Spring break season is upon us, that time when families flock to the theme park madness in Central Florida, find a spot in the sand on the crowded beaches of the South or hit the slopes for a week of fun in the snow. But not everyone wants to fight the spring break crowds. In fact, I’d venture to say many families don’t travel during March and April because of the crowds and inflated prices. But if you are looking for spring break alternatives, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for five spring break alternatives.
Travel for a Game
I’ve never traveled to baseball spring training, but I want to. I’m a huge baseball fan and hope to eventually find my way to the action in the Cactus or Grapefruit leagues. From mid-February until the baseball season starts at the end of March, all 30 Major League Baseball teams and their minor league affiliates head to camps in Arizona — the Cactus League — and Florida — the Grapefruit League — to get ready for the season. Many of the facilities are in close proximity, meaning fans can catch games at multiple locations over a period of just a few days. For example, 15 teams play in and around the Phoenix area in the Cactus League. And some teams share facilities, like in Surprise where the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals practice and play spring training games at the same site.
If baseball isn’t your thing, the NBA and NHL seasons are heading into the home stretch of the regular season, not to mention the start of the Major League Soccer season. The MLS season gets underway March 8 with 19 teams spread across 18 North American cities.
Visit a Capital City
So if you’re in the United States, there are 51 capital cities to choose from for an educational visit. Not every child is interested in the workings of government, but I’ve always found state capitol buildings to be beautiful architectural structures. Public tours often are provided. And if you contact your representative with enough notice, you might be able to arrange a more intimate tour. And if you can make it to the nation’s capital, a visit to Washington, D.C., is the ultimate capital experience. A couple of days could be spent just touring the monuments along the National Mall, visiting the FREE Smithsonian Museums, checking out the Capitol, Supreme Court and White House, and one of my favorite D.C. attractions, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. And if you visit Washington from March 20 to April 13, be sure to check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Head for the Hills
But I’m not talking about hitting the slopes. I live in Memphis, a city in the Mississippi River Delta. We don’t have mountains nearby, but within a couple of hours we can drive to the smaller Ozark Mountains in Arkansas or the hills of Middle Tennessee. A longer 6-hour drive to East Tennessee would get us to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. So maybe you live close enough to make a daytrip or maybe you need to stay a night or two, but chances are you live within driving distance of a small mountain range or even beautiful hills for some fun hiking and exploring.
Have a City Break
Chances are no matter where you live in the United States you are within a couple of hours of a decent-sized city. Even if you live in Fargo, N.D., you are a 3.5-hour drive from the great arts scene of Minneapolis. Call Chester, S.C., home? The town is only about 50 miles from Columbia, S.C., or Charlotte, N.C., to the north. The point is that chances are great you are within a two- or three-hour drive from a city with fun activities and educational opportunities.
Travel to a city, stay a night or two, and check out a couple of local museums, historic sties and maybe catch a game or play. Don’t have enough money to stay the night? As long as the kids can handle a car drive, make a long day of it. For us, maybe that means driving the 2.5 hours from Memphis to Nashville. We’d start out after breakfast and arrive just before lunch. We’d maybe go down and check out the riverfront before having lunch. We’d have the afternoon for a museum or two, some shopping and maybe go on a riverboat cruise before dinner and returning home.
This isn’t about visiting amusement parks. Take the chance to learn about the cultural offerings of a nearby city. We’re big fans of these types of trips. If we extend our driving time to seven hours, it opens up a range of possibilities from destinations like Dallas, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Atlanta and New Orleans. Open a map and just pick a city.
Explore Your Own City
Sometimes referred to as a “staycation,” this option might not seem that glamorous, but it can work quite well. Yes, everyone can visit a museum or new restaurant in your city. It doesn’t require much money and taking a vacation day from work isn’t necessary.
But if you want to add some excitement to this option, consider booking a hotel room, too. We are doing this in April as part of our NBA Road Trip series. And our son is just as excited about this plan as he is for his first visit to New Orleans later this month. I have to admit, I’m pretty excited, too. I’ve never stayed in a hotel in Downtown Memphis before. We head to Downtown quite often for restaurants, nightlife and games, but only having a few hours at a time means it’s nothing more than a nice night out at home.
Reserving a hotel room even for one night opens up many more opportunities. When we do this weekend at home, we plan to visit two or three museums we haven’t visited in years, discover a new restaurant or two and enjoy not having to drive 45 minutes to get home after a game. Maybe we’ll consider renting bikes for a couple of hours and tour the city in a way we never have. The possibilities are endless.
Still need a specific list of ideas? Here are five from some places we’ve visited recently.
1. The Hotel Cascada indoor water park in Albuquerque, N.M.
2. Fort Worth Stockyards and the city’s museums
3. Visit the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
4. Visit the arts community of Fairhope, Ala., and the nearby beaches of Gulf Shores
5. Check out the family attractions found in Atlanta