The 10 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time
With movie theaters beginning to reopen and films like The Unholy and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It set to premiere this summer, we’re taking a look at not the best, not the worst, but some of the scariest horror movies of all time (some spoilers may follow).
But what makes a movie scary? On this list, you’ll find films that have horrified audiences across decades. With standards of horror ever-changing in our increasingly tolerant society, it’s easy for one person to be scared by one thing and not another.
This list is going to dive deep into some of our most recent horror scares, as well as some of the classics. So don’t turn off the lights, here is our list of the 10 scariest horror movies out there…
1. The Exorcist (1973)
The original demon possession movie, The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, still frightens audiences today with iconic sequences of supernatural terror that most horror movies have failed to recapture since the film’s release. The Exorcist, based on the book by William Peter Blatty (who also wrote the screenplay), follows the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and the exorcism conducted by two Catholic priests, one of which is having serious doubts about his faith.
The Exorcist is most well-known for its various moments of terror including head twisting, levitating, spider-crawling, and various demonic voices as the demon Pazuzu terrorizes and possesses the young Reagan MacNeil (portrayed by the talented Linda Blair). The use of practical effects (such as the “stair dive” at the end), advanced puppetry, and the historic Georgetown help set the scene, making The Exorcist feel both aetherial and spiritual.
Less well known, however, is that the production was nearly a horror film itself, with the set burning down due to unknown circumstances and the seemingly random deaths of nine members of the cast and crew. To this day, The Exorcist remains one of the scariest horror films of all time and has led to various sequels, television series, books, and more. The film has become a phenomenon, securing its rightful place on our list.
2. Hereditary (2018)
Ari Aster’s Hereditary quickly became one of the most notorious horror films of the past decade when it made over $80 million at the box office (on a $10 million budget). The film was highly praised for its cast, with stand-out performances by Toni Colette and Alex Wolff, as well as its creepy score, claustrophobic themes, and fascinating takes on cults, grief, and mental illness.
There are a few scenes that make Hereditary one of the scariest out there, but the “stand out” moment that you’ll be hard-pressed to get out of your head is the car scene near the beginning. It’s not exactly horror per se, but it’s certainly horrific. The score (masterfully composed by Colin Stetson) lends itself well to the film, keeping you strictly on the edge of your seat, especially during the ending sequence of the film which will both horrify and amaze.
If you enjoy disturbing themes and a good scare, Hereditary is the film for you. Its various jump scares will keep you constantly terrified, especially when you see characters crawling on the ceiling. Hereditary is not like any other horror film out there, but it’s definitely one of the scariest.
3. The Conjuring (2013)
Written by brothers Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes, and directed by horror superstar James Wan (known for his work on the Saw and Insidious franchises), The Conjuring is definitely one of the scariest horror features out there. Based on a real-life poltergeist that haunted the Perron family in Rhode Island, the film follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played to perfection by Patrick Wilson and Vera Framagan.
The original Conjuring film plays upon all our fears, producing the horrifying scene in which Carylon Perron (Lili Taylor) travels down to the basement, only to be attacked by a malevolent spirit. Other highlights include a possessed Carylon atop the wardrobe and the final exorcism sequence which is just as terrifying as the one from The Exorcist. But what really sets The Conjuring apart from the rest is the look into Ed and Lorraine Warren’s personal lives. Lorraine is plagued by nightmares and visions as well as a feeling of helplessness due to a failure in their most recent case.
The Conjuring was revolutionary in that it birthed not only a sequel but an entire franchise-worth of stories. We now have the Anabelle trilogy, The Nun, The Curse of La Llorona, various short films, and several projects in development including a third film, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, set to be released on HBO Max and in theaters this summer.
4. The Babadook (2014)
What Jennifer Kent’s Australian horror The Babadook proves is that it isn’t always the monster itself that’s scary, but often what the monster represents. Essie Davis plays Amelia, a single mother who is working to get over her grief, seven years after her husband Oskar (Ben Winspear) died in a car accident on the way to the hospital for them to give birth to their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Her depression and grief have now manifested into the creature known as “the Babadook.”
