Unusual Spring Break Destinations for Families

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St. Louis Sculpture Park. Photo credit: Jennifer Kaufmann

It’s spring break and you just wanna get away — from school and work and the crowds of tourists. But where can you get all of that? Try one of these unusual spring break destinations! Here, we share our favorite off-the-beaten path places to get away from it all, including the crowds.

Spring break is a chance to leave the daily grind of school, work, after school activities and weekend soccer games behind. Instead, you get to pile everyone into the car for an family-friendly road trip, or head to the airport for a bigger adventure farther away.

Whatever your spring break vacation pleasure, finding places where the fun is big but the crowds are small can be a challenge.

This list of unique spring break ideas offers kid-friendly fun things to do beyond the usual suspects, like parasailing in Hawaii, snorkeling in the Caribbean or visiting the college spring break mecca of Cancun, Mexico.

Even better, these off-the-beaten path family travel destinations also can mean more affordable family vacations!

Best Spring Break Destinations in Florida

two african american girls playing near a water feature bok tower gardens, an unusual spring break destination for families.
Florida fun beyond Disney World. Photo Credit: Ari Adams

Yes, you can head to Walt Disney World. We’re big fans. But I would never recommend heading to the Orlando theme park during spring break. We did it once and swore we would never do it again. The crowds were so thick that Disney cast members had to help break up a traffic jam near the “it’s a small world” ride that had everyone standing still for several minutes in the sweltering heat.

While Disney is not the right choice if you want smaller crowds and a more affordable family spring break vacation, there are many Florida options for safe, socially distanced outdoor adventures and off-the-beaten path fun.

Visit a Florida State Park

Head to Blue Spring State Park near Jacksonville for the chance to spot manatees in the crystal clear Florida springs while paddling a kayak nearby. The park is filled with great hiking trails and the 72-degree waters at the spring head maintain their temperature year round. Or take a  two-hour narrated boat tour within the park to explore the St. Johns River.

Or try Myakka River State Park in Sarasota on the Gulf Coast side. The Myakka River, Florida’s first state-designated wild and scenic river, flows through a vast expanse of unspoiled wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands. Boating, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are popular activities here, along with biking and hiking along the miles of trails and backroads.

Florida Beaches

paddleboarders off Shell Island in Panama City Beach FL
Paddleboarding off Shell Island. Photo credit: PCB

Florida is home to some of the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches. From soft sand to turquoise waters, calm seas to waves that call to surfers, there is a beach for just about every family in the Sunshine State.

Of the 10 beautiful beaches closest to Disney World, Cocoa Beach is our favorite. This Atlantic Ocean spot has a full-on kitschy beach vibe, plenty of water sports options and is home to Ron Jon Surf Shop’s flagship store, so it is a great place to pick up fun beach souvenirs. Plus, it’s close to the venerable Kennedy Space Center, where you can spend a blissful day exploring the wonders of space. The kids are likely to have so much fun that they won’t even realize they are learning something on their spring break!

More Off-the-Beaten-Path Florida Fun

Key Deer doe seen at National Key Deer Refuge.
Key Deer doe. Photo credit: National Key Deer Refuge

Alligators and manatees might be the most famous wild residents of the Sunshine State, but they are not the only wild animals to see on a visit.

Our favorite spot for Florida wildlife is National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key. It’s home to the aptly named Key Deer. A tiny subspecies of white-tailed deer, the endangered Key Deer are found only in the lower Florida Keys. These cute little deer get no bigger than a Golden Retriever. If you keep heading south, you’ll find lots of free things to do in Key West with kids.

If you’re traveling with teens, head to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park for the Crocodile Crossing Zip Line. That’s right. You zipline over the crocs and alligators.

West Coast Spring Break Family Fun

Southern California is the home of Disneyland, LEGOLAND and SeaWorld. But theme parks are not the place for less crowded spring break fun. So skip the theme parks and try one of these unusual spring break destinations instead.

West Coast National Parks

Making mistakes at Joshua Tree National Park: Wearing the wrong shoes
Hiking at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit: Jamie Bartosch.

