Spring break is a much-needed vacation for kids when the holidays have long passed but summer still feels so far away. The winter frost is finally thawing and making way for outdoor activities, although mountains still have some snow for end-of-season ski deals.
The week-long break, which falls sometime in March or April, is the perfect excuse to pack up and take a much-needed vacation. Prices also tend to be lower than the high season of summer, so keep an eye out for deals. From adventure-seekers to culture mavens and beach bums to nature lovers, there are tons of great ideas for family-friendly getaways in the spring.
California beaches get a lot of hype and, thankfully, they almost always live up to it. Families who are looking for the best beaches can find them throughout the state, such as the chilly but scenic Point Reyes north of San Francisco or the more stereotypical California beaches around San Diego. For extra entertainment, get your thrills at one of the country's few remaining oceanside amusement parks, such as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or the Santa Monica Pier.
If you want to introduce your kids to camping, this is one of the best places to do it. You can't camp out on any beach, but look for state campgrounds located near the coast like Ocean Dunes near Pismo Beach or one of the many throughout Southern California such as Dockweiler State Beach.
Snowmass Village, Colorado
Snowmass Resort is located just outside of the premier ski town of Aspen, and even though Aspen has a ritzy reputation, Snowmass is 100 percent family-friendly.
The obvious activity is winter sports like skiing or snowboarding, and the varying levels of slopes are perfect for new skiers or future Olympians. But there's also plenty to keep kids entertained off the mountain, as well. The Collective is the apres-ski area at the base of the mountain with restaurants and a game lounge to relax between runs.
Throughout March and April, Snowmass Village hosts all kinds of events catering to all age groups, such as disco parties on the ice at the Collective ice rink. Complete the trip by staying at the Limelight Hotel Snowmass where you'll enjoy great amenities like complimentary breakfast, a Kids Room, climbing wall, outdoor hot tubs, year-round shuttle service, and ice skating.
Located on Lake Michigan's rugged shoreline at the mouth of the Sheboygan River sits one of the best family-friendly destinations in the Midwest. Visitors may be surprised to learn that Sheboygan is revered for lake surfing (especially in the winter), bratwurst, furniture making, and dairy.
Don't miss dining at Harry's Prohibition Bistro, a comfy crowd pleaser for families that love wood-fired pizzas, delicious cheese trays, black mussels, and rich pastas. Black Pig is another quality option for comfort food and casual dining, which works well for families.
Stay at Blue Harbor Resort, which not only has a lovely interior design but also caters to youngsters with their indoor waterpark, kid-friendly dining options, and large suites.
Orlando, the world's number one family destination, is wildly popular during spring break, with Disney World being the main attraction. While a spring break trip to Disney World may sound fun, be aware that it's one of the busiest times of the year at the park.
One of the most essential tips for surviving a trip to Disney World during spring break is choosing the right accommodations. Although many resorts in Orlando offer free shuttle service to the Disney parks, the closest and easiest transportation to navigate is from the Disney Resorts themselves. All of them are free for hotel resort guests and you won't have to worry about fighting for a place to park or trekking to the theme park entrance from an outside shuttle drop-off point.
Springtime at Disney World also means the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is happening, with food stalls and performances across the park to celebrate the blooming flowers.
If you think you can avoid the Orlando crowds by staying away from Disney World, you'll find that Universal Studios during spring break is just as busy. Orlando can be a fun spring trip, but keep the crowds in mind.
Every spring, the nation's capital explodes with blooming cherry blossom trees. The National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place from mid-March to mid-April—smack in the middle of spring break for many families.
The cherry blossom trees grow in three National Park Service locations: Around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the Washington Monument grounds. Signature festival events include the Opening Ceremony, the Blossom Kite Festival, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.
An important caveat is that even though the festival is scheduled months ahead of time, the exact time when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom depends on the weather and is unpredictable. Even if you miss the peak bloom, the pink flowers are worthwhile to see at any time in March or April.
For many families, a cruise offers the best of all worlds. The most family-friendly cruise lines provide a slew of activities to keep everyone happy with many itinerary options.
In determining which cruise line is the best fit for your family, you'll want to explore the different amenities, programs, and prices. They all have distinctive personalities—some are boisterous and loud, some active and sporty, others more elegant and reserved. The ideal cruise for a family with young children might not be the best pick for a big family reunion or a family with teenagers.
Just two hours from Miami, the U.S. Virgin Islands offer an authentic Caribbean experience without many of the hassles of traveling to a foreign country.
Three distinct islands—sleepy St. Croix, bustling St. Thomas, and eco-treat St. John—serve up white-sand beaches, superb snorkeling, a major National Park, colonial towns and forts, duty-free shops, and more. Buck Island, one of only three Underwater National Monuments in the U.S., is a terrific place to snorkel or scuba dive. The chance to swim behind a giant sea turtle is sure to thrill kids and grown-ups alike.
Springtime is one of the best times to visit the islands, especially later in the season. The crowds that pack the island in the winter start to thin out by the end of March and April, but the weather isn't too hot and humid yet as in the summer.
The transition from winter to spring is a tasty time to be in New England. March and early April make up maple sugaring season when buckets appear on maple trees and sugar shacks transform maple sap into delectable maple syrup.
