17 Spring Break Destinations You Haven’t Thought of Yet
Explore these under-the-radar destinations for all the fun of spring break without the seasonal markups or hordes of partyers.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.
Cavan Images/Getty Images
It’s time to spring into a fun getaway
It’s been a long winter of intense weather and COVID-19 variants, so it’s no wonder families are ready for a getaway to fun and relaxing spring break destinations. In fact, according to a survey from insurance company Clearcover, Americans are 283 percent more likely to travel for spring break this year versus last year.
While those numbers are great for the travel industry, they can be a little intimidating if you’re trying to find spring break destinations that offer relaxation and social distancing without breaking the bank. Don’t worry, though. We’ve found off-the-radar spots that offer great getaways, sans crowds.
Want even more ideas? Check out the best all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the best all-inclusive resorts in the United States for one-stop shopping spring break destinations. Or find inspiration in one of these spring break road trips.
Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images
For a sun-filled beach vacation, skip Miami and keep flying south to la isla del encanto, the enchanted island of Puerto Rico. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a palm tree–lined golden beach as well as fascinating history and culture. Best of all, the island is a U.S. commonwealth, which means you can plan a spring break visit without a passport, converting currency, or dealing with roaming charges on your cell phone.
Families should start in Old San Juan to explore the grand fortress El Morro. Then head down the coast to El Conquistador Resort, where a private island and water park are both big family draws, and the nearby town of Fajardo offers an evening surprise: a bioluminescent bay to explore! Head to the island’s western coast, toward the surfing capital of Rincon, or visit Cabo Rojo, where you’ll find one of the best beaches on the island, La Playuela Beach. Book your stay at a resort in Puerto Rico and enjoy!
Spring is the perfect time to let the good times roll on a family vacation in New Orleans. Visit during the sweet spot between Mardi Gras (ending in late February) and JazzFest (beginning in late April), to find temperate weather and fun entertainment without the crowds. Kids will love taking an alligator-spotting cruise on the bayou and checking out the crawling critters at the Insectarium. And considering New Orleans ranks as one of the most haunted places in America, you may want to work some spooky spots into your tour of the city.
Food is foremost in NOLA. For sweet fried beignets around the clock, Café Du Monde is a must-visit spot. Then dress up for lunch at Commander’s Palace; it’s also a great excuse to take the trolley to the Garden District. Check into a French Quarter favorite: Maison Dupuy puts you close to the action and offers a large courtyard pool.
Raquel Lonas/Getty Images
With San Diego to the south and Los Angeles to the north, it would be easy to drive past Carlsbad on the way to much more crowded spring break destinations. And that would be a shame because this under-the-radar seaside gem offers all the SoCal charm without the big price tags or packed highways.
Spring is an especially advantageous time to visit; that’s when the 60 acres of colorful ranunculus that make up the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are in full bloom. Also located here is kid-pleasing Legoland California, geared especially toward 2- to 12-year-olds with lots of hands-on activities and just-the-right-size rides.
For quintessential Southern California beach vibes, book a room at the Cassara Carlsbad, which offers multiple pools, a splash pad for little ones, and shuttle service to the Flower Fields. Still planning exactly where to go? Don’t miss these other affordable spring break destinations.
Dave Steers Photo/Getty Images
Haven’t had enough snow this year? Head to Western Canada for Whistler, a pristine mountain area that’s just a two-hour drive from Vancouver. Spring in the mountains means there’s more daylight for all-day ski trips. March promises both powder days and sunshine, while April serves up long days with soft spring snow.
Throw in a lazy après-ski in the sun, lots of family-friendly spring festivals, and a walkable village with lots of food and treats, and you have one of our favorite spring break destinations. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is perfectly located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain and offers an indoor/outdoor heated pool that’s sure to be a family favorite.
The state capital of Texas offers plenty of spring break ideas for families, including free options. But best of all: Spring is bat season. Really, it’s a good thing! Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America, with nearly 1.5 million bats taking up residence beneath the Congress Street Bridge every year from early March to late October. They stream across the sky every evening, and you can catch the view from Capital Cruises’ pontoon sunset tour—or a drive-yourself “donut boat.”
Don’t forget to try out the local eats while you’re here; everything from barbecue at Black’s to ice cream and hot fudge at Amy’s will delight the kids. Make the hip Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt your home base. It’s just a block from Lady Bird Lake and around the corner from the music—Austin is one of the best cities for live music—and food offerings of Rainey Street.
