In the summer the kids don't need to be to bed so early and it stays light longer. When the weather's good we've been doing a lot of evening picnics at the beach. It's not too crowded (making parking easier), there's less direct sun (don't need to deal with sunscreen), and it doesn't conflict with the toddler's nap time.

Often we go to Shannon Beach ("Sandy Beach"), on the Mystic Lakes:

They test bacteria levels, and when they get high they close the beach. Check the DCR Alerts Page before going.

This is the closer option for us, but when it's closed we often go Revere Beach:

This is on the ocean, but it's sheltered enough that waves are typically just a few inches. It's also colder: I'll swim at Sandy Beach, especially in the late summer, but I'd need to go hundreds of miles south of Boston if I wanted ocean water that didn't chill me too quickly to be fun.

Both have free parking, and Revere Beach is on the Blue Line. Neither have lifeguards: at Sandy Beach there are ropes that keep the older two within an area they can easily touch and we stay close to the toddler; at Revere Beach if they want to go past their knees they need an adult with them.

The older two often want to eat quickly just before leaving or in the car because (a) they prefer hot food and (b) they want to play the whole time we're there. But it's still important to them that the trip be a picnic, and Julia and I enjoy eating on the beach. Also a good fit for portable ice cream!

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If you're interested in swimming, I'd highly recommend buying a wetsuit and snorkeling gear. I'm on the Puget Sound, which is very cold, but my 5 mm wetsuit (no hood, hats or gloves) makes me comfortable for extended swims, and there's a huge amount of beautiful marine life in just a foot or two of water. My head is cold for the first 5-10 minutes and then adjusts, and I can swim indefinitely. All my snorkeling gear fits in a large sack-style backpack, so I can bike it to and from the beach.

Any advice on how to go about buying a wetsuit? This is a thing I've considered before, but not knowing anything about wetsuits and not being in a community that commonly wears them I didn't end up buying anything.

I bought a 5mm Cressi wetsuit new on Amazon for about $200, but my partner bought a used wetsuit for $10 at an outdoor store. Wetsuits are sized by height and weight, and I at least found that the chart I used to pick out my wetsuit size was accurate. There are charts available describing the wetsuit thickness that’s best for different water temps, but it’s not absolutely rigid - my partner has used a thinner than advised wetsuit, and I’ve foregone the hood, gloves, and booties, and it’s been fine.

Wetsuits are supposed to be somewhat uncomfortably tight when you put it on dry. Once you get in the water it will loosen up slightly and become comfortable.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

It's also colder: I'll swim at Sandy Beach, especially in the late summer, but I'd need to go hundreds of miles south of Boston if I wanted ocean water that didn't chill me too quickly to be fun.

Consider using a wetsuit. You won't feel a thing.

I remember one time a friend took me surfing at Venice beach. It was early in the morning before work and the water was cold so we wore wetsuits. I was very surprised: the wetsuit made it so that I really wasn't cold at all.