Vermont's Smugglers' Notch Resort, a top kid-friendly ski resort in the state, holds an annual Maple Fest Celebration during the spring-break period. Complimentary transportation is provided to a local sugarhouse and families receive a maple welcome gift, product samplings, an activity book, and can enjoy a weekly winter carnival. For an additional fee, families can embark on maple-themed snowshoe treks or take an artist's class.
Music fans of any genre will enjoy a visit to Music City. Go to concerts at the iconic Ryman Auditorium, tour the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and visit the Bluebird Café. For homey Tennessee dishes, grab a bite at any of the classic BBQ joints in town like The Stillery or Arnold's Country Kitchen for a taste of mouthwatering grilled meats with sides like mac and cheese that will satisfy any fussy eaters.
When you're not catching a concert, kids will love the Nashville Zoo and Adventure Science Center for hands-on exploration of all types of science.
Spring in Nashville offers a good blend between good weather and fewer crowds. It tends to be rainy, but it's not as cold as winter or as humid as summer.
The Caribbean and Mexico
An all-inclusive getaway in the sun and surf sounds like a perfect escape to get kids through the end of the school year—and it may be more affordable than you think.
The Caribbean and Mexico are awash with all-inclusive resorts, but only some have an atmosphere that is appropriate for all ages. There are kid-friendly chains like Divi Resorts that are known for their G-rated focus, family-friendly accommodations, and fantastic children's programming.
Beaches, with locations in Jamaica and Turks and Caicos, and Club Med, with locations in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, are two other resorts that have children's programming and facilities that make an all-inclusive getaway appealing to parents.
Arizona and Florida for Spring Baseball
If your family loves America's favorite pastime, then a vacation to watch your favorite Major League teams during the spring training season is an unbeatable vacation. Spring training is a time where you can get up close and personal with your favorite players since the venues are small and the players want to interact with fans. Prices are lower than regular games, and autograph-hunting is the best.
The group of teams known as the Cactus League play around Phoenix, Arizona, while the Grapefruit League plays in stadiums throughout Central Florida. The spring training season begins in February and usually goes through March all the way up to Opening Day.
If you've been contemplating a family vacation to Europe, the months between the winter holidays and summer are considered the low season and you may be able to snag a deal on airline tickets. Once you get there, you'll find that there are some budget hotel chains for families in Europe providing comfortable accommodations at decent prices.
Explore destinations based on where you can find the best flight deals, which are usually to the major international airports in cities like London, Paris, or Barcelona. From there, the options of where to go and what to do are practically endless.
Keep in mind that while spring break in the U.S. varies by school district or state, spring break in Europe takes place almost universally on the week leading up to Easter. If that happens to be the same time you're trying to plan your trip, you'll likely pay more traveling around the continent and booking hotels.
As soon as the weather starts to warm, many families are drawn to the sun and surf of great beach towns in Southern states. The U.S. Gulf Coast stretches from the Mexican border with Texas; across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama; and down the west coast of Florida. The coast is known not just for scenic white-sand beaches but also otherworldly nature wetlands and delicious local food.
Florida is one of the most popular spring break destinations, but instead of the usual cities like Tampa or Naples, try kid-friendly Destin on the Emerald Coast. Or forgo Florida entirely and opt for watersports on the Alabama Coast or hang out with sea turtles on Padre Island in Texas.
Atlantis Resort, Bahams
The iconic Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas might already be on your family's spring break must-do list. The hotel is famous for its massive on-site water park with a waterslide that shoots riders through a shark tank, but that's not the only exciting to do at Atlantis. You can also go scuba diving in crystal clear water through an underwater museum, swim with dolphins, hand-feed stingrays, and more.
The resort's high season begins in winter and lasts through mid-spring, usually right up to spring break. However, if you have the flexibility or your spring break happens to be later than most, then the latter half of April is when prices start to drop.
Called "America's best idea" by the historian Wallace Stegner, the U.S. national park system offers families a wonderfully affordable way to visit the country's most cherished and beautiful landscapes, view wildlife in their natural habitat, learn about geological and cultural history, and appreciate the great outdoors. Spring is shoulder season in most parks, so you'll find fewer crowds before summer tourists arrive.
National parks are all across the country, from the tip of Maine all the way to Alaska, so you can always find one that isn't too far away. However, some are concentrated closer together if you want to visit several at once. In Southern Utah, the so-called Mighty 5 are within driving distance from each other, encompassing Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef national parks.
If you are looking for an upscale yet kid-friendly beach resort in northeastern Florida, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is a terrific choice. The grounds sprawl across 1,350 vast acres on the tip of a beautiful barrier island just off the coast and the resort offers 3.5 miles of pristine beach. There are so many ways for families to have fun, like a waterpark, mini-golf, and an arcade, it would be impossible to do them all in just one visit.
Colonial Williamsburg belongs at the top of every family's to-do list. No living-history attraction delivers a more immersive experience into 18th-century Colonial times, offering the chance for you and your kids to rub shoulders with America's "founding fathers" and eat, work, and play like revolutionaries.
At Kingsmill Resort, family packages may include accommodations, Fun Card tickets to Busch Gardens and one-day tickets to Colonial Williamsburg, and breakfast daily. There's a free shuttle service to and from both attractions.