The words "spring break" likely take you back to a very certain time in life — probably one that involved a ton of poolside cocktail drinking and other requisite antics typical of a college student letting loose. But just because your circumstances are different these days doesn't mean you still can't have as memorable of a time during a March/April getaway. Given some pretty impressive spring break alternative destinations, you can have a totally different kind of fun that's arguably a bit more grown up and a lot less cliché than the usual beach resorts that will probably be overrun with student vacationers anyway.
From historic landmarks to spots where you can fully embrace the cold weather that will still be hanging around in some parts of the world, some of the coolest getaways for spring don't just focus around partying and lounging by a body of water (not that there's anything wrong with those types of vacations, necessarily). And since you won't be booking a trip to some of the usual suspects — like Cancun, Miami, or the Bahamas — you'll also get to enjoy a less crowded and likely more relaxing vibe all around.
That said, everyone's idea of what constitutes a truly great spring break destination will be different. To help you figure out where you should head for a trip this season, listen to what the experts at luxury travel agency CIRE Travel have to say. These eight spots have it all, from unique shopping opportunities to unbeatable sightseeing. And yes, you'll be able to enjoy a cocktail or two, as well.
Thought you couldn't vacation in Cuba? Well, according to CIRE agent Esther Klijn, you totally can — so long as you prove to the US that you’re traveling for cultural discovery, which can be done with the help of a travel advisor who can provide you a private cultural itinerary. "Between the music, culture, cuisine, rum, and cigars, this little island should not go unexperienced," she says. "Take a long weekend in Havana or add on a few days to venture to the Viñales Valley, explore the colonial charm of Cienfuegos and Trinidad, and see the heart of Afro-Cuban culture in Santiago."
Love Europe's charm but want to try something new? Klijn also recommends this city in Quebec for a lovely escape. "Between Old Montreal with its cobblestone streets and the new Montreal with its distinctive neighborhoods, the city is one of the most memorable urban destinations in North America," she explains. "Visit the Botanical Garden or Mont Royal Park. Eat at Schwartz’s Deli for old-time smoked meat, or Toque! for market cuisine and wine, then Dance the night away at Electric Avenue and Stereo or cozy up at a pub along Crescent between Rene Levesque and de Maissoneuve Boulevard."
White Mountains, New Hampshire
For a woodsy getaway, head to see the landscape and wildlife in White Mountains, which CIRE's Jason Villacres describes as the definition of getting away from crowds. "Here in the beautiful woods, listen to a bubbling brook as you sit on the banks watching wildlife up close and personal," he recommends. "There are so many activities including fishing, horseback riding, hiking, historic tours, shopping, railway tours, gondola rides, and, of course, the spa."
One main reason Seattle makes a great anti-spring break spot? According to Villacres, its accessibility. "With so many non-stop flights, Seattle is accessible to many cities across the country," he says. As for what to put on your itinerary while you're there, he recommends a a visit to the original Starbucks and Pike Place Market (order anything with Dungeness crab at the seafood restaurants here). You can also hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island or Vancouver Island for a quick day trip.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
To soak up some art and culture, CIRE's Jamie Bennett recommends this New Mexico city where you can check out the Georgia O’Keefe Museum (and even visit her home and studio about an hour outside of Santa Fe), cruise the plaza, peruse the extensive local farmer's market, and check out one of several incredible spas in the area (Sunrise Springs is a well-known favorite). If you don't mind a bit more driving, Bennett also suggests a quick trip to the Taos Pueblo, or a night of camping in White Sands.
"When everyone else is heading south or west, head east," suggests founder and president, Eric Hrubant, who thinks Europe makes a great anti-spring break destination in general. Specifically, he thinks a road trip through Iceland starting from its capital city is a fantastic option. "You’ll get a better shot at seeing the Northern Lights now than if you go in the summer," he adds. "It’s an easy and scenic drive from Reykjavik out to the east coast and back."
The cherry blossoms aren't just in season at this time in Japan — they're also so spectacular, seeing them alone is worthy of a trip here. It also doesn't help that Kyoto in particular is beautiful and charming (not to mention much less far more relaxed than the hub that is Tokyo) with much to do, including a visit to the bamboo forest, exquisite shrines and temples, and traditional geisha shows.
For a vacation that’s "the antithesis of a lay-on-the-beach-all-day spring break" Hrubant recommends a trip to Ireland's capital. While it may be lacking in warmth during the spring, it more than makes up for that in hospitality and charm. And the travel expert specifically suggests renting a car to take in even more of the scenic landscape and sites.