The Best U.S. Destinations to Visit This Spring
When winter’s dreariness seems to be clinging on a little longer than necessary, many of us dream of escaping on a spring trip. Your dream most likely does not include massive parties with throngs of beer-guzzling college students or waiting in endless lines at crowded amusement parks where you’re paying way too much for far too little. Instead of following the crowds, consider one of these seven spring break destinations that offer everything from rocky hiking trails to remote beaches.
If you’re into baseball, mild temperatures, colorful deserts, art, golf, excellent cuisine, or all the above, Scottsdale should be your #1 spring break destination. The Scottsdale area, which is only about 20 minutes north of Phoenix, is home to several spring training camps. First, head to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the spring training camp for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. Considered one of America's most beautiful ballparks, this 11,000-seat complex is known for its innovative design and fan-friendly amenities.
Just six miles away is the San Francisco Giants’ facility, Scottsdale Stadium. The charm of this stadium lies in its surrounding community, Old Town Scottsdale. You’ll find historic buildings home to renowned restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries. Camelback Ranch is the stunning home of the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers spring training. A total of 15 teams known as the Cactus League practice in the greater Phoenix area, so you have plenty of additional ballparks to visit beyond these three.
When you’ve had your fill of baseball, the area is home to hundreds of championship public and private golf courses such as Troon North Golf Club and SunRidge Canyon Golf Club. Another way to enjoy the outdoors here is by heading out to the desert. The desert terrain around Scottsdale explodes in color during spring. A must-see attraction is the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, where you can explore 30,580 acres of biking and hiking trails and spend your day rock climbing or horseback riding. Another excellent place to see the desert bloom is the Desert Botanical Garden, which offers multiple events and activities year-round.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona
Spring is the perfect time to visit the magnificent Grand Canyon National Park. Scorching summertime temps and hordes of tourists can make visiting here during summer a less-than-pleasant experience. During spring, however, the temperatures are much cooler and average about 53 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, although nights are cold. Sometimes you might even see snow, so be sure to bring some warm layers. You also might encounter some lines at shuttle stops and entrance stations — especially during peak spring break times, but there will still be fewer people compared to summer. Avoid lines at the entrance by buying a park pass online in advance, park in the nearby community of Tusayan, and ride the park’s free shuttle bus into the park.
Plan to spend time around the South Rim since much of the North Rim area closes during the winter. One unique way to explore the park is by mule. Grand Canyon National Park Lodges offers a guided two-hour mule trip along the East Rim Trail, with multiple stops to learn about the park’s flora and fauna. You can also choose sunrise or sunset motorcoach tours. The park holds several ranger programs and special events where you can learn about the park’s wildlife, geology, and history. Lodging books well in advance inside the park, but there are several hotels around Tusayan where you might have more luck if you couldn’t plan ahead.
If you need a beach fix, consider Sarasota in spring. Located about an hour south of Tampa, Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium is where the Baltimore Orioles have their spring training. The stadium received an extensive upgrade in 2011 with an impressive Spanish Mediterranean veneer, 1,500 additional seats, a second-level concourse, an extended canopy, and more fan-pleasing upgrades. Eight of the 15 teams known as the Grapefruit League practice along Florida’s west coast, from Dunedin in the north to Fort Myers south of Sarasota, so baseball aficionados seeking autograph opportunities will stay busy.
Sarasota is also known as Florida’s “cultural coast” and you’ll find a plethora of art galleries, performing arts venues, and museums to explore. Set aside some time to visit The Ringling, a 66-acre campus that houses the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, the Cà d’Zan Mansion (the Ringling’s former winter home), Bayfront Gardens, the Historic Asolo Theater, and more. Learn the fascinating history of circus baron John Ringling, view 28,000+ works of art, and see a performance at one of the many venues. When you’re ready for the beach, Sarasota County has almost 40 miles of shoreline including six barrier islands. Visit Longboat Key if you want to avoid crowds and don’t need a lot of beach amenities. If you seek a livelier vibe, head to Lido Key, where you’ll find sophisticated shopping and dining as well as three beautiful beaches.
Charleston, South Carolina
The hot pink blooming azaleas, delicate white dogwoods, and brazen purple wisterias and are enough to draw any visitor to Charleston during the spring, but pleasant temps, delicious low country cuisine, captivating history, and stunning, well-preserved architecture add to this coastal city’s charm. One of Charleston’s most coveted events, the Festival of Houses and Gardens, occurs from mid-March through mid-April. Step inside some of Charleston’s beautifully restored historic homes and dazzling gardens on award-winning tours spread throughout 11 neighborhoods dating from the colonial period through the antebellum and Victorian periods to the early 20th century. For more opportunities to admire Charleston’s blooming season, check out the three-day Flowertown Festival, held in nearby Summerville.