Greenville, South Carolina
The city once known—quite fittingly—as Pleasantburg is an ideal spot for families looking for a Southern-style spring break destination without crowds or high prices, but with lots of fun and fabulous food to boot. Bonus: It’s one of our Nicest Places nominees.
Greenville is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and boasts 200 sunny days a year. Main Street is the central hub of activity, with more than 120 locally-owned restaurants and boutiques. There’s also a 32-acre park and natural waterfalls, a baseball stadium, a concert arena, and access to a more than 20-mile bike trail, a perfect outdoor family option.
Keep the spring break fun going at the Roper Mountain Science Center and Frankie’s Fun Park, or with a live show at the Peace Park theater. The Hyatt Regency Greenville offers an outdoor pool for kids to splash in and is located close to both the Children’s Museum and the Greenville Zoo.
This quintessential road trip spot isn’t just one of the best spring break destinations; it’s one of the best places to visit in the United States for any reason. No, Zion, Bryce, and Arches national parks don’t exactly fly under the radar. But you can avoid crowds by heading to Canyonlands or exploring Capitol Reef National Park, the unknown member of the Mighty Five national parks in Utah. The area offers a wide range of activities, from hiking, horseback riding, and fishing to viewing Native American petroglyphs, and more—without any of the crowds.
The Wingate by Wyndham Moab has a large heated pool, free breakfast, and a convenient location to the parks.
Now that COVID-19 travel restrictions have been eased in Great Britain, it’s a perfect time to hop across the pond to explore the cultural offerings of London. Spring offers temperate weather minus the crowds of summer, making it the perfect time to explore museums, green spaces, and iconic landmarks, like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace.
YTL Hotels has charm-filled properties around the city, all of which offer one-of-a-kind settings and super-comfortable rooms. For families, the Academy hotel offers a great location in the Bloomsbury area near the London Zoo, Madame Tussaud’s, the British Museum, and the West End, where you can catch a live show.
The Academy occupies historic townhouses—five in all—for a uniquely London stay. Speaking of unique, the hotel can even arrange a private black-cab tour of Harry Potter-inspired London, a truly memorable family experience. (True Potterheads may want to take next year’s spring break at Tokyo’s massive Harry Potter theme park.)
Chattanooga, a fun city for families any time of year, transforms itself into a completely kid-centric destination with its Spring Break Safari and Spring Break Scavenger Hunt, both of which run from the first week in March through the first week in April.
For junior train buffs, you’ve come to the right place. The famous “Chattanooga Choo Choo” song has spawned an eponymous and unusual hotel— yes, the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel—where you can sleep in actual Pullman rail cars. (There are regular hotel rooms here as well.)
Attached to the hotel is the city’s original grand train station, filled with fun dining and entertainment options, including the Southern favorite restaurant Frothy Monkey, which features a Little Monkeys menu for kids. Here are more unusual hotels you’ll love for their sheer novelty.
Crystal Coast, North Carolina
Located along North Carolina’s central shore, this Atlantic beach destination is one of the few remaining natural barrier island systems in the world. It’s 85 miles of silky sand and sparkling beaches with family-friendly activities that range from exploring Blackbeard’s sunken treasure at the North Carolina Maritime Museum to hands-on learning at the North Carolina Aquarium. Don’t miss the chance to climb the famed Diamond Lady Lighthouse for views of wild horses.
There are a variety of beach accommodations to suit every budget, including seaside cottages and massive beach house rentals that make for the perfect multigenerational escape. But the DoubleTree Atlantic Beach Oceanfront offers a beachside location, big pools, free chocolate chip cookies at check-in, and an unbeatable price.
Nikhil Nagane/Getty Images
New York State
When the temperature rises and the snow melts, the beauty of New York State emerges from winter’s hibernation, creating the perfect setting for outdoor adventures. Hike 350 miles of trails, paddle down the historic Old Erie Canal, mine for diamonds, or discover New York City’s hidden gems.
But if you have kids between the ages of 2 and 12, the highlight of a New York State visit this spring is the new Legoland New York Resort in the Hudson Valley. Less than a year old, this theme park (which opens in early April) offers interactive activities, miniature versions of great New York landmarks, rides perfect for the 12-and-under set, and a fabulous new resort hotel with themed rooms and cool kid perks, like bunk beds.
joe daniel price/Getty Images
When someone who travels professionally recommends a destination, we listen. So when Delta flight attendant Laura Nottingham told us to check out Savannah in our quest for the best spring break destinations, we made a beeline to the Southern gem. Although peak season runs from March to May, the coastal city can be overly warm in the summer. It’s a great off-season travel destination, though. In spring, you beat the heat and the crowds.
