Spring break is our favorite time to get away with the family, an ideal time to travel affordably between the pricey winter holidays and crowded summer months.
Why is spring break such a wonderful escape? Maybe because you’ve been working so hard all year. Maybe because you get to feel the sun on your shoulders after being cold for months. Or maybe just because you get to spend a week making great memories with your family.
Before you start planning, keep in mind that vacations and getaways are often on the brink of not happening when your travel party is four, five, six, or more. The good news is that family travel insurance can offer you some relief from travel plans gone awry. Travel insurance isn’t just to protect you, the traveler. Travel insurance can also be useful in situations in which family members fall ill, get seriously injured, or face other crises. Learn more about the benefits of travel insurance and make sure to pack a policy before your trip.
And now, here are 24 fresh destinations and family adventure ideas for Spring Break 2020 selected with our partners at The Family Travel Forum.
Alternative Spring Break
The alternative spring break movement began on college campuses and today, many non-profit organizations organize volunteer vacations where you can work together on sustainable projects. Start local at your church, school or in the community; once the kids are ready, opportunities for volunteering are varied and exist in countries throughout the world.
Art in the Park at Brookgreen Gardens
Are you on an East Coast road trip? Pause to smell the flowers and appreciate the light of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina at Brookgreen Gardens. This National Historic Landmark was founded by the Huntington family in 1931 as a landscape backdrop for the country’s largest collection of American figurative sculpture. Beginning this spring (Apr. 8 to Sept. 12) Brookgreen will feature seven custom designed light sculptures by British artist Bruce Munro in addition to its Instagram-worthy permanent collection. Visit with the kids at different times of day Wednesday-Saturday between 7am-10pm to appreciate thousands of ever-changing lights and transformative views.
Wherever you travel this spring, check out special family programs at Botanic Gardens like the Family Adventure Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Garden and at art museums like the Denver Art Museum where kids are free until they are 18.
City universities and colleges come in all shapes and sizes with personalities your kids will pick up on during a campus tour. Remember that children get a better feel from a campus tour when school is in session, so plan your travel dates accordingly. If you are interested in more than 28 institutions of higher learning, head west to San Francisco, a good base for touring UC San Francisco, “Cal” (UC Berkeley), Stanford, Santa Clara University and University of San Francisco, plus many others. The city is a young foodie’s paradise! And make time for fun, like at the Presidio, the largest national park in an urban area complete with inns, restaurants, biking and places to take selfies with the Golden Gate as a backdrop.
Cruises are in for spring break reunions because supervised kids’ and teens’ programs, organized family games and activities – not to mention the scheduled bridge games – keep everyone in the family busy. Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Panorama – the first new ship on the West Coast in 20 years – is a good example. Panorama offers the first-ever Sky Zone trampoline park at sea, a new Choose Fun-themed WaterWorks aqua park and a bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide. Also new is the line’s first culinary studio, Culinary Kitchen, with cooking demonstrations, tastings and classes. Carnival Panorama operates year-round, seven-day cruises to the Mexican Riviera from Long Beach. Our Annual Family Cruise Guide has reviews of the major cruise lines and their family offerings.
Holland America now carries more than 25,000 kids and their families aboard its 14 mid-size ships every year, including so many multi-generational groups that they have designed a special Family Reunion Program (for groups booking eight or more rooms) featuring complimentary room upgrades and more. Holland America’s ms Koningsdam is adding a series of northern Europe and Baltic cruises to HAL’s itineraries. With a $300-million investment, HAL is planning exciting enhancements to its top staterooms with new furnishings, decor, amenities and upgrades for all suites on the line’s Signature, Vista and R-Class Ships. There is also an emphasis on programs and activities that bring aboard the culture and cuisine of the region where the ship is sailing with cooking demonstrations, port-to-table dishes in the dining room and cultural ambassadors. Holland America recently was recognized by Cruise Critic for having the best dining program at sea. The ms Oosterdam, is piloting a new-style kids’ and teen Hi-Score program with self-starting activities for kids and ones they can share with their families.
