When you and your family need a beachfront getaway and the oceans are a plane ride away, consider these great American spots, some of the best lake towns and best lake beaches in the United States. From Nebraska to Connecticut, these six TravelingMoms tell you why their favorite lakefront beaches are a road trip away.
When you think of beaches, most travelers look toward the ocean and its sandy beaches, but America is overflowing with lovely lakes with sandy beaches and lake towns, perfectly suited for your next family adventure. The lake culture is fun and relaxing and perfect for families. No matter how your family prefers to spend their nights at the lake: roughing it in a tent, camping in an RV, or safely ensconced behind walls and a comfy bed in a cabin or motel, you may discover — as they Traveling Moms have — that lake adventures will be your new family favorite vacation.
Here, six Traveling Moms share their favorite lake experiences for America’s lesser known treasures.
Lake McConaughy, Nebraska
If you’re from the Midwest, chances are you’ve already heard of the white sand beaches of Lake Mac. This lake is my favorite family road trip for so many reasons — from its white sand beaches to a fishing paradise to endless water sports for families of all sizes. Built on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills just 8 miles northeast of Ogallala, you’ll be dipping your toes and dropping your fishing line in Lake McConaughy with its more than 100 miles of shoreline.
Generation after generation of families flock to “Lake Mac” often meeting their “lake family” for annual vacations to fire up the grill and tell stories around the campfire. This is a road trip away for families from Nebraska and surrounding states of Iowa, Wyoming, and Colorado. From many campgrounds, easy access to the Lake Mac’s cool waters is available for boaters, sailing enthusiasts, and water skiers. (Bring your own or rentals available.)
World-class fishing is also a draw, and something the whole family can do together too. Adrenalin seeking families can take to the sky together for parasailing.
Lake Lure, North Carolina
Sherry Boswell, Melodius TravelingMom, says, “If you’re looking for the “time of your life,” make your next vacation a road trip to Lake Lure, North Carolina. This is the town where Dirty Dancing was filmed. In August, there is even a Dirty Dancing festival where you can compete with your own version of the famous lake lift.”
But there is much more than dancing at this lake. There’s a majestic mountain backdrop, cool waters, and fresh air, pontoon boat sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, water slides, and a water park. So many things to do at Lake Lure that your biggest challenge will be where to start your family adventure.
Lake Erie Islands, Ohio
Don’t worry be happy — and that’s exactly what you’ll do when traveling to Lake Erie Islands, Ohio, according to Tonya Prater. Your road trip will end at Sandusky, Catawba or Port Clinton, and continue by private passenger boat, plane, or ferry to laid back South Bass or Kelleys Island.
The islands offer a diverse array of activities and adventure. Explore the world’s largest geode, dine in a restored blacksmith shop, and ride to the top of a 352-foot monument for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding islands. You’ll find plenty of attractions, dining and lodging options and if mom and dad plan to travel with another couple or grandparents, you’ll find nightlife to enjoy on the islands as well.
Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
Find nostalgia of your childhood with a visit to the southern shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia, New Hampshire, says Mary Dixon Lebeau. Dotted with 258 islands, Lake Winnipesaukee’s 72 square miles is the backdrop for relaxing days spent strolling around charming lakeside villages, sightseeing, enjoying unique attractions, and just about every form of recreation you can think of including old-fashioned beach fun.
Build sand castles on the shores and then splash in the nearby waters. Stroll on the boardwalk, and take in the views of the Ossipee mountains. Slip a penny in the town’s penny arcades and challenge your kids to a friendly ride in the Half Moon Bumper cars. Then step back in time with a ride on the Winnipesaukeesaukee Scenic Railroad. The best way to end your Lake Winnipesaukee adventure is kicking back in your rented cottage at the Naswa Resort.
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Live summer to the fullest with a week long vacation at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, says Andrea Guthmann. Generations of Midwesterners have enjoyed the crystal clear, spring-fed waters of this town 2.5 hours north of Chicago.
Create your own family memories with a stay at the Victorian Village Resort, a family-run lakeside resort. Nearby you’ll discover a pristine beach with a floating dock and plenty of water sports, including water skiing. Or take a dip in the beautiful pool nestled among pine trees with a picture perfect view of the lake.
Try the family friendly, waterfront Tiki Bar for live music, your favorite frozen concoction (with or without the rum), ice cream, and affordable family dinner. Since you are in Wisconsin, be sure to include a visit to Hennings, a family-owned cheese factory, and sample a few of the award-winning cheese. When the sun sets, take your seat in the resort’s theater for a resort staff production with song and dance numbers to entertain all ages.
Big Bear Lake, California
Pick a season, any season, and point your family car to Big Bear Lake, California. From anywhere in southern California, Big Bear Lake is a two-hour drive and a quick escape from city life. In the winter, it’s all about the skiing, snowboarding, and other snowy outdoor activities. From spring through fall, the seven-mile long lake is a beach and water escape.
Even with its close proximity to the busy city streets, Big Bear Lake has managed to maintain its rustic mountain vibe — and a whole lot of things to do. Fishing, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, jet skiing, wakeboarding, boating, and narrated boat tours are among the many fun activities to enjoy as a family. There’s also a small swim beach.
What’s your favorite lake in the United States?