For many younger Americans, the coming of spring means a nice vacation to shake off the winter blues and embrace the warmer months to come. Schools and universities take breaks around this time, so it’s an excellent opportunity to get away with your family or friends.
For years, popular spring break destinations have centered on the beaches of the U.S., Mexico, or other tropical destinations, but for Spring Break 2016, plan to see some shifts and new trends as Spring Break travel evolves in America.
From data gathered by Orbitz.com, Global News Wire reports that in general travelers are looking for more relaxing alternatives to historically popular destinations, as 53 percent of Americans cited relaxation as a main reason for travel, while a report from The Boston Globe notes a shift in student travel to an emphasis on enhancing college resumes rather than partying at the beach: six of the top 20 places students plan to go this year are in Europe.
Combine these trends with the strength of the U.S. dollar and we see more and more Americans looking to travel abroad this year. And even if travelers plan to stay in the U.S., the Global News Wire report also found 39 percent of travelers polled looking for an entirely new destination. If you are one of these travelers, or if you’re just hoping to get away in the spring, here are some unique and surprising destinations ideal for spring travel.
#1: Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico is a popular travel destination for Americans because of its proximity to the States, which means a shorter and cheaper flight. For vacation, most Americans think of Cancun or Cozumel when they think of Mexico, but away from the beaches is the eclectic capital, Mexico City.
Few Americans know that Mexico City is known for its cuisine and fashion, and while there are no beaches in the heart of Mexico City, you’ll experience a vibrant culture with multiple neighborhoods that all have their own cultural vibes. It’s like touring a few cities in one. Here are a few popular ones to visit:
- The neighborhood of Coyoacan is known for its quaint cobblestone streets and lively cafes. Consider going off the beaten path and check out this list of killer restaurants and cafes that can be found in this Colonial-era neighborhood.
- Beautiful parks and eclectic art are two things you’ll find in the Roma-Condesa neighborhoods of the city, known for their fashion, art, and “hipster” sub-culture. While this is mainly a residential area, it’s well worth a visit just to look around at the art and cafes.
- Just south of the city is the traditional Xochimilco neighborhood which has one of the oldest markets, full of colorful food, bright flowers, and other interesting local offerings where you can find so much more than a cheap souvenir.
#2: Reykjavík, Iceland
This destination is definitely not one that makes the top of the list for most Americans, but it’s one of the most unique and picturesque, ideal for outdoorsy people in particular. Spring is the perfect time to visit Iceland, for many reasons. First, the precipitation is lowest in May and June, and the start of summer means mild temperatures and days that are similar to the U.S. (unlike in the summer when it’s never dark or the winter when it’s light for only four to five hours a day). Prices are also much lower in the spring for many attractions and accommodations.
Iceland is much more than the Northern Lights. Reykjavík, the capital, calls itself the “festival city” as it’s host to a number of annual festivals that draw visitors from all over the world. Staying within the city is an excellent way to get a feel for the culture, but the city is also surrounded by a number of geothermal natural wonders like volcanoes, hot springs, and geysers. Here are a few unique things to experience with staying in the city:
- Rated as one of the top five natural hot springs in Iceland, Reykjadalur is the most accessible hot spring from the capital city, located in the town of Hveragerði. You can enjoy the hot springs, take a scenic hike, and enjoy the waterfall in the gorge.
- The Thrihnukagigur Volcano is the only place in the world where you can actually