By Sarah Tuff, Yahoo Travel
Enough with your fancy remote beaches. The Maldives? St. Tropez? With the economy what it is, we'll be lucky to get to the next state on a $73 tank of gas. We want close. We want old-fashioned. We want a town where we can park the car, drag a beach chair and a book to the sand, and then shuffle down the boardwalk in our flip-flops for fried clams and an icy-cold can of beer: a place with fireworks, friendly locals, and sticky scoop shops. So we dug up 11 great American seaside escapes, from classic fun-in-the-sun California to New England colonial charm. Because when it comes to precious summer weekends in the sun, there's no place like home.
Port Aransas, Texas
The sand: An 18-mile stretch of beaches, marinas, and seafood shacks on the Gulf of Mexico. You'll find 'Port A' (pop. 3,300) at the tip of Mustang Island, near Corpus Christi.
Marine life: So you're building a sand castle here? Be prepared for some competition, pal. Port A has its own official Sandcastle Guy, who can whip up intricate turrets, archways, moats, and stairways faster than you can whip out your towel. Lucky for you, Mark Landrum also offers lessons, making the Gulf Coast hideaway a must-sea spot for family bonding. The older kids (or kids at heart) will dig surfing the swells off the town jetty, kiteboarding off the beginner-friendly sandbars, and casting the bays and flats for trophy tuna and tarpon. Fishing tournaments nearly every weekend in July and August add to the competitive spirit, but everybody's chummy over burgers and beers back at the oceanfront Beach Lodge.
The sanctuary: Stash your shovels, sandals, and saltwater tackle at the Tarpon Inn, an 1886 hotel whose 24 rooms have antiques and air conditioning but no phones or TVs.
Tarpon Inn Tel: 361 749 5555 - Doubles from $89.
Beach Lodge Tel: 361 749 5713
Sandcastle Guy Tel: 361 290 0414
Visit portaransas.org for more info.