Sun, Snow And Sea Spring Break Vacation Ideas
Author: Family Travel Forum StaffTags : Baby, Beach, Canada, Caribbean, Cheap Vacation, City Break, Cruise, Eco-Tourism, Europe, Family Reunion, Featured, France, Kids Club, Montreal, Museums & Culture, North America, Paris, Quebec, Snowsports, South America, Spa & Wellness, Spring Break, USA, Volunteer, Water & Themeparks
The perfect spring break getaway is one of the easiest and best value vacations to plan, so we invite you to sit down with this roundup of the top adventure, beach, resort, cruise, festival, city, historical and international short breaks and explore the possibilities. The following places recommended by us and Taking the Kids guarantee a better-than-college spring break experience whether you’re planning a reunion of several generations, fun with a bunch of friends, or some “we” time with loved ones.
Spring Break Adventure Trips
Some of the most memorable outdoors and wilderness trips are best undertaken in our spring, or autumn in the southern hemisphere. Couples as well as families will appreciate new adventure destinations like the fjords of Milford Sound, New Zealand, one of the many stunning natural locations for the latest Peter Jackson thriller, “The Hobbit.” Grandparents may want to consider a guided spring or summer tour for the whole family where the tour operator provides extra support for all ages to enjoy themselves.
The full service, luxury outfitter Austin Adventures, recently acquired by the well regarded National Parks concessionaire Xanterra, is sending its expert guides out beyond U.S. borders to Central and South America, as well as Africa. This year, they have more than 20 programs for all ages and physical abilities (plus they will custom design a trip just for your group) including one to track gorillas in the Congo. The rain forest in Panama is another popular eco-tourism spot where visitors can base themselves in an eco-lodge and use local guides to explore.
Family river-rafting adventures began at O.A.R.S. in 1969 and continue today with special-for-kids trips on Oregon’s Rogue River, Idaho’s Lower Salmon and Utah’s Green River, rafting the Gates of Lodore. You can put together your own group of family and friends too, whether you prefer a multi-sport wilderness adventure in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks or hiking in the Grand Canyon. New this year is Premier Pricing which offers 10% off to the first four participants to book domestic trips by March 31; check out their beautifully photographed catalogue for more ideas.
Roughing it adventures are never cheap, but we know there are many budget trips where you will roam beyond your comfort zone and help the destination you are visiting. Earthwatch, Passports with Purpose and many other non-profit organizations organize volunteer vacations and can lead you to resources for half-day give back opportunities at most resort areas.
Spring Break Beach Getaways
If you associate spring break with a blanket on the sand, join the crowds. Beach vacations remain the most popular choice for all age leisure travelers. We’re suggesting some alternative towns in the Florida Keys, Gulf Coast, and southern California where you’ll find the same temperate weather as their well known neighbors, but at better values. Besides, we’re done with flop and drop family vacations. We want to return home with more meaningful experiences than sunburn pain and know you do, too.
That’s why we like Hawk’s Cay on Duck Key in south Florida. Families can enroll kids ages 5-12 in their supervised Camp Hawk programs, book spa time for teens, and play together at the pirate themed pool. Adults have kiteboarding and fishing in the Atlantic, diving in the only living coral reef in the continental U.S., a jetski for touring, or a JetLev for flying above the surf. Every guest can take part in an educational dolphin encounter and visit the nearby Turtle Hospital to see the work they’re doing for local sea turtles.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on Florida’s Gulf Coast is perfect for your extended clan, particularly if they like golf and tennis or are looking for calm, gentle surf for baby. This very large resort complex has courts, greens, a marina, bays, beaches and myriad styles of accommodation, from private homes to highrise, hotels to condominiums. With their Spring promotion you can save up to 30% on your vacation rental and use their bikes, kayaks, boogie boards, tennis courts and the fitness center free of charge. Families like the complimentary kids and family-together events, but if you want to enroll little ones in the supervised kids club during, say, the Sandestin Wine Festival April 10-13, their staff will happily accommodate you.
Farther west, Galveston, Texas has prospered as a cruise ship port and used those resources to clean up its historic district. The Pleasure Pier built in the style of the 1930’s adds a fun amusement park where a wristband will buy the kids all the rides they like. The large glass domes at Moody Gardens support different habitats that range from rain forest to penguins to sharks, with a small palm-fringed waterpark for toddlers, three movie theatres and even a paddlewheel boat. There’s a museum of flight and an Oil Rig Museum so when you’re done making sandcastles in view of the rigs, you can head inside and learn more about them. Note that the amazing Schlitterbahn Waterpark is open year round and is much less crowded than in summer.
