville Preserve, Turtle Beach is a hidden gem.  But it needed sand renourishment which ended in a gathering of the Sarasota County Commissioners to commemorate the occasion.

There was no ribbon to cut at the grand opening of south Siesta Key’s recently renourished beaches, just sand to toss.

County commissioners, officials and community members tossed sand from brightly colored buckets onto the newly replenished shores of Turtle Beach to celebrate the completion of the county’s three-year, $21.5 million renourishment project.

More than one million tons of sand — nearly 700,000 cubic yards — was dredged from 10 miles off the coast and deposited onto two miles of the south Siesta Key shoreline. The project was paid for with Tourist Development Tax funds, a state grant and tax assessments from homes along the two-mile stretch of renourished beach.TurtleBeach

The county completed the second and final phase of the project in May.

Despite losses from erosion in the wake of Tropical Storm Colin, the project added 85 feet of sand to the beach. Sarasota County Coastal Resources Manager Laird Wreford said some losses are expected after a renewal project is completed.

The county expects this renourishment project to last for 10 years.

Siesta Key Sunday Drum Circle – Celebrating 20 Years

Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach drummers, dancers and spectators form a circle on the beach and enjoy the rhythmic sounds of drums until well after sunset. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is celebrating it's 20th year. May 15, 2016; Herald Tribune/Carla Varisco

Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach drummers, dancers and spectators form a circle on the beach and enjoy the rhythmic sounds of drums until well after sunset. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is celebrating it’s 20th year. Herald Tribune/Carla Varisco

Every Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach drummers, dancers and spectators form a circle on the beach and enjoy the rhythmic sounds of drums until well after sunset. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is celebrating it’s 20th year.

If you’ve never attended one if these magical nights, celebrating the Siesta Key sunset and the end of another wonderful week to be in our paradise, you don’t know what you are missing.  It is a mystical and rhythmic gathering of regulars and tourists, young and old displaying some of the most beautiful trance like maneuvers with lit hoola hoops, for example, to the beat of drums which is organic in nature.  No one knows how the drumming will sound or what type of sunset those celebrating will experience.

Dr. Marguerite Barnett dances in the circle at the Siesta Key Drum Circle Sunday night. Every Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach drummers, dancers and spectators form a circle on the beach and enjoy the rhythmic sounds of drums until well after sunset. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is celebrating it's 20th year. May 15, 2016; Herald Tribune/Carla Varisco

Dr. Marguerite Barnett dances in the circle at the Siesta Key Drum Circle Sunday night. Every Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach drummers, dancers and spectators form a circle on the beach and enjoy the rhythmic sounds of drums until well after sunset. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is celebrating it’s 20th year. May 15, 2016; Herald Tribune/Carla Varisco

Although I’ve lived here all of my life and was actually raised on Siesta Beach, my first foray into the drum circle occurred about 7 years ago with my own children.  Never experiencing this event before made it even more special that night we decided to stroll down the beach from our condo to see what all of the hoopla was about.  We’ve been back several times since, especially when we stay on the island which is a bi-annual tradition for us even though we live here in Sarasota.

It is a celebration of many things and many of the drummers and performers have been attending and performing since its inception on Beach Access 8 some 20 years ago.  Attend one of these on Sunday night at Siesta Beach, 948 Beach Rd., and you will be hooked.

Allie Richard of Englewood, one of the newest and youngest members, drums at Siesta Key Drum Circle Sunday night. Every Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach drummers, dancers and spectators form a circle on the beach and enjoy the rhythmic sounds of drums until well after sunset. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is celebrating it's 20th year. May 15, 2016; Herald Tribune/Carla Varisco

Allie Richard of Englewood, one of the newest and youngest members, drums at Siesta Key Drum Circle Sunday night. Every Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach drummers, dancers and spectators form a circle on the beach and enjoy the rhythmic sounds of drums until well after sunset. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is celebrating it’s 20th year. May 15, 2016; Herald Tribune/Carla Varisco

 

Siesta Beach is #2 in US!

090522-02-siesta-key-beach_big1SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — The warm clear water… the wide white sandy beaches…and dozens of other categories has put Siesta Key Beach #2 in Dr. Beach’s annual list of best beaches in the country.

The President of Visit Sarasota County was surprised to be back on this prestigious list.

“We know in the past (that) once you reach #1–as we did in 2011– you are retired from the list, but he decided to allow the #1’s to come back, and the fact Sarasota County just invested $21 million dollars in that beach rocketed us right up to #2,” Virginia Haley said.

