Long before Connie Francis took to the beach in the 1960 hit, Where the Boys Are, Florida was a popular destination for college students to celebrate spring. The Elbo Room in Fort Lauderdale became the unofficial "party central" for hundreds of thousands of college students on spring break and still is a popular dive bar today.
In the 1980s, the city of Fort Lauderdale began to crack down on the out-of-control spring break activities and spring breakers left for friendlier locales—Daytona Beach and Panama City Beach. Today, spring break continues to rock on in Florida with additional destinations of Key West, Orlando, and Miami's South Beach also drawing crowds of spring breakers.
Our guide to spring break in Florida will fill you in on places to go (and not go) and activities available at each destination.
When and Where
It is important to note that although there are popular spring break destinations where much of the partying occurs, all of Florida's beaches and attractions are usually overrun during this time by those seeking sun and fun. This is particularly true of local teens and families looking for day trips and getaways during Florida school district's various spring breaks, so be prepared to possibly share the sand and surf with a few exuberant teens and expect longer lines at the attractions.
Contrary to popular belief, Spring Break doesn't just last a week or two. Spring Break tends to stretch from late February through early April, but most colleges take their break in March and, subsequently, organized activities in spring break locales usually take place during that month. Check this calendar from StudentCity for College and University Spring Break Dates.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is the hottest Florida spring break destination, easily winning the "Spring Break Capital" award! Panama City Beach is one of the few beach communities to welcome spring breakers, so they come—some half a million a year. So do many companies that sponsor special events and hand out freebies—Victoria's Secret, The Army, Banana Boat, GEICO and more are past supporters.
Besides the 27 miles of sugar-white and coffee-colored sand, college students come expecting to party hard. They are never disappointed. There always seems to be plenty of booze, plenty of wild contests and events and MTV is usually on hand to provide plenty of entertainment.
The average annual temperature in Panama City Beach is a warm 77 degrees Fahrenheit. During March and April, this is one of the coolest (temperature) spring break locales in Florida, the averages daytime highs reach 71 to 77 degrees and the nighttime lows a cool 47 to 53 degrees. The average water temperature is 67 degrees Fahrenheit. It's still warm enough to work on that tan.
This amazing 23-mile stretch of wide, white sand beach has long been one of the hottest spring break destinations in Florida. Spring breakers can take a drive down 16 miles of this world-famous beach, catch some rays or ride the waves in the Atlantic surf.
Other than the beach and sponsored activities planned around spring break, there are few entertainment choices. Daytona Lagoon is a popular water and amusement park and the Daytona 500 Experience located adjacent to the Daytona International Speedway are the most popular. Other activities include water tours and watercraft rentals.
The average annual temperature in Daytona Beach is a warm 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). During March and April, the averages daytime highs reach 76 to 80 degrees and the nighttime lows a cool 54 to 58 degrees. The average water temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Miami's South Beach
Often referred to as America's Riviera, South Beach is trendy and hip. It's THE place to see and be seen in Florida especially during spring break. South Beach is also a magnet for celebrities either appearing in films or television series being filmed on location. During the day, you might see rollerbladers, models, celebs, vintage cars and Harleys promenade around the streets while tourists gawk from one of Ocean Drive's outdoor cafes. By night the clubs sizzle.
Spring break in South Beach is like flying first-class instead of coach. It's first rate and classy. That's not to say it isn't fun. The party's definitely on—but it's definitely toned down from other spring break locations.
This Spring Break Visitor's Guide of Miami's South Beach offers six lessons that should be required reading for all those planning on spring break in Miami. Don't worry—it's hilarious, so you won't even realize you're being lectured.