Bypass busy Mission Bay in San Diego and base the family in Carlsbad, the cute beach town near the Legoland California Resort. Besides the recreation at many fine resorts like the Omni La Costa, Carlsbad family activities include a music museum where visitors don headsets and try out riffs on several instruments, perhaps sparking a lifelong love of music. Don’t miss an excellent meal of locally sourced California cuisine and wines on the outdoor terrace of Paon; it’s very good.
Kids, couples and grandparents will appreciate the diversity of the islands of Hawaii. Honolulu has become hip again, as the gateway to O’ahu’s volcano tours and North Shore surfing destinations. The renovated Turtle Bay Resort, the only one on this side of the island, has just begun the Kainalu Jr. Waterman Program, a five-day gathering that focuses on expert-led ocean safety training and experiential ocean science education classes for ages 10-18 with swimming proficiency. Many families like Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa because of its emphasis on the traditional Hawaiian culture. The one-lane bridges and narrow, winding roads of Kauai evoke the Hawaii of yesteryear; you can still buy guava or Li Hing Mui (sweet Asian plum) shaved ices along the roadside, or play golf within sight of the sea.
For tropical resorts with a Latin flair, head south to Puerto Rico. You won’t have to get passports for the whole family because this territory welcomes US visitors of all ages to its beautiful beaches, historic fortresses, rain forest canopy tours, bio-luminescent bay, and contemporary art galleries, with just a photo ID.
The small, Mexican-owned Palace Resorts group has posh all-inclusive resorts designed for both families and adults in nearby Cancun, close to the nightlife and great beaches. Pursue the region’s fascinating history at ancient Mayan towns, such as Tulum or Coba, and at the eco-cultural nature and water parks. At Xcaret – which tops our list of must-see manmade wonders -- you can explore the sea or the Mayan jungle by sunlight or moonlight, and catch a sophisticated folkloric show; at Xplor your adventurers can go underground into a local cave system or stick around for “Xplor Fuego” their nighttime fire spectacular; at Xenotes in Puerto Morelos, the whole family can swim in underground rivers. We loved our recent stay on the shores of the Caribbean at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean and Mexico, the all-inclusive Palladium Resorts enable families to have fun together and adults to get a break with mini clubs that are open all day and evening. The new “Play at Palladium with Raggs” family program presented in conjunction with the PBS and Telemudo show of the same name, adds five colorful, fuzzy, puppy-like characters as on-site ambassadors, doing meet-and-greets with grandparents, hosting Mini Club activities, poolside events, a disco party, breakfasts and a 50-minute live show where the doggy rock band performs. Check the Palladium Resorts website for advance purchase savings at several resorts; as we go to press you can save up to 55% at their Jamaica resort.
West Coast families should head south to Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast. This charming and long-famous beach resort (check out "Night of the Iguana" on Netflix) is a great base to sample the region’s many adventures. Older kids and active parents can try whale watching; swimming with dolphins; nature encounters with sea lions and tropical birds; fishing; helping out with the local sea turtle release program; and swinging through a forest canopy in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Toddlers will enjoy the calm shallow surf along many of the resort beaches on Banderas Bay. Ask about guides to visit the Indian community of San Andrés Coamihata, home to the Wixárika or Huichol Indians, where the whole family can learn about their culture.
City Breaks and Springtime College Tours
We all know that travel is educational, but the US Travel Association, which publishes the site TravelEffect.com has begun to quantify just how educational a vacation can be. Their Summer 2013 Education Survey found that students who have traveled in their youth tend to have higher school grades and test scores and that students who traveled on educational trips in their youth make nearly 12% more (or $5,000) annually later in their careers, than those who did not travel. So with college kids on spring break, it’s the perfect time of year to plan campus visits, and this will be a family vacation that inspires all the kids to study just a bit harder. Visit the coveted surf schools in southern California, the ski schools in Colorado, and the Ivy League schools and major state universities in such fun cities as New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle or Southern California.