It’s true, Sarasota County invested in nine hundred new parking spots and also built a new pavilion area complete with a raised restaurant and snack bar.

Vacationers aren’t surprised Siesta Key beach is still among the best beaches in the country.

“I think it deserves to be yeah. It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful…. just so beautiful, everything is just clean, it’s beautiful.”

All this beauty translates into a huge financial boost for the area. V Haley says the nationwide press will translate into more visitors.

“This is a significant economic impact. I’d say within one hour of the press release at 10am this morning, you saw US News & World Report, AP pushing the story, it goes all out over the country and of course we’re known to take advantage of stories like that,” she said with a smile.

The top beach this year is in Oahu, Hawaii. The only other two beaches in the Top Ten from Florida include (#6) Grayton Beach State Park in the Panhandle and Caladesi Island State Park (#9) in Clearwater.

Top 2015 Spring Break Destinations – Yahoo! Travel

Editor, Yahoo Travel

Brittany Jones Cooper
Top 25 Cities for Spring Break

(Photo: Courtney Keating/E+/Getty Images)

Gas up the car, book that plane ticket and start trying on bathing suits —it’s time for spring break!

Yahoo Travel recently conducted a survey asking our readers where they planned to go over spring break. Last week, we shared those survey results with you, but now we’re taking it a step further. Based on the types of trips selected by our readers, the Yahoo Travel editors have hand-picked our favorite destinations to ensure some rest, relaxation, and a memorable party.

Here are the top 25 cities to celebrate spring break:

Beach or tropical resort

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Surfing in Costa Rica (Photo: Tropicalpix/E+/Getty Images)

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: In addition to 60 miles of sand, Myrtle Beach also has golf courses, waterparks and theme parks.

Panama City Beach, Panama: This is long been a hotspot for college spring breakers because of its warm beaches and nightlife. Embrace your adventurous side by renting a jet ski rentals.

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Explore the neighborhood of historic city of Old San Juan and then hit the beaches for some fun in the sun.

Virginia Beach, Virginia: Great food, hiking trails AND gorgeous beaches? Virginia Beach has it all.

Siesta Key Beach, Florida: Located in southern Florida, Siesta Key offers the warm water from the Gulf of Mexico and a relaxed vibe.

Negril, Jamaica: Where’s the party at this spring break? Try Negril, Jamaica. Go cliff diving, snorkeling, or simply enjoy the beautiful Caribbean sunset

Jaco, Costa Rica: One word —surfing. Catch some of the best waves in the world in the waters of Costa Rica

Family-Friendly Sarasota County Beaches

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No family trip to Sarasota County is complete without spending some time on the sand at one of its many beaches. Whether you have toddlers or ‘tweens in tow, there are local beaches great for kiddos of all ages (and their parents). Here are some family-friendly beaches worth a visit.

Sarasota’s Siesta Beach has gotten lots of national attention in the past few years, and for good reason. Named the Number One Beach in America in 2011 by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach), it’s got powdery, white, nearly pure quartz crystal sand that’s soft on your feet and doesn’t get too hot even when temperatures are scorching. Lifeguards are present year-round, a concession stand and beach rentals are located on-site, and a major improvement project already underway will introduce a new playground and additional concession area to the Siesta Key hot spot.

The beach itself is huge, so there’s lots of room for the kids to spread out and play.   Parking is free but the lot does fill during peak season months into the summer.  It’s a good idea to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon around 3 PM to get a space.  It is a long walk to the water’s edge at Siesta’s Public Beach so make sure you have an easy way to get your things on to the beach.

Siesta Key has 13 Public Beach AccesSiesta-Key-Beachses all along Crescent Beach from the north end of the key to Point of Rocks Road.  All of these accesses have limited public parking but it is the same, sugary white powder sand that Siesta is known for which gave it the #1 Beach ranking.

The south end of Siesta Key has Turtle Beach.  This public beach area has a launch on the bayside for kayaks and boats and full access to the Gulf.  Turtle Beach sand is quite different from Crescent Beach sand just to the north on the island but it is still beautiful.  Jim Neville Preserve is a favorite among kayakers, located just south of Siesta Key and easily accessible from the Turtle Beach launch.

Farther south, Nokomis Beach on Casey Key draws families to its wide expanse of sand. Parking can be less difficult here than at other spots, and it’s an easy stroll into the water without any drop-offs or other challenges for little ones. There’s a boardwalk parallel to the beach, lifeguards on duty, covered picnic areas, and a small playground on the Intracoastal side.

