Economy Drives Families To Focus On More Affordable Vacation Options

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One of the best values along the Atlantic coast is a quaint coastal town outside of Wilmington, N.C. called Carolina Beach.

The economy is forcing families to tighten their belts this winter, but many are still hopeful that they won't have to give up their cherished summer vacations at the beach. As the snow comes down, it's natural for Americans to dream about a better time.

To get around the budget crunch, the smartest vacation shoppers are already starting to book time in smaller resort towns along the Atlantic coast. Although they're generally tiny dots on the coastal map, these places have lots to offer at more affordable prices.

Wouldn't it be great to take the family to a place where vacationers can play games in an arcade by the boardwalk, enjoy a leisurely bicycle ride, or stop for an ice cream cone during an evening stroll? What about visiting charming shops or watching the fishing charters return from a day at sea? Places that offer these simple pleasures are perfect for spending quality family time together.

One of the best values along the Atlantic coast is a quaint coastal town outside of Wilmington, N.C. called Carolina Beach ( It's a relatively short drive from cities and towns throughout North and South Carolina. And, vacationers from major East Coast cities as far away as Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. can reach the town on less than a tank of gas.

An unpretentious seaside town with quaint beach cottages, bed & breakfast establishments, and mid-rise condo villas and hotels, Carolina Beach is an undiscovered treasure. Its charming street scape includes small shops, restaurants and family entertainments like beachwear, ice cream and candy shops, and a boardwalk that lines several miles of clean, Atlantic oceanfront.

Carolina Beach always has a lot of affordable activities going on. There's a summer-long, outdoor Film & Fireworks Series that's tailor-made for families. It includes family-friendly, first-run movies shown on a huge screen under the stars at Carolina Beach Lake Park. There are also free outdoor concerts and wonderful fireworks displays on the beach.

Carolina Beach is also one of the East Coast's most popular fishing destinations. Its central-coast location makes it the perfect spot for surf fishing, bottom fishing, shell fishing and deep-sea fishing. The Carolina Beach Marina and Fishing Center Web site provides a free informational resource ( with tide charts, charter boat information, and information on which fish are "running." There's even an easy to follow process for visitors to post their photos on the site to show off their catches.

Carolina Beach shares "Pleasure Island" with another small town, Kure Beach. It offers a free, world-famous fishing pier, the Fort Fisher State Historic Site & Civil War Museum (the largest earthen fort in the South), the N.C. Military History Museum and the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Center.

Kure Beach also has one of the most affordable aquariums in the country. The N.C. Aquarium features a 235,000-gallon saltwater shark tank; the half-acre Cape Fear Conservatory with alligators, sturgeon and other freshwater species; and the Open Oceans Gallery that focuses on marine creatures and the nearby ocean reefs.

Lastly, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offers a five-mile stretch of undeveloped beach that is home to nesting loggerhead sea turtles, and has a swimming area, picnic area with grills and a visitor's center.

These little towns are two of the best examples of where vacationers can get more for their money this summer.


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Jamie Wilburn

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