This week is always among the most anticipated times of the year. The bears come out of hibernation, flowers start to bloom, temperatures start to rise, but most importantly, college-aged students strip down to the absolute bare minimum and crowd tropical destinations around the world: Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas.
There are two types of spring breakers: the partiers, and the people who actually want a break. The former will spend the next seven days of their lives in the sun with endless beer bongs, Brazilian bikinis, and exotic nightlife, only to return from their break feeling like they need, well, another break, to recover from the binge drinking escapades and lack of sleep.
The latter group will enjoy a relaxing spring break that includes lots of time to refresh and explore, without being surrounded by sweaty bodies and tropical EDM music. Here is a list of eight spring break destinations that cater to that group.
On the surface, Gatlinburg is full of commercial performances, souvenir shops, and dinner shows that may overwhelm you upon arrival, but it won’t take long to realize that spring break in the Smokies has much more in store. To take full advantage of your stay, venture off the beaten path. In this picturesque mountain resort city, spend your days zip-lining 400 feet above the Smoky Mountains and white water rafting on the Pigeon River—which, full of 3-3+ rapids, is ranked in the top three whitewater rafting destinations in the United States. After your daily activities, be sure to explore one of the famous moonshine distilleries around town, as it is necessary to sample all of the local moonshine flavors: apple pie, blackberry, and lemon drop. Then feel like a local and sober up with some BBQ, biscuits and cheese grits that are made with fresh, local ingredients.
Photo Credit: coloneljohnbritt; Flickr
Located on the Colorado River, Lake Havasu City is a large reservoir that basically serves as a Mecca for campers, water-sport lovers, hikers, and boaters. Although a section of the city is jam packed around spring break time with West Coast kids looking to party, Lake Havasu is a hidden gem destination that will leave you feeling one with nature. Take advantage of the endless water activities such as wakeboarding, water skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, scuba diving, jet skiing, and even flyboarding. Dry off on land while you hike around the London Bridge, go on an outback desert Jeep tour, or ATV on the back roads.
Photo Credit: beachdude46; Flickr
Hit the slopes for spring break in Vail, Colorado, a hotspot for skiers and snowboarders looking to get in one last adventure for the season. Usually during the end of the spring break season, Vail hosts a Spring Back event full of competitions, concerts and activities. During the day, ski and snowboard to your heart’s content, and when you’ve finally had enough, hit the town for the best Apres Ski in North America. Usually around 4 p.m., the bars and restaurants fill up with vacationers in need of a drink and some warmth. Kick back and grab a window seat so you can watch the over achievers come down the mountain one last time. After you regained feeling in your toes, make your way into one of the popular clubs in the area. Although staying in Vail can be pretty expensive, the 200 piste trails, back bowls, and the backcountry make it worth every penny. Don’t forget your GoPro.
Photo credit: Ryan Holst; Flickr
Instead of getting drunk on beaches, spend your time improving the lives of those in need. Many universities offer opportunities for mission trips, many of which are coordinated through Habitat for Humanity and charities. This year, Boston University, for example, has an ASB that involved over 400 volunteers who, split among them, traveled to 40 places ranging from Phoenix to Denver—and even one in Cuba—building homes for low-income families and working with children in need. Other ASB programs offer extensive international trips: This year, USC students traveled as far as Thailand, to volunteer at a refugee orphanage; India, to work with a non-profit teaching microfinancing to women; Isla Mujeres, to continue work with eco-tourism; and Guatemala, to volunteer at an elementary school.
Photo courtesy of Julie Haupin.
Grab a plate of jambalaya and get lost in the incomparable atmosphere that New Orleans has to offer. New Orleans is known for its stunning architecture, intricate design, and historical vibes. The beautiful creole blend of French, Spanish, and African cultures means that the food is unlike any other: Don’t miss out on the crawfish, gumbo, and muffaletta. Come dark, the infamous, raucous Bourbon Street is a must, but Frenchmen Street, a short hike from the busy French Quarter in the 7th Ward, is home to some of the best live jazz music in the Big Easy.
Photo credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans; Flickr
Take a trip down south to Tybee Island to blow off steam at the ocean. Known for its crimson sunsets and gorgeous blend of beaches and marshes, the island is also full of seafood hotspots at tiny crab shacks and family-owned restaurants and bars. Enjoy swimming with dolphins, bike tours on the marshes, and dinner on a Riverboat cruise. Most of these dining experiences include live music, fresh fish with a southern flare, and a tour around the harbor. This destination is very popular during spring break as Tybee Island is an easy jaunt from Atlanta and Savannah (18 miles), so you will be able to explore the southern culture in the surrounding areas. Spend the day walking on the cobblestone streets of historical Savannah and soaking up as much of the culture as possible.
Photo credit: Ryan McKee; Flickr
Grab your Vineyard Vines quarter zip and your favorite Koozie and enjoy a different part of the Atlantic Coast. You can’t go to Newport without visiting the cliff walk that borders the shoreline, named one of America’s most beautiful coastal views. In regards to dining, shopping and entertainment, find all three on Thames Street and at Bowen’s Wharf, known as the historical anchor of Newport—and also home to Diego’s, where you can find the best margarita in the area. For sightseeing, count on mansion tours or vineyard visits to impress.
Photo credit: Elliott Gilfix; Flickr
Boston is worthy of week’s stay for its versatility: If you’re into history, take a tour of the Freedom Trail. If you want to drink, plant yourself on a bar stool at one of the famous pubs downtown, like Green Dragon Tavern or Bell in Hand, open since 1795. Plus: Springtime in Boston is exceptionally beautiful. Floral celebrations thrive at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Arnold Arboretum—and complement the rest of the city’s rich historical architecture. Be sure to sign up for a walking tour around the city to view historical landmarks such as The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Boston Tea Party Harbor.
Photo credit: Werner Kunz; Flickr