The fourth of July brings to mind fireworks, barbecue and, if you live in Ocean City, crowds. More than 300,000 sun-seekers flood this small Maryland town each July 4th, packing restaurants, boardwalk attractions, and, of course, the beach.
When the summer holiday strikes, fleeing to the beach seems like a no-brainer. After all, what could be better than a sea breeze to cool you off? You and those hundreds of thousands of fellow beachgoers, that is. That's the kind of maritime mosh pit you're likely to encounter at America's popular beaches. And Ocean City, with 4.5 million annual visitors, is hardly the worst offender.
The state of Florida has the greatest number of congested beaches on our list; its two coastlines offer seemingly endless stretches of sand, from Miami's party scene to secluded Caladesi Island. But it's California, famous for surfing culture, that claims the questionable honor of America's No. 1 most crowded beach: Venice Beach, to be precise, which swarms with 16 million sunbathers, fortune-tellers, street performers, and people-watchers.
If you do follow the wisdom of crowds, try to time it right by skipping the weekends or going early in the morning--so that you can appreciate the combination of natural beauty and boardwalk amusements that made these beaches popular in the first place. And if you just can't take the crowds, seek out one of the world's secret beaches instead. --Everett Potter