Parents also love the easy access and new, modern restrooms at Venice’s Caspersen Beach and Englewood’s Manasota Beach. Caspersen is known for being a great spot for shelling and shark-tooth hunting. But it doesn’t have any lifeguards, and the beach can sometimes be on the small side due to erosion caused by storms and tidal changes. It’s a good choice for families who prefer their beaches on the wild and natural end of the spectrum.

Laid-back Manasota Beach doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. But what it lacks in beachside snack bars or playground areas, it makes up for in natural charm. It rates as another prime spot for unearthing cool shells and sharks’ teeth, and there’s plenty of space for sandcastle building or spirited games of Frisbee.

So slather on the sunscreen, grab some sand toys, and head out to one of these spots for a day of family fun in the sun.

The 4th of July holiday brings lots of excitement and fun to Siesta Key and Sarasota!

Boat-Races-Lido2-staff-300x199What words come to mind when you think of the 4th of July holiday?  We think of words like spectacular, amazing, exhilarating!  Out on Siesta Key, it’s very much the same wording. As a community we all pull together to raise the funds for the festivities that make up the night of dazzling fireworks in the sky over the most beautiful sand beach in the world as far as we are concerned. The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce hosts the fireworks every year and work hard to make them the best around! Loads of volunteers work year round preparing for this exciting night and hope you will join them in celebrating again this year!

But let’s not forget the festivities don’t just stop with the fireworks!  There are 9 days that are packed full of events. The Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix brings in crowds from all over boasting  boat parades, heart pounding race action right off our coast, and parties all week. And don’t forget, Sarasota’s own Nik Wallenda, the King of the Sky, will be the welcomed home and congratulated for being the first person to ever cross the Grand Canyon by tightrope, during the Boat Parade on Friday, July 5th, starting at 7pm.

For a full Suncoast Offshore event calendar, click here!

For local Siesta Key events, click here!!

So if you’re  planning to come to our little Gulf  island paradise and questioning what to do, we’ll have a list of activities waiting for you!

If you are looking for visual stimulation, beautiful hot sunny days and breath taking fireworks lighting up the night sky,  July 4th on Siesta Key is the place to be.   Pack up your flip-flops, grab a beach chair and head to paradise.

If you haven’t made reservations to stay out on the island, then Best Western Plus – Siesta Key is the next best place to being there.  Don’t forget, your stay includes transportation to Siesta Key 7 days a week (excludes holidays when shuttle is scheduled) provided by Jonny’s Free Beach Rides,  (driver tips appreciated), hot breakfast that is incomparable to any other and new this week, a poolside watering hole featuring draft and bottled beer.  So come on – call us – 800-930-4439 – and make your reservations to stay before school starts!  Ask for multi-day stay discount or AAA/AARP if you are a club member.

Siesta Key Beach: Voted in the Top 10 Family Friendly Beaches in 2013

10 Best Beaches for Families in 2013

What makes a beach family-friendly? We asked, and you told. Nearly half of all families consider the cleanliness of a beach to be the most significant quality, according to our survey. Other important factors include safe waters with a lifeguard on duty, and nearby restaurants, accommodations and entertainment.
These beaches, ranked in no particular order, meet our criteria and are well worth your next family trip.

 

Beach Haven – Beach Haven, N.J. Yes, Hurricane Sandy devastated Beach Haven and several other New Jersey towns in October, 2012. Yes, the state is encouraging families to return via its Stronger Than the Storm Campaign. No, that’s not why Beach Haven made our list.
Beach Haven is a borough on Long Beach Island, which stretches about 18 miles, and has long been a favorite amongst East Coasters. Families enjoy calm waters and crowds, monitored by lifeguards, and easy accessibility to several bathroom facilities, some of which include showers and street or lot parking nearby.
When it comes to attractions, eateries and hotels, Beach Haven outshines other beach towns. The beach is home to Fantasy Island Amusement Park, Thundering Surf Water Park and Schooner’s Wharf, which features shops and places to eat. More restaurants can be found along the main drag, and you must go to Showplace Ice Cream Parlour, where the folks from Surflight Theatre will entertain you – and include you – in live shows as you enjoy frozen treats. Inexpensively priced motels, such as Sea Spray Motel and Hurley’s at Holgate Inn, can be found throughout town.