Similar to the themes explored in Hereditary (minus the naked cult members), The Babadook’s true antagonist is mental illness. The film deals with the prisons we lock ourselves into by isolating ourselves and how we take out our anger and pain on others, especially those we should love and care for the most. This is Amelia’s plight, and what makes her rocky relationship with her unruly son so terrifying. Well, that and the scary images of the Babadook itself…
Although The Babadook is slightly unconventional as far as horror films go, it nevertheless paints a frightening picture of what the scariest monsters in our life really are and is definitely one to check out.
5. The Witch (2015)
Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse) knocks it out of the park with his directorial debut, The Witch: A New-England Folktale, which certainly lives up to its name. This dark and twisted tale of a 17th-century family banished from their Puritan hometown reveals the horrors settlers felt when first coming to America, and the fears they faced upon isolation.
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin, a young girl and the eldest child of the family, The Witch does a great job curating suspense while cultivating a high-stakes family drama. From the peek-a-boo scene near the beginning to the climax between Thomasin and her parents near the end, this film checks all the frightening boxes of what it was like to live in the 1600s and be haunted by Satan himself. The interesting interpretation of the family’s Puritan faith provides an understandable backdrop as to why they may be afraid of witches at all.
Ultimately, The Witch is a film about temptation, which becomes clearer as the film goes on, and although The Witch leaves its audience with more questions than answers by the time the end credits roll, it also gives you all the tools necessary to find them.
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6. Halloween (1978)
What horror list would be complete without John Carpenter’s original horror masterpiece: Halloween. Forever a horror staple, and career boost for star Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween spawned a series of (mostly bad) sequels and remakes that all tried to mimic the spooky genius of the original.
Nick Castle’s presence as “The Shape,” aka the deranged serial killer Michael Myers, is both astounding and horrifying. Myers, who terrorizes the small midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois, is one of the scariest movie villains out there. Myers, like the Terminator, doesn’t stop; he just keeps coming until he kills his prey. Well, except for Laurie Strode that is…
Carpenter’s score also shines bright with the classic Halloween Theme raising the tension with every Myers kill. The score is actually even scarier than the bloody visuals and one of the iconic film scores ever created.
Halloween has recently made a resurgence in pop culture with a new Halloween, released in 2018 as a sequel to the original set forty years later (and retconning the events of the previous nine sequels). With two more on the way (Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends) set to be released in 2021 and 2022, Michael Myers appears to be alive and well.
7. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Taking its title from the 1938 song of the same name (and Daphne’s catchphrase from the classic Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?), Jeepers Creepers is definitely the most controversial film on this list. Written and directed by Victor Salva, the film follows siblings Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Phillips) as they travel back from college during spring break, only to stumble upon the mysterious Creeper (Jonathan Breck).
The Creeper himself is a horrid creature whose lair is even more frightening than anything we physically see him do. Justin Long (known more for his comedic roles) is outstanding in the lead role as he and Phillips convey real fear as they run, hide, and investigate the Creeper. One of the scarier parts of Jeepers Creepers is a car scene near the beginning of the movie in which the Creeper pursues our heroes via his old, rusty truck. The idea that the Creeper can not only fly but drive as well is a horrifying addition to its already unnerving nature.
Although it was a commercial success (and spawned two sequels with a reboot on the way), Jeepers Creepers was met with mixed reviews from critics, though cult audiences have praised the film for being an interesting and unique take on the horror genre.
8. The Ring (2002)
A remake of the Japanese film Ring, Gore Verbanski (who just sounds like he should be directing horror films) made horror movie history with The Ring. Starring Naomi Watts, The Ring follows a journalist, Rachel Keller, as she investigates a cursed videotape that seemingly kills the viewer seven days after watching it. The film paved the way for English remakes of Asian horror films, including The Grudge, Dark Water, and The Eye, among others.
But what makes The Ring so scary? Well, for starters, the whole film is about a cursed videotape that the characters watch, resulting in the vengeful spirit Samara walking through your TV screen and killing you after you watch it. A videotape which, by the way, you actually watch in full along with the characters…
Since horror films started to populate movie theaters, horror fans (and those of us who generally don’t watch scary movies), have had nightmares about the ghosts and monsters who terrorized us on screen. The Ring brings those fears to life, and if that isn’t spooky, then I don’t know what is.
Two sequels (The Ring Two and Rings) have been released since and Samara’s legendary tape continues to plague all who watch, even adapting with the times and expanding to the internet. The Ring continues to haunt all those who watch it, just hopefully once you turn your TV off it doesn’t turn itself back on.
