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Warm, clear water, seashell-dotted white sand, and nature activities galore helped this beach, located in a county park, rise to the top of our list. Protected by a sandbar, North Beach, near St. Petersburg, has a large lagoon that doesn't get above 3 feet deep. "It's like a natural kiddie pool," says Justin Hamilton, of Bardstown, Kentucky, who visited last summer. "My 2-year-old loved chasing minnows." The water doesn't get any cleaner than it is here: Out of more than 100 samples from 2009 and 2010, there wasn't one problem.
When you're ready for shade, walk over to the playground, where your kid can steer a pretend pirate ship or cool down with a snow cone from the snack bar. If your family is up for more, drive to the park's Gulf Pier, a great area for spotting dolphins. From there, explore the fort and cannon built for the Spanish-American War or take a surrey-bike ride along the nature trails.
Spend the Night
Sleep in a pink castle! The Loews Don CeSar is a ten-minute drive. Families keep busy with free cake- and cookie-decorating classes, scavenger hunts, and poolside movies. There's a drop-off kids' club for 4- to 12-year-olds, and babysitting. (Summer rates start at $199 per night for a room that sleeps four; loewshotels.com.)
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