If you book weekend campus tours, you can take advantage of lower rates at full service convention and business hotels. Whether you crave a lively city experience with your prospective students, or prefer to stay a bit out of town and enjoy a resort getaway, Omni Hotels & Resorts has a perfectly affordable, luxe destination for the entire family. (This company rolls out family amenities for the spring and Easter holidays to please younger sibs). Dispel the inevitable stress by making time for some family fun. CityPASS prepaid ticket booklets have been around for 15 years and have a 95% rating from families who have saved up to 50% on admission fees to the top attractions. Our favorite thing? CityPASS tickets get you front of the line access in 11 major cities, all day every day.
At the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, you can introduce the family to the court of Camelot at the fascinating John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Don’t let “museum” become a dirty word; museums today range from those which make sense of the visual arts – we love the stunning “Armory at 100” show at the New York Historical Society that introduces kids to the concept of modern art – to hands-on, interactive displays. At the innovative Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest in the country, all ages will be thrilled by the exclusive visit of authentic, life size terra cotta figures and other archeological finds from the famous Tomb of the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian, plus the interactive "China: Take Me There" show. Adult companions will also get a kick out of Leonardo, the mummified dinosaur, who’s there to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Dinosphere.
Look for what’s special in every place you visit -- Fort Worth, Texas is another historic destination that brings Cowboy lore to life with Stockyard tours and Western art museums. Plan a few days to take in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the Cowtown Coliseum, and see the twice daily, free cattle roundup known as the Fort Worth Herd. In late March and early April, the NCAA basketball tournament will be held in the neighboring AT&T Stadium making spring a great time for basketball fans to bring the family to Fort Worth. You may be able to catch a race at the Texas Motor Speedway with the world’s largest HD Video Board, or meet koala cubs at the famous Fort Worth Zoo. Taking the Kids paid a visit to Fort Worth family attractions recently.
Spring is a terrific time to visit Washington, DC where some of the nation’s finest museums and annual festivals are totally free. March 20 through April 27, 2014 is the period for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which even includes a special Blossom Kite Festival. Hotels like the Fairmont Washington DC, with its own garden courtyard and indoor pool, organize special bed-and-breakfast packages for this season but also have year-round family deals with institutions such as the Smithsonian. We love the Fairmont Washington’s Panda Package (starting at $229 per night) that supports National Zoo superstars Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and the new baby panda Bao Bao. In addition to a contribution, families of four get a Zoo Welcome Kit with a plush panda, zoo map, and interactive zoo games and toys. Among many other cheap or free places to see are the Rock Creek Park planetarium, the National Mall and the space shuttle installed at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Museum in nearby Virginia. The new “Kids Guide to Washington DC” will help kids lead the way.
Spring Season Cruises for Kids, Teens, Couples and Grands
Cruises are always a good bet for relaxing reunions because meals and accommodations are prearranged and paid for, and there’s no worrying about getting to the next destination. If grandparents are along, the supervised programs for infants, tots, kids and teens – not to mention the scheduled bridge games – keep everyone in the family busy. In our Family Cruise Section roundup you’ll find many reviews, but a recent voyage with Royal Caribbean underscored just how important a variety of activities can be. Some kids dove right into the Flowrider surf simulator and waterplay zones on the upper pool decks. Others signed up for a Barbie Doll Costume Workshop. Grandparents brought preschoolers to the character breakfast where Shrek and his Dreamworks Animation pals appeared, then dropped them off at the kids club so they could gamble or attend an art auction. Royal Caribbean has been sailing the Caribbean Sea for 45 years and will maintain 16 ships there this year, all of which will call at either Labadee, Haiti or CocoCay in the Bahamas, the line’s two private island beaches. In addition to their largest ships, the state-of-the-art Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, check the RCL sailings from convenient U.S. homeports in Baltimore, Cape Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, Miami, New Orleans, the New York-area and Tampa.
In spring, choose a cruise from a homeport near you and skip the airfare. Go for three days or a week depending on what deals you find on websites like CruiseCompete.com where agents who specialize in cruises offer their best values and advise you on choices. Alternatively, you can visit a travel agent near your home who is a cruise expert by looking at Cruising.org.
Conde Nast Traveler recommends Adventuresmith Explorations for its expertise in small ships that ply unusual itineraries in the Americas, Asia, Mediterranean and polar regions – an adventure you really want to check out before you commit. To celebrate the Panama Canal, turning 100 in 2014, Adventuresmith suggests an eight-day itinerary that begins in Herradura, Costa Rica and sails the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Panama, transits the Panama Canal, calls on the San Blas Islands, and ends in pretty Cartagena, Colombia. The maximum 72 passengers aboard this motorized yacht can make their voyage exciting or relaxing or both with a choice of activities -- and the $2,590 starting price is a bargain.
