Spring break season has already started. And with spring break comes the obvious trips—the family journey to Disney World or, for college students, a weeklong party with friends in a beachfront city—but a week off school is also a perfect reason to expand horizons. So, for the procrastinators, jump into our list of four alternative, off-the-beaten-path spring break ideas.
For the Family: The Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Suntan lotion and coolers? No, quite the opposite. The Olympic Peninsula, located west of Seattle is all about exploring natural wonders: lakes, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, beaches, forests and small farms. Bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Hood Canal and on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the heart of the peninsula is Mount Olympus, which rises to nearly 8,000 feet. Seattle will be your jumping off point as you venture onto the peninsula to wind your way through small communities and one major national park—Olympic National Park. Wildlife—especially elk and bears—are active in the spring. Hiking shoes, bicycles and a good raincoat will be a must as you stroll and ride your way around the peninsula. Tack on a few days exploring urban Seattle's attractions to get the best of both worlds on this family trip. Tip: While on the peninsula, fans of the "Twilight" books and movies series will want to visit Forks, Washington, to see where many of the movies were filmed.
For the Beach-goer: Atlantic Beach, North Carolina
You hear the waves calling, but you don't want to get in the middle of the spring break madness that is Florida. Instead, venture north to try Atlantic Beach, located on one of North Carolina's barrier islands. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound, the quaint community has beachfront cottages, hotels and motels that offer a variety of accommodations. Dining options also abound, including upscale American fare, an ice cream and candy shop, several bars and grills and a mix of other eateries. Visit one of the local surf shops, then hit the waves or rent a bicycle and take a ride along one of the many public beaches.
Also consider: Coronado, California, a seaside resort peninsula that has seen a major revival in recent years; St. Augustine, Florida, where beaches and history go hand in hand; Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, known for its beaches and golf courses.
For the Theme Park Fan: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California
Anything with the words Disney or Universal in the name can cost a small fortunes and fills up quickly during spring break. As an alternative, try a true boardwalk theme park at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. For a thrill ride, board the wooden Giant Dipper, the spinning Undertow Coaster or the free-falling Double Shot. There are rides for kids, too, including the 1911 Loof Carousel. Disney will cost you just more than $100 daily, but you can get admission to all the Santa Cruz rides, plus $15 in bonus points for attractions, arcades and midway games for about $40—and there's the beach.
For the History Buff: Virginia City, Nevada
From the wood-plank sidewalks to the old-fashion saloons, visiting Virginia City is like stepping back in time to a Wild West town. Being Nevada, there is a slot machine tucked in just about every corner of every shop, restaurant and bar in town. Museums and historic homes show the story of how the town came into being with the discovery of the largest silver lode in U.S. history, the Comstock Lode, nearby. Walking and trolley tours show everything from old mining equipment to buildings thought to be haunted. While there, take a ride on the V&T Railroad steam engine, which crosses the desert landscape dotted with the old mines.
Also consider: Salem, Massachusetts, home of the infamous witch trials; Savannah, Georgia, where you'll find more than 20 city squares, plus museums, churches, mansions, monuments and forts of the Revolutionary and Civil wars; Williamsburg, Virginia, where the Historic District works to re-create life in the 18th century, from the attire to the actual jobs.