 

Bethany Beach – Bethany Beach, Del. Located near Rehoboth Beach, a consistent name on many “Best Beaches” lists, Bethany Beach is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be.
On a hot, sunny day, Bethany Beach can get just as crowded as Rehoboth, but it’s not unusual for the beach to appear somewhat vacant either. You’ll find mostly metered parking, and if you have to park far from the beach, hop on one of the trolleys that run through town. Families find the beach to be safe; several lifeguards patrol the area, and the waves are generally calm and free of debris.
When it’s time for a beach break, get the kids cleaned up at a foot washing station, located at every street along the boardwalk (more on that in a second). You can also go to the Comfort Station, which provides restrooms and a changing station for families with babies.
Many families rave about Bethany’s non-commercialized boardwalk and town. It’s quaint and charming, with restaurants, shops and galleries. Other attractions include the walking trails near Bethany Beach Nature Center, and Captain Jack’s Pirate Golf.
There’s also a few hotels in the area, including a Holiday Inn Express.

 

Coquina Beach – Nags Head, N.C. You won’t find a flashy boardwalk with games and rides at this Outer Banks beach, located along Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Instead, you’ll find seemingly endless miles of shoreline with calm waves and even calmer crowds (if you can even call them that).
While Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers several uncongested beaches that are arguably the “best,” Coquina made our list because it’s patrolled by lifeguards and located near a bathhouse with restrooms. Parking is free, and is close to the beach. And The Dunes Restaurant, which serves casual, kid-friendly fare, is just a short drive away.
When you need a break from sandcastle building, check out the Laura A. Barnes shipwreck, located right on the beach. Dense fog caused the ship to float ashore on June 21, 1921. The Wright Brothers Memorial is also a short drive (about 20 minutes) away.
There are plenty of hotels in Nags Head, and many of them offer oceanfront views and direct beach access.  We especially like Surf Side Hotel and Oasis Suites Hotel.

Coronado Central Beach – Coronado, Calif. Coronado Central Beach (and really anybeach in this area) never disappoints. There’s plenty of parking lots (which are often free) and shower and bathroom facilities available. Lifeguards are on duty, and the clear-blue waves are picturesque as they calmly sweep ashore. It’s a great spot for boogie boarding and body surfing, and the tide pools during low tide are a hit with kids.
Beyond the beach, there’s Spreckels Park, perfect for a picnic lunch, and ferry and gondola rides (who said you had to go to Italy?). There’s also dozens of family-friendly restaurants and hotels nearby, including the grand Hotel del Coronado. And when you’ve had enough of Coronado, head to downtown San Diego, just a few miles away.

Fort De Soto Park – St. Petersburg, Fla. The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto Beach isn’t just a beach; it’s an all-inclusive package for family fun. There’s more than enough powdery sand and fresh water to sink your toes in, but you can also hike nature trails, go fishing, ride bicycles and visit a historic fort. At the top of the fort, you’ll see Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the world’s longest cable-stayed concrete bridge.  Additionally, Fort de Soto Park has a playground, concession stand, ferry service and grills for cooking. Restrooms, showers and parking are aplenty. An added bonus: Fort de Soto Beach is dog-friendly! Dogs are allowed in a designated area on the beach.

If you’re planning to stay a few days, consider camping; the park is popular for its clean campgrounds with modern facilities. If you prefer a hotel, plenty of accommodations are available in nearby St. Pete Beach.

Poipu Beach Park – Koloa, Hawaii We love the Big Island and Maui, but when it comes to family friendliness, Kauai does it best. Poipu Beach‘s white sand and periwinkle blue waters beckon families to swim, boogie board, scuba dive or simply relax. Lifeguards patrol the area, and restrooms are easily accessible. Plus, Poipu Beach is located just west of Baby Beach, a protected cove with calm, shallow waters just for tiny tikes.
When you get hungry, head to one of the area’s restaurants or farmers markets, which offer a wide range of options, from prices to fare. Brennecke’s Beach Boiler is a good choice.
As for hotels, you’ll find comfortable, clean accommodations for families just about anywhere. Our favorites include Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort and The Point at Poipu.