Spring Time History and Heritage Journeys
Build a spring getaway around early American history. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is celebrating the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s monumental address, and after you’re toured the battlefield, relax at the nearby Liberty Mountain Resort which has had tremendous success introducing newcomers to skiing and snowboarding. (The annual Living History encampments of life ca. 1863 don’t begin until April and run through October.)
Virginia’s Historic Triangle of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown are popular for spring break. In Williamsburg, enter actual historic buildings and learn about them from costumed re-enactors and iPhone tours, then discuss Colonial lifestyles while enjoying the nearby Kingsmill Resort. Large family gatherings will appreciate the comfortable, one- to three- bedroom units and many facilities, including three golf courses, tennis center, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, Marina Beach and a supervised Kids Kamp. The resort’s shuttle serves Busch Gardens Williamsburg, where kids can have their own day to ride the thrillers. From the end of March to late May, the Spring Fever package that starts at $399 per night for a family of four includes Busch Gardens tickets and daily breakfast.
Kansas City, Missouri -– home to the fascinating collection of documents, art and memorabilia known as the Black Archives of Mid-America -– boasts many special events during Black History Month. Any time of year, the historic 18th & Vine District is fun to visit. The American Jazz Museum puts on regular Open Jazz Rehearsals so visitors can watch musicians practice and talk about their artistry. Nearby, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum celebrates the success of black athletes in the era between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, when baseball and other sports were not integrated. The Crown Center is the place to make free crafts projects at Hallmark’s Kaleidoscope workshop, buy souvenirs at Taste of Kansas City, watch your burger arrive by elevated train at Fritz’s or have a colorful family dining experience at the Crayola Café. If you miss the annual Restaurant Week, count on a great meal at the classic Jack Strong or one of the hundred other barbecue joints in every Kansas City neighborhood.
Include a stop at historic sites in major resort areas, too. There’s plenty of colorful history at the Alamo in the city of San Antonio, and the famous battleship Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Such places bring famous battles to life and encourage grandparents to connect with younger generations through stories only they can share.
Outdoors in the Spring
If sports rule in your household, this is the time to take your team to spring training, a mainstay at small stadiums in Florida and Arizona. You’ll find special lodging packages close to every stadium; Kissimmee Florida, for example, is a great place to catch the Houston Astros in training followed by an afternoon at the nearby Orlando themeparks. In Peoria, Arizona, spend the afternoon watching the San Diego Padres or Seattle Mariners get into form, then head out after dark to do a night vision tour of the starlit desert and get to know the region’s nocturnal creatures.
Grandparents, on the other hand, may find it perfect weather to introduce the grandkids to their passion for golf, at its best in Arizona, Hawaii and Palm Springs resorts. Myrtle Beach is another popular springtime golf destination, with more than 100 local courses, many of which let kids play free. From there, it’s a day’s drive to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, only one of the many national parks that are much less crowded in spring than in summer.
At Yellowstone National Park, guests can traverse the snow-packed trails to Old Faithful on private Snowcoach tours, or check into lodges to snowshoe, snowmobile or go ice-fishing before everything melts. In the Pacific Northwest, Olympic National Park has tidepools, some of the largest remnants of ancient forests left in the country and mountain vistas, three major ecosystems to explore. Visit the John Wayne Marina near the Dungeness Lighthouse; it was a favorite sailing area for the cowboy star and is the place to rent boats so you can get up close with this striking lighthouse.
The pine forests of South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills surround Rapid City, a town that’s centrally located to such national treasures as Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park and Badlands National Park. Rapid City offers urban pleasures to complement your outdoor adventures such as museums and galleries along Art Alley, boutiques, and the Native American history of the Lakota tribe. With more than 4,300 hotels rooms (including some indoor water parks) and fine local restaurants, you can do big things together for a memorable family vacation experience.
Snow Play in the Spring Sunshine
The longer days, warms rays of a spring sun and the dry light powder that falls out West make spring skiing one of life’s great pleasures. It’s also the perfect weather to turn your littlest ones, who are so susceptible to the cold, into lifelong snow sports lovers. Check out our annual roundup of the Top Family Snow Sports Resorts section for more reviews and destination ideas. But here are some spring skiing favorites.
