5 U.S. Beaches You Can Get to Without a Car

Beaches with a car - Chicago's Oak Street Beach
Flickr, Tom Gill

Summer may be winding down, but there are still a few weekends left to spend at the beach. Rather than sit in traffic or rent an expensive car, you can ride public transportation to many beaches in the U.S. Seasonal routes are especially likely to be popular, so go early and pack light.

Boston – CapeFLYER train to Cape Cod
Reintroduced this summer, the CapeFLYER train goes every weekend from Boston out to Hyannis, connecting to ferries for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and buses up and down Cape Cod. Fares are from $18 from South Station, with a few bucks’ savings if you buy round trip. You can bring a bike, get concessions onboard and get free Wi-Fi. The train will run through Columbus Day, October 14.

Chicago – El train to Oak Street Beach
Not everyone thinks of this city smack in the midwest as a beach town, but thanks to Lake Michigan, there are more beaches around Chicago than Bermuda. There are many to choose from, but Oak Street Beach is the most central with the most spectacular skyline view. It’s a few blocks from the El train at Clark and Division, though a bus up Lake Shore Drive will get you there closer. Beaches are free and open until Labor Day, but you can enjoy the water views year round. CTA fares are $2.25, with deductions for transit cards.Los Angeles – Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica
While it’s a major car city, there are ways to get to Santa Monica and Venice Beach from downtown Los Angeles without wheels. The Big Blue Bus serves all of Santa Monica and connects to Venice Beach as well. Fares are just $1, with day passes available. LA Metro has rapid buses to Venice Beach, with fares from $1.50. A new light rail line will connect Santa Monica to downtown LA, getting you on the beach even faster.

New York – A train to Far Rockaway
New Yorkers are lucky to have lots of options for sand and swimming, from Brooklyn‘s Brighton Beach to Long Island‘s Jones Beach, and Rockaway Beach in Queens has long been an urban favorite. While it suffered a lot from last year’s superstorm Sandy, it’s back in a big way, with many boardwalk concessions reopened and a new boutique hotel. A $2.50 subway fare gets you there on the A train, and there’s also a weekend-only ferry from downtown Manhattan if you’d like a more scenic (and spendy, at $20 one way) ride.

Washington, D.C. – DC2NY bus to Delaware beaches
While a bit much for a day trip, budget bus company DC2NY offers seasonal shuttles to Delaware‘s Rehoboth (one of Dr. Beach‘s favorites in the country) and Dewey beaches from Washington, as well as Wilmington and New York. The trip takes about 2½ hours, leaving Friday night and weekend mornings through Labor Day. Fares are $39 each way, but you do get Wi-Fi, a power outlet and a bottle of water.

What are your favorite beaches to visit without a car?

The ten best cities for sunbathing

After you’ve been cooped-up inside all winter, that first day of nice weather at home feels like a gift from heaven. Clothes come off, frisbees start flying and the hardcore sunbathing begins. Even if it’s still cold where you live, the prospect of warmer days ahead looms large. In preparation for the endless days of spring and summer, here’s ten of our favorite spots for sunbathing around the world. Grab yourself a towel and some sunscreen and check it out.

10. Barcelona, Spain
Barceloneta Beach is ideally located at the water’s edge in Barcelona with fantastic restaurant and nightclub options at the nearby boardwalk. While the cleanliness of the sand has been an object of controversy in recent years, Barceloneta cannot be matched for its proximity to the many urban options that Barcelona affords. When you tire of the Mediterranean sun, there is Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, Park Guell, and the smattering of architectural tributes to Gaudi.9. Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles offers a wide variety of beaches, from gritty Venice Beach to trendy, hip Malibu. For the best sunbathing, Zuma Beach in Malibu is the destination. A city surrounded by beach options, Zuma is one of the largest and most popular options in Los Angeles County; known for its long, wide stretches of sand and excellent surf. It consistently ranks among the healthiest beaches for clean water conditions in Los Angeles County. Grab a red one-piece and imagine yourself in a Baywatch episode.

8. New York, New York (tie)
Manhattanites know about Carl Schurz Park. This 15 acre parkland on the Upper East Side boasts a waterfront promenade built over FDR Drive. Sunbathing options abound with winding, shady paths, green lawns, waterfront views, a large playground for children, and two dog runs. Bring a towel and picnic basket, plug in your iPod to Astrud Gilberto and imagine you’re on Copacabana Beach.

8. Punta del Este, Uruguay (tie)
South Americans looking for an escape retreat to Punta del Este, an upscale resort town invaded by wealthy denizens of Buenos Aires and Montevideo from early November until late February. With a heady ancestral mix of Spanish and Italian descendants, this Southern Hemisphere destination is perfect for those seeking the “endless summer.” Punta has scenic coasts and beaches with the Rio de la Plata on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. All beaches on the peninsula have public access. Sunbathers have the option of choosing quiet and calm areas to others with strong waves and the requisite surfers, all with fine white or golden sand.

