Avoid the College Spring Break Party Destinations: Try These 10 Fun Family Spots in the U.S.

Shake off the winter doldrums at these family-friendly destinations that are especially great in the springtime.
Grand Canyon mule ride from the South Rim (Photo: Shutterstock)
Grand Canyon (Photo: Shutterstock)

When the temperatures rise, the flowers bloom, and the birds begin to sing, it can only mean one thing: The best spring break destinations for families are ready to welcome parents and kids back for a much-needed reprieve from the winter doldrums. 

If you’re vacationing with teens, tweens, toddlers, or even a baby, you probably want to avoid the college spring break party destinations. Fortunately, many of the best family vacation spots in the U.S. go all-in on spring activities and attractions for kids. When it’s time to make your spring family vacation ideas a reality, here are the top places to go with kids in March, April, and May

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1. Honolulu

Surfboards lined up on Oahu beach
Spring is an especially good time to visit Oahu (Photo: Robert Linder via Unsplash)

Any time of year is a good time to visit Oahu, but spring is especially nice because the chances of a rainy day drop quite a bit, particularly in the month of May. In Honolulu, Hawaii’s biggest city, you can spend your days lounging on the beach at Waikiki, a world-renowned spot for family beach vacations; hiking and biking in the shadow of Diamond Head’s massive 350-acre volcanic crater; or exploring kid-friendly spots like the Honolulu Zoo, Kapiolani Park, and the Waikiki Aquarium.

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For the little ones, head to the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon in front of the family-friendly Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. This shallow saltwater lagoon has no waves, and floatation devices are welcome. The Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center offers hands-on activities for the younger set too, while older kids and teens can learn about history at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

2. San Diego

Girls on the beach in San Diego (Photo: @debb_alba via Twenty20)
San Diego’s sunny and pleasant spring weather makes it a great choice for families (Photo: @debb_alba via Twenty20)

The beaches in San Diego may not be quite hot enough in spring to draw the college crowd (temps usually hover in the 60s Fahrenheit through May) but you’ll still enjoy that famous Southern California sun. Head for perennial family favorites like Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, the 17 museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, and—just a few miles up the freeway—one of the best amusement parks for kids on the West Coast, LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad.

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Spring is also the perfect time to hop on a whale watching charter boat and spot some migrating gray whales. Stay at The Westin San Diego Bayview for spacious rooms and convenient amenities right in the heart of one of the best spring break destinations for families.

3. Grand Canyon, Arizona

Mules on the South Kaibob trail in the Grand Canyon (Photo: @rvoutlawz via Twenty20)
Every family should visit the Grand Canyon at least once (Photo: @rvoutlawz via Twenty20)

The Grand Canyon may be one of the most visited tourist attractions in the U.S., but it’s also one of the best national parks to visit in spring precisely because the notoriously crowded South Rim doesn’t get quite as many visitors in the shoulder season (with the exception of a few busy school vacation weeks). Visiting the Grand Canyon in the springtime means avoiding that dangerous desert heat, too—temperatures don’t usually hit 90 degrees until late May.

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If you can plan your family spring break trip well in advance, reserve a campsite inside the Canyon, along with a mule ride to take you up and down. Other fun activities include river rafting and tubing between the canyon walls, and the vertigo-inducing Grand Canyon Skywalk located on the West Rim (not part of the national park).

The more secluded North Rim doesn’t open until mid-May and only welcomes visitors until October, but it’s a far less-crowded alternative if you can plan your family’s spring break vacation for the second half of May. 

4. Park City, Utah

Mom walking across a bridge on the ropes course at Utah Olympic Park (Photo: Park City Chamber)
Park City is a four-season vacation destination for families (Photo: Park City Chamber)

If you didn’t get quite enough skiing in on your winter family vacation, you’re in luck at Park City, one of the best spring break destinations in the U.S. for families who love spring skiing. Many Utah ski resorts don’t close until April or later, and there’s nothing quite like gliding down a slope in the spring sun. Several family ski resorts in Park City offer steeply discounted or even free passes for kids this time of year too. 

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Stay at the Grand Summit Hotel, a ski-in, ski-out resort with a huge heated pool, ski school, and on-site child care. When you need a break from the slopes, head to the Alf Engen Ski Museum at the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. If you visit in late spring, take the kids to the Park City Mountain Village Zip Line course for some outdoor alpine adventure.

5. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Mammoth Hot Springs
Spring is the “just right” time to visit Yellowstone National Park (Photo: Jean Beller via Unsplash)

Yellowstone’s most popular areas are overwhelmed by tourists in the summer, and while it’s one of the best national parks to visit in winter when the wildlife and geyser-viewing opportunities are unencumbered by crowds, the real sweet spot for many families is late spring. This “just right” time to visit finds the park less crowded than in summer but noticeably warmer than in winter.

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Some roads and accommodations inside the park are closed until mid-April and some features don’t open until May, so plan your family spring break to Yellowstone for the late spring. (The northern entrance in Gardiner, Montana, is open year-round.)