9. Us (2019)
Jordan Peele has proven himself a horror master in more recent years with hits like Get Out and Us, but between the two of them, Us is certainly the scariest. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see yourself in real life? As in, someone who looks exactly like you? Us answers that question for all of us with wide eyes and a haunting smile that will keep you up at night.
The film follows the Wilson family: Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and Jason (Evan Alex) as they attempt to outrun, outlast, and out-think their murderous doppelgangers: Red, Abraham, Umbrae, and Pluto. These actors, especially Nyong’o, truly commit to their roles as both the terrified members of the Wilson clan and as their evil, deformed counterparts, making us believe that each member of “the Tethered” is entirely different from our protagonists. The slasher-horror is not to be taken lightly and its fantastical imagery (and its twists) will haunt you long after the credits roll.
Unlike Peele’s first hit Get Out, Us isn’t the type of existential horror movie to be overthought – instead, demanding that its audience takes it at face value, through all the ballet twists and turns that make this movie truly horrifying. The ending “villainous plan” monologue from Red is one that will chill you to the bone, and maybe even get you to turn off your TV.
10. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
In an age where mass hysteria and fear of ritualistic satanic cults coexist, The Blair Witch Project thrives. Written, directed, and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, The Blair Witch Project revolutionized the horror genre in a way that hadn’t been explored before and had yet to be fully realized. The found-footage horror film has been made popular with Paranormal Activity and its sequels, but The Blair Witch Project started it all.
When the film came out, it was promoted as having been “real found-footage,” with most audience members believing the experiences of film students Heather Donahue, Mike Williams, and Josh Leonard were “real.” Even when viewed through the lens of fiction, The Blair Witch Project still terrifies audiences with its spooky use of sound, inconsistent visuals, and an unseen antagonist which manages to haunt not only our heroes but those who watch as well.
As one of the most successful independent films of all time, and a sleeper hit at the box office, The Blair Witch Project produced a Scooby-Doo parody (The Scooby Project) and two sequels (Book of Shadows and Blair Witch), both of which show more of the supernatural and tend to be less scary, proving that sometimes less is more.
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The 10 Best Portable Speakers in 2021
For those on the go, regular speakers simply aren’t going to make the grade. They often don’t have the durability required for travel and the speakers may not be powerful enough to cope with an open environment.
If you love music and the outdoors, then you need a speaker that is able to cope with your lifestyle. That means an ability to protect itself from water, dust, and drops. It also needs sound that can cut through the open air.
Thankfully, you don’t need to look very far to find speakers to match those criteria. We’ve done the hard work to find 10 speakers that we think are perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Read on to find the perfect portable speaker for you. Let’s go!
1. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore
For the perfect combination of durability and sound quality, we picked this Bang & Olufsen speaker as the best overall choice. It has an excellent array of qualities and will never let you down.
The design of the speaker makes it look very tough and that’s exactly what you get. Its body is made from anodized aluminum and it can take a lot of punishment. This includes the speaker being both dust and waterproof.
While we adore the durability of this speaker, the feature we are most impressed by is the runtime. It can play for an incredible 27 hours before it needs to be charged. That’s usually enough time for most outdoor adventures.
There are many other aspects to love about this speaker such as the 360-degree sound, its solid Bluetooth connection, and the stylish earthy colors. While this speaker is great for any outdoor adventure, it’s brilliant in dusty or sandy environments where most other speakers suffer. It’s the perfect outdoor speaker, which is why it took our top pick.
2. Vifa Oslo Bluetooth Speaker
While the Bang & Olufsen speaker is perfect for those in more extreme environments, the Vifa Oslo is ideal for those who will be traveling in a bit more comfort. It’s a stunningly stylish speaker that comes in a choice of five vibrant colors.
It has two connection options of either Bluetooth or Aux, which are both very easy to use. The speaker itself is quite bulky, which is ideal for those looking for a larger speaker but not for those who need something compact.
The most impressive aspect of this Bluetooth speaker is the sound quality. The balanced woofers give you a premium level of sound at all ranges. It works well in any setting to give you exceptional performance.
There is also no doubting the level of durability and craftsmanship you get here. It’s extremely well made and has a soft feel. It looks great, sounds great, and is fantastic for premium sound quality on the go.
