Travel Tips

Spring Break 2010: Alternative Destinations & Family-Friendly Vacations

Locations in this article:  Buffalo, NY Louisville, KY

Spring Break 2010 - Student Drinking BeerDespite its reputation, spring break isn’t solely the domain of rowdy college kids searching for their next tequila shot.

Spring break is also prime vacation time for families, couples and those simply looking to get away for a while.

We tracked down alternate destinations and experiences for those looking to avoid the crowds without giving up the fun.

1. Skip beer pong, try Bourbon

Do you still consider “spring break” to be a synonym for liquor? Skip the beer-fueled parties and try out a more grown-up alcohol-inspired trip.

Whiskey TastingThe Kentucky Bourbon Trail connects the iconic distilleries that are up to 70 miles apart: Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Bean, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and the Woodford Reserve. The trail Web site has an interactive map to design self-guided tours that can begin at any of the distilleries.

For a more personalized experience the half-day or full-day Bourbon Trail Tour offered through Louisville’s Mint Julep Tours. Select either the Bourbon Tour South, and choose to visit two of the following distilleries: Marker’s Mark, Heaven Hill, and Jim Beam, or select the Bourbon Tour East, and chose to visit two of the following distilleries: Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Woodford, and Wild Turkey.

Beyond traditional tours and tasting, several distilleries also have more in-depth experiences, including bourbon education courses and distillers’ dinners.

For more ideas like this, don’t miss New Alcohol & Distillery Tours.

Bourbon & Whiskey TastingsFor “worth-it” purchases, step into downtown Frankfort’s Capital Cellars Wine and Spirits Café Market, where you’ll be able to purchase all the spirits tempted you on the trail. Order the cheese plate to indulge yourself while supporting your local farmers of Bardstown, Glascow and Nelson County.

While in Frankfort, expand your bourbon experience from booze to bullion and more.  Swing by the Kentucky Historical Society campus to visit the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Old State Capitol, or the Kentucky Military History Museum for the Kentucky Military Treasures exhibition, and a presentation on the American Soldier’s experience.

2. Instead of Cancun, head south

Cancun, Mexico, will be the headquarters for MTV’s spring break programming. If partying with the Real World cast doesn’t do it for you, fly into Cancun and immediately start heading south.

Just south of Cancun is the Riviera Maya, which is generally considered to stretch from Puerto Morelos down to Tulum. With no MTV cameras to speak of, this slower-paced, laid-back destination has plenty of opportunities whether you seek adventure or margaritas on the beach.

Mayan ruinsVisitors can help maintain the costal dune eco-system in favor of eroding it with a stay at the Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an biosphere in Tulum, dedicated to preserving the Sian Ka’an reserve.

Once inside the reserve, you can follow a 1,200-year-old Mayan trade route on a canal tour, or go fly-fishing for bonefish, tarpon, permit, jack, and even barracuda. Or how about observing the reserve’s bird population by kayak? Three hours without a guide is only $30 for a double kayak, or a guided tour plus lunch or dinner and basic training is about $54 per person.

Accommodations in the biosphere vary by size and date, but each tent-cabin this spring break is between $70 and $100 a night—a great way to go green without sacrificing your green.

Find great activities with our Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Riviera Maya. Or for more ideas, try our Adventure & Sports Travel – Water Sports section. And if all you want to do is relax, don’t miss our Beach Vacations category.

3. Make a beeline to … Chattanooga?

If you want to skip the sandy family beach vacation this year, why not book a few days in a completely unexpected city? Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a surprisingly family-friendly city that’s chock full of activities.

Bug the Penguin at Tennessee AquariumThe renowned Tennessee Aquarium is offering families a chance to get involved with biology through its “Keeper Kids” programs. A program called “Ocean Journey” allows participants to release butterflies, feed partridges and palawan peacock pheasant, prepare food for and feed stingrays, and even help feed animals in the Secret Reef. At River Journey gives participants the chance to feed otters, trout, observe training sessions, feed turtles in the Delta Swamp, and help prepare food for the different species. Either experience is free with admission to the Aquarium.

The Tennessee Aquarium has teamed up with area hotels to offer affordable vacation packages.  The Bluff View Inn offers a Downtown Chattanooga attraction package for $255 for two adults and this includes tickets to the Tennessee Aquarium, tickets to the IMAX 3D theater, a $75 food gift certificate, plus free breakfast and parking.

For a family-friendly package, the Chattanoogan Hotel’s Discover the Fun deal starts from $269 for two adults and two children (each additional night is $149), which includes breakfast, IMAX tickets, entrance to the Creative Discovery Museum for kids, and more perks.

Learn more with Unexpectedly Green Cities: Eco-Travel in Chattanooga, TN.

4. Float your worries away on a houseboat

While Arizona’s Lake Havasu is the party during spring break, couples and families may appreciate the desert-meets-lake atmosphere in Lake Powell. Smack in the center of Arizona and Utah’s Grand Circle, Lake Powell—which is inside the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area—offers easy access to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

Get more travel ideas for this area with Family-Friendly Outdoor Travel: Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks.

Lake Powell HouseboatA family of four can vacation in a houseboat on Lake Powell for an entire week starting from about $2,546 for an economy model (that’s about $100 per person, per night).

Ample hiking trails, horse back riding, Hummer tours, and, of course, water sports, round out the outdoorsy and family-friendly experiences.

Visitors can take advantage of the free Explorer Program pack, which leads parents and children through discovery hikes, field trips and educational activities about local flora, fauna and environmental resources.

Learn more about America’s National Parks:

5. Volunteer this vacation

A volunteer vacation is the ultimate way to experience a new culture while helping to make a difference. Check out organizations such as i-to-i, which is offering short-term programs like a two-week Theatre and Education experience in Jaipur, India where travelers can work with children while learning about Indian theater and folklore.

A little closer to home, Habitat for Humanity and the United Way offer multiple spring and summer opportunities for students and adults.

By Jessica Kate Soberman for

For more ideas, don’t miss Great Spring Break Alternatives.

To give back and still have a great vacation, don’t miss our Volunteer Vacations section.

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