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The 10 Best Sandcastle Competitions in America

Creative seaside architects around the globe have elevated the summer pastime of sandcastle-building into an incredible art form.

When you think of a day at the beach, sophisticated sculpture may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, creative seaside architects around the globe have elevated the summer pastime of sandcastle-building into an incredible art form. Here are 10 competitions that allow sunbathers to soak up some rays—and some culture—all at once.

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Master Sand Sculpting Classic

For the 18th year in a row, select sand artists will have the chance to demonstrate just how much they can do with 200 pounds of imported sand during this annual favorite on Hampton Beach. Featuring both a Masters Group Carve and a solo competition, the actual sculpting will take place from June 11 to June 16, with judging on the final day and a festive fireworks display on the beach that night. Sculptures will be illuminated in the evenings through June 27 for those who want to admire the handiwork during a romantic moonlit stroll.

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Neptune’s International Sandsculpting Championship

As one of the most anticipated parts of the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach each year, the International Sandsculpting Championship pits 12 solo sculptors and 10 teams of two against each other in a quest to create the most awe-inspiring sand structure. Local students and aspiring builders can also join the fun as part of the Amateur Division, and spectators will enjoy live music, speed-sculpting competitions, and artist meet-and-greets. The 2018 championship will be held from September 28-30, with sculptures on view from October 1 through 7.

INSIDER TIP: If you’re worried about inclement weather, take comfort that even the harshest of rains won’t ruin this party. All of the fun happens in a massive tent, complete with night lighting.

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American Sandsculpting Championship Festival

A 10-day event in its 32nd year, the American Sandsculpting Championship Festival is the largest competition of its kind—not only in the state of Florida, but in the entire country. With World Class Master, Advanced Amateur, and Amateur divisions, nearly every level of sculptor can get in on the action. Quick speed sculpting competitions, demonstrations from the pros, and live music round out the festivities. Since it’s practically summer all year round in sunny southwest Florida, the 2018 competition will be held from November 16-25.

INSIDER TIP If you’re visiting from out of town, don’t forget to stage an early holiday card picture in the designated photo-op area to make everyone back home jealous.

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Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest

WHERE: Cannon Beach, Oregon

This year, the oldest sandcastle competition in the Pacific Northwest runs from Friday, June 8 to Sunday, June 10. All are welcome to enter, from bonafide professionals to ambitious families. Friday evening gets the party started with a parade, complete with fun floats and ample beach-town charm. On Saturday, following the castle construction, judging, and prize ceremony, attendees enjoy live music on the sand and a festive bonfire to close out the evening. Sunday morning brings the Singing Sands 5K run/walk down the beach, which is fun for the whole gang.

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SANDiego

WHERE: San Diego, CA

Held over four days on Broadway Pier during Labor Day Weekend (August 31 to September 3), SANDiego draws international competitors from as far as Russia and Tasmania, who build epic structures—some as heavy as 10 tons—alongside venerable U.S. artists. While admiring the creations, visitors will also enjoy gourmet grub from a dozen food trucks, more than a thousand pieces of dimensional art, jewelry, and crafts, and plenty of rockin’ renditions from top-notch cover bands.

INSIDER TIPA designated Kids Zone will keep little ones busy with sand-sculpting lessons and bubble-blowing, among other activities.

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PHOTO: Bert Adams
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SandSations

Long Beach’s 34th annual extravaganza will take place from July 18-22, and it’s not just reserved for the pros. Anyone with a dream is allowed to sign up, and can even prep with lessons from the experts that are offered every day during the festival. The magic begins on Thursday, though competitors seeking an extra adrenaline rush can enter as late as Saturday morning to be judged that afternoon. Criteria across four categories (Masters, Intermediate, Novice, and Family) includes creativity, effort, teamwork, suitability to sand, design, intricacy, and overall appearance. All weekend long, a special sculpture designed specifically for holiday card photo-ops will be on display for visitors.

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PHOTO: The Sand Lovers
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Blue Water SandFest

From July 6-8, the Blue Water SandFest takes over the beaches of Lake Huron for the state championship of sand-sculpting. Featuring both Masters and Amateurs from the Wolverine State and all over the country, the event also includes a “Quick Sand” speed-sculpting show and an ongoing soundtrack of live music the entire weekend. Perfect for all ages, SandFest has both a Kid Zone and beer garden, plus extended sculpture viewing hours through 8 p.m. each night.

INSIDER TIPForget the hassle of trying to park at the beach and take advantage of the free festival shuttle, which departs from the Saint Clair County Community College Welcome Center and Holland Woods Middle School.

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The Hawaii Sand Festival

WHERE: Hanalei, HI

With all of its beautiful beaches—and so much sand to spare—you might be a bit surprised to learn that this annual one-day festival on the island of Kauai is the only sand-sculpting contest in the entire state. Much like the SandSations competition in Washington, everyone is welcome to participate, from first-time builders to sculpting veterans. The whirlwind fun starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 4, with live music all day long, though the relaxing, tropical vibes will probably have you wanting to stick around for the rest of the summer.

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The American Institute of Architects Sandcastle Competition

WHERE: Galveston, TX

This local favorite has a unique twist: the competitors consist solely of teams from area architectural firms, who begin strategically planning their structures months in advance. The grand prize (known as the “Golden Bucket”) is awarded based on criteria that include technique, execution, and technical difficulty. However, a number of novelty categories including World History, Pop Culture, Superheroes, and Greatest Feat of Structural Ingenuity make the competition even more exciting. This year’s contest, held on Saturday, August 25, features more than 60 teams. Building takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with public voting from 1 to 3 p.m. and an awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m.

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PHOTO: Revere Beach Partnership
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Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Festival

WHERE: Revere Beach, MA

Set on the first public beach in America, the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Festival gives visitors a taste of history, creativity, and top-notch seafood. From July 20-22, utilizing only sand and water, sculpting veterans from around the globe show off their stuff in a bid to snag the $5,000 grand prize. Attendees can also put in their two cents by voting in the People’s Choice contest. Saturday night’s fireworks display adds a fun touch to the rest of the goings-on, which includes carnival rides, craft vendors, and food trucks.