3. Anker Soundcore Flare Wireless Speaker
With the Anker brand, one thing you can always expect is excellent value for money. This speaker is able to produce premium sound while coming in at a lower price point, making it our best value product.
It has all the durability that you need for an outdoor speaker. It comes with an IP67 rating which not only means it can be briefly submerged in water but that it also has great dust protection.
For a small speaker, it also packs a punch. The bass especially stands out but the overall clarity is very impressive and it can deliver 360-degree sound. It’s able to run for 12 hours and is easy to charge back up.
A customizable light show is also available, which can be dialed back if you need to save power. That customization also extends to the EQ, which can be controlled via an app. It looks very good in either black or blue and is exceptional for a budget speaker.
4. Sonos Roam
A brilliant option for your outdoor adventure is to get a speaker that also has smart functionality for voice control. That’s exactly what you get with this Sonos Roam speaker which is packed full of exciting features.
It can be connected to a wide range of devices through either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, which are both very easy to use. You can also control the speaker from their App, which adds to the usability.
As with most Sonos speakers, it looks stylish and will complement any room or outdoor space. It lasts for 10 hours, which is a little less than some rivals but is still a decent runtime.
You’ll find the music to have plenty of clarity with precision sound, even in an outdoor setting. Part of the reason for that is due to its ability to automatically adjust to its surroundings. We loved it and with the IP67 rating, it can easily cope with anything the outdoors throws at it.
5. Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3
If a company decided to call their speaker the MEGABOOM then it has a lot to live up to. You’d expect the volume to be great, even in outdoor settings. Thankfully, this outdoor speaker delivers on those promises.
The long cylindrical shape is very easy to carry and is able to deliver 360-degree sounds. This makes it ideal for the likes of a campsite where you can put it in the middle of your group and all enjoy the music.
You don’t have to worry about breaking it either. With its IP67 rating, the speaker can take a lot of punishment. That rating means it can be submerged in water and is highly resistant to dust ingress.
There are other features we love here such as the fabric covering, wireless charging, and drop resistance. It’s the ideal solution if you want a tough speaker that can deliver booming sound.
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6. JBL Charge 5
JBL is another brand name that you can trust. For these outdoor speakers to make this list, they needed to be very tough without compromising on sound quality. The JBL Charge 5 is a great example of that.
It’s able to produce a sound that is rich and clear. This is true even in challenging outdoor environments. If another member of your group has a JBL speaker with “Party Boost,” then you can connect it up for stereo sound.
It has 20 hours of run time, which is one of the highest available. If you use it for a few hours a day, then it has the potential to last for quite a long trip.
It’s another that has an IP67 rating but a standout feature is the built-in power bank that can charge your devices. It can be a lifesaver if your phone dies when you’re outdoors.
7. Sony Extra Bass Speaker
Sony is another company that has made an exceptional outdoor speaker. This stylish model comes in either blue, black, or taupe and will look great wherever you put it.
You’ll also be delighted with the sound quality. It’s both deep and punchy which can help to cut through any noisy outdoor environment. It also has a bass boost feature which can really boom.
The runtime is exceptional at 24 hours so you’ll be able to get plenty of enjoyment from it between recharges. It also has a lightshow feature that will sync up to the music that is playing.
The IP67 rating means it’s great for outdoor life but the fabric covering still adds style and a premium feel. The speaker is beautifully balanced and you’ll be impressed by the vocal clarity.
8. Urbanista Brisbane Wireless Speaker
When it comes to an outdoor speaker, style isn’t really that important. That being said, most people still want their devices to look great. It’s an area where this Urbanista speaker shines with its sleek rectangular design.
Looks aside, this speaker also performs brilliantly in both outdoor and indoor settings. It’s able to produce plenty of driver power which gives it a loud and deep bass. The vocal clarity is also excellent.
It’s highly compatible with many devices and you can also connect it with other speakers for surround stereophonic sound. It has a 10 hours runtime but only takes around three hours for a full recharge.
It isn’t quite as tough as other speakers we’ve looked at here as it has an IPX5 rating, making it splash resistant. That will still be more than enough protection for most uses.
9. Bose Portable Smart Speaker
If you want to have the ultimate in simple portability then you can easily get that here with this Bose portable speaker. It has a wide handle that makes it very easy to carry, along with it being lightweight.