Sand Harbor Beach – Incline Village, Nev. Lake Tahoe has some of the most crystal-clear water in America, and combined with its other natural wonders, is well worth a stop. We’re not talking about Lake Tahoe’s California side though; we’re talking about a little town in Nevada.
Sand Harbor features 55 acres of beautiful beach amidst wooded areas and rocky coves. Families enjoy swimming, scuba diving, and hiking the area’s nature trails. There are plenty of restroom and shower facilities, and lifeguards are stationed throughout the area. If you have a boat, bring it – there’s a boat launch with adjacent parking.  Parking is available in other areas as well. When you get hungry, head to the Char-Pit for burgers, milkshakes and more.
You’ll find a couple of hotels nearby; we recommend the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino.

Siesta Beach – Siesta Key, Fla. Siesta Beach returns to our list with good reason. First, the beach is absolutely breathtaking. Its sand is 99 percent quartz and feels like confectioners sugar; this in itself is worth a visit! Then there’s the pale, translucent blue-green water, similar to that of the Caribbean. Add the gentle water’s shallow depth near shore, lifeguards and restrooms and showers, and you’ve got it made.
You’ll also find free parking (get there early) and a nearby playground for the kids. At the concession stand, you’ll enjoy food and live music.
Explore Siesta Key with Siesta Key Bike and Kayak or Sun Ride Pedicab and Historic Tours, and stop at Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar, where you’ll enjoy everything from crab legs to burgers. The atmosphere is casual, and kids are welcome.
Staying a while? Siesta Key has a nice selection of hotels, including Sea Spray Resort on Siesta Key.

Skaket Beach – Orleans, Mass. Located in the town of Orleans on Cape Cod, Skaket Beach is quintessential New England at its best. The beach is flat, making it perfect for families with small children. Because of its bayside location, it’s also noticeably warmer than other beaches. Kids love the tide pools during low tide.
There’s plenty of parking, though we recommend you arrive early in the day to claim a spot. There’s also a snack stand, restrooms with showers and lifeguards on duty. Perhaps the best part about Skaket Beach, however, is its sunsets. Many people head to Skaket just to relax as the sun gracefully descends over the water.
Within Orleans, there are plenty of options for accommodations. Skaket Beach Motel is just a few minutes from the beach, as is A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay, which also has a private beach of its own.
If you’re looking for things to do in Orleans, check out the Orleans Bowling Center, Cape Escape Adventure Golf or Explore Cape Cod Kayak Adventures for water fun.

Stewart Beach – Galveston Island, Texas You’ll pay to park at this Galveston Island beach, but the price is worth a day (or more) at Stewart. You’ll find clean restrooms with changing tables and showers. A small shop sells cold beverages, snacks, beach toys and other necessities, and you can also find refreshments at a small snack bar. Chairs and umbrellas are available to rent as well. Lifeguards are on duty, and park patrols regularly frequent the area.
The beach hosts several family-friendly events each summer, including volleyball competitions, sandcastle building contests and concerts. For more fun, visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark, about a 20-minute car ride from Stewart Beach.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, we recommend Hotel Galvez & Spa – A Wyndham Resort. The historic hotel has a tropically landscaped pool and regularly offers promotions and discounts.

2013 Siesta Key Crystal Classic: Dates Announced

Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Announces Dates for

2013 Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition

4th Annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic confirmed for Nov. 15-18, 2013

Day_4-196www.SiestaKeyCrystalClassic.com

(Sarasota, FL – June 1)  Ten teams of master sand sculptors from the United States and abroad competing for 1st place on the #1 beach will be back Nov. 15-18, 2013, for the 4th Annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic. The Crystal Classic has become a favorite of many of the professional sand sculptors who have competed here. Citing the beauty and cleanliness of the pristine white sand, sculptors have remarked that their sculptures look almost as if they are “carved in marble.”

The Crystal Classic has connected visual art and the beach in ways never seen before in Sarasota and this year will certainly be no different. The four-day art event will include: master sand sculptors competing, with all day viewing Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday; over 50 vendors; live entertainment; and an amateur sand sculpting contest on Saturday. New this year will be off-site shuttle service from Riverview High School on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16 and 17, and sculpture viewing with the special Mobi-Mat on the sand for easier walking on Monday, Nov. 18.

Sponsorships and vendor spaces are now available. For more information visit:  www.SiestaKeyCrystalClassic.com.  VIP Parking packages with multi-day passes starting at $49 will be available for purchase online in the next few weeks.

Proceeds of the Siesta Key Crystal Classic benefit Mote Marine Laboratory’s sea turtle research and conservation programs.

Siesta Key Crystal Classic Sand Sculpting Competition

Founded in 2010, The Crystal Classic is a result of discussions between master sand sculptor and Siesta Key resident Brian Wigelsworth and representatives of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Day_4-112Parks and Recreation, Mote Marine Laboratory and the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information about Siesta Key Crystal Classic contact the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce 941-349-3800; Info@SiestaKeyCrystalClassic.com or visit www.SiestaKeyCrystalClassic.com



Sarasota: One of 10 Best Waterfront Cities by USA Today

Great waterfronts to visit across North America

Baltimore's waterfront area, the Inner Harbor, is one of the most visited and most photographed parts of the city. Many of Baltimore's best attractions -- the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center and World Trade Center, to name a few -- sit along the waterfront, and when the weather's nice, you'll often see street performers entertaining guests on the sidewalks along the water.

                                Baltimore’s waterfront area, the Inner Harbor, is one of the most visited and most photographed parts of the city. Many of Baltimore’s best attractions — the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center and World Trade Center, to name a few — sit along the waterfront, and when the weather’s nice, you’ll often see street performers entertaining guests on the sidewalks along the water.

Baltimore

Baltimore’s waterfront area, the Inner Harbor, is one of the most visited and most photographed parts of the city. Many of Baltimore’s best attractions — the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center and World Trade Center, to name a few — sit along the waterfront, and when the weather’s nice, you’ll often see street performers entertaining guests on the sidewalks along the water.

Sarasota, Fla.

Sarasota might not garner as much attention as Miami or Orlando, but this culture-rich city enjoys close proximity to 40 miles of white-sand beaches lining the barrier islands just off shore. In the city proper, Bayfront Park and Marina is a popular place for biking, walking, kayaking or canoeing with views of Sarasota Bay and the city’s skyline.

San Francisco

Each of San Francisco‘s waterfront neighborhoods has its own distinct flavor. The most famous, Fisherman’s Wharf, is an industrial fishing port-turned tourist attraction where you can enjoy the fresh catch of the day with views over the bay. The carnival-like atmosphere and hordes of sea lions who make their home at Pier 39 are always a hit with kids, and you’ll find pedestrian-friendly piers dotting the waterfront all the way to the Ferry Building.

New York City

The New York Harbor, where the Hudson River empties into New York Bay, is one of the largest natural harbors in the world, and the city’s 500 miles of coastline are undergoing a major revitalization. Battery Park, located on the southern tip of Manhattan, offers views across the harbor, and you’ll find similar waterfront parks along the East and Hudson rivers in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, to name a few.

Charleston, S.C.

Charleston‘s charming historic district occupies the southernmost part of the city, where the Cooper and Ashley rivers come together. For the best Charleston waterfront experience, head for the seawall sidewalks along East Battery and Murray Boulevard, or spend an afternoon enjoying the outdoors at the award-winning Waterfront Park.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver has been blessed with one of the most scenic waterfronts in North America, and there’s no better place to enjoy it than along the Seawall, a 13.6-mile pedestrian path lining Vancouver’s waterfront and passing through Stanley Park. Vancouver is a outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and when the weather’s nice, the city’s waterfront is best enjoyed by kayak.

San Diego

Whether surfing in La Jolla, rollerblading along Mission Bay or touring a ship at Navy Pier, you’ll find much of San Diego‘s action revolves around the water. If you’re hungry for dinner with a view, snag a table at one of the many restaurants at Seaport Village. For a day of free fun in the sun, head to Embarcadero Marine Park.

Fort Lauderdale

Thanks to an extensive network of canals and waterways, nearly the entire city of Fort Lauderdale is one giant waterfront, but for visitors, the waterfront action centers around the beach, a people-watching paradise. Try a riverboat tour or water taxi for an overview of all Fort Lauderdale has to offer. The oceanfront Broadwalk in neighboring Hollywood is another appealing place to bask in the ocean views.

Savannah, Ga.

Savannah‘s waterfront is one of the most historic areas of the city and a hotspot for shopping, dining and nightlife. The restored warehouses along the water also house dozens of galleries and studios. After you’ve explored River Street on foot, see the city from the river aboard the River Queen, a refurbished paddleboat.

Miami

Miami Beach tops the list when it comes to iconic American beaches, but that’s not the only notable waterfront area. The downtown waterfront offers dining and shopping — don’t miss the busy Bayside Marketplace. For a look at the Miami of days gone by, check out the Art Deco facades of South Beach, a 10-mile stretch of Miami coast where an eclectic mix of characters come to see and be seen.