A field guide for beaches, a road trip guide and a couple of books for city-dwellers looking to get outdoors with kids offer inspiration and information for planning adventures this season.
—National Geographic's "Field Guide to the Water's Edge" ($22) is a handy reference for anyone who's ever wondered about shorebirds, seashells, plants and other curiosities found on beaches, shorelines and river banks. The book is co-authored by Stephen Leatherman, also known as "Dr. Beach," who issues an annual list of America's "best beaches" each Memorial Day, using criteria such as water quality. The book includes a list of 35 of the best North American water's edge destinations, with top beaches culled from Leatherman's annual list, plus his choices for top 10 river sites and top five Great Lakes beaches. The Great Lakes beaches on the list are Bayfield Main Beach on Lake Huron in Ontario; Oak Street Beach, Lake Michigan, in Chicago; Presque Isle State Park, Lake Erie, in Pennsylvania; and two in Michigan, Sand Point Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Michigan.
—"Road Trip USA" by Jamie Jensen is out from Moon publishers in its sixth edition ($30). The book's "Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways" offer six north-to-south routes and five west-to-east routes, from trips that hug the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to cross-country treks like the Oregon Trail from the Oregon coast to Cape Cod, Mass. Other chapters cover classics like Route 66 between Hollywood and Chicago and the Great River Road from the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. The book offers all kinds of history and trivia and also includes recommendations for attractions and side trips along the way.
—The Appalachian Mountain Club has come out with "Outdoors with Kids" guides for New York City and Boston. Each book lists 100 places to explore in and around each city, from urban parks, historic sites and greenways within city limits to beaches, ponds, hikes and other outings outside the city, most of them doable as day trips and many accessible by public transportation. The New York guide ranges from famous places like Central Park to less well-known spots like the Socrates Sculpture Garden in Queens to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Pleasantville, N.Y., 30 miles north of the city, plus beaches on Long Island and in New Jersey. Boston's list includes Boston Common and Jamaica Pond, plus sites that are farther away like the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, Mass., about 85 miles west of the city, and a few spots in other parts of New England including places in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut.