Musings On Spring Break

We used to have a rule in our family: no traveling over Spring Break. Places were too crowded, rates were more expensive—it just didn’t make sense.  I mean, why venture somewhere when so many families and college students are trying to do the same thing, all at the same time? We would stay home, and the kids would do fun things around town, like visit nature centers or go to tennis camp. Then one year, our school district scheduled an earlier-than-normal spring break, and we took off for Disney World. It was great—not too crowded, and lines so minimal we could ride things twice in a row if we wanted. Thus started our family “tradition” of traveling over Spring Break, even though the dates have never been as early since.   Now six years later, I am finally wondering, “What were we thinking?”

We only went about 130 miles from home this year, but definitely felt the crowds this time. No, the giraffes don’t want to come feed out of your hand (and your car) at the wildlife park, or have much to do with you at all, because the 30 cars in front of you have already fed them. And petted them.  And taken their picture. And no, you can’t tour the Dr. Pepper bottling plant because all the people who got there before you booked up all the tours for the entire day.  And yes, when you walk across that riverbed at the state park to see the dinosaur tracks, you will have to share those wobbly boulders with many other people who are walking back across. Excuse me while I flail my arms wildly to keep from falling in!!! How did we manage to travel happily over Spring Break for the last six years and not feel the pinch of the crowds much until now?

I have been thinking back on our previous trips, and I think the key to avoiding Spring Break crowds and lines is to do things that aren’t “typical”. For example, staying at a beach all-inclusive that’s not near a lot of tourist sites, with lots of activities on the property just for guests, and far away from the hot spots frequented by college students. Or, doing offbeat or traditionally “adult”-type things that kids actually like, too—some of the historic Hot Springs, Arkansas bathhouses, for example, welcome kids, and since not many families know that, ours enjoyed them crowd-free during Spring Break 2008. In 2007, we ventured to Hollywood, but didn’t do the typical bus tours, which I’m sure were crowded, and instead opted for less-publicized things like touring the Kodak Theatre (not crowded), riding in a whale watching boat off the coast of nearby Long Beach (also not crowded), and walking around the Hollywood Bowl during the day, letting the kids run among the seats and go on stage (we had the whole place all to ourselves).  On our trip last week, my favorite excursion was going to a drive-in movie theatre— a great experience for all of us, especially our exchange student, who’d never heard of them before.  Again, something offbeat and not listed in any of the brochures I found at the hotel, and we had no trouble getting a spot. (Internet research definitely pays off!)

We’ve also found that doing anything athletic, like biking or hiking, at a place not known for that, also usually means less crowds.  In Hollywood, we hiked up to the Griffith Park Observatory (rather than drive or take a bus) for one of the best views in town (and a great along-the-trail view of the “Hollywood” sign), but saw hardly anyone else on the way– definitely a nice contrast to the masses we met once we got to the top!  Last week in Granbury, Texas, known more for its antiquing and B and B’s, we biked through town along a beautiful paved hike/bike trail called “Moments in Time”—and encountered no other bicyclists. (Again, not publicized in any of the slick, four-color brochures, but found on the Internet, after considerable “digging”.)

True, the more a place/activity is talked about, the less obscure it is, but I think as long as the majority of American Spring Break travelers keep gravitating toward what’s traditionally mainstream, we offbeat travelers will always be able to find a place “far from the madding crowd”…

Spring Break 2007:  Allison and Emmie onstage at the Hollywood Bowl

Spring Break 2011: An uninterested giraffe

At least Emmie got to feed an ostrich at the end of the tour!

20 thoughts on “Musings On Spring Break”

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