Staycation at a Theme Park or Water Park
Family spring break programs are the rage at the major U.S. theme parks and indoor water parks, where all ages can find thrill rides, themed attractions and live shows to their taste. No need to travel far; most of the local parks open with spring and Easter themed weeks when they also debut the best season pass deals. California’s Great Adventure, for example, opens Mar. 21 with nine famous roller coasters including the West Coast’s only single-rail roller coaster, RailBlazer, plus a Planet Snoopy park for preschoolers.
By the way, couples with babies in tow can take advantage of the Rider Switch policies at the major theme parks, which allow one parent to wait with baby at the head of the line while the other one rides, then switch without waiting again. Amusement parks are especially welcoming for those with dietary restrictions and other special needs, too. Take those with special needs to Morgan’s Wonderland, an “ultra-accessible” theme park and water park in northeast San Antonio built from the ground up for those with physical and mental challenges.
The popular Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival returns to Disneyland in Anaheim from Feb. 28-Apr. 21. The culinary marketplaces will present unique food and beverages, celebrity chef demonstrations, live music and a complimentary Junior Chef experience with hands-on fun led by Chef Goofy, for children ages 3-11.
At Orlando’s Walt Disney World, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs Mar. 4-June 1, featuring millions of blooms and delightful topiaries throughout. Concerts feature hits from the 60s-90s, 15 new Outdoor Kitchens and Morning Tea Tours at the UK Pavilion. For Mickey Mouse and gang fans, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is scheduled to open March 4 at Disney’s Hollywood Studies. Climb aboard a runaway railway yourself on the first ride at any park that stars Mickey Mouse and his pals!
At both parks, everyone will feel like a hero at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new “Star Wars” themed lands which are so immersive – especially on the Milennium Falcon and Rise of the Resistance attractions – it’s easy to forget you’re still on planet Earth. Keep an eye out for the opening of reservations for “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser,” that enable you to live acrossa star cruiser for two nights and two days! .
Adventures by Disney has new land packages and new cruise vacations for 2020. Catch a deal if you join one of their land tours in the U.S., Europe, Costa Rica or Vietnam by April 30, saving up to $400 per person. Travel with your grown kids on their adult-only trips.
Europe and the World Celebrate Beethoven at 250
Ludwig van Beethoven, who would have been 250 years old in 2020, is not only the world’s most famous classical composer, his Ninth Symphony is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Beethoven’s enormous body of classical music is being performed all over the world this year, so you can take in a concert almost anywhere you travel. Or, visit the family-friendly European cities of Bonn, Germany where he was born and Vienna, Austria where he found fame and fleeting fortune.
In commemoration of his life there till age 22, Bonn, Germany has established 22 multimedia information columns along the BTHVN STORY route marking points of interest – such as the von Breuning house where he taught piano as a teen. Ask the kids to activate them by scanning a QR code with a smartphone. Vienna is celebrating with several concerts and some very cool activities and events. Check out a pair of Audio Augmented Reality Glasses from Bose at the Albertinaplatz branch of the Vienna Tourist office and you’ll be able to hear music and “Beethoven’s” voice on a walking tour of five special Vienna landmarks. Make sure to try Vienna’s most famous desert—Sacher torte, with layers of chocolate and best topped with whipped cream!
Grand Tour of Europe on a River Cruise
Take your family aboard a Rhine River Cruise and see three of Europe’s top countries: Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. CroisiEurope’s “Treasures of the Celebrated Rhine” is an 8-night journey down the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel. Visit exciting ports of call each day including guided tours for the whole family. Discovery excursions will delight the young and young at heart. Highlights include cycling in Amsterdam and hiking around the Rhine Falls. On board, you’ll dine on superb French cuisine and stay in a comfortable riverview cabin. (Triple and single occupancy cabins are available to accommodate families of all sizes.) CroisiEurope is one of the only river cruise lines that welcomes children of all ages, with infants traveling free and children under 10 always traveling at a discount. Taking the Kids found Croisi Europe’s Doro River trips in Portugal a great bet as well.
Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues Mean Spring Training
If baseball rules in your household, take your team to spring training, a mainstay at small stadiums in Florida that host the Grapefruit League, and at Arizona’s Cactus League parks. In Peoria, Arizona, spend the afternoon watching the San Diego Padres or Seattle Mariners get into form. Tickets start at $12 These are only two of the 15 Major League teams playing more than 200 games between Feb. 22-March 22 in and around Greater Phoenix. The city has plenty of great family resorts and the kids will love a night vision Jeep tour of the starlit desert and its nocturnal creatures. Here’s an account of a family’s experience checking out the Cactus League. If you are trying out a new sport or outdoor skill during spring break, make sure to reinforce it during the summer so that it becomes an ongoing part of your family’s fitness routine.
History Comes Alive in the Spring
During this school year’s break, make history fun, especially if you visit a place where kids can come face to face with historic figures and feel as if they are time-traveling. See what life was like during the Civil War on the plains at Connor Prairie in Indiana. Visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in South Dakota. Step aboard the historic vessels at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, the country’s leading maritime museum. Spring is a great time to visit a National Historic Monument — historic places that hold national significance, whether a famous battlefield, fort or even hotels like El Tovar at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Explore old prisons (Alcatraz Island in California is a historic monument), boats like the U.S.S. Arizona in Hawaii or the S.S. City of Milwaukee (an old Great Lakes railroad car ferry that’s become a boatel with rooms for under $100), missions, houses, churches and more. You can find a state-by-state list of historic monuments here.
Loving Japan’s Traditions and Culture
Japan is still topping many of the “Where to Go in 2020” lists since the Japanese Yen has remained low against the U.S. dollar and the summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo (more below). Avoid a more crowded and expensive Tokyo and get to know the real Japan in Kanazawa, a university town with the nickname “Little Kyoto” because of its history and culture sights. From cool coffee bars to quirky museums, cozy ryokans to a Ninja temple, compact and convenient Kanazawa has plenty of attractions to make families fall in love with Japanese culture. If you’re heading to Kyoto, explore Japanese pop culture at the International Manga Museum in Kyoto and see even more than temples on bike tours with locals.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans
New Orleans is famous for its huge Mardi Gras celebration. NOLA honors its rich immigrant past and the blend of French, Spanish and African cultures that spawned Mardi Gras, which is comprised today of 135 yearly festivals including more than 35 Second Line parades. In addition, there are street festivals, concerts, commemorative displays in museums and around town. Take time to visit the National World War II Museum with many interactive exhibits. Notice the development including a new airport, a revitalized riverfront, and a focus on upgrading the city’s medical industry and infrastructure all over town. The big day is Tuesday, February 25, 2020 and, even if you’re not in New Orleans, there is always a party somewhere as you can see in our roundup of the world’s top 15 Carnivals.
Montreal in Lights
The 20th edition of the Montreal en Lumiere festival turns up the heat in Quebec province with a program of fine dining (including many wine tastings and foodie conferences), outdoor festivities, interactive lighting and cultural performances from February 20-March 1. At Place des Festivals, look for a huge slide, zipline and Ferris Wheel with warming stations strategically placed between the marshmallow roasting zones and food trucks. The best known of the 200 events includes Illuminart, a totally creative region bordered by Old Montreal, downtown, the Plateau Mont-Royal and the Pole Maisonneuve. From February 29-March 2, Art Souterrain takes over the underground in 10 stations that are part of Montreal’s 20 miles of underground tunnels. Besides a memorable introduction to how locals survive and thrive in the chilly winters, the festival’s admission fee includes guided tours and a visit to artists’ studios.
Netherlands is Tulip Heaven
Spring is the Netherland’s most festive season, the time when tulips are in full bloom at Keukenhof Gardens and visitors can catch the latest museum shows. Families with younger children will want to base themselves in Amsterdam (Tulip Festival runs April 1-30 in the city) for easy sightseeing. We love the Innovation Gallery at the NeMo Museum for science, and the viewing booths at the Eye Film Museum (open until midnight), whose ship-like architecture stands out on the harbor. In addition to the year-round Amsterdam attractions for families , let your teens tune into Amsterdam Spring Break 2020 which brings a huge EDM festival to dozens of city venues between Apr. 5-8.
