Spring break trips can be a tricky proposition. Sure, the kids are out of school and you’ve got some vacation time coming, but you don’t want to wind up at Lake Havasu competing with a gaggle of irresponsible 20-somethings celebrating with questionable antics. You also don’t want to break the bank, and a cross-country drive is too long when you’ve only got a week off. So we figured, what the heck, maybe we could help.
Just to provide a little inspiration, here’s a handful of vacations within driving distance that are cost-feasible and make sense for the kids. These vacations are broken out by geographical area so that wherever you are in the contiguous United States, you can find some place within driving distance. (Sorry, Hawaii and Alaska, but you’re pretty much already vacation destinations and probably don’t need a lot of help.)
East Coast Vacations
Amish Country Bed & Breakfast
If you want to break away from the chaos of school and work and soccer practice and day care, and just enjoy a few days of peace and quiet, you don’t have to look any further than a nice, quiet B&B in the heart of Amish country. Stay in a rustic cabin in the quiet Ohio countryside, eat some home-cooked meals and enjoy some down-time with your family. Let the kids explore the great outdoors by day and break out the board games at night.
Visit the Capitol
Want to go the other direction, and try a little more action-packed? Spend a week in Washington, D.C. and get an up-close look at one of the most interesting cities in the nation. You can visit a wide variety of museums (for free), tour the monuments (also free), and ride the Metro to get everywhere (not free, but very close to it). Visit beautiful Georgetown and stroll along the Potomac. Your biggest expense is going to be the hotel – D.C. isn’t a particularly cheap place to stay, but keep in mind that you don’t have to stay right downtown because the Metro goes pretty much everywhere. Do a little price comparison at Expedia to find a decent place to spend a few nights.
Smuggler’s Notch Resort
If you have a bigger budget and want some serious play-time, consider the Smuggler’s Notch Resort. Skiing is the most obvious entertainment, but it’s not the only thing on the itinerary. Vermont is an exceptional state, unlike any other in the nation, and it’s gorgeous year-round. There’s a bounce house for the kids and plenty of places you can keep the younger set occupied while you catch up on some child-free time.
Hilton Head Island
Want to hit the beach? Hilton Head Island is a great destination for family entertainment. It’s on the Atlantic, so the water is warmer than on the West Coast, and there are several resorts ranging from affordable to pricey. You can swim, surf, play on the beach or ride bikes to explore the town. The best part? Hilton Head isn’t one of those college-student destinations dedicated to outlandish behavior. The whole family can have a great time without breaking the bank. TripAdvisor can help you plan your trip.
Not interested in getting sand in your shorts? Consider Chattanooga, Tennessee. See the fish at the Tennessee Aquarium, check out the view from the top of Lookout Mountain, or go spelunking at the Raccoon Mountain Caverns. Hotels are downright affordable in Chattanooga, so you can afford to stay a little longer and see a little more.
If you’re itching to try something new that will engage the whole family, Fossil Rim in Glen Rose, Texas is an adventure worth your time. This enormous wildlife preserve allows visitors to drive through the park and hand-feed all manner of critters, from zebras and antelope to wild horses and mule deer. There are some more interesting animals, too, but don’t worry – anything dangerous is behind a fence. You can stay right on the property for an almost ridiculously reasonable rate, and if you get bored with all the critters you can take a short drive to Dinosaur Valley State Park and hike along (or in) the river.
Casas de Guadalupe
Santa Fe, New Mexico is a city that is hard to believe if you haven’t seen it. It’s high enough to get snow in March, but still feels like New Mexico desert (mostly because it is). The city of Santa Fe is pure Southwest, where even the grocery stores look like they’re made of adobe and there are little markets selling stone carvings all over the place. Casas de Guadalupe offers vacation rentals for families up to six, and they’re right in the heart of the city so you can explore everything this remarkable city has to offer.
Nestled in the landward side of the Sierra Nevadas, Mammoth Lakes is a resort town with vacation appeal year-round. It’s still going to be crisp enough in March that you might be able to ski, but even if the snow has melted, you can still go canoeing, hiking the trails, ride mountain bikes or otherwise enjoy the outdoors in a lovely little town with plenty to do. There’s great shopping, interesting food and an overall resort atmosphere perfect for family vacations.
San Juan Islands
This one might sound a little crazy, but hear me out. If you want a vacation that everyone will remember forever, try staying on a farm. But not just any farm – check out the farm stays on the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington. Don’t worry, you don’t have to till fields or bale hay. But between whale-spotting trips and zip lining excursions, you might pet some goats or feed some chickens. Your children will be talking about this vacation until they’re grown, and then they’ll take their own kids.
If you really want a slice of Americana, the kind you’re not going to find in big city, take a gander at New Harmony, Indiana. The town’s official website claims a population of 915, and is a sort-of sanctuary for artists, writers, and people who simply prefer the slower pace of a small American town. Check out the Harmonist Laybrinth, a hedge maze trimmed low enough that you won’t get claustrophobic, or the open green space of the Roofless Church. If you want to do some camping, fishing, boating or biking, you can head out to the New Harmonie State Park for some great outdoors.
In a hidden corner of Oklahoma, in an under-advertised corner of the tiny town of Broken Bow, there’s a good-sized lake and a series of cabins that will let you spend a few days in the kind of peace and quiet you didn’t know still existed outside of a bomb shelter. Take your dogs and rent a cabin in the woods – but bring your own groceries or plan on a shopping trip to town, because there’s no pizza delivery or fast-food joints in the forest. There are rivers where you can spend the day in a canoe and trails you can hike, and the rest you’ll get when you can hear yourself think is worth more than the best Caribbean cruise you could find. There are even oversized cabins you could book with another family, and let your kids run around the woods behind the house while the adults actually have conversations that don’t have anything to do with spreadsheets or project plans.
Find Your Own Path
Sure, I spent a while compiling this list, but there’s no way there’s something for everyone on this list. Maybe you like dancing and bright lights or you want to hunt pheasant in North Dakota (I honestly don’t know if you can hunt pheasant in March, or if they live in North Dakota). Take the time to hunt up your own ideal spring break. That’s really about all I did, though I also called on some personal experience because I’ve visited the majority of the places I mentioned here. The US is a huge and diverse country with a ridiculous amount to offer, from vibrant night life to thrilling outdoor adventure and everything in-between. There’s a vacation out there with your name on it.