The average annual temperature in Miami is a very warm 83 degrees Fahrenheit. During March and April, the average daytime highs reach 80 to 83 degrees and the nighttime lows a balmy 64 to 67 degrees. The average water temperature is 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
It's a long drive, but well worth it once you arrive. Young, old, tall, short, gay, straight—the Florida Keys are as diverse as those who inhabit and visit them. Spring break in the Florida Keys means embracing many lifestyles and activities—including the awesome sunset celebration. Just bring plenty of sunscreen and a willingness to try just about anything and follow the rules. Yes, rules. The beaches close at 11 p.m., and they are regularly patrolled. The bars, on the other hand, are open until 4 a.m. but remember you have to be at least 21 to drink. The streets of Key West are usually quiet by that hour though and you're expected to be too. Shhh—What happens in the Florida Keys, stays in the Florida Keys.
The average annual temperature in the Florida Keys is a warm 82 degrees Fahrenheit. During March and April, the averages daytime highs reach 79 to 82 degrees and the nighttime lows a cool 69 to 72 degrees. The average water temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
St. Pete-Clearwater Beaches
St. Pete-Clearwater area beaches are some of the most beautiful in Florida. The waters of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and white-sand are award-winning combinations—from Caladesi Island, America's No. 1 beach, and its neighboring Honeymoon Island southward to Clearwater Beach and Egmont Key. Not only are the beaches beautiful, but there is so much to do and see that this area is also popular with the spring break crowd.
It's just 30 minutes to Tampa's Busch Gardens or The Florida Aquarium and 90 minutes to Orlando's trio of attractions—Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando.
The average temperatures in St. Petersburg/Clearwater during March and April are warm. The average daytime highs reach 74 to 80 degrees and the nighttime lows a cool 58 to 64 degrees. The average water temperature is 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
Orlando for Students
Orlando, Florida's No. 1 vacation destination, is also becoming a popular destination for spring breakers—both students and families. It's like no other place in Florida. The entertainment options are limitless— Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando, Wet'n Wild, it boasts some of the best hotels and resorts in the state and the nightlife is hot too.
Probably the biggest change in Orlando since last year for the student spring break crowd is that Downtown Disney's West Side is no longer party central. Disney took the unusual step of closing the clubs in favor of more family-friendly shopping and restaurants. However, look for Universal's CityWalk to take up the slack for nightlife with Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Red Coconut Club, the groove and more. Plus, weekends mid-February through mid-April, Universal's Mardi Gras celebration offers plenty of party fun—and beads.
Remember too that beaches are just 90 minutes away on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but you don't need to go that far to enjoy a beach. Many of Orlando's resorts now have small sand beaches. Perfect for working on that tan!
The average daytime temperature in Orlando during March and April is a warm 83 degrees, with nights averaging 62 degrees.
Orlando for Families
Florida's No. 1 destination makes the perfect spot for families to spend spring break.
Disney World is the destination of choice for kids and adults alike, and Disney plans extra special events like Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival that includes the popular free Flower Power Concerts.
Wondering where to stay? Here are four resorts that are the best for family spring break. For other accommodation options, check out Disney World's value resorts and moderately-priced resorts.
Universal Orlando is not just an attraction, but it's a resort too—and pretty fun at that. Families can stay at one of three resort hotels and visit two theme parks, as well as Wet 'n Wild and other nearby attractions on International Drive.
Universal Orlando may be one of the busiest attractions in Orlando during spring break, but these spring break survival tips will help you navigate the resort and still have a good time.
SeaWorld Orlando and it's newer addition Aquatica is another Orlando destination perfect for families. Also, SeaWorld and Aquatica have teamed up with Marriott Hotels to offer splashy savings on special vacation packages.
Other Florida Destinations for Families
While parents want to relax, the kids want action. Both are possible with some of these Florida spring break ideas:
- Amelia Island is the place to visit if you're looking for more laid back spring break. Of course, there is still plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied.
- St. Augustine offers old world charm, historical monuments, unique attractions, world-class shopping, and beaches just minutes away make to make it an ideal vacation destination for families.
- These Top 10 Florida Family-Friendly Resorts not only cater to children—they are fun for parents too!