New Mexico Stars Santa Fe in the Spring
From Mar.ch 1- Apr. 15, join the fifth annual “Kids Free Spring Break 2020” programming in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when ages 12 and under enjoy free lodging, meals and numerous cultural programs. Learn to skateboard, take an art or cooking class or paint together with special family activities. Among the many museums, we especially like the New Mexico History Museum behind the venerable Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza. The Museum of International Folk Art is just one of many other cultural and historic attractions participating in Kids Free Spring Break. (The New Mexico CulturePass opens the doors to 15 exceptional museums and historic monuments all year round.) In spring, it’s cool enough to climb tall ladders at Bandelier National Monument to explore ancient cliff dwellings — just 50 miles from Santa Fe. You can all head to Taos to ski and visit the 1000- year-old Taos Pueblo. And consider whether you prefer red or green chilis (ask for “Christmas,” which means both!) in the Land of Enchanted Cuisine.
OARS Escorted Adventures on Land and Sea
Parents love river rafting because they can enjoy a memorable outdoor adventure with their kids while leaving the heavy lifting to well-trained guides. Such trips are not only a great way for families to unplug but also for grandparents to share the wilderness with grandchildren without heaving heavy packs, rafters told Taking the Kids on a popular OARS trip through Dinosaur National Monument. OARS has been perfecting family adventure vacations for more than 50 years. Summer is the best season for family rafting trips but now is the time to lock down your reservations, especially as OARS offers premier pricing for the first 4 people to book by Mar. 31, 2020 on many of their domestic departures with discounts of 10% or more. OARS also offers many multi-sport adventures, including those suitable for spring like the Machu Pichu Explorer and raft trips including the San Juan River in Utah, which OARS suggests is a top pick for families.
Olympic History is Made
Learn Olympic history during an Olympic year, as Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics from July 24-August 9. While most families will want to visit the anime museums and animal-mascot cafes of Tokyo, stay tuned for 11-year-old skateboard sensation, Sky Brown, who could be the youngest ever Olympian when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut this year in Tokyo. With 43 different Olympic venues, there promises to be something for every sports fan.
Your kids will enjoy learning about sports, athletes, and Olympics history with hands-on activities and sporting opportunities at other Olympic destinations. In Colorado Springs, where Olympic training facilities get 140,00 visitors annually, the new U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum opens in April 2020. It chronicles the entire history of the Olympics from inception to modern day and will also feature daily life of athletes in training in Colorado Springs, one of the New York Times “52 places to visit in 2020.”
This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, and many adults will never forget the amazing US win over USSR’s hockey team that year. Skiing families will welcome the opportunity to ski with former Olympians from February 14-23, the exact dates of the 1980 Olympics. This is your chance to ice skate around the Olympic Oval, to attend a torch lightening ceremony, and to ride the Cloudsplitter Gondola for the spectacular views of the tallest peaks of the Adirondacks and the entire state of New York. White Face Lodge is one resort that gets it right for families.
Two and a half million visitors during the season make Orlando one of the country’s top Spring Break destinations, and the variety of teen activities is one of the reasons. No matter what your budget, there is a flight, train or bus on its way there right now and there are hundreds of hotels to choose. Check out hotel deals and special theme park ticket offers for Canadian visitors in nearby Kissimmee. On Mar. 21, Kissimmee’s renovated Old Town will host the 30th edition of the full-day “Saturday Nite Classic Car Show and Cruise.” Kids will love seeing the show-quality 1983 and older hot rods, street rods, and antiques they’ve only known from TV. Save on hitting all the major theme parks with the new Orlando CityPASS, a discount ticket booklet that gets you first in line privileges at Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and Legoland.
Outdoors at America’s National Parks
Despite budgetary pressures that have restricted operating hours and environmental challenges in many states, the National Parks remain America’s treasures. Again this year, thanks to Every Kid in the Park program, 4th graders and their families can again visit all national parks, designated lands and waters at no charge. Order your parks pass online and help the national parks reach their goal of attracting 500,000 children this year. And make sure the kids sign on to become Junior Rangers!
Outside Your Comfort Zone in Hawaii
America’s 50th state is a great destination for outdoor adventures, especially the Big Island of Hawaii with its diverse habitats and eco-systems. Remember the 2018 eruption of Kilauea and the terror of families who had to flee their homes? After several months of apparent dormancy, tour operators are again leading hikes across lava fields to a new beach. Did you know your family can also swim with manta rays in the dead of night and summit the world’s tallest mountain for stargazing? Check out 3 Bucket List Adventures to Check Off in Hawaii and Southwest Airlines’ top value fares to start planning for spring break.
Through Feb. 29, 2020, Princess Cruises is offering its “Best.Sale.Ever,” which includes free wifi, free drinks and free gratuities. The savings are available on sailings beginning Mar. 26, 2020 so guests can take advantage of these perks onboard the line’s newest ship, Sky Princess, which is currently sailing alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries through April. It will then sail the Baltics through the summer. Princess Cruises will launch a sister ship, Enchanted Princess, this June in Southampton. It will make its inaugural sailings in the Mediterranean before coming to Fort Lauderdale in Nov.. Both ships feature the largest balconies at sea on their new Sky Suites, which are ideally for families and groups traveling together. For more information about the Best.Sale.Ever, Enchanted Princess or other Princess Cruises sailings, visit www.princess.com.
How many websites do you have to visit to plan the perfect family ski or snowboarding vacation? In spring, it is all about the weather and conditions at your destination. Check out our annual roundup of the Top Family Snow Sports Resorts for dozens of destination ideas to help you plan a spring break skiing or snowboarding adventure. And if you only need one idea, head to the self-styled “Spring Skiing Capital” at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe – here are a dozen reasons we love Squaw Alpine now. And if your family are beginners, consider a smaller, less expensive resort, like those designated as Colorado’s Gems, including Ski Cooper, a half hour and a world away from big, busy resorts like Vail and Snowmass. Families love Breckenridge, which incidentally, has just announced it will remain open through Memorial Day, not only because of the varied terrain but because there is so much to do in the historic mountain town. A good dog-and kid-friendly option is the slopeside Beaver Run Resort that is offering good late season discounts. You will find great family deals at the newly renovated Antlers at Vail, well-appointed condos just 150 yards from the Lionshead Gondola and The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, a quick gondola ride to Beaver Creek’s slopes where adults in the group will love the expansive spa and fitness center and kids will love the outdoor pool and sprawling by the big fire place in the lobby. Deals abound before Easter, especially midweek, at Okemo and Stowe, two of Vail’s latest family-focused resorts in Vermont.
Washington DC for Cherry Blossoms
Feast your eyes and learn about our cultural ties to Japan during Washington DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival (Mar. 20-Apr. 12) which includes a special Blossom Kite Festival on Mar. 28. The historic Willard InterContinental Hotel, which hosted the first Japanese delegation to the U.S., is awash with cherry blossoms and Japanese cultural activities during this period. With their Family Package (from $229 per night weekends in spring), get a room with two queen beds, $75 food and beverage credit, welcome treat, free WiFi, parking, a lending library of books and toys and free Saturday history tours of the hotel. Part of your fee goes to preserving the Tidal Basin, site of most of DC’s famous cherry trees. There’s so much else to do in this great family city; for example, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement are in focus at special exhibits at the National Museum of American History and at the Newseum. Get the new edition of Eileen Ogintz’ book “Kids Guide to Washington DC” and let kids lead the way.
Women’s History and Accomplishments
March is Women’s History Month, the time to see how women have contributed to America’s history and culture. See Julia Child’s kitchen at DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of American History or visit Eleanor Roosevelt’s house in New York at Val-Kill. Learn more about the suffragist movement at the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House and at the National Women’s Rights Historic Park in Seneca Falls.
Explore the meaning the 19th Amendment ratified on Aug. 19, 1920, at over 20 woman-focused places in the D.C. area including historically significant restaurants like Hank’s Oyster Bar, Union Market, Esencias Panameñas, and Centrolina. So bring your appetite as you learn about the fight to grant women the right to vote and its centennial.
The First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio is the home of First Lady Ida Saxton-McKinley. In Philadelphia, which has been renamed “The City of Sisterly Love,” the Betsy Ross House tells the stories of the nation’s first flag maker, freed African American women and other Colonial women and their contributions. (Check out Eileen Ogintz’s brand new Kid’s Guide to Philadelphia!)
We hope you’ll use our guide to make your spring break or summer vacation planning easier — and please share your own discoveries below.
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