There are 7 national parks within a day’s drive of Los Angeles. For an off-the-beaten-path vacation, choose to visit the Redwoods of northern California or the wonders of Joshua Tree National Park in the south rather than the hot spots of Yosemite or the nearby, better-known Grand Canyon National Park.

California Family Getaways

Family and surfboarder at Hollywood Beach in Ventura County, an unusual spring break destination.
Uncrowded Hollywood Beach is a favorite place with locals in Ventura County. Photo credit: Janis Flippen

While San Diego and San Francisco get a lot of love, some of our favorite California vacation destinations are NOT those big cities. Instead, we like the laid-back vibe of Oxnard and Ventura, the gorgeous central coast and the agricultural heartland near Sacramento, all of which offer kid friendly activities.

Situated between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Ventura County has miles of beaches, historic sites and outdoor activities. The county’s sandy beaches are just as lovely as those in San Diego and Malibu – minus the crowds. Plus, Ventura is the gateway to Channel Islands National Park.

With sunny beaches, farm-to-table goodness, a bounty of natural attractions and laid-back seaside towns, it’s easy to see why California’s Central Coast inspired the song, California Dreaming, by the Mamas and Papas.

If you’re road tripping from Los Angeles to Sequoia National Park in the spring, plan a stop at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster. The red poppy field should be in full bloom then.

City Stops on a Spring Break Trip

Washington DC

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC
Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

OK, so a family trip to the nation’s capital isn’t exactly “unusual,” it is definitely worth considering for spring break. That’s because the beautiful cherry blossoms will be in their full glory then. Seeing the gorgeous blooms along the Tidal Basin, which is lined with nearly 1,700 trees around the Jefferson Memorial, is a bucket list experience.

There also are lovely cherry blossom displays in Philadelphia and New York.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Plan to arrive early — early enough to make your teens groan — to get the best photos with the smallest crowds. 

St. Louis, Missouri

The one-of-a-kind City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo Credit: Jennifer Kaufman

One of our absolute favorite Midwestern cities, St. Louis is small enough to be manageable for a family visit but big enough to keep the whole family happy. From the Gateway Arch to City Museum, one of the coolest children’s museums anywhere, St. Louis is a great place to spend quality time with your family. For adrenalin-loving families, there’s Six Flags St. Louis, complete with roller coasters and a water park.

There also are plenty of free things to do with kids, making St. Louis an affordable family destination.

Burnet, Texas

three kids in a bluebonnet field, 2 little girls in pink dresses with blonde hair and one tween boy with red hair
Bluebonnets traditionally bloom in Central Texas in late March. Photo Credit: Nasreen Stump

Bluebonnets rule in Texas in the springtime and the Bluebonnet Capital of the Lone Star State is Burnet (pronounced burn-it). Located 60 miles northwest of Austin and directly west of Georgetown on Highway 29, Burnet is the best place to start the Highland Lakes Bluebonnet Trail.

Natural Wonders to Explore

Georgia Waterfalls

North Georgia waterfall
North Georgia waterfall. Photo credit: kurdistan for Shutterstock

The mountains of North Georgia and nearby Tennessee offer up beautiful waterfalls. Home to the Chattahoochee National Forest and other natural wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are many , hiking and biking trails. Don’t miss the suspension bridge in Tallulah Gorge State Park. It’s 80 feet above the rocky bottom. Horse lovers can find plenty of options for horseback riding.

Spring Skiing in Colorado

Least Crowded Ski Resorts In Colorado
Want open runs and no long lift lines? Check out the least crowded Colorado ski resorts. Photo credit: Susie Kellogg

The key to affordable family fun on the slopes is to choose one of these less crowded Colorado ski resorts. The trade off for smaller crowds might be fewer amenities, but you can still grab your ski rentals and hit the lift.

One response

  1. We took a road trip to St. Louis last year. Almost everything we did was free. The brewery, zoo, museums, botanical garden, grants farm. The only one with an admission charge was the gateway arch. Definitely a good option for a low cost family trip

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