It’s available in either black or white and both of them look great with the cylindrical design. There are many connection options here with Aux cable, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth all available.
It has an IPX4 rating which gives it decent splash resistance and a 12 hour runtime. You may also love the smart functionality, making it simple and easy to be controlled via voice.
10. Tribit StormBox Micro Bluetooth Speaker
For those wanting something a little more compact, this could be what you’re looking for. It’s only small but it can still pack a mighty punch in terms of volume and sound quality. The IP67 rating means it can cope with all tough environments and can easily manage rain, dust, and drops.
It will easily fit in any backpack and with the weight of just 0.64 lbs, you’ll hardly feel it. The eight hours of runtime isn’t the longest but you’d expect it to be a little lower with the smaller size.
The versatile speaker can be taken anywhere and your friends will be shocked at how much power can be delivered from this little thing. The bass can thump and it can cope with windy outdoor settings.
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Outdoor Speaker FAQs
Indoor speakers don’t usually need to worry about water, dust, and being dropped. An outdoor speaker is made to be much tougher and can cope with all these issues. An outdoor speaker also needs to be loud enough to cope with large open spaces.
Outdoor speakers need to have a high level of water and dust resistance, have enough power, and a long runtime between charges. After these key features, you can look at the connectivity, usability, and size. It’s important that you can easily carry it with you, so portability is also important.
We’ve looked at many great brands here such as JBL, Sony, and Bose. You can trust them all to give you a quality product. We’ve also looked at some lesser-known brands which often provide better value for money. It’s always a good idea to look beyond the brand and just get a speaker that perfectly matches your needs.
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The 10 Best Fashion Combat Boots for Men
The first pair of combat boots I purchased were a pair of black canvas Dr. Martens. Not to age myself but it was the 90s and I was in high school and they were essential in boosting my fashion confidence. I lived in Kentucky at the time and I stuck out like a sore thumb and I did not care.
Those boots made me feel invincible. And the best part? I still have them and I still wear them. Read the list below to find your next (or first!) pair of combat boots that you will be sure to have for years, nay, decades to come!
1. Dr. Martens 1460 Smooth Leather Lace Up Boots
This is the original Dr. Marten boot. Named the 1460 because they were born on January 4, 1960 (01.04.60) this 8-eye work boot is iconic and a must-have for every closet. Each pair stays true to the original design with a Trans colored sole and the classic black and yellow AirWair heel loop.
The Goodyear-welted lines are heat-sealed at 700 degrees celsius and reinforced with the brand’s signature yellow welt stitch. New colors are introduced every season but smooth black never goes out of style. The leather can be polished to shine or scuffed-up depending on your preference and style.
2. Thom Browne Tricolor-Stripe Brogue Combat Boot
Two words: Thom Browne.
Three more words: Add to cart.
These Thom Browne black books are a mix of a traditional brogue shoe and a combat boot. These sexy-ass boots are crafted in Italy from pebbled leather and have perforated wingtip accents, chunky rubber soles, a tricolor pull tab, tricolor toebox stripes, and a cutout heel groove that twists around the edge. I cannot stress enough the cool factor associated with these. Trust me. They are in my cart.
3. Clarks Batcombe Hi2 Boot
Lined with sheepskin, these dark olive suede lace-up ankle boots were crafted with your comfort in mind. Made with Clarks Cushion Plus™ technology, the unique dual-density foam technology reduces strain on the ball of the foot and supports your natural movement, keeping your feet comfortable all day long. The durable yet lightweight cleated rubber sole ups the ante with an unbeatable grip making for a versatile boot that works for all aspects of life.
4. Thursday Boot Co. Captain Rugged
If you know, you know… and if you own a pair of boots from the Thursday Boot Co. you know that they’re a company that makes handcrafted and hand-stitched boots designed to complement your look from business casual to everyday wear.
These boots are made from genuine leather with a fully lined supple leather interior, studded rubber outsoles, and cork-bed midsoles that form to your feet for added comfort in order to give a clean, rugged, yet sophisticated look.
5. Moncler Black Vancouver Boot
These buffed black leather ankle boots are built for cold weather and then some. They feature a round toe, tonal lace-up closure, tonal hardware, and black leather lining. These boots also have a Vibram® black rubber outsole, a padded nylon tongue with a logo patch, a pull loop, and a tricolor rubber midsole. Moncler sells luxury and this boot is no exception.
