Delight-fall Delaware Family Getaways

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

There's something special about traveling to the beach after Labor Day for a little fall family vacation getaway. The sun's rays seem a little brighter with winter just around the bend, and everyone wants to stay and play in the warm sand forever. This is the stuff memories are made of, and parents are aware that these last family vacation moments will remain etched in their minds throughout the cold winter season.

Recently, we packed our family into the car for one last fall beach fling. Our destination was Rehoboth Beach, Delaware - often billed as the "Nation's Summer Capital." Rehoboth Beach is a favorite family spot on the Delaware shore located just two-and-a-half hours from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. It's easy to combine a visit to this seaside town with city trips to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Rehoboth Beach area boasts miles of white sandy beaches and a variety of family-friendly attractions including miniature golf, arcades, concerts on the bandstand, a small amusement park, and a wide range of watersports. We stayed in one of the suites at The Bellmoor Inn, which gave us plenty of room to spread out. This property is located within an easy 5 minute walk from the beach, providing an oasis of quiet luxury close to the bustling boardwalk. The Bellmoor features two outdoor pools (one for families and one for adults only), a large hot tub, a lovely courtyard garden with towering pines and magnolia trees, complimentary hot country breakfasts, free laundry room facilities, a complete spa and fitness center, free wi-fi, a computer room, and afternoon tea and cookies from 3-4 p.m. daily.

Families that prefer to be stay just steps away from the white sandy beach in Rehoboth might like the Atlantic Sands Hotel, the bright pink Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, the Henlopen Hotel, and the Admiral Hotel. There are also a variety of excellent family friendly options located nearby. In Dewey Beach, the bayfront Bay Resort Motel is a short walk from the Atlantic Ocean and some rooms feature kitchenette facilities. Special fall weekend packages are available.

Nearby Bethany Beach is another good choice for a Delaware family beach getaway. The oceanfront Sea Colony condominium complex is a family favorite and good deals are often available for long weekend stays during the fall. For more information on rentals, contact ResortQuest's Delaware office or check HomeAway and VRBO for direct by owner listings.

We had wonderful weather for our fall beach break. During the day, we lounged on the beach, swam in an ocean slightly warmed by weeks of summer sun, and got up occasionally to fetch a snow cone from the boardwalk vendors. The beach was full of families doing the same thing -- sharing time together and grabbing a few rays while the weather was still warm enough to enjoy the sun and surf. Fishermen dotted the shoreline, skim boarders plied the waves, and kids built forts and castles in the sand.

Periodically, the tantalizing smell of boardwalk fries filled through the air. Rehoboth's mile-long boardwalk is a kid's dream come true, with vendors selling everything from pizza and gelato to frozen custard and shaved ice. The old-fashioned boardwalk is perfect for bike riding, jogging, or strolling - something our family did often. Our girls loved visiting the Candy Kitchen stores, stopping at Kohr Brothers for custard, sampling Grotto's gelato, or indulging in Thrasher's Fries. In the late afternoon, we wandered over to the shops in the center of town searching for the perfect item of clothing to wear back to school. Stores like South Moon Under, Sierra Moon and Quiet Storm Surf Shop proved to be favorites with our kids.

By 6 p.m. each evening, we found ourselves in search of the perfect place to eat. Popular family-friendly restaurants get crowded quickly here, even in the off-season. Since most restaurants do not accept reservations, it's wise to arrive early and avoid the long wait. If you decide to make it a long weekend, the Stoney Lonen Restaurant features an excellent 3-course fixed price dinner special on Monday evenings and other specials throughout the week, while the Summer House Restaurant offers half-priced burgers on Monday night. At Crabber's Cove in nearby Dewey Beach, a good selection of children's meals are available at dinner. Grotto Pizza and Nicola Pizza are great choices for those craving pizza and subs. Yesterday's All-American Cafe, a 50's sort of diner on the boardwalk at the Henlopen Hotel, is also good spot for burgers, salads, sandwiches, and chicken tenders. For coupons and information on early-bird specials and discounts, be sure to pick up a copy of the Sunny Day Guide, available at many area motels and stores.

Most of our evenings were spent strolling the boardwalk or enjoying the little amusement park, mini-golf, and the arcades. One of the wonderful things about Rehoboth is that everything is within easy walking distance, and we took full advantage of that. We parked the car in The Bellmoor's underground parking garage as soon as we arrived and rarely took it out except during to visit several of the popular nearby outlet malls. Other vacationing families jumped into their cars and headed for nearby golf courses, Cape Henlopen State Park, or jet-skiing on the bay. The calmer waters of the bay are also great for catamaran sailing, windsurfing, crabbing, and observing local wildlife.

Our family packed a lot into our little getaway at the beach. When our weekend was over, we loaded more into our car than just sand and shells. Each of us took home lots of memories of time spent together, and we vowed to do it again soon.

If You Go:

* For more information about the Bellmoor Inn, visit the Inn's website at www.thebellmoor.com or call them at 302-227-5800. The Inn offers a variety of fall specials from early September through late December.

* The Bellmoor's family suites and one-bedroom suites are the best options for families. Deluxe rooms with two queen beds or a king bed and sofa bed are also available. Some rooms have fireplaces and balconies. Each room is a bit different, so make sure to tell the reservationist about your preferences and request a room on one of the upper floors if possible.

* Cape Henlopen State Park is located at the end of Ocean Drive, just 1.5 miles north of Rehoboth's Boardwalk. The beach here is particularly lovely and ocean entry is a bit more gradual than in the downtown Rehoboth area. Nature trails, camping, a nature center, public parking and bathhouses are available. An entrance fee is charged for parking. For more information, call 302-645-8983. Delaware Seashore State Park is another nice beach located just south of Dewey Beach, with public facilities and a bathhouse.

* Visits to the Tanger outlet malls are a popular pastime when visiting Rehoboth Beach. Three locations are available in the area, all within a short drive of each other. For more information on the stores and shopping hours, visit www.tangeroutlet.com/rehobothbeach.

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