By Samantha Brown, Host of ‘Samantha Brown’s Places to Love’
Haven’t made your travel plans for spring break? Its a pretty common dilemma; the weather is unpredictable, you’re not 100 percent sure which week you have off this year and you’ve been busy shoveling out of the latest snowstorm. Well, here are several possible answers to the question of where to spend your family’s spring break.
Amelia Island, Florida
Escape the cold and lingering winter chill by heading to the warm, sandy beaches of northeastern Florida. Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach is the destination with something for everyone and educational attractions like historic Fort Clinch State Park that the whole family can explore together. Avoid the college party scene and tear the kids away from their video games for outdoor adventures that include horseback riding, biking, hiking, fishing, surfing, kite flying, mini golf and more. The seaport city’s charming Victorian era setting offers a peek into simpler times with quaint shops, charming horse-drawn carriage and trolley rides, restaurants and 400-plus historic buildings to explore. Add the a luxury resort like The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, with spas for Mom and nearby golf for dad, and it’s a nearly perfect place to unwind and start your spring off on the right foot.
The Best of the Southwest Road Trip
Check a bunch of national parks and lands off your bucket list with this epic road trip that starts and ends in Phoenix.
First stop? The Grand Canyon—via I-17 through Flagstaff. Depending on your timeline, you can spend a night or two in beautiful Sedona. Get your palm read, hike one of the area’s famed vortexes, drink local wines and soak up that desert sunshine. If you dream of venturing below the rim, allot a few days for hiking or camping at the Grand Canyon. It’s recommended you don’t trek to the bottom and back up again in one day, so either bring your lightweight camping gear or just plan for shorter day hikes.
The Grand Canyon’s North Rim only operates seasonally (May 15–Oct. 15), so if the timing is right and you don’t mind the 4-hour detour, it’s a great way to experience the canyon without the busloads of tourists with selfie sticks.
Otherwise, head east on US 160 (swing through Monument Valley on the way!) to Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado. This incredible park offers a look into the lives of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived there from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today, the park encompasses almost 5,000 known archeological sites, which include 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the best preserved in the North America—it will blow your mind!
About 40 minutes east, you’ll find charming Durango, Colo. With a population of about 16,900 according to the last census, this old Wild West town boasts great outdoor adventure, history and culture. Plus, there are six breweries in town! For an unparalleled scenic drive, check out the Million Dollar Highway, a 70-mile strip of blacktop between Durango and Ouray. The road climbs up and over three separate passes: Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain Pass. The breathtaking views make navigating all those hairpin turns and sheer cliff drops worth the anxiety. If you’re there late September through October, the fall colors dazzle.
About an hour east of Durango, you’ll find Pagosa Springs. You’ll find magnificent, accessible waterfalls in the area, including Treasure Falls, a 100-foot waterfall visible from US 160. Local legend states a group of Frenchmen buried a chest of gold in the area just before capture by Spaniards or Native Americans, and the gold remains unfound to this day. Enjoy the view from the highway, or take a short .25-mile hike to the Misty Deck where you can feel the spray from the falls. It’s an easy, family-friendly hike, perfect for stretching your legs.
Next, it’s on to one of my favorite cities: Santa Fe! I love Santa Fe not only for its desert beauty, but also the vibrant Native American culture and wonderful art scene. It’s also home to one of my favorite hikes, the Aspen Vista Trail. The walk is fairly moderate, but the views are anything but.
From there, head to Albuquerque, where you’ll hop on historic Route 66 all the way back to Flagstaff. You’ll find loads of iconic sites along the way, including El Rancho Hotel and Winslow, Arizona (any Eagles fans out there?). The National Park Service offers a thorough list of Route 66 sites.
For many, spring break means the annual family ski trip and the freedom to stretch your legs on miles of terrain somewhere fun and snowy. For convenience, entertainment and budgets, it’s tough to beat Keystone, Colorado. First, kids 12 and under of age ski free for up to 7 days (you usually have to stay at least 2 nights at the resort), which means you can spend your money on more important things like having fun at the tubing park. The resort is about 90 minutes from Denver, has around 135 trails and a 3,100-foot vertical drop. If you feel like taking it easy, stay at the Keystone Lodge & Spa in Lakeside Village (highly recommended) so you really never need to leave the foot of the mountain. Unlike a lot of swanky Colorado resorts, Keystone is very reasonable and affordable for most families. An added bonus is the snow and ski conditions. Keystone gets a lot of snow in March and they have amazing crews working at all hours to make sure the slopes are in top condition. In addition to having a great kid-oriented ski school there is a terrific learner’s area at the top of Dercum Mountain (top of the Gondola) where your kids can take their time and learn how to handle the chairlifts. If you get there by mid-March be sure to check out the amazing Kidtopia Snowfort with activities such as climbing and tunnels. For parents, Keystone offers “Kids Night Out” where you can treat your kids to an evening of fun while having some alone time to do some night skiing or something more romantic.
You might think that Orlando and all its attractions would be really busy at Spring Break. Most of the time they are, but with everyone’s breaks staggered throughout March and April, you might consider going if your school has a break that does not wrap around Easter weekend. You’re likely to score a better deal and avoid a lot of the heavy crowds. You’ll still get a workout jogging around the Walt Disney World Resort® parks collecting a FastPass+ for everyone in your group. Spring Break is a good time to purchase the park hopper and waterparks options so you can visit a variety of attractions throughout the week. Hit the “must do” attractions in the morning and go until lunch, then you can cool off at the waterparks in the afternoon. Then you’re back for more action and parades at night. That will tire them out! Also, don’t forget Discovery Cove Orlando, Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort—all are really impressive and loads of fun, plus they are very close by. If you have a space geek in your family, you’ll want to head over to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (about an hour away) for a day to explore rockets vs. roller coasters and real life adventure vs. make believe. The sheer number of things to do makes Orlando a great destination for everyone in the family.
C Lazy U Ranch, Granby, Colorado
If you feel a little “been there, done that” about some of these ideas and want to try a new place, then a winter adventure at the C Lazy U Ranch is calling your name. You can spend the week there or include a few nights on your way to another area ski resort. Kids will never want to leave this place! It has ice skating, sleigh rides, snowtubing, snowmobiles, horseback riding and a luge run for sledding, plus miles of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The Ranch is very family friendly, offering all-inclusive meals, cozy fireplaces and warming huts equipped with complimentary hot cocoa and snacks.
Need more inspiration for your spring break vacation?
Contact your local AAA Travel Agent today or check out our other resources below.