South Padre Island, Texas
For: Lazy days of summer
South Padre Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is so close to Mexico that it almost tickles the border, but it is truly all about Texas . . . and about relaxing in sun and sand. This isn’t a place for roiling roller coasters or big sticks of cotton candy. It is more about towering white sand dunes, a few laid-back beach bars, and keeping your binoculars handy to spot colorful birds, including the lovely roseate spoonbill. Watch dolphins play (you’ll bet money that they are smiling at you). The sand on South Padre is so abundant that you may well find yourselves competing for best sand castle architecture. Mind the turrets, and be aware that some competitors actually sneak glue onto their construction site. Surfing can be good, but in general, this pretty barrier island is all about lazy afternoons, spending time together, and, maybe fishing for blue marlin.