Spring Break is right around the corner, and God knows we all need it. The dreary February weather has taken its toll and, as I sit here watching the rain pour down and wash the snow into ugly puddles of muck, my inner nomad is busy planning our next getaway.
But where shall we go? Florida is always an option, but it is definitely not the only option. Let’s take a peek at a few alternatives:
1. Jekyll Island, Georgia
Looking for a laid back, beachy vacation without the tackiness of the Sunshine State? Jekyll Island might just be your place! Now owned by the state of Georgia, this once playground to the uber-rich (think Rockefellers) has been preserved in an attempt to keep its history alive and its sea turtle population safe.
No giant neon signs will greet you at this oceanside retreat. The entire island has strict regulations on development, helping to maintain the area’s natural beauty. This makes navigating at night difficult (and spooky). I would advise arriving in the daylight. We did not and drove in circles for an hour at 1 in the morning.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center – Dedicated to educating the public while also serving as a rehabilitation facility.
Driftwood Beach – Giant sea-soaked pine and oaks litter the coast, forming a natural playscape and photographer’s dream.
Jekyll Island Club Resort – If you don’t feel like splurging to stay, it is still worth a leisurely walk through the gorgeous historical campus.
2. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
I could do without the gaudiness and crowds of the town itself, but the mountainous backdrop and the gem that is Dollywood keep us coming back to Pigeon Forge time and again.
Dolly Parton has built her namesake park in the heart of Pigeon Forge (along with a resort, waterpark and dinner shows), and it is easier on the pocketbook than those Florida parks. Staying more than one day? There are considerable discounts for multi-day passes and season tickets.
Dollywood – It really just feels like good, wholesome fun, and apparently, I’m into that these days.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Free entry and offers hiking trails, picnic areas, scenic outlooks and educational POI’s.
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen – Family style dining at its fattest and finest. Breakfast is the cheapest time to dine (and no two-hour wait like later in the day). Bacon glazed with brown sugar and black pepper. Just go.
3. Traverse City, Michigan
Michiganders are basically Texans, only colder. We like our guns, and we love our state. We are loyal to a fault. As such, I would be remiss not to include one of the Mitten’s biggest charms, Traverse City.
Known as the Cherry Capital, this city sits as the base of two Lake Michigan bays. Its quaint downtown features great dining and shopping, and if the weather cooperates (or doesn’t, depending on how you view snow), there are nearby ski resorts to burn off calories from the local beer and wine.
Booze Tours – With over 50 wineries and breweries as well as tour services providing safe travel between locations, TC is the place to enjoy tasty libations amidst a picturesque landscape.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Sand beaches and nothing but Lake Michigan blue as far as you can see. If your left ear wasn’t halfway to frostbite, you’d think you were in Florida.
Great Wolf Lodge – A wilderness themed indoor waterpark – what’s not to love?
4. Niagara Falls, Ontario
Dreaming of Daytona and its strobe light splendor? Niagara is soooo you. From adventure tours to casinos to magic shows, Niagara Falls was built for tourists, and spring break is the time to go. We went in the dead of August when visitors swarm the area and prices are at a high. Don’t be like us.
Plus, then you won’t have to wait at the border for 90 minutes contemplating if you could successfully use one of your kid’s diapers (since exiting a vehicle and running frantically is never a good idea at an international crossing). Take in the wonder of these falls in the off-season and benefit from lodging discounts and shorter customs lines.
The Falls – Duh.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Wine Country – I was four months pregnant when we visited, but that didn’t stop me from nabbing bottles for post-baby celebrations, like when the baby finally came out. Cheers!
Old Stone Inn Boutique Hotel – With chain hotels and flashy casinos lining the streets, the Old Stone Inn was a welcomed break with its lush décor and amazing food. Plus, we had an unlucky diaper explosion on the sheets, and they didn’t charge us.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Much like my favorite Floridian city, St. Augustine, Charleston is known for its charm and rich history. Add its foodie culture and day drunk tendencies, and it becomes a dynamite spot to set up shop.
Given a surprise bout of croup, our family got shorted on our visit to this endearing city, but we did get well-acquainted with a Minute Clinic, Children’s Hospital ER, and our hotel shower (because of the croupy baby, you sickos).
The little time we did have, though, we thoroughly enjoyed. All three kids slept through our carriage tour, much to the relief of the strangers sharing the carriage. Somehow, we even managed to eat a meal in a restaurant. They stuck us in a back corner, but from the look of our snot-covered kids, I really couldn’t blame them.
Carriage Tours – The only way to see the city your first go-round. The tour guides do an outstanding job of narrating Charleston’s history and unique architecture.
Husk – The one restaurant we tackled. It offers hand-crafted cocktails and delectable southern cuisine. Anthony Bourdain reviewed it on one of his shows, and I’d trust that gorgeous angry man with my life.
USS Yorktown – We tried touring this WWII Aircraft Carrier but arrived 20 minutes before close. As my husband’s charm is failing him in his old age, the attendant would not let us onboard. I wish you better luck.
Questions on any of the locations? Leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to help!