Younger children have swim lessons or youth sports. (Here’s hoping) older children have summer jobs. And of course parents have grownup obligations. Schedule conflicts of all kinds make it more challenging than ever to plan family summer vacations. That’s why many families opt to vacation together during the week their children’s schools are closed for spring break.
That’s usually in March or early April. So if you haven’t already locked in your plans, you’re cutting it close, and perhaps at this point you’re open to a few suggestions.
Beaches are usually a fine option, but let’s anticipate possible deterrents this time of year: difficulty in finding a last-minute vacancy; and reservations about loud spring break parties, on the beach or next door. (Remember how you were at that age!).
But don’t worry. There are plenty of non-beach vacations still possible this spring break for families with a variety of interests. Here are five ideas:
See Cheetahs in Florida
If you’re coming to Orlando or Florida’s Gulf Coast, come spend a day on the lookout for relative newcomers to Busch Gardens® Tampa. Tendai and Thabo are cheetah cubs.
They were born at the park November 22, 2014, bred within guidelines of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums program designed to secure the survival of endangered species. Tendai means “Thankful.” Thabo means “Joy.” Watch them play in a short video here.
The Busch Garden Animal Care Team is caring for the cute cubbies and will determine when they’re mature enough for release into the park’s general cheetah habitat, called Cheetah Run. Before that time, Tendai and Thabo will have limited public exposure, although when they’re out, you’ll find them in the Edge of Africa area of the park. Their recreation times vary but are tweeted by their caretakers so that park visitors can make their way to that area. The best way to enjoy this double dose of delight is to get to the park early, plan to spend the day and follow Busch Gardens Tampa’s official Twitter account.
Enjoy Spring training in Florida or Arizona
If your spring break falls in mid to late March, The Major League Baseball spring training season will be well under way. The regular season begins April 3, so by late March teams will be finalizing their 25-man opening day rosters. Games in Florida’s Grapefruit League and Arizona’s Cactus League will be deciding which players make the team, which are sent to the minors, and even which are released.
For many players, every pitch or at-bat of these games has a consequence. That makes for compelling baseball—as if the warm weather, fun atmosphere and opportunity for autographs aren’t reason enough to make our National Pastime the core activity of a non-beach spring break vacation.
Golf in South Carolina
The only things seemingly more plentiful than quality golf courses in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina are quality mini-golf courses.
Obviously, you’ll want to carve some time for yourself to play exceptional championship layouts, you’ll have more than 100 to choose from in the Myrtle Beach area, including the likes of Tidewater Golf Club and TPC Myrtle Beach.
If you love the game but your children aren’t ready for formal lessons, take them out to enjoy whacking the ball around mini-course adventures such as Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf and Mount Atlanticus Miniature Golf. Or if you prefer taking them to par-3 courses, Myrtle Beach offers fine options there as well—Tupelo Bay Golf Center (where there’s also a superb executive course) and Cane Patch Par 3 and Driving Range to name two. By the end of this trip, you’ll understand why Myrtle Beach considers itself both a premier golf destination and the mini-golf capital of the United States.
Just beware: This might be a non-beach vacation, but there’s no guarantee you won’t find yourself in sand.
Spelunk Away in Tennessee
Spelunking, or cave exploring, can be dangerous—but not when you visit a show cave affiliated with the National Caves Association. You’ll find NCA affiliates in virtually every region, from eastern California to north central New Hampshire. Some of the top caves in the northern climes, such as Luray Caverns in Virginia, Lost River Gorge & Boulder Cave in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and Cave of the Mounds near Wisconsin Dells, are seasonal and still closed at least through March. But all eight NCA show caves in central and eastern Tennessee offer guided tours year-round that will leave you awed by the power of nature.
There’s Ruby Falls Cave near Chattanooga, for example, a limestone cave highlighted by a spectacular 145-foot-high waterfall more than 1,100 feet below the earth’s surface. You could visit Ruby Falls or possibly nearby Raccoon Mountain Caverns one day, then make your way east the next to visit the Lost Sea Adventure cave in Sweetwater or one of two caves that are easy drives from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg—Tuckaleechee Caverns and Forbidden Caverns.
Watch College Hoops – Pick a Location
Spring break at many schools coincides with the exciting first week of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. If you’re a college basketball fan, you know March 13 is Selection Sunday, the men’s “First Four” play-in games are Tuesday and Wednesday at Dayton, Ohio (as always) and that the men’s round of 64 begins at eight locations around the country over the next two days. Games are Thursday and Saturday at four of the sites, and Friday and Sunday at the other four.
Each site will host four games on the first day and two more on the second day. This year, the Thursday-Saturday games (March 17 and 19)are at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa; PNC Arena, Raleigh, N.C.; Pepsi Coliseum, Denver. The Friday-Sunday games (March 18 and 20) are at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Scottrade Center, St. Louis; Chesapeak Energy Center, Oklahoma City; Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington.
If you have a favorite team, you obviously have to wait until the 15th to learn if your team was selected to play in the tournament and, if so, where it will play. But if you’re not partial to any school but want to enjoy the experience of watching these often dramatic, early-round games live—maybe even root a big underdog on to the upset—there’s no reason not to pick a site and look into buying tickets right now.
If you’ve never researched NCAA ticket prices before, prepare for at least mild sticker shock. You won’t find anything on the primary market for less than upper-level seats going for $150, but remember—the ticket admits you to six games. Check the main NCAA site and other ticket providers. Remember also: Four teams are eliminated at each site Thursday or Friday. Many of their fans won’t stick around for the weekend games, so you might score those tickets at decent discounts via resale.
If you’re a women’s basketball fan, you’ll have to wait until Selection Monday, March 14, to even learn where games are being played, as the teams determined to be the top 16 seeds in the tournament each will host three other teams. The games are Friday-Sunday (March 18 and 20) and Saturday-Monday (March 19 and 21).