Summer Benefits in my Backyard: Amusement Parks and Beaches

Cover Image
Photo credit Dreamstime

Americans have been heading to amusement parks since the 19th Century.  They started out basically as picnic grounds where working men could go relax.  Our country had it's first amusement park when Coney Island opened in 1895. The idea for the park was based on the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition.  

When it comes to the first theme park in the country, most people will automatically think of Disneyland, which opened in 1955.  But the first theme park actually opened in 1946 in Indiana and was called Santa Clause Land.  The 260-acre park had an Alpine village with a toyshop, rides just for kids and of course Santa was on hand every day. 

The Big Four Amusement/Theme Parks

Image 1
Best beach by military base outside of the US
  • Rota, Spain.  Besides the private beach on Naval Station Rota, the town of Rota is a vacation destination all on its own.  You can hang out on the wide beaches, wander the tree lined streets or just nibble on some local munchies at a café.  For veterans this is such a deal because rooms at the Navy Lodge are just $75 a night. 
  • Camp Darby, Livorno, Italy.  On the Italian Riviera, US Army Garrison Livorno has an “American Beach” that is complete with fireworks on the Fourth of July.  Darby’s Sea Pines Lodge has lodging that ranges from basic campsites to deluxe suites.  Rooms start at $65 per night.
  • Okuma Beach and Recreation Center, Okinawa, Japan.  The 135-acre beach and rec center has camping, cabana and cabin rentals.  You can also enjoy jet skis, kayaks, snorkeling, scuba and other watersports.  Basic rooms start at $55 per night.  Other “American” beaches on the island are the Navy’s White Beach, the Army’s Torii Beach or the Cottages at Oura Wan Beach on the Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab.

Best beach by military base in the US

  • California.  Both San Onofre and Del Mar beaches are located on the Marine’s Camp Pendleton.  There are lifeguards, food/vending, parking and rental cottages.  For calmer waters, go a little farther south on North Island to Naval Base Coronado in San Diego
  • Florida.  Pensacola and Key West beaches.  Barrancas Beach at Naval Air Station Pensacola has white, powdery sand that’s so bright and reflective you’ll want to take extra precautions so you don’t get burned.  MWR’s Oak Grove Park rents one-bedroom cottages for $90 a day.  In Key West you can get a standard room at the Navy’s Beach Patio Recreation Center for $55
  • Virginia.  Fort AP Hill.  Run by the Army, this property has great discounts going on this summer.  If you want something a bit more intimate, try the cottages at the Dam Neck Annex at Naval Air Station Oceana.  Room rates start at $56 for a basic room and $76 for VIP suites.  Rates go up in the summer, so book early and lock in the lower rates.