Tour historic plantations, gardens, and homes such as Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Edmondston-Alston House, where General P.T. Beauregard watched the first shots fired on Fort Sumpter in 1861 — starting the Civil War. Military history enthusiasts will want to spend time exploring Fort Sumpter and Fort Moultrie National Park and Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum to see some of the country's most interesting vessels, buildings, and artifacts. No visit to Charleston is complete without sampling some of its savory low-country cuisine. One of the best ways to do that is on a culinary tour with Charleston Culinary Tours. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the coastal estuaries, wildlife, and remote areas on kayak or boat with Coastal Expeditions.
The Rocky Mountains are dramatically beautiful no matter where you go, but Telluride sits among exquisitely jagged 13,000 and 14,000-foot peaks. Springtime in Telluride means bluebird skies, warm temps, and hitting the slopes with barely a lift line in sight. Telluride is a little harder to reach compared to most Colorado and Utah ski resorts, however, travelers can fly into Telluride Regional Airport via Denver Air Connection, which partners with United Airlines. Its remote location reach means far fewer crowds. The resort and town are busier during the peak spring break weeks, but if you’ve ever stood in a lift line in March at Breckenridge or Vail, you’ll think Telluride is deserted in comparison. For an unparalleled snow-riding experience, check out Telluride Helitrax, which offers a variety of epic heli-skiing trips.
Telluride consists of two communities, Telluride and Mountain Village, which are connected by a free gondola. The town of Telluride is only 12 blocks long by eight blocks wide, but you’ll find plenty to do. Like many Colorado ski towns, Telluride has its roots in gold mining, as well as interesting historical events such as being the first place where Butch Cassidy robbed a bank in 1889. The European-style Mountain Village serves as the base for the ski resort. A 13-minute gondola ride connects it to Telluride — making it the only free public transportation of its kind in the U.S. In addition to ski terrain for all abilities, you can fly fish, ice climb, snowmobile, and cross-country ski.
When your tired and sore muscles need a break from skiing, snowmobiling, or another outdoor adventuring, head to one of the area's hot mineral springs to soak away the stiffness. Orvis Hot Springs is a clothing-optional natural springs resort with 10 unique, naturally heated pools and ponds about an hour’s drive from Telluride. The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings is a little farther and offers a large outdoor pool, a more intimate soaking pool, and a vapor cave with a shallow soaking pool.
St. George Island, Florida
If you firmly believe it's not spring break unless there’s a beach involved, skip the popular Florida and Texas beach towns overrun with high-rises and strip malls and head to St. George Island in Franklin County. This area is known as Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Situated along the Gulf of Mexico south of the wildly popular Destin and Panama City beach towns about 80 miles southwest of Tallahassee, Franklin County offers more than 200 miles of relatively undeveloped shoreline including several barrier islands.
On the 22-mile long St. George Island, you won’t find mega-resorts, rows of high-rises, and raucous spring break parties. What you will find are gorgeous beaches, excellent fishing, and wildlife around the pristine marshes and Apalachicola Bay. If bringing Fido on vacation with you enhances your trip, Franklin County is very dog-friendly compared to many coastal areas. Several restaurants, shops and hotels, and beaches allow dogs.
This area is renowned for its fresh and saltwater fishing. Kayakers and canoers can explore the nearly 100 miles of trails that are part of the Apalachicola River Paddling Trail System. Bird watchers can add to their lists of sighted birds along the many area trails that are part of the Florida Birding Trail. Other things to do here include touring the restored Cape St. George Lighthouse and playing 18 championship holes at the St. James Bay Golf Resort. Accommodations range from small hotels to bed and breakfasts to vacation rental cottages to larger beach houses.
This small city about halfway between Atlanta and Nashville transforms into a kid’s paradise during spring break. On the Spring Break Safari, participating attractions such as the Chattanooga Zoo, Hunter Museum of American Art, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Rock City, and Tennessee Aquarium offer hands-on activities that allow kids to learn, explore, and have fun. Families can also have fun learning about Chattanooga on a city-wide Scavenger Hunt with opportunities to collect prizes during the Spring Break Safari promotions.
Adults and kids will be awed by the 145-foot Ruby Falls, the nation’s tallest and deepest public underground waterfall hidden 1,120 feet inside Lookout Mountain. Before heading into the cave on a guided tour to see Ruby Falls, take in the spectacular views from the Lookout Mountain Tower and Blue Heron Overlook. Thrill-seekers will love the High Point Zip Adventure with 700 feet of rushing ziplines and awe-inspiring Tennessee Valley views. Rock City is another must-see on Lookout Mountain. Massive ancient rock formations, panoramic views, and native plant gardens will delight people of all ages. Kids will love Fairyland Caverns with its recreated sculptures from famous fairytales and Mother Goose Village with scenes from classic nursery rhymes. For a different experience, take a cruise down the Tennessee River aboard the Southern Belle Riverboat. You can choose lunch, dinner, sightseeing, and other cruise options.
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