Of course, you’ll want to see the famous geysers, but time your spring getaway for early May and you can also stay at Old Faithful Inn, a shining example of the log-style “parkitecture” of the most beautiful national park lodges in the country. Old Faithful Inn is typically open from early May to early October each year, weather permitting.  

6. Chicago

Chicago boat tour (Photo: @merah_gula via Twenty20)
Avoid the summer and winter extremes by visiting Chicago in the spring (Photo: @merah_gula via Twenty20)

The city of Chicago is a popular Midwest family vacation destination year-round, but it’s one of the best spring break destinations for families because visiting in spring allows you to avoid the city’s summer humidity.

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Visitors to the Windy City won’t want to miss the Field Museum, home to 4.6 billion years of history, including perfectly preserved T-Rexes and Titanosaurs, Egyptian tombs, and much more. Families will also enjoy spending a day at the Shedd Aquarium exploring more than 35,000 aquatic creatures, then heading 1,450 feet upward to the top of Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) for breathtaking skyline views from Skydeck Chicago.

Other kid-friendly attractions include the Museum of Science and Industry (the largest museum in North America) and the Adler Planetarium, where you can fly to the stars in the sky theater. Stay in the heart of the action at the LondonHouse Chicago, which is within walking distance of Millennium Park.

7. Athens, Georgia

Washington Street in Athens is home to many restaurants and music venues (Photo: Athens CVB)
Washington Street in Athens is home to many restaurants and music venues (Photo: Athens CVB)

As the song goes, there’s nothing like the Southland in the springtime, and friendly little Athens, Georgia, is a perfect example of why the South is a great spring break destination for families. 

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In Athens, you can learn about native Georgia wildlife and see the wildlife rescue facility at Bear Hollow Zoo. Just up the road at Sandy Creek Nature Center, kids can tour a 19th-century log cabin and explore more than 225 acres of wild woodland. The whole family will enjoy a stroll through downtown, where you’ll find restaurants, shopping, and plenty of University of Georgia gear to take home. And speaking of UGA, sports fans won’t want to miss the Butts-Mehre UGA Sports Museum, which brings some of the greatest moments in sports history to life.

Stay at the centrally located Hyatt Place Athens Downtown, where family-friendly amenities include free breakfast and a swimming pool. 

8. Cocoa Beach, Florida

Surfers on Cocoa Beach (Photo: Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism)
Avoid the spring break party crowds at Cocoa Beach (Photo: Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism)

Spring break in Florida isn’t just for college kids. Not only are there plenty of spring break ideas for families on a budget in the Sunshine State, it’s entirely possible to take full advantage of the sunny spring weather while avoiding all the party crowds. The welcoming surf town of Cocoa Beach is just close enough to the Orlando theme parks that you can easily explore Disney’s Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios or the Harry Potter theme park areas at Universal Studios, then retreat to the laidback Florida beaches and state parks for more low-key Florida family vacation fun.

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Hitch a ride on the Cocoa Beach Trolley (kids five and under ride free), take a deep sea fishing charter, or stroll along the 800-foot Cocoa Beach boardwalk and pier for relaxing spring break entertainment. Don’t miss the Florida Surf Museum, either—older kids may even want to take a lesson. For a quiet beach experience, head to Lori Wilson Park

Stay at the beachfront Inn at Cocoa Beach and enjoy the freshly baked muffins each morning along with views of the Atlantic and an outdoor swimming pool.

9. Washington

Washington D.C. Family Vacation
Washington, DC, is at its prettiest in the spring (Photo: Jacob Creswick via Unsplash)

The nation’s capital is at its prettiest in the spring, especially when the cherry trees are blooming and the National Cherry Blossom Festival is underway. It’s a fun family spring break destination that can also inspire young travelers to discover a love for history. The many Smithsonian institutions, including the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, are just a few of the faves. The International Spy Museum is another can’t-miss in Washington, D.C.

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Of course, you won’t want to miss the National Mall, U.S. Capitol Building, and the Lincoln Memorial, either. Stay at The Hay-Adams, which offers an upscale experience with views of Lafayette Park and the Capitol complex.

10. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Clingmans Dome
The Great Smoky Mountains are a perfect destination for spring camping and hiking (Photo: Kirk Thornton via Unsplash)

The Smoky Mountains come alive with color in the spring as wildflowers fill the valleys and meadows with stunning hues. Join the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in late April to seek out your favorites, or visit later in spring when fireflies light up the evenings. 

For outdoorsy families, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most accessible spring vacation spots because of its miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails for all abilities, not to mention wildlife viewing opportunities, historic buildings to tour, and family campgrounds to help your family get back to nature.

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The only non-camping lodging inside the park is LeConte Lodge, which can only be reached via a strenuous hike. It’s an unusual spring break destination that’s perfect for active families with older kids and teens, but there are many hotels in the surrounding region that are more accommodating to a variety of ages and fitness levels.

For a real treat, stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort in nearby Pigeon Forge, where you can enjoy the on-site water park, theme park, and a variety of entertainment for the whole family at Dollywood

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Linsay Evans
Linsay's background is in marketing, copywriting, and non-profit development. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and dogs; when she's not writing or traveling, she loves to garden, read, sail, and snowboard.