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6. Timberland 6 Inch Premium Boots
Timberland boots. Need I say more? Oh… I do? This is awkward… Ok, then, for the few of you who do not recognize the original Timberland waterproof “yellow” boots from a mile away, let me give you some more information.
This classic boot was born in 1973 and features PrimaLoft® ECO insulation and waterproof leather sourced from a sustainable tannery. With premium leather uppers, rustproof hardware, seam-sealed waterproof construction, and exclusive anti-fatigue technology that provides all-day comfort and support, these boots have proven they will be in style for years to come. And did I mention that they’re waterproof?
7. Diesel Lace-Up Combat Boots
These Diesel black, goat skin blend lace-up combat boots feature contrasting panels, a logo patch at the tongue, logo to the back, a pull tab at the rear, a round toe, a chunky low heel, and a ridged rubber sole. At the time of publishing, if you use this link, they are also 40% off!
8. Wolverine 1000 Mile Axel Boot
Handcrafted in America since 1914, the 1000 Mile boot still maintains the same attention to detail with the finest materials and craftsmanship as it did over a century ago. The uppers are made from premium leather from Chicago and flat waxed laces from South Carolina. The sole is made from Goodyear™ welt construction that’s durable, flexible, and allows the boot to be resoled for years of wear.
9. Alexander McQueen Military Boot
Hands down, no contest, Alexander McQueen is my most favorite and can do no wrong. But that’s just my humble opinion. You can decide for yourself. Inspired by the military (as most combat boots are) these boots are crafted from genuine calf leather and they secure to your foot with an eight-hole lacing system. The edgy aesthetic is completed with a chunky lugged sole and printed branding pull tabs.
10. Red Wing Shoes Heritage Iron Ranger
No list of boots is complete without a pair of Red Wing Heritage boots. The Iron Ranger was originally built for iron miners in the 1930s. The six inch boot’s signature is a distinctive leather toe cap. These boots are built with a Goodyear welt, Puritan triple-stitch construction, and brass speed hooks that provide precision lacing and a visual hit of hardware.
The Iron Ranger is anchored with a Vibram® 430 Mini-lug outsole. As you wear the footwear, the full-grain leather upper, insole, and cork midsole will mold to your feet, creating an increasingly personalized fit over time.
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Combat Boots FAQs
Historically, combat boots were a tactical boot style designed for the military to wear during literal combat. In the 70s they became a symbol of the anti-establishment, most popular amongst British punk rockers.
Combat boots really gained traction in the 90s with the emergence of the grunge scene. Today, combat boots don’t have the same anti-establishment appeal as they did in decades past but they still ooze cool. There are a variety of modern styles, including traditional lace-ups in black and brown, as well as more bold colors like green and blue.
Combat boots became mainstream in the 90s when grunge was both a music genre and a fashion trend. Band members and fans of groups like Nirvana, Garbage, Hole, and Alice In Chains started rocking the utilitarian tactical boot style and by the turn of the century, combat-style boots became a part of mainstream fashion.
Combat boots look great styled with skinny jeans, flares, straight leg, cuffed jeans – basically, they look good with pants. If your pants are too long, tuck them in or roll them up. Or pair your boots with shorts. A longer short looks better but with confidence, you can pull off almost any look.
The 12 Best Beaches To Visit in the U.S.
There’s really no such thing as a bad beach, right? Sand, sun, and glistening, refreshing water to play or cool off in – what’s not to love? Thinking about what makes a beach exceptional, though, is a whole different story. It’s a very subjective thing, as the best beach might mean calm water and powdery white sand to some, while to others it may mean excellent surf and plenty of opportunities for adventure.
Whatever your personal definition of the best beach is, America has lots (and lots) of them to choose from. With two very different coasts and three major bodies of water, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, there’s a beach for everyone here.
Do you prefer iconic, broad, sandy, palm tree-dotted beaches, hidden ones requiring a hike to access, or maybe even beaches where wild horses live? Whatever your beach style, you’ll find the perfect one for you on this list of the best beaches in the U.S.
1. Secret Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
For most people, Hawaii immediately comes to mind when they think of the best beaches in the U.S. Kauai’s Secret Beach, which is officially named Kauapea Beach and often referred to as simply “Secrets,” is the epitome of a pristine Hawaiian beach. It’s exceptionally large in terms of both length and width and features golden sand, shimmering turquoise water, and lush green rainforests.
To get to Secret Beach, you’ll need to find the unmarked, steep trail between Kilauea Point and Kalihiwai Bay. You can actually see the beach from the Kilauea lighthouse, so if you get stuck searching, try visiting there first. Secrets is large enough that it’s always easy to find a secluded spot for yourself to layout and relax.
Note that the far eastern end of the beach has a reputation for being a go-to spot for nude sunbathers. There’s also a waterfall toward the east end of the beach and at the west end, there are a few lagoons that form natural calm swimming holes. The strong ocean current here makes it difficult to swim at Secret Beach most of the time, so stick to these lagoons for swimming and enjoy simply relaxing on one of the best beaches in the U.S.
2. Miramar Beach, Santa Barbara, California
Technically five miles from Santa Barbara proper in Montecito, Miramar Beach is somewhat of a hidden gem. This beach is very quiet and calm, with gentle, clear waters and sugar-fine soft sand, making it ideal for everything from surfing and swimming to sunbathing and walking the shoreline.
Miramar Beach’s calm waters are attributed to the fact that it’s situated in a south-facing cove. It’s pretty well-sheltered, which also allows for leisurely exploring the crystal-clear water. At low tide, several tide pools are also revealed. Thanks to its location just outside Santa Barbara, Miramar Beach is rarely crowded, yet it’s less than an hour from Los Angeles. Talk about the best of both worlds!
3. Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Fun fact: Maine has more coastline than the entire state of California. It’s true! So it comes as no surprise that some of the best beaches in the U.S. are in Maine. Located about eight miles from Portland in southwestern Maine, Crescent Beach is a classic, postcard-perfect New England beach.
The beach itself, as you may have guessed, is a one-mile crescent-shaped swath of soft sand. It’s surrounded by saltwater coves, sand dunes, woods, and granite rock ledges. Swimming and sunbathing are popular activities at Crescent Beach, of course, but there are also plenty of opportunities for fishing and paddling, plus several hiking trails.
4. Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Orange Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Gulf Shores, and for good reason. The superfine, sugar-white sand is so soft that it’s said to squeak under your feet and the calm waters are an almost unbelievable turquoise blue.
Adjacent to Perdido Key in the Florida panhandle (which is another spectacular beach), Orange Beach spans eight miles. It’s also fairly wide, so even on the most crowded days, it’s not difficult to find a patch of sand to make your own and stretch out comfortably. There’s a waterfront park, plenty of opportunities to fish either from the pier or aboard a boat with a guided outfitter, and even a shipwreck, The Lulu, to explore on a scuba diving expedition.
5. Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California
Part of Hearts San Simeon State Park and situated just off the world-famous Highway 1 (aka the Pacific Coast Highway) in central California, Moonstone Beach is one of the best beaches in the U.S. The coastline here is punctuated by rocky cliffs and several coves with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the beach. Spend some time combing the beach for several varieties of beautiful sea glass and impossibly smooth stones, including jade, jasper, agate, and of course, chalcedony – also known as moonstone.
Up above the beach, a boardwalk spans exactly one mile between the Santa Rosa Creek and Leffingwell Landing day-use areas, both with plenty of parking. A lookout near the boardwalk is perfect for spotting gray whales, dolphins, sea lions, and otters.
6. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida
Since 2015, TripAdvisor has named Siesta Beach America’s #1 beach a whopping three times on its annual Traveler’s Choice Awards. The soft, fluffy white sand is cloud-like, with hardly a shell or other debris in sight. And thanks to its composition of nearly all quartz-crystal, the sand doesn’t get hot on even the sunniest days – an impressive feat on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida summers.
The largest of Siesta Key’s beaches, Siesta Beach has shaded playgrounds, volleyball courts, picnic areas, and plenty of free parking. Dolphins are frequently seen playing in the turquoise waters just off the shore, and the sea here is calm, shallow, and clear, making it one of the best U.S. beaches for families.
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7. Jack’s Bay Beach, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Often overlooked, the U.S. Virgin Islands are a group of three main islands nestled into the Caribbean. Each of the islands – St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix – is stunning and, interestingly, very different from one another.
One of the best beaches in the U.S., Jack’s Bay Beach, happens to be on St. Croix and it’s well off the beaten path, which means you’ll likely have it all to yourself. Located near the far eastern end of the island, Jack’s Bay Beach is directly below Point Udall.
Fun fact: Point Udall is the easternmost point in the United States and sees America’s very first sunrise every morning. You’ll need to hike downhill from Point Udall to get to Jack’s Bay Beach and while it’s not a long hike, it is steep. The reward is well worth it, though, as there’s rarely more than just a few people at the beach.
8. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Outer Banks, North Carolina
North Carolina has dozens of fantastic beaches to choose from, but one of the best is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Technically a narrow, 72 mile long strip of several barrier islands between Nags Head and Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a little something for everyone.
Enjoy broad sandy beaches dotted with seashells and framed by towering sand dunes, lots of water and beach activities, and a couple of lighthouses. In fact, the tallest lighthouse in the United States is here, 196 foot tall Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Standing just 40 feet shorter, the Bodie Island Lighthouse is also nearby. Both date back to the 1870s and visitors can (and should!) climb both. Allow a full day for visiting the beach and lighthouse, and keep your eyes open for sea turtles sunbathing on the beach.
9. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California
No list of the best beaches in the U.S. is complete without a mention of Big Sur. Arguably one of the most iconic stretches of coastline anywhere in the world, the Big Sur area is defined by dramatic rugged sea cliffs, crashing waves, and pristine beaches. Because of the rugged cliffs, Big Sur beaches aren’t necessarily the most accessible and visiting many of them requires a bit of effort.
That’s actually not the case with Pfeiffer Beach – it doesn’t require a hike or even an admission fee, but it is somewhat hard to find, thanks to the unmarked road connecting it to Highway 1. Once you do manage to find it, you’ll be treated to large unique rock formations (including Keyhole Arch, a natural rock arch) just offshore, tide pools at the north end of the beach during low tide, unbelievable sunsets, and sand that’s unmistakably purple, thanks to manganese garnet in the cliffs above.
10. Assateague Beach, Assateague Island, Maryland & Virginia
In the heart of the east coast, Assateague Island is truly unlike any other. The barrier island sits in both Maryland and Virginia and features a rugged landscape dotted with wind-swept sand dunes, grasslands, and warm, shallow bays. Oh, and it’s also home to hundreds of wild, free-roaming horses. Legend holds that they’re descendants of a handful of domesticated horses that survived a shipwreck sometime in the 17th century.
The horses are, of course, one of the main reasons that Assateague Beach is one of the best beaches in the U.S. However, it’s far from the only reason. Each side of the island is unique, with 12 miles of quiet sandy beaches on the Maryland side and the interior bayside being more recreation-oriented.
Here, there are numerous opportunities for kayaking, clamming, and crabbing, plus the waters are warmer and calmer – perfect for swimming. If you want to go for a horseback ride, head to the Virginia district.
11. Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia
Situated on one of Georgia’s four Golden Isles, Driftwood Beach is widely considered one of the best and romantic beaches in the country. Due to years and years of erosion on the northern end of the island, hundreds of weathered, warped, and bleached trees dot the beach.
It may sound a little odd if you’ve never seen it in person, but it’s strikingly beautiful and truly memorable. In fact, Driftwood Beach is one of Georgia’s most photographed landmarks!
Aside from being picturesque, Driftwood Beach has tons to do. Georgia’s coastline is notorious for its excellent fishing, there’s a great network of bicycle trails, and you can even camp on the beach here. Another must-do activity at Driftwood Beach is visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, an interactive experience for every member of the family!
12. Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana, Hawaii
Wai’anapanapa State Park, along the famous Road to Hana, is the epitome of a Hawaiian beach. Its black sand was created by basalt lava flow several centuries ago, and it’s framed by lush green rainforest and indigo blue ocean.
The dramatic scenery is postcard-perfect and absolutely pristine. Being a stop along the Road to Hana, Wai’anapanapa State Park takes a bit of effort to reach. Those willing to put in the work are rewarded with a big payoff, as the beach is rarely crowded – something increasingly hard to find anywhere in Hawaii.
In addition to the beach itself, Wai’anapanapa State Park features large black boulders, sea caves, a natural sea arch, a blowhole, several small swimming holes, and a blowhole. Visitors can cliff dive, explore the sea caves, or hike to explore the boulders and inlets.
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