Nottingham recommends exploring the history of the city, the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, and the Children’s Museum. Stay at the Perry Lane Hotel, a boutique property with a rooftop pool right in the center of Savannah’s Landmark Historic District. Before you check out, stop by City Market, an open-air marketplace filled with restaurants and boutique art galleries, and stroll through Forsyth Park, 30 acres of greenery in the heart of the district.
Once best known as a cruise port stop, this easy-to-visit Central American nation is becoming more popular as an eco-destination with plenty of beaches and rainforests to explore. One top spot for families is Bocas del Toro, home of the environmentally protected national marine park and spectacular Red Frog Beach.
Stay at Red Frog Beach Island Resort and Spa which features family-friendly options such as a canopy zip line, water sports activity center, and island tours and excursions. You can explore underground caves and a monkey habitat, observe nesting sea turtles, and hike eight miles of rainforest trails. Looking for something closer to home? Check out the best spring break getaways in every state.
The Washington Post/Getty Images
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Within easy driving distance from Philadelphia (30 minutes), New York City (an hour and a half), and Washington, DC (three hours), this affordable East Coast destination offers family fun that’s perfect for younger kids.
Explore the Bucks County Children’s Museum in New Hope, with 10,000 square feet of fun. At Kid’s Castle in Doylestown’s Central Park, let the family climb and play on an eight-story wooden playground complete with slides, swings, a treehouse, and a rocket ship. Then head to Sesame Place, a perfect intro to theme parks for younger kids and a chance for them to meet Elmo, Big Bird, and Grover in real life.
The Doylestown Inn, a charming 17-guestroom boutique hotel, was built in 1871 and has been used over the years as a hat factory, a cigar shop, a shoe store, and a speakeasy during prohibition, before becoming a hotel. There’s a great bar and restaurant at the hotel, although you could also walk just a few blocks in any direction to great shops and restaurants.
Merida is a small, safe, friendly, and uniquely beautiful city on the Yucatán coastline that offers opportunities to explore Mexican history and soak up the sun on beautiful beaches. Your family can learn about the Mayans and see magnificent Mayan ruins in the area, including Chichen Itza, which is only an hour and a half away by car. When you’re ready to relax, head to Celestún to see the famous flamingo beach.
Merida is also well-positioned for visits to myriad cenotes, beautiful underground swimming holes where locals and visitors alike swim in the turquoise waters. (One of the most famous is Cenote Ik Kil). Check in at the brand-new Wayam Mundo Imperial for a stay that’s not only comfy but green and LEED-certified, too. Bonus: You can fly directly into Merida International Airport, so you get all the sun of Cancún without the spring break college crowds.
Death Valley, California
Yup, we know the name sounds a little off-putting, but that’s what makes this one of the best spring break destinations for travelers who want to avoid packed crowds. This desert oasis features everything you want for a spring getaway: sunshine, warm temperatures (about 82 degrees in March), and water in the form of large, spring-fed pools that are a constant 85 degrees.
This part of the American desert is one of the few International Dark Sky Parks in the United States, so you’ll be able to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. And it’s home to some of the original Star Wars locations. It’s also a great outdoor destination, with horseback riding, hiking, and Jeep tours.
The Ranch at Death Valley, with its towering palm trees and true oasis atmosphere, is situated right on the desert floor. The property boasts a large pool fed by spring waters, a golf course with spectacular views, a general store, casual dining restaurants, horseback riding, star gazing, and 224 family-friendly rooms. The Borax Museum, with artifacts large and small, also calls the ranch home, and the Death Valley National Park visitor center is within walking distance. We rate this as one of the best out-of-the-box spring break destinations for grown-ups.
Whether your family loves the outdoors, history, art, or food, you’ll find something to love for spring break in this charming, vibrant destination. Whitewater Express is the place to go for adventure, with daily rafting trips down the Chattahoochee River and zip line courses. For less-expensive fun in Columbus, visit the National Infantry Museum, voted the best free museum in the nation, or Oxbow Meadows for some face-to-face time with turtles, snakes, and alligators.
- Clearcover: “Spring Break 2022: Rental Cars, Road Trips, and Revenge Travel”