Top Ten Spring Break Destinations for Families

What's your pleasure? Our Family Travel Expert Christine Loomis compiles ten excellent (and easy) spring break destinations for your family.
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New Providence, Bahamas
FAMILY DIVE: This spring break, take the family snorkeling in the Caribbean.  (Stephen Frink/Photographer's Choice RF)

Sure, the college-kids-gone-wild scenario may never totally fade from the spring break landscape. But there are plenty of great spring break destinations where the only wet T-shirts to be seen are those worn by preschoolers splashing around in a pool. If you've got kids in school anywhere from kindergarten to college, spring break really is quintessential family vacation time. To start, schools across North America break at different times, so everyone doesn't descend on vacation spots at once—and every family isn't trying to book airline reservations at the same time, either. Even in the most popular spots, spring often draws smaller crowds than summer. And if you want to give yourself even better odds of avoiding crowds, don't vacation where local kids are out of school at the same time, because they'll be visiting many of the same attractions you and your kids want to see.

The spring season also offers a greater diversity of travel destinations than summer. Many ski resorts don't close until mid-April, so snow lovers can take to the slopes during spring vacation, while others head to tropical or desert resorts that are too hot to handle come summer. Destinations in the south offer perfect weather in spring, before the hot and humid dog days arrive. Finally, while spring is definitely peak season for some destinations, others—ski and desert resorts, for example—offer discounts and budget deals in spring, as their high season winds down.

Here are our picks for the top ten spring break destinations for parents and kids of all ages, from sea and sand to snowy slopes.

10. Galveston, Texas
Moody Gardens offers one-stop family fun—hotel, aquarium, discovery museum, paddle wheeler, and rainforest (with bat cave and two-toed sloths). Through March and April, there are one-day kids' camps with various themes. The resort also has a kids' club, a Texas-size pool, a spa, and a Schlitterbahn Water Park right next door. In town, explore Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum—a real oil rig—and see The Great Storm multimedia presentation about the infamous storm of 1900. Moody Gardens' Earth Day and Oleander Festival, in late April, has crafts, gardening, floral design for kids, a puppet show, and more.
Galveston Travel Guide

9. Naples, Florida
Go to Naples to experience nature front and center. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has daily nature walks and wildlife sightseeing cruises in March and April; sailing adventures run on Fridays. Families can book kayak and canoe tours, too. The Conservancy runs Naples Nature Center with wooded trails and Briggs Nature Center with its butterfly garden, boardwalk, birds, canoeing, and kayaking. See another side of nature at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. Best bets: Alligator Bay (don't miss the feedings), Leopard Rock, and Primate Expedition Cruises, which sail past islands of spider monkeys, lemurs, and siamangs. A family stroll on historic Naples Fishing Pier is required; you might see leaping dolphins.
Naples Travel Guide

8. Palm Springs, California
As high season winds down, book the season's last Starry Safari weekend overnight for families at The Living Desert. Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to a cool—literally—8,516 feet; you might see snow, so wear layers. Mix nature and native culture on a two-mile loop trail to the falls at Tahquitz Canyon. Fearless? Zip down seven-story water slides at Knott's Soak City USA, opening for the season in mid-March. Visit the famed San Andreas Fault or nearby Joshua Tree National Park with Desert Adventures' Jeep Eco-Tours or Elite Land Tours' Hummer adventures. Both have age/height restrictions on certain tours.
Palm Springs Travel Guide

7. Barbados
From diving the artificial reef formed by a sunken ship at Folkestone Marine Park to surfing power waves at Soup Bowl on the Atlantic, Barbados especially appeals to watersports enthusiasts. If you'd prefer to stay dry, discover the sea by riding Atlantis Submarines (kids must be at least three feet tall). Amazing stalactites, stalagmites, and waterfalls make Harrison's Cave Barbados's most popular attraction; however, Flower Forest, home to giant tropical blooms, monkeys, and birds, rivals it for natural beauty. Families can watch polo or potters at work (check out Earthworks Pottery mid-island) and swim with protected sea turtles on commercial snorkel tours.
Barbados Travel Guide

6. Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo lie four miles apart on Mexico's sunny Pacific Coast. Ixtapa, built for vacationers on a crescent of pristine beach, has bike paths (several miles through a nature reserve), golfing, kayaking, and snorkeling. Dolphin encounters at Delfiniti Ixtapa are great for kids and parents. In Zihuatanejo, families can watch fishing boats come and go or hop a water taxi to Las Gatas Beach, where even little kids can snorkel in the calm water (gear rentals are available). Both towns have excellent restaurants and shopping. Just to the south, the nature sanctuary at Barra de Potosi makes a memorable day trip.
Ixtapa Travel Guide
Zihuatanejo Travel Guide

Published: 24 May 2012 | Last Updated: 21 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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