Family Spring Break Ideas in Southeast US

Carolina Beach

Laura Beach / Getty Images

After a long winter, spring break is a popular getaway time for families, and sunny Southeast destinations like Florida and South Carolina are huge magnets for families looking for a boost of vitamin D.

Since different schools schedule their spring break during different weeks, the best time to visit the Southeast's top attractions is somewhat hard to pin down. Typically, spring break at schools in the United States falls somewhere between early March and mid-April, but no matter when you visit, the Southeast is a great destination for a spring getaway.

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Florida Beaches

Sanibel seashell

The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

It's no surprise that sunny Florida is a wildly popular destination for families on spring break, offering gorgeous beach destinations on both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Top college spring break towns you may want to avoid during this period include Panama City Beach and Fort Myers Beach, which actively attract college kids. 

There are many beaches all along Florida's peninsula that each offer something different. For something more tropical, the Florida Keys is as close as you can get to the Caribbean without leaving the contiguous United States, or for something loud and fun that will be sure to keep everyone entertained, Daytona Beach is a classic Florida destination with waterparks and NASCAR. For kids who love collecting seashells, Sanibel, not far from Fort Meyer, is famous for its shell-strewn beaches and offers a more natural and peaceful backdrop for your vacation.

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Disney World, Florida

Disney World

Disney World

When planning a trip with kids, Disney World can be an overwhelming choice. At twice the size of Manhattan, the Magic Kingdom draws crowds for spring break that are simply impossible to avoid, but there are ways to minimize the wait time for rides and attractions any time of year. Overall, you'll find that Disney World is truly magical, and for little ones, there's nothing like seeing their favorite characters and dreamworlds come to life. There are many resorts to choose from within the park, but you may be able to tamper your expenses by booking a non-Disney Orlando hotel.

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South Carolina

Beach Side

Jonathan D. Goforth / Getty Images

With top beach destinations such as Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina is another popular vacation destination on the east coast, one that's often more accessible for those who live in the American Northeast. Families love the Southern hospitality, miles of beautiful beaches, and the laid-back, kid-friendly vibe. Resorts like the Sonesta Resort in Hilton Head and the Avista Resort in Myrtle Beach are some of the best the Palmetto State has to offer. Families may also consider a part-urban part-beach vacation with a trip to Charleston and the Isle of Palms.

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Outer Banks, North Carolina

Outer Banks

Zach Frailey / Getty Images

Steeped in history and natural beauty, the 200-mile string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks—and sometimes as OBX—is a popular family destination renowned for its temperate climate and a wide expanse of open beachfront. Here, there are dunes for sliding, marshes for exploring via kayak, and you can even visit Kitty Hawk to pay homage to the place where the Wright Brothers made their first flight.

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Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

West Beach

West Beach

With 32 miles of spectacular, sugar-white beaches and a raft load of outdoor activities and family attractions, the neighboring towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are premier family beach vacation destinations. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, this area is full of natural splendor and is great for spotting wildlife like pelicans, sea turtles, and alligators. There are also water parks like Waterville USA and historic sites like Fort Morgan, which may be of interest.

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Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Misty Sunrise in the Smokies

Dean Fikar / Getty Images

The most-visited of all American national parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles North Carolina and Tennessee and offers breathtaking scenery and wildlife viewing as well as remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. There may not be any beaches, but there are plenty of hiking trails and beautiful landscapes. In the fall, the park is particularly nice for enjoying the changing fall foliage. The park is large, so there are many places where you can find accommodation nearby, but Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, tends to be the most popular.

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Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Chincoteague Ponies

Bonnie Gruenberg / Wikimedia Commons

Accessible by boat or by car off Virginia's Eastern coast over the Route 175 bridge, the small and serene Chincoteague Island is the gateway to the Assateague Island National Seashore—a nature refuge that is the home of the herds of wild ponies made famous in the classic children's book Misty of Chincoteague.

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Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Lighthouse
Tybee Island Light Station

Just 18 miles from Savannah, Tybee Island is a popular family getaway destination. Rich in both history and natural beauty, the barrier island is famous for its seafood and spectacular uninterrupted three-mile beach. Families can explore salt marshes that teem with birds and wildlife unique to Georgia’s coast. Visit the Marine Science Center to learn about the Tybee Sea Turtle Project, and you may even be able to see baby turtles.

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Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach
Visit Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach is a huge oceanfront resort town and the largest tourist destination in Virginia. Drawn by 20 miles of unbroken beachfront, families have always flocked here, but in recent years the beach playground has gotten a facelift and updated its image. The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is one of the most popular attractions, offering games, rides, and restaurants. Keep your eye out for interesting landmarks like the King Neptune and Norwegian Lady statues.

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Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Scenic View Of Beach Against Cloudy Sky

Gary Syrba / Getty Images

On the southern coast of North Carolina, Carolina Beach and nearby Kure Beach are less commercially developed than many other beach towns in the Southeast and offer a relaxed, family-friendly vibe. Both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach deliver a classic beach town experience, with lovely stretches of sand and fishing piers. Both towns have boardwalks: Carolina Beach Boardwalk offers seaside amusements and an arcade, while Kure Beach's boardwalk is part of a green, oceanfront park. 

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Kentucky Cave Country

Mammoth Cave National Park
Dave Parfitt

Bowling Green, Kentucky, is underrated as a family vacation destination. Located a one-hour drive north of Nashville and less than a two-hour drive south of Louisville, the rolling green hills of Kentucky’s Cave Country make for a memorable, quick getaway or a stop on a long road trip. Bowling Green is also the Corvette capital of the world, where you can visit the National Corvette Museum and take a spin in one of these luxury cars at Motorsports Park.

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