As New Hampshire’s largest ski mountain, Bretton Woods is home to the beautifully restored, historic Omni Mount Washington Hotel where Churchill and Roosevelt met to plan a new international finance system at the end of World War II. There’s contemporary fun in store for those who want to experience a zip line (actually nine of them) plus two sky bridges and three rappels on a unique canopy tour.
A lot of modern improvements have transformed Snowmass Village in Colorado, as well as an ancient one: the discovery of a mammoth fossil! A scientist from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is in residence from January 6 – March 31, 2014 at the free Ice Age Discovery Center to explain the find, and the new safety mascot, Wally the Mammoth, will be spreading the message of responsible skiing and riding throughout the mountain. The upgraded Treehouse Adventure Center is now one of the best children’s play areas in the ski industry (think a mini indoor climbing wall!) In addition to fine dining and an après-ski scene, the new Elk Camp restaurant mid-mountain at Snowmass is the center of the “Ullr Nights” winter carnival every Friday night, when families discover a carved-snow Viking ghost ship with its own slide and sledding hill, snowbiking, wild Nordic dancing and s’mores waiting by the bonfire. At the Aspen/Snowmass resorts kids stay, rent, ski and even eat free all March and April (as long as you book in advance and purchase lodging and a three-day adult lift ticket.)
Skiers really appreciate Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, which prohibits snowboarders to concentrate on grooming trails, controlling crowds and providing exceptional service and meals to its guests. Spring is a great time to book the large, ski-in ski-out rooms at the Stein Eriksen Lodge because late season rates are less and you can take advantage of the luxury service, pampering and spa treatments for everyone in the family. (If you’re there, be sure to sample their Sunday Brunch.) As skiing winds down in mid April, the Park City art scene, theatre and concerts blossom again, guaranteeing something for every visitor.
New York has more ski mountains than any other state and 25 of them welcome all 3rd and 4th graders to learn the sport with free lessons and lift tickets all season. There’s lots of history in those hills, making getting there intriguing for all ages: Holiday Valley has their classic Winter Carnival the first weekend in March; Windham has an Irish Festival the second weekend and historic Lake Placid, home to two winter Olympics, offers luge or bobsled rides down an Olympic track (with a driver), ice climbing, and skating on the famous Olympic Oval when you’re not skiing or riding Whiteface Mountain. The state’s sweetest tradition is Maple Weekend, taking place March 22-23 and 29-30, 2014 at more than 100 maple producers around the state -– make history come alive for your kids and enjoy the pancakes.
There’s more than excellent spring skiing at the world-class resorts around California’s Lake Tahoe. Near the base areas of Squaw Valley USA and Heavenly, you’ll find golf, boating, fishing, hiking and mountain biking at sea level. For adult fun, check into a Lake Tahoe resort on the Nevada side of the hills and enjoy gambling and nightlife – several provide childcare too so parents can plan a night out on the town.
Mountain resorts know how to enjoy spring in the snow, and even dude ranches provide some horseback riding, good meals and a relaxing time in spectacular country whether in Arizona, Texas or Colorado. Think snow-covered sleigh rides, tubing, hot chocolate (and wine) by the fire. Check out Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado or Eileen Ogintz’ review of a winter stay at the C Lazy U Ranch.
Many ranches and mountain destinations organize local dogsled tours, a great way to get babies and toddlers out into the woods on very cold days. These operators provide all the clothes and gear you’ll need; in fact at the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, Minnesota you can climb aboard and travel for several days of adventure.
Theme Parks in the Springtime
Family spring breaks are all the rage at the major U.S. theme parks, where all ages can find thrill rides, themed attractions and live shows to their liking. The parks are especially welcoming for those with special challenges too.
Two and a half million visitors arrived in Orlando, Florida last March and April, making it one of the country’s top Spring Break destinations. Plan ahead and avoid lines with Undercover Tourist by purchasing discounted theme park tickets and having them shipped directly to your door; they have discounted car rentals too. If you can, go after the few weeks of spring and Easter break, and before mid-June for the best deals, or wait until September when prices drop again. The city’s TheMagicard offers discounts on everything from attractions to accommodations and restaurants.
Couples with babies in tow can take advantage of the Rider Switch policies at major Disney and Universal 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. The latest attractions at Disney World’s New Fantasyland even have a play area where families can romp while waiting to be notified of their turn by electronic pagers.
More good news: central Florida is not as hot and humid as in July. Just an hour from Orlando is the Space Coast and the Kennedy Space Center, whose space camp and astronaut encounters allow everyone’s imagination to take flight.
Beginning in late March, SeaWorld is kicking off an 18-month-long 50th anniversary celebration with a new Shamu Show, guest prizes, the super steep Ihu’s Breakway Falls waterslide at Aquatica, and more activities highlighting the marine learning activities at their parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio. Their sister park Sesame Place in Pennsylvania is celebrating Elmo’s birthday in February and debuting a brand new Cookies Monster Land section in May.
The 19 different Six Flags parks promise plenty of new thrills and family attractions with new water rides (Bonzai Pipelines at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Los Angeles), bigger kids’ areas (Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington) and bigger thrills for big kids.
Alternate the serious stuff with a laughter break at the Mall of America’s indoor amusement park, Nickelodeon Universe, open daily in any weather. Book one of the neighboring hotels to take advantage of unlimited ride passes and the many other attractions in its vast space, but avoid Saturdays at this very popular shopping and entertainment complex, one of the world’s largest.
International Spring Getaways
Tourism to all of Europe is running about 5% ahead of recent years, and that popularity is driving airfares up. In 2014, the 100th anniversary of World War I and the 70th anniversary of the Normandy D-Day landing will bring history buffs and multigenerational groups to the major sites in France and Germany. Spring is still the value season for those who plan ahead, with the top values found in the Eastern European countries of Croatia and Estonia. Croatia especially has become a destination for small ship cruising with many beachside towns and small ports that are easy to tour on foot.
You don’t need Frank Sinatra to sing it for you – spring in Paris is the time to visit there, with fewer crowds, lower prices and finer weather than during the May to September peak season. See the city’s latest sights with the help of Paris Greeters, local volunteers who want to show off favorite neighborhoods as part of the Global Greeter Network. Choose your interest and your language on their website, and an available guide will escort you at no charge. Both chefs and diners in your party will benefit from a cooking class such as those offered by La Cuisine de Paris which include market visits, instruction and presentation. The classic Paris Pass is well worthwhile for discounted entry to museums and top attractions such as Versailles, sending you to the front of the line as well.
Teens love Amsterdam, and it isn’t only because marijuana is legally served in the city’s famous coffee shops. It’s because you can get around by bike or boat, the Waterlooplein Flea Market is fun, the architecture is so picturesque, and there are the first-rate museums such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House. There is also plenty for younger children to do in Amsterdam, where all ages will benefit from IAmsterdam Card access to museums and a host of other discounts. Don’t miss a day at Keukenhof Gardens, open this year only from March20-May18 with the most spectacular tulip and floral display in the Netherlands.
Other spring travelers will choose to minimize the travel time and enjoy Montreal, Quebec, Canada, a great place to give the kids a bona fide foreign experience without having to cross the ocean. Friends and family can practice French, eat crepes and onion soup, shop or hit a museum. Most Montreal sights are served by the bilingually-guided Hop On and Off bus, a good option in inclement weather. Kids love Montreal’s Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), Canada’s largest natural science complex with a biodome housing four different ecosystems, a botanical garden, the creepy but fascinating insectarium and the state-of-the-art Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. Do not miss Habitat 67 by the world famous architect Moshe Safdie who conceived this project for the World’s Fair of 1967 while a young student at McGill. The Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology in the Old Town is another favorite stop with a multi-screen presentation on the history of Quebec. The Sun Life Olympic Park was reopened in 2012 as a recreational center, with free ice skating in winter and swimming in summer. While undergoing further construction, it still provides a great facility for outdoor concerts and events, an observatory, and even the “Big O,” a concrete tunnel built for the 1976 summer Olympics that now is considered a Mecca for the world’s top skateboarders. The convenient, downtown boutique Hotel le Crystal is offering 50% off the second night booked in their really big suites with kitchenettes though March 30; rates start at CDN$229/night.
We look forward to hearing where you dream of spending your spring break and where you actually end up enjoying some time off. Remember, summer’s almost here.
Special thanks to Andrea Timpano for her research assistance on this story.
This special FamilyTravelConsulting.com travel section contains advertising and some sponsored content. All opinions are based upon the author’s actual travel experience and knowledge.