10 Spring Break Destinations for Families With Teens in Tow
As the winter months come to a close, it’s time to gear up for a much-needed warm weather holiday. If you’ve got teens in tow, here’s where to go to make the most of your spring break.
Photo By: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
Photo By: Erin Gifford
Photo By: Visit SLO CAL
Photo By: Tourism Santa Fe
Photo By: Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater
Photo By: Experience Scottsdale
Photo By: Erin Gifford
Photo By: S. Rawls
Photo By: Erin Gifford
Photo By: Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
The spring break crowds may flock to Florida, but Alabama’s sugar-white sandy beaches are among the most beautiful in the country. Book your teens in a morning session at Sand Castle University to learn the "proper" way to sculpt a sand castle, then bike as a family along 28 miles of paved trails at Gulf State Park. Take on the highest and longest zip line on the Gulf Coast at Hummingbird Zip Line. For adventurous teens, book a ride in a gyroplane for bird’s eye views of the coastline. Spread out in the newly-renovated Eagle Cottages at Gulf State Park.
According to Airbnb, Gatlinburg is among the top trending destinations for spring travel (bookings are up 173 percent over last year). As the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg has a lot to offer families with teens. Inside the park, hike to Clingmans Dome for views from the highest point in Tennessee, then bike along the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop. Outside the park, get an adrenaline rush at Anakeesta, a new on-mountain experience that includes a canopy walk, zip lines and a mountain coaster. Before you go, ride the coasters at Dollywood in nearby Pigeon Forge.
San Luis Obispo County, California
Affectionately known as "SLO CAL," San Luis Obispo County lies mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Boasting 315 days of sunshine and 80 miles of pristine coastline, this region is a great pick whether your spring break plans call for lazy days at the beach or adrenaline-fueled adventures, like paragliding along the coast or hiking on Pismo Preserve. Teens will love dune buggying at Oceano Dunes, the only California State Park that allows motor vehicles on the beach. Kayaking the Dinosaur Caves in the Shell Beach area is another must-do for families. Stay the week at the brand-new Kinney SLO, which offers plenty of fun family games, like Skee-ball and shuffleboard, as well as life-sized Lite Brite and Scrabble.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is brimming with history and culture, but there’s plenty to do for active teens too in this picturesque desert landscape. Santa Fe Mountain Adventures offers family adventures, like scavenger hunts, whitewater rafting and horseback riding. Their thrilling off-road "Pinzie" tours to Diablo Canyon in 4x4 all-terrain military vehicles are especially popular. Book a stay at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, which boasts a dedicated Adventure Center for guided hiking and biking, as well as vibrant art tours on Canyon Road in historic Santa Fe. On Saturdays, make time for the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, one of the oldest and largest in the country.
Your teens will be eager to brag that they spent spring break in Clearwater, Florida, relaxing on white, sandy Clearwater Beach, the number one beach in America. In the evening, Pier 60 is the place to be for colorful sunsets and a nightly festival that includes stilt walkers, local artisans, magicians and live music. Go snorkeling at 3 Rooker Bar or set sail on a dolphin-watching cruise with Dream Catcher Explorations. Busch Gardens Tampa is also just a 45-minute drive by car. Book a stay next to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in a marine-themed room at the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach.
Spring is the perfect time to take your kids to Scottsdale. As in, before it gets unbearably hot and difficult to challenge your teens to single track mountain bike trails at Pemberton Loop and hiking to the top of iconic Camelback Mountain for dramatic views of the Sonoran Desert. Scramble rocks at Papago Park, a massive natural rock formation, then ride ATVs across the desert with Green Zebra Adventures. In the evening, visit the Desert Botanical Garden for a sound and light display that makes the cactuses appear to dance to music. Enjoy stunning desert views with a stay at Mountain Shadows at the base of Camelback Mountain.
Southern Utah has become a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts thanks to a bounty of spectacular state and national parks, like Kodachrome Basin State Park and Zion National Park. Bypass the summer crowds and enjoy Utah’s parks in spring when you have room to move and explore. Kayak with your teens at Sand Hollow State Park or ride ATVs at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. In Kanab, spend a few hours caring for homeless animals at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Wow your teens with a stay in an Airstream trailer at Shooting Star RV Resort in Escalante.
Texas Hill Country
In summer, it can get uncomfortably warm in Texas, making spring the ideal time to visit Texas Hill Country (90 minutes west of Austin). The picture-perfect landscape is alive with colorful wildflowers, like Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush. Teens will love creating their own vibrant bouquets at Wildseed Farms, the largest working wildflower farm in the country. Bring hiking boots to take on Enchanted Rock, a pink granite mountain with spectacular views of the region from the summit. For an after-dark adventure, add stargazing to your itinerary at this International Dark Sky Park. Book a stay at the Hangar Hotel, a hotel with an exterior like a WWII hangar from the 1940s.
Carlsbad may not be as well-known as its southerly neighbor San Diego, but this seaside village has a lot to offer families and teens beyond LEGOLAND California. Spend time on Carlsbad’s five white, sandy beaches, including Carlsbad State Beach. Take your teens to soak in a very Instagram-worthy sunset from the Carlsbad Seawall at Tamarack State Beach. In spring, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are on full display, bursting with color across 50 acres. You can also explore museums you may not find anywhere else, like the Museum of Making Music. Settle in for the evening at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa.
Florida’s Space Coast
Florida’s Space Coast may be known for the collegiate spring breakers that flood into Daytona Beach, but families with teens will have a blast just 90 minutes south in Cocoa Beach. Home to the original Ron Jon Surf Shop, this surf capital of the east coast is the place to learn to ride the waves. Sign up for lessons at School of Surf. At the Brevard Zoo, take a guided kayak tour of the Nyami Nyami River where you’ll drift past giraffes and rhinos. Check the rocket launch schedule to see if one is taking off in nearby Titusville during your stay. Settle in at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort, which recently added a new tropical-theme waterpark.