Where you spend your summer is up to you, but here's a tip: the beach isn't always the answer to your winter woes. Here's a list of five of the most alluring beaches in the country, as well as five to avoid.
BEST BEACH No. 1 - Venice Beach, Calif.
Any town that can successfully mix artistic entrepreneurs with a boardwalk full of bong-toting hippies and innovative architects into two free-lovingly domesticated square miles of Southern California is likely to earn our top spot. Located just south of Santa Monica, Venice is a bike-friendly collection of surfers, skaters, painters, yogis, organic gardeners and musicians, each of whom is likely to don a surfboard at one of the area's noteworthy playgrounds, like Venice Breakwater. The friendly waves and lengthy shore are perfect for swimmers of all ages. In a hop, skip and a jump, you can be surrounded by a multitude of graffiti walls, endless pop-up art shops and the freshest acai bowls your face has ever seen.
Venice Beach is hands down one of the most unique communities that a traveler could gaze upon, and aside from the occasional bum fight, it's arguably the most hospitable part of Los Angeles.
BEST BEACH No. 2 - Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Fine white sand and a view better than a Cubs fan seeing his team win a World Series, the South Carolina beach is highly regarded as one of the East Coast's best vacation resorts. Myrtle Beach keeps focus on rest and relaxation with its clean beaches and fresh seafood, yet there's no shortage of activities for the outdoorsy types. There are more than 100 golf courses, including the highly recommended Meadowlands course, as well as perfectly charming bike paths and undisturbed fishing. Think Pirates of the Caribbean without the pirates.
BEST BEACH No. 3 - Huntington Beach, Calif.
Any sand lover, surf lover or dog lover would be right at home in Orange County's golden town. This beach offers cleaner California waters and bigger swells than those in Los Angeles. Home to the surf and volleyball pro tours, "Surf City, USA" has become quite a tourist attraction within the last decade, expanding its shops and restaurants to accommodate the larger crowds.
Less than a mile up the road, one of the country's top off-leash dog beaches allows canines the luxury of taking a dip in the majestic Pacific and playing freely in the sand. Never has there been a better paradise for sniffing butts and public urination 365 days a year (for the dogs, of course).
BEST BEACH No. 4 - Big Sur, Calif.
Take a walk on the wild side in Northern California's Big Sur. With its mountainous views and fresh rural air, Big Sur is known as a great getaway from city life. Camping among the redwoods with incredible hilltop views, the area offers things that most places can't, including the joyful sounds of local sea lions and spectacular waterfalls. The campgrounds, like Sand Dollar Beach, offer inexpensive opportunities to hang glide, surf, fish and camp your way out of hellish urban living.
The hidden treasure, however, is Pfieffer Beach, secretly placed if you can locate it upon a dirt road. You'll feel like you're breaking the rules and living dangerously, but the sunsets atop a sandy cliff will make you cry like a baby. Think of any romantic movie that you're glad your girlfriend made you watch.
BEST BEACH No. 5 - Cape Cod (Provincetown), Mass.
Everybody needs a quiet getaway with a small town vibe, and that's what Cape Cod is perfect for. This personal oasis serves as a calm beach stop where nature has not been too rearranged by the hands of men. Specifically on the northern tip, Provincetown stands out as a romantically liberal step outside of reality, and you can get down with a tea dance too.
With Cape Cod, what you see is what you get, and that's a little peace and quiet. It's like What About Bob? without Bob.
WORST BEACH No. 1 - Jersey Shore, N.J.
This beach needs no introduction, as everybody knows the Jersey Shore is sauteed in the fake spray tans and hair grease of a million dirty Snookis. Just far enough outside of New York to call itself "classless," this unkempt spot is more likely to rob your innocence than your wallet, but if you're visiting for much longer than a day, you likely have low expectations for your trip already. Aside from Dunkin' Donuts, the overpopulated beach area offers very little to a passing tourist other than a quick step in broken glass on its polluted sand. The laughable irony is that this part of the Garden State is where things go to die.
WORST BEACH No. 2 - South Padre, Texas
This spot is essentially the Jersey Shore of Texas, only with stronger sun that burns your skin with ease and spring-break fever that will leave you covered in strange, itchy rashes. The beaches and hotels, although decently respectable, are subject to MTV showing up and molesting your ears as you're passed out from heat exhaustion and watered-down beer games. There's nothing to do in South Padre except get drunk, pass out and go get drunk and pass out again. Think of Groundhog Day with alcohol abuse and an occasional hurricane.
WORST BEACH No. 3 - Daytona Beach, Fla.
What was once known as a pit stop in Florida is now a pit stop overrun with fleeing victims of nearby oil spills. Home of the Daytona 500 and college frat parties galore, this pre-adolescent's wet dream has slowly tried to rebuild its reputation as a quality summer spot, rather than a glimpse into the devil's crotch. No stranger to hot summer nights, Daytona will melt your heart (not in a good way) with its cluttered crowds and landfill beaches. No amount of beach clean-ups could render this place safe to walk on barefoot. Think of Talledega Nights with an even sadder ending.
WORST BEACH No. 4 - Virginia Beach, Va.
Simply put, who wants to go to a beach that's cold in May? Virginia Beach, lacking in things to do and places to see, is a tourist trap sprang with eyesore hotels that stampede a potentially lovely beach existence with its industrial vibe. Lucky for hotel owners, it happens to have sand and be located near the Atlantic Ocean. Still, don't waste your time.
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WORST BEACH No. 5 - Tijuana, Mexico
Despite being located outside American borders, this spot is too close by and noteworthy to keep off the list. We all know that nothing good comes from Tijuana, because our mothers all warned us never to go, and with good reason. Expect blood, mud, beer, sweat, fear, loathing, lawyers, guns, but no money by the end of that trip, along with a hundred reasons not to go back. Think of a bad acid trip, because that's what you're likely to have.