17 School Vacation Destinations You Don’t Need A Passport For

17 School Vacation Destinations You Don’t Need A Passport For

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Sure, you could spend your spring break on the couch with a bad case of FOMO or draining your bank account on a crowded beach.


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OR you could travel to an American destination that actually peaks your interest — and low season means less crowds and lower prices (aka *total bliss*).

1.

St. Louis, Missouri


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As temperatures warm, so do the seasonal festivities. March Madness, art shows, and events that bring the outdoors in make spring the perfect time to visit St. Louis. And did we mention Six Flags is less than an hour’s drive away?

What to do: Craving some greenery this time of year? Head to the Missouri Botanical Garden for their Mardi Gras-themed carnival complete with thousands of butterflies, or their Orchid Show for tropical florals paired with wine tastings. There’s also Art in Bloom – the Saint Louis Art Museum’s annual (free!) floral festival. Sports fans will want to check out Arch Madness at the Enterprise Center, while foodies will love the Mexican eats on Cherokee Street and Schlafy’s Stout and Oyster Festival. The recently opened St. Louis Union Station is also a must: it’s home to the St. Louis Aquarium, several IG-worthy restaurants, a 200-foot Ferris wheel, ropes course, and daily fire and light show.

Where to stay: A whiskey-aging room and an outdoor terrace with epic views of Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village? The new Live! By Loews St. Louis might just be the city’s best-kept secret. They’ve also got modern rooms with Cardinal Red accents, peloton bikes in the fitness center, and a prime downtown location, all at an affordable price — what more could you want?

2.

Portland, Maine


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With its scrumptious seafood, cobblestone streets, and IG-worthy 19th century buildings, it’s no surprise Portland has been making waves recently. While summer is when its busiest, this year’s spring has been especially warm, meaning now is the time to go to beat the crowds.

What to do: Eat all the food! The Lobster Shack at Two Lights has been a local favorite since the 1920s for its unbeatable ocean and lighthouse views. Fresh seafood means stellar Japanese restaurants (Izakaya Minato and Miyake won’t disappoint) or go for something more surprising like Southern-Caribbean-Mexican barbecue at Terlingua. Several ski resorts in the area make an easy day trip for those looking to hit the slopes one last time. Whatever you do, a stroll through the charming streets of the Old Port is a must.

Where to stay: Not only does The Press Hotel boast one of the city’s best farm-to-table restaurants in the city, Union, but it’s also a really cool place to stay. Set in the former headquarters of the Portland Press Herald, this hotel is a writer’s dream with playful newsroom references like typewriters on the wall and vintage journalist desks and leather chairs.

3.

Atlanta, Georgia


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Looking to escape into the world of cinema for spring break? Skip LA – Georgia has surpassed California as the number one filming location in the world for movies. Not to mention the city offers scrumptious eats, Civil Rights Movement history, and a surprising number of green spaces (plus flights are cheap!).

What to do: Hit up the filming locations of your favorite flicks on an Atlanta movie tour. More into music? T.I.’s Trap Music Museum will give you an overview of city’s hip-hop history. Speaking of history – you won’t want to miss a walk through the home where Martin Luther King Jr. was born. Better yet, why not eat while you learn with 15 tastings through Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods before walking the 33-mile Beltline Trail.

Where to stay: Cinephiles will sleep well knowing Hollywood celebs like Walt Disney have also stayed at The Georgian Terrace Hotel. This landmark hotel set in a Beaux Arts-style building dating back to 1911 continues to wow with its majestic lobby (think, marble columns and crystal chandeliers), rooftop pool, and sophisticated Southern eats.

4.

Asheville, North Carolina


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While this Blue Ridge Mountain town is known for their breweries (they have the most per capita in the country) – it also offers peaceful outdoor escapes, eclectic music, and delicious eats, too.

What to do: It’s hard not to notice Asheville’s love for live music (in restaurants, on the streets, at festivals and concert halls) and the Orange Peel venue is a must. So is the Highland Brewing Company, Asheville’s first legal brewery to open since prohibition! Non-beer drinkers can sip on sustainable wines at Pillar Rooftop Bar or have a scotch and chocolate truffle pairing at the Top of the Monk speakeasy. Get some fresh air at the North Carolina Arboretum, a 434-acre public garden, or on one of many hiking trails in the area like Lookout Trail, which offers epic views of the Black Mountains.

Where to stay: What better way to experience Asheville’s bar scene than to book a hotel just a few steps from one of the city’s local hotspots, Pillar Rooftop Bar — where “garden-to-glass” drinks are paired with great city views. The Hilton Garden Inn Asheville Downtown also offers a pool, spacious fitness center, and a free shuttle that will get you to the historic sites, concert venues, and restaurants in a heartbeat.

5.

Chicago, Illinois


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Chicago might not be the warmest city this time of year, but you’ll be too busy experiencing the March festivities, sampling the diverse restaurants and bars, and ‘gramming the stunning architecture to notice. Plus, low season means normally pricey hotels are a little more affordable.

What to do: While Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities have been postponed that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all the celebratory eats (emerald donuts anyone?). Plus there are other festivities this month too, like the Chicago Flower and Garden Show and the Good Food Expo. Deep-dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches are a must, but creative veggie-forward restaurants, like Eden and Bad Hunter, are not to be missed. Neither is an architecture tour from the river aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruise.

Where to stay: An urban getaway doesn’t have to be without a little R&R at Hotel Essex. This sleek hotel across from Grant Park offers guests a CBD-infused body balm and 60-minute session at a nearby float therapy studio with their De-Stress at Essex Package.

6.

San Antonio, Texas


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Houston, Dallas, and Austin are obvious choices for a spring break getaway, but this over-300-year-old city — with its rich history, culture, and food – is too often overlooked.

What to do: After checking the Alamo off your list (the site of the 1836 Texas Revolution), hit up the Bottling Dept. Food Hall for some tacos or a hearty bowl of ramen. Afterwards, explore the hip galleries, boutiques, and restaurants of the surrounding Pearl District. And no San Antonio visit would be complete without a leisurely stroll along the River Walk: an intimate series of waterside paths lined with charming restaurants and bars – it’s the closest you’ll come to Europe without leaving the Lone Star State.

Where to stay: Thrill-seeking travelers will want to stay at The Crockett Hotel – it’s rumored to be haunted (it’s just steps from the battlegrounds at the Alamo). But this historic hotel is nothing but warm and inviting, with comfortable beds and a complimentary breakfast buffet (Texas-shaped waffles, anyone?). It’s also within walking distance of everything you’ll want to see on the Riverwalk.

7.

New Haven, Connecticut


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Being only a few hours away from New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, this underrated New England city makes an easy last minute getaway. Plus, March is maple sugar season in Connecticut which means you’ll find sugarhouses just a short drive from the city.

What to do: Sample all the best slices in town on a pizza tour but leave space in your tummy for Louis’ Lunch, which claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger. For a more modern culinary adventure, check out the NH Cocktail Museum or sustainable sushi restaurant Miya’s. Get your heart pumping with rock climbing and ziplining at one of the world’s biggest indoor adventure parks — IT Adventure Indoor Ropes Course. Plus, Parmelee Farm’s Maple Weekend (March 21st-22nd) makes for a sweet country drive.

Where to stay: With a new art gallery and lively rooftop bar, The Blake Hotel is a hotbed of culture in this collegiate town. But not without sacrificing rest – the rooms are spacious and quiet, and the beds (and robes and slippers) are comfy too.

8.

Lake Placid, New York


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While Lake Placid may be an obvious destination in the summer, many forget that it’s a winter playground this time of year (it did host the 1980 Winter Olympics, after all). This pretty town in the Adirondacks is ideal for skiers looking to end the season on a high.

What to do: Hit the slopes! Whiteface Mountain offers 90 trails over three peaks. Head to Adirondack Brewing Company après ski for local brews on the heated patio. Plus, foodies will not be disappointed here — try everything from farm-to-table at Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar to Adirondack-style barbecue at Smoke Signals to pastrami sandwiches from Hershel’s Delicatessen. Sore muscles are soothed at Whiteface Lodge’s spa with Adirondack-inspired treatments like the Mountain Mender (think, a hydrotherapy soak and massage with warm ginger oil).

Where to stay: With a movie theater, bowling alley, ice-skating rink, heated pool, spa, and several dining options, Whiteface Lodge offers so many activities that you might forget to hit the slopes. This luxury resort — with its picturesque lakefront setting and heart-warming offerings like nightly s’mores — is the place to embrace the last days of winter.

9.

Seattle, Washington


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Yes there’s the Space Needle and the OG Starbucks, but there’s also a thriving arts scene plus stellar seafood and wine (the state is the second largest producer in the country).

What to do: Eat and drink at Taste Washington, the city’s four-day wine and food festival that brings together the state’s best chefs and wineries. Dive into the city’s musical history (Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and even Sir Mix-a-Lot were born here) at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop). Don’t miss the fish throwing and pop-up murals at Pike Place Market — the iconic farmers’ market dates back to 1907. Plus, mild temps mean you can take advantage of the city’s 485 parks – Discovery Park and Olympic Sculpture Park are a must.

Where to stay: Flannel is made super chic when paired with marble counters and minimalist décor at The Sound Hotel Seattle Belltown. Hip boutiques and restaurants are within walking distance, but this new hotel serves up local wines, craft beers, and gourmet coffee in case you feel like just hanging out on a rainy day. Don’t miss the views of the Space Needle from the roof deck!

10.

Tucson, Arizona


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Why spend a fortune in crowded spring break destinations like Phoenix or Sedona when you can have a more relaxed (and affordable) trip in Tucson? Set between Saguaro National Park and the surrounding five mountain ranges, this UNESCO City of Gastronomy – with its top-tier museums, astronomy enthusiasts, and surprising wines – has a little something for everyone.

What to do: Soak in the warmer temperatures by hiking or biking The Loop, the city’s 131-mile pedestrian trail before checking out the 230 animal species at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – it’s not only a zoo, but also an aquarium, art gallery, and botanical garden. Drawing from Mexican and Native American traditions, Tucson’s culinary history spans over 4,000 years, so you won’t want to miss tasting indigenous ingredients like prickly pear at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. Head to mountaintop observatories at Kitt Peak and Mount Lemmon for some stargazing or simply look up at night – you’ll have stars in your eyes (literally) thanks to the city’s dark sky status.

Where to stay: While there’s no shortage of pricey wellness resorts in the region, the super affordable Downtown Clifton Hotel Tucson offers a quirky take on the local vibe with in-room record players, IG-worthy décor, hip events, and a lounge serving up regional wines and beers, locally-inspired cocktails, and contemporary Tucson fare.

11.

Washington, D.C.


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Spring has sprung in Washington, D.C. with the arrival of cherry blossom season, making it the ideal city for those seeking a breath of fresh air this month.

What to do: The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a must (where else can you attend a Cherry Blossom Parade?) or simply head to the Tidal Basin to admire the flowers on your own schedule. A Spring Cherry Blossom Food Crawl is an easy way to sample all the restaurants offering festival-themed specials. But the city offers so much more than floral IG scenes: from the multicultural eats in the Adams Morgan neighborhood to the dive bars on H Street NE to the (free!) historic sites like Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Where to stay: Set in a stunning 110-year-old church in Adams Morgan, The LINE DC is an obvious choice (picture bright, graphic bedding and vintage nightstands). You’ll be steps away from some of the city’s most interesting bars and restaurants, but the three onsite restaurants headed by a James Beard Award-winning chef are not to be missed.

12.

Louisville, Kentucky


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Yes there’s the Kentucky Derby, but Louisville offers so much more. This Midwestern-meets-Southern town is teeming with trails (of the bourbon variety), artistic excitement, and culinary treasures.

What to do: Sip on bourbon with a stellar rooftop view at local hotspots like 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Plus, sports fans will want to hit up the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and Muhammad Ali Center while art lovers will want to catch a performance at this month’s Humana Festival of New American Plays or visit the Picasso exhibit at KMAC Museum. This month also sees one of the largest lantern festivals in the country take place at the Louisville Zoo (go for the 131-foot dragon alone). The (free!) Nulu Bock Festival is also a must, because where else can you watch goat races while drinking bock beer?

Where to stay: Housed in a former tobacco warehouse on historic West Main Street, 21c Museum Hotel is an art lovers paradise. Part-museum, part-boutique hotel: design-forward rooms feature comfy beds and robes, while it’s 9,000 square foot exhibition space is free and open 24/7. Plus, over 120 Kentucky bourbons and artful American dishes await in the downstairs restaurant, Proof on Main.

13.

Chattanooga, Tennessee


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If this small city isn’t on your radar yet, it probably should be. This southern outdoor adventure hub has endless activities for every kind of thrill-seeker (they even have virtual reality experiences for people with disabilities), not to mention a rapidly growing food scene.

What to do: Hardcore adventurers can spend their spring break at flying camp or zip-lining their way through the treetops on Lookout Mountain (for only $20!) — or you can go flying without actually flying through a virtual reality simulation. There’s also plenty of other adventures options, like hiking the 13-mile Riverwalk along the Tennessee River or taking in the city views and Civil War monuments at Point Park. Foodies will love all the new restaurants (Market South food hall ensures you get a little taste of everything).

Where to stay: Set in an over-100-year-old building in the heart of downtown, The Dwell Hotel’s 16 uniquely designed rooms feature exposed brick, eclectic vintage décor, and Pinterest-worthy wallpaper. You’ll want to start the day with brunch in the bright Solarium and end it with inventive cocktails at Matilda Midnight. It’s no surprise Chattanooga’s first boutique hotel is considered one of the hippest in the South.

14.

San Francisco, California


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So maybe this isn’t the cheapest destination but with most spring breakers flocking further south? San Francisco gets especially quiet during March, meaning you won’t have to elbow through a crowd to witness the seasonal migration of gray whales or face long waits at every restaurant.

What to do: If you’re in town for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, then pub crawls, block parties, and IG-worthy parades (like the Day Dog parade) await. Looking for something a little more laid back? Celebrate all things green by exploring Golden Gate Park: home to the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, and endless activities (like free roller disco parties on Sundays). Foodies will want to head to the sunny side of the Bay – Chez Panisse in Berkeley is a must. So is the Urban Wine Trail and diverse restaurant scene in Oakland. Save room for all the chocolate at the San Francisco Chocolate Salon on March 21st.

Where to stay: Ideally located in Nob Hill, Stanford Court is filled with local art and unique amenities like a vinyl library and complimentary apps for digital reads and walking tours. Embrace the healthy west coast mindset by staying in one of their Urban Sanctuary rooms – they come with wellness goodies like a meditation cushion and yoga mat, Gaiam athletic gear, CBD teas, and vegan snacks (chocolate cashew butter cups anyone?).

15.

Cincinnati, Ohio


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One of the country’s most exciting art scenes is found in this hidden gem of a city. You’ll also find one-of-a-kind foods like Cincinnati chili and goetta (sausages made of meat and oats).

What to do: Experience the city’s female-led arts community through the POWER OF HER initiative – the city is celebrating the 2020 women’s vote centennial with over 95 events throughout the year. Get a taste of the historical brewing culture with an American Legacy Tour through the underground tunnels where lager was stored in the 19th century and, of course, no trip would be complete without a three-way (picture, a mountain of chili and cheddar cheese over a steaming plate of spaghetti… *drool*) and coney from Skyline Chili.

Where to stay: The best part about visiting underrated spring break destinations? Fancy hotels won’t break the bank. The Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza hotel has been the city’s leader in luxury since opening in 1931 and is worth visiting for the food alone – the onsite restaurant, Orchids at Palm Court, has accolades for days.

16.

Santa Fe, New Mexico


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With its Native art, Spanish colonial architecture, New Mexican cuisine, and mystical spirit, it’s surprising that Santa Fe isn’t busier this time of year. But less crowds means you can really embrace the city’s laid-back vibe and while the weather is unpredictable, outdoor activities are accessible year-round.

What to do: With hundreds of art galleries to explore, the options for art lovers are endless. Canyon Road is a great place to start, while Meow Wolf and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum are must-sees. Outdoor enthusiasts will want to take advantage of the town’s location at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains by hitting the trails or making a day trip to nearby ski resorts like Taos Ski Valley. Refuel with the signature mole negro at Sazón or traditional New Mexican fare at Angelina’s (the Red Chile is a classic).

Where to stay: Cooler temperatures mean it’s the best time of year to experience the Japanese hot spring-inspired spa at Ten Thousand Waves. Why not extend your zen time with a stay in their traditional Japanese ryokan? Healthy Izakaya meals, exclusive access to the Grand Bath before the spa opens, nightly Buddha chocolates on your pillow… this might just be your most rejuvenating spring break yet.

17.

Springdale, Utah


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Outdoor enthusiasts craving warmer weather will love this small town set at the entrance of Zion National Park – a hikers’ paradise boasting 229 square miles of stunning canyons, sand dunes, and red rock formations.

What to do: The hiking options are endless in Zion National Park with Angels Landing and The Narrows being classic routes. Not into hiking? Take on the park by way of an ATV tour or get intimate with the cliffs by canyoneering. Refuel at the Springdale Farmers Market or one of several charming restaurants back in town, peruse Native American arts and crafts at the many shops and art galleries, and check out the views from the beer garden patio at Zion Brewery (Southern Utah’s first microbrewery).

Where to stay: The epic views continue at the Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton, set along the Virgin River just outside Zion National Park. Fresh décor, fresh cuisine, fresh gardens, plus outdoor fire pits, lawn games, a heated pool, and two hot tubs make this an obvious choice for the outdoorsy traveler who also likes a little luxury.

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