7. Bondi Beach, Sydney
Located 20 minutes from central Sydney, Bondi (pronounced “Bond-Eye”) is the quintessential beach abounding with sun, sand, and sensuality You’d be hard-pressed to find more heavenly bodies than on this half-mile stretch of paradise. Bondi is replete with a wide range of food, entertainment and accommodation options nearby. Here you’ll find fantastic waves, sunbathing models, year-round sun and the coolest beach-side vibe anywhere. And if you really want to blend in and look like an Australian, take a surfing class. Lets Go Surfing, conveniently located in Bondi, is one of the most professional surf schools in Australia.

6. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is certainly not a beach, and not anywhere near a very good beach. However, the banks of the Charles River come alive (and shirts begin to peel off) the moment mercury rises above 68. With a population of 1 in 6 attending any one of the many institutions of higher learning, this hip town has a great deal of young eye candy to enjoy without wandering too far from the dignified boundaries of Beacon Hill or the Back Bay. The Esplanade has miles of jogging and rollerblade trails, and an abundance of manicured lawns to enjoy your choice of literature from Isabel Allende to Emile Zola. After the sun sets, you may be lucky to enjoy a concert at the Hatch Shell.

5. Miami South Beach, Florida

It wasn’t long ago that South Beach was nothing more than a tawdry, tacky strip of forgotten beach land. South Beach has experienced resurgence in the past 20 years to become one of the “hippest” beach destinations in the US. The famous strip affords more miles of undulating sand and perfectly sculpted bodies than seems mortally possible. Beautiful bodies can be found on the beaches, but more so in the hotel pools that line the coast. At the end of the day, head inland a few blocks to the stylish clubs, restaurants and shopping along Lincoln Road, Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive.

4. Paris, France
Though not anywhere near a beach, Paris tops our list of “urban” sunbathing options. In 2002, Paris introduced “Paris Plage,” (Paris Beach), a free summer event that transforms the banks of the Seine River into 3 distinct districts. Those in search of a “traditional” beach (as “traditional” as one might find in a city of 3 million) should head between the Pont Neuf and Pont de Sully bridges. With classic French panache, this location features sand and grass beaches, parasols and chaise lounges–all free! Even the obligatory Le Hot Dog is served in French fashion–stuffed inside a baguette.

Near Pompidou Center, the area takes on a tropical flair, while in the northern reaches of La Vilette boating and water sport options abound. When the sun sets, enjoy many of free concerts offered throughout the season. Considering Paris already has nearly everything a visitor could want, we can now add the “Best City for Sunbathing” to the list.

3. Honolulu, Hawaii
With Diamond Head as an impressive background, the beach at Waikiki is a slice of Hawaiian heaven, offering great weather, good restaurants, and a two-mile stretch of fantastic, sandy beaches. Though Waikiki can be particularly costly (parking and food) and overrun with tourists, nearby Kuhio Beach Park is a quieter, more affordable option. The warm, clear, shallow waters cannot be beat. You may be fortunate to be present during the many events the beach hosts throughout the year, including surf competitions, hula dancing, outrigger canoe racing and outdoor performances. Don’t be tempted to lift one of the grass skirts to see if there’s some sort of vibrating mechanism underneath. These movements should not be attempted at home unless a chiropractor is nearby.

2. San Diego, California
In San Diego, the beach is a way of life, a source of pride and a defining influence in people’s lives. San Diego comes in a strong second due to the sheer number of beaches that run the length of an entire county, from its northern extremity at Oceanside to its southern border with Mexico. Additionally, with 365 days of perfectly balanced sunshine per year, San Diego can’t be beat. La Jolla, an affluent neighborhood with several stunning beaches, tranquil coves and foamy surf, is ideal for families.

Heading north, the exclusive communities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Leucadia have dramatic coastlines and vistas. Film buffs will recognize the Hotel del Coronado from “Some Like It Hot” on Coronado Island. Your sunbathing may (or may not be) interrupted by troops jogging by as the San Diego Naval Base is situated nearby. When the sun sets, the many activities and pleasures of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, Mission Bay, and Sea World are at your doorstep.

1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio’s Ipanema Beach has long been considered one of the Sexiest Beaches in the World, Combining the very best any city has to offer with great restaurants, fashionable clubs, and world-class museums, the beach at Ipanema tops our list. Brash with Brazilian style, Ipanema sways to its own captivating rhythm. Somehow I must have gotten by the sensors on the beach which magically prevents anyone from entering with more than a single-digit body fat index. With bravado, the young, fit and beautiful Brazilians hold court one of the most enticing sunbathing destinations on earth.

Photo of the day (12.20.09)

For a person who has never been too fond of Southern California, I’ve recently found myself drawn to the region. Perhaps it’s because the weather is good — or maybe it’s because the girls are so much prettier and because I don’t have to think of home.

Either the way, in my last three visits to the area I’ve lingered longer every time. On Saturday, I took an early ride up the coast line from Marina Del Ray up past the Santa Monica Pier to visit an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. Afterwards in Venice Beach, where this photo was taken, I had breakfast on Washington. At home, the high temperature on Saturday was 12°.

mce323‘s picture of Venice reminds me of the parts of the city that I really love, the boutiques along the PCH, the cliffs in Malibu and the California style burritos. It makes me almost want to move to SoCal. Almost.

Have any cool photos you’d like to share with the world? Add them to the Gadling Pool on Flickr, and it might be chosen as our Photo of the Day. Make sure you save them under Creative Commons though, otherwise we can’t use them!

Earth Day Kite Flying: 10 suggestions

Every year when the temperature warms and the wind picks up, we buy a cheap kite to fly for a day or two before we get too busy to head to an open field. As an Earth Day Celebration, what could be more environmentally friendly than kite flying? Except, of course, for the gas to get to a place with wind and enough space.

Open fields are among the best places to fly a kite if you live in an urban area. Think the middle of a high school track for one option. Look out for power lines, though. Kites and power lines are not a good combo. If you live near a coast or a large lake, head to the beach. Other places to consider are fields in city parks.

One thing I like about kite flying, once you have a kite, it’s free. It’s also participatory. What a great way to join in with humanity in environmentally friendly fun. Here are suggestions–some based on personal experience, what people have told me, or in this article, “The Ten Best Places Around the World to Go Fly a Kite”:

1. Central Park in New York City. There is an Earth Day Celebration on April 20, this Sunday, at Rumsey Playfield. Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder are on the line up of entertainment. The park is also on the Holden Caufield tour of New York City.

2. Fano Island, Denmark. With Denmark being the happiest country in the world, flying a kite can only make some one happier than happiest. The family I lived with, when I was a student in undergraduate school, took me here as part of a weekend trip. It was gorgeous.

3. Great Wall of China, China. With China as the country credited for the invention of kites, the Great Wall is an interesting option for kite flying. Here’s an account of one family who found this to be the case. When I went to the Great Wall, it had just snowed. Then it was a place for building snowmen and sliding down the steps on ones bottom.

4. Jaipur, India. Even though the kite festival happened in January, this is a wonderful city to spend some time. A place to launch a kite is from the top of a roof. It’s not uncommon for hotels to have a roof-top terrace restaurant. I never tried it, but I bet roof-top kite flying would be a conversation starter. India is one of those places where everything and nothing is out of the ordinary.

5. Long Beach, Washington. I posted a video taken at the Washington International Kite Flying Festival. It’s not until August, but kite-flying is good anytime.

6. Mission Bay Park and Mission Beach, San Diego, California. When I was walking the boardwalk at Mission Beach last month, the kite fliers were braving chilly weather to send their massive kites sailing. By now, I bet the temperature is perfect.

7. Nan-Liao, Taiwan. This harbor town, a bus ride from Hsinchu, where I used to live, is a popular weekend spot for kite flying. We did fly kites here and ate squid-on-a-stick that we bought at the nearby market. Andrew Zimmern gushed about this popular street food on the last Bizarre Foods episode on China.

8. Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. One of my cousins and his son bought a kite to fly here. When they stopped some place for lunch, they tied the kite to a bike rack so it would stay airborne. They left it behind so someone else could have it. While they shopped they could see it dipping and weaving.

9. Venice Beach, Venice, California. Also a great place to see kite-flying or fly one yourself in the midst of the cacophony of humanity. Check out the drum circle Neil wrote about when you are there.

And a place I haven’t been, but it was recommended in a comment on the 10 great kite-flying places article.

10. El Morro National Park in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. There is a kite flying festival here in March, although, the commenter said it has great kite flying conditions most of the year. As a bonus, this is also a World Heritage Site.

The drum circle of Venice Beach

Venice Beach, California is one of the most eclectic communities on this planet. But when the sun starts to dip towards the horizon on a late Sunday afternoon, the place becomes truly primordial.

This is when the Venice Beach Drum Circle knocks into gear.

Most tourists are gone by this time and usually miss the small handful of drummers that kick off the rhythm before being joined by upwards of 100 others banging away on everything from plastic buckets to bongo drums to percussion instruments. And then it starts to get really freaky. Dancers an all states of euphoria–chemical or otherwise–begin to writhe to the beat, like hippies at Woodstock. The crescendo builds as the sun gets closer to the ocean and then positively explodes when it finally dips below. And then, it’s all over.

I used to live in Venice Beach when the Drum Circle was just a couple of guys having fun with their drums. The draw of the beat was always hypnotic and I’d often stop to enjoy it for a while when rollerblading past. The drummers quickly outgrew their little grassy spot next to the boardwalk, however, and eventually migrated down closer to the water where they remain today.