PHOTO: Sunrise at Amelia Island, Florida. (photo via Flickr/Patty O'Hearn Kickham)
There may have been a time where overcrowded beaches and bars filled with partying rowdy college kids throwing down Jell-O shooters was fun for spring break, but for many of us, thankfully, those days are behind us.
Travelers looking for a different kind of spring break experience can rest assured there are plenty of destinations, offering their own getaway appeal sans hordes of college kids or families with children in tow.
After all, each of us deserves our own form of escapism and that’s what spring break is for.
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Portland enjoys a reputation for having more breweries than any other city in the U.S. Travelers from around the globe come to enjoy world-class microbreweries offering sensational craft beers in a variety of flavors and styles.
Aside from its beer and widely acclaimed cuisine and gourmet food carts, though, Portland is also blessed with an abundance of natural beauty.
The Willamette River meanders through the heart of this attractive city that sits in the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood. Just 30 minutes away, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers amazing vistas, hiking trails, more than 90 waterfalls and some of the best windsurfing.
For wine lovers, Portland’s got that covered too. The rolling hills of the fertile, award-winning Willamette Valley’s wine country begin right outside the city limits. This beautiful region is widely recognized for its award-winning Pinot Noir.
It’s hard to beat wineries and tasting rooms surrounded by magnificent panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains.
For a total laid-back spring break experience, it’s hard to beat Boulder. Yes, it’s a college town, but the students are likely to be elsewhere during spring break.
At 5,430 feet above sea level and tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, historic Boulder emits positive energy and charisma with a western flair. Artsy bohemian Pearl Street has hundreds of shops and boutiques, while the street entertainment is always fun. Dubbed “America’s Foodiest Town” on more than one occasion, its innovative chef-owned and operated restaurants serve some of the most creative cuisines around. Microbreweries are also a highlight with beer aficionados.
A leading spot for outdoor sports, Boulder has over 200 miles of hiking trails and bicycle paths, not to mention its close proximity to the Rockies for those seeking even more outdoor adventure.
San Antonio, Texas
Many years ago, both Mark Twain and Will Rogers dubbed San Antonio one of America’s most outstanding cities in America. What makes this Texas destination so special is how it successfully melds its multicultural heritage with its fascinating history.
No trip to San Antonio is complete without visiting River Walk, a verdant oasis of cypress-lined paths and arched stone bridges along the banks of the San Antonio River. Visitors can meander through a myriad of shops and colorful umbrella-covered outdoor restaurants. First-timers will love the 35-minute narrated historical river cruise through the heart of River Walk.
Texas’ most historical landmark, The Alamo, invites visitors to the site of the famous 1836 battle where brave heroes like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie sacrificed their lives for the fledgling Republic of Texas. Be sure to speak in hushed tones and remove your hats inside the Alamo—Texans will remind visitors they are treading on sacred ground.
READ MORE Escape to the Caribbean for Spring Break
An alternative to Cancun’s crowded spring break beaches: Rent a car from the airport and head south to Tulum’s breathtaking stretch of sand along Mexico's eastern coast where its Mayan history is celebrated.
Tulum is one of the best-preserved historic Mayan coastal sites in all of Mexico and is rumored by many to have some of the world’s best magical energy. Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, the fantastic Mayan ruins possess a surreal and haunting beauty that’s almost indescribable.
Additional out-of-this-world wonders in the Riveria Maya include many cenotes (underground water-filled caverns) and several bioreserves for snorkeling and exploring the magnificent flora and fauna. It’s a perfect destination for adults who desire a little more peace and tranquility on their vacation in a complete tropical paradise.
It’s hard to describe Sonoma in any other way other than “it literally has it all”.
There’s no doubt most vacationers come to Sonoma for its award-winning wineries set among the pastoral rolling hills of the central California countryside. The village of Sonoma itself is a charming slice of small-town life with cafes, galleries and restaurants located in historic buildings and sunny courtyards.
As an added bonus, it’s only a short drive along the picturesque Russian River to the spectacular coastline and beaches of the Pacific Coast. Vacationers can also hike or zipline the redwoods, kayak scenic waterways, take a drive to historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, learn how to shuck oysters or take a culinary arts class.
Amelia Island, Florida
Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is known for its pristine beaches, stunning state parks, championship golf courses, abundant wildlife and natural island beauty. Life slows down to the perfect pace here. For some, this makes it the ideal grown-up spring destination.
From horseback rides on the beach, kayaking trips, whale watching or luxurious day spas, this island has a lot to offer.
Accommodations range from luxury resorts, vacation rental homes to quaint seaside inns. Seafood is king on the island, and there’s no shortage of upscale restaurants or beachside shacks serving up fresh and delectable fruit of the sea.
Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico
On a plateau at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, (elevation of 7,000 feet), Santa Fe is a colorful, artistic, authentic southwestern art community where fiesta is always happening and foods like chicken enchiladas, quesadillas and margaritas never tasted so good.
If centuries-old adobe dwellings and ancient cultures are your thing, Taos should be part of your spring break plans as well. Located about 70 miles north of Santa Fe, the sheer natural beauty of the area is due to its majestic mountains and spectacular high desert mesa where the palate changes hourly as the sun moves across the sky.
Together, these two spectacular southwest towns go a long way in establishing New Mexico’s moniker as the “Land of Enchantment.”