I look forward to spring break more than any other holiday during the school year. Winter seems to drag after Christmas and by the time our spring break rolls around in March, I just need to get away! The hardest part is deciding what type of holiday to take - a city break, a cruise, a theme park adventure, a relaxing beach vacation or an active one at a ski resort. These are 10 of my favourites to help you choose.
Spring Break in the City
A large city might not seem like the natural choice for a family vacation but they are one of my favourite spring break destinations. Most cities have something to suit everyone in the family - cultural attractions, trendy restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. As an added bonus, they are often not as busy in early spring as they would be during the summer months or during the holiday season. In Europe, the weather is often lovely by the time many North Americans are on spring break and definitely much better than it is at home for us.
1. New York City
Families can find plenty to do in the Big Apple at any time of the year. We have visited in both March and April and discovered that even when the weather outside is more frightful than delightful that we can head indoors to one of New York's many attractions. World-class museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), or the American Museum of Natural History, as well as the Empire State Building, the Sony Technology Lab and the Top of the Rock Observatory at the Rockefeller Center can be enjoyed no matter the weather. Walking in Central Park, exploring Times Square, taking the ferry to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum or shopping at family favourites such as F.A.O. Schwarz, American Girl Place, M&M's World New York, and Dylan's Candy Bar can all be fun at any time of the year. For my family, a visit to New York City would not be complete without attending at least one Broadway show as well.
Most people that I spoke to prior to our spring break trip to Paris were surprised that we were taking our kids to the city synonymous with romance. There is plenty for families to do in the City of Light though and spring is the perfect time to visit. We had lovely spring days during our March visit and were able to see many of the city's top attractions without long line-ups including the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame Cathedral. We had a lovely boat cruise on the Seine, took day trips to Disneyland Paris and the Palace of Versailles and wandered the streets of Paris enjoying the gardens, the atmosphere and the food. My daughters were spoiled for life by the fresh croissants in Paris - nothing on this side of the Atlantic can ever compare!
English writer Samuel Johnson famously said, "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life..." - and I couldn't agree more. London is one of my favourite cities in the world and we are heading back there in a few days for our second spring break family trip. It's easy to get kids excited about a trip to London as they have likely heard about famous landmarks and attractions such as the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. Museums such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern and the Natural History Museum which offer free admission help extend the family budget. London is also heaven for Harry Potter fans who will get a kick out of visiting sites mentioned in the books or seen in the movies and will enjoy themed tours, a visit to Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross station, a day spent at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter which is located a short distance outside of the city or all of the above.
Spring Break Fun in the Sun
For many of us spring break means escaping winter and heading south for some fun in the sun whether it is at a beach resort, a Florida theme park or on a cruise sailing the Caribbean.
One of the things that I tend to worry about when planning a family trip to a beach resort is that there won't be enough to do to keep the kids busy. That's not an issue at the luxurious Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas where a week zips by faster than you can imagine. We have been to Atlantis for spring break a couple of times and the kids loved every minute of the stays. The 141 acre Aquaventure Water Park, the resort's 11 swimming pools and the beach are the main reasons that families love Atlantis but if you can ever get them out of their swimsuits there are other activities available as well.
Families, particularly those that have young children, looking for an all-inclusive beach vacation will love Beaches Resort in Negril, Jamaica located on a beautiful stretch of 7 Mile Beach. The biggest advantage of an all-inclusive property is that parents don't have to worry about blowing the budget on food, drinks and activities as everything is included but it's also important that a resort have enough to do to keep the kids from getting bored. Beaches Negril has Sesame Street character experiences, Pirate's Island Waterpark, programs for all ages including tweens and teens, the DJ Scratch Academy and X-Box Lounge, a beautiful beach and a long list of water activities, family-friendly entertainment and a spa and fitness centre. Beaches staff will even help arrange off-property adventures for guests. There is more to do at Beaches Negril than any family could possibly fit into a week long vacation.
6. Orlando Theme Parks
Families that love theme parks will want to head to Orlando, Florida where they can choose from Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and more. When our daughters were younger, we stayed on Disney property and divided our time between the four parks. Now that they are older, Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is added in to the mix too. You may be exhausted at the end of your vacation in Orlando but you can be assured that everyone will have a great time.
7. Cruising the Caribbean
Does the idea of sampling a number of different Caribbean islands while returning to the same room every night sound appealing? If it does, then a cruise might be just the answer for your family's spring break. Families can choose from a wide range of itineraries and ships departing from ports in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico cruising south to the Caribbean. Many of the mainstream lines now have ships that are family-friendly floating resorts boasting kids clubs, nightly entertainment and facilities that include water slides, rock climbing walls, basketball courts, mini golf courses, and ice skating rinks to ensure that passengers keep busy from sunup to sundown. The fun continues in the ports-of-call and on the cruise lines' private islands where a range of family-friendly tours and adventurous shore excursions such as snorkeling and ziplining can be booked.
Embracing Winter for Spring Break
For those that would prefer to spend their spring break playing in the snow as long as it lasts, there are many resorts that offer a full roster of family-friendly activities both on and off the slopes.
8. Château Montebello in Québec
The Fairmont Château Montebello is a historic four-season resort located midway between the Canadian capital of Ottawa and the city of Montréal, Québec. The stunning red cedar log cabin which was built in 1930 has the perfect blend of family-friendly luxury and rustic charm. Activities include cross-country skiing, dog sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, curling and so much more. The stunning six-sided stone fireplace in the resort's lobby is ideal for relaxing with a book, gathering to play games with family members or to visit with Monte the resort's friendly canine ambassador. This is the perfect resort for families who want to enjoy winter sports at a cozy country retreat but who aren't necessarily interested in downhill skiing.
9. Blue Mountain Resort - Collingwood, Ontario
Blue Mountain Resort is a four-season alpine ski resort located in Collingwood, Ontario less than a two hour drive from Toronto. In addition to downhill skiing, the resort has several other attractions that the kids will love including Hike N' Tube, skating on Mill Pond, snowshoeing, the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster and the Plunge! Aquatic Centre. In Blue Mountain Village, the cobblestoned pedestrian-only area at the centre of the resort, guests can shop, dine, enjoy musical concerts and other winter entertainment, or just relax around the fire pit. The resort schedules additional programs and activities for kids during March Break (spring break in Ontario) which make it ideal for a family spring break getaway.
10. Mont Tremblant, Quebec
We have never visited Mont Tremblant but it has been on my wish list for quite some time and spring break seems to be the ideal time to plan a visit. Tremblant was named one of the World's 25 Best Ski Towns by National Geographic in 2014 largely due to the fact that the four-season resort has year-round activities and events for the whole family both on the mountain and in the pedestrian village. On the slopes, there is a whole range of learn to ski and learn to ride programs available, a snow park for riders aged 3-6, a beginner's zone with Magic Carpets, the Tam-Tam Zone with features and obstacles for kids aged 3-12 and a daycare drop-in centre providing care for those too young to ski. Other activities include dogsledding, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, mountainside tubing, ziplines, ice fishing and sleigh rides. Tremblant is also celebrating families this winter with special offers available during the Ontario and Québec school breaks and lots of special activities for families including team games in the Village and the Starlight Disco open-air dance party. The kids might never want to leave!
We will be heading off on this year's spring break in just a few days - a European city trip for us again this year as we will be spending a few days each in Amsterdam and London. Wherever you decide to travel, spring break marks the countdown to the end of the school year and it will soon be time to start planning for summer vacation.
Do you have a favourite spring break destination? Let us know in the comments below.