For us Oregonians, spring break starts today! And for many other Americans, it’s right around the corner. Since we’re both teachers, we love this week just as much as the kids do. (Probably even more!).
We’ve been taking spring break trips since 1989. There’s something to be said for taking time to recharge, spending some time with each other, and getting away from work. March weather in Oregon is generally wet and gray, giving us yet another reason to want to get out of town. Some of those trips have been better than others, and some are memorable for the wrong reasons (who knew that the tour bus to Reno would have a broken toilet?!?). In any case, all of them have been enjoyable.
Here are our five favorite spring break destinations!
1. Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, USVI. Although it’s quite a trek from Portland to the Caribbean, nothing hits the spot during a gray, rainy March in Portland than sunshine and white sand beaches. Frequent flyer miles have helped us take the sting out of airfare costs, and the snorkeling, laid-back island atmosphere, and walkable downtown area of Cruz Bay have brought us back for seven spring break trips (and a couple of summer trips, too!). Out of all the places we’ve visited, VINP remains our favorite.
Fun & budget tip: consider renting a house with friends to cut costs and make memories!
2. Arizona. Jeff’s a huge Chicago Cubs baseball fan, we’ve gone to Mesa to watch them play spring training games several times. No complaints from Erin, as sunshine and warm temperatures are always the norm there in March. In addition, many area parks offer hiking, birding, and picnicking. The nearby Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a great spot for outdoors and nature lovers of all sorts, and it’s a must-stop for us on our Phoenix trips. We’ve also toured many of Arizona’s national parks and visited Tucson’s famous street fair. This year, we’ll go birding in the southeastern Arizona town of Patagonia.
Budget tip: consider a home exchange as a free lodging option!
3. Palm Springs, California. Much closer than the Caribbean but without the beaches, the Palm Springs area also offers abundant sunshine and warm temperatures. Beautiful Joshua Tree National Park is about a one hour drive from Palm Springs. Since the park is at a higher elevation, temperatures can be a bit cooler, but we’ve had plenty of sunshine while in the park. Dramatic views, wildlife sightings, camping, and hiking made for a great visit.
Fun tip: whether you’re looking for dining or hiking options (or both!), ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to “get above it all.”
4. Death Valley National Park, California. Many of my students ask why anyone would want to spend time in a place called Death Valley. I always respond that it perhaps should have been called Painted Valley or Sandy Valley or Desert Valley. (Apparently the National Park Service’s marketing department fell flat on this one.) Despite its ominous name, DVNP is a great springtime warm-weather destination. Vistas, history, hiking, ghost towns, golf, and even a swimming pool await travelers who aren’t afraid of the park’s name.
Fun & budget tip: for $5, campers can get a half-day pass to the Furnace Creek Resort’s pool and showers!
5. Washington, DC. Not exactly close to Portland, and not necessarily a warm-weather destination, Washington is a great spot to visit any time of the year. March in Washington can bring any sort of weather, but we enjoyed sunny days with cool temperatures while walking around the National Mall. If the stars align, you may be lucky enough to see the famous cherry trees in bloom. The best part about DC is that all of the federal sites, monuments, museums, and the like are free to visit.
Honorable Mention: A Good Old-Fashioned Road Trip. In the name of budget, we have spent quite a few spring breaks driving rather than flying. Our spring break road trip destinations have included Vancouver, Reno, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Each of our spring break road trips has offered its own unique and fun adventures. We’ve been sure to include quirky stops such as off the beaten path casinos, youth hostels, hot springs, and of course tasty food.
Wherever your spring break takes you, we hope that you make some great memories and get a chance to unwind. Have a great break, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!