It's summer and you're looking for a beach, with or without the kids, where you'll be close to a wide variety of historical and cultural sites for day trips. Don't overlook Delaware, the state that's just small enough to put everything conveniently within a couple of hours' drive.
Step right up to the Delaware Tourism Office -- www.visitdelaware.com/ -- and look for "Things To Do." You'll have to work for your information by using a search menu to access details on beaches, cultural destinations and the all-important "kid-focused attractions." If you can tear the kids away from the beach, take them to the Delaware Toy & Miniature Museum in Wilmington. Search the menu for historical spots such as Amstel House, a 1837 Georgian mansion that George Washington once visited in New Castle.
For a small state, Delaware has a lot of outdoor pursuits. Use the menu again to locate nature centers (more places for the kids), beaches, golf courses, trails to hike, fishing and race tracks. For rainy days, Delaware has antique emporiums and other places to shop -- and no sales tax. For more ideas, browse "20 Reasons Why 'It's Good Being First."'
The state is proud of its museums, mansions, restaurants and more in the city of Wilmington -- www.visitwilmingtonde.com/ -- which promotes the metropolitan area and Brandywine Valley as "America's Cultural Gem." Look under "Leisure Visitors" for the calendar, which showcases events such as an exhibit of Andrew Wyeth drawings at the Brandywine River Museum -- www.brandywinemuseum.org/ -- and "Picturing African Americans in the Nineteenth Century" at the Delaware Art Museum -- www.delart.org/ -- both through July 16. "Attractions" lists "Unique Neighborhoods" including the Delaware City District, which focuses on the old Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, and the Ships Tavern District of restaurants and shops in Wilmington.
Want a side trip? Put the kids in the car and head along the coast to take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry -- www.capemaylewesferry.com/ -- a 17-mile voyage across the mouth of Delaware Bay to the southern tip of New Jersey and the scenic town of Cape May, famous for its Victorian-style homes. Click on "Destination New Jersey" for links to Web sites for Cape May and other Jersey Shore communities.
When you get off the ferry on your return trip to Delaware, stop and visit the town of Lewes -- www.leweschamber. com/ -- settled in 1631 by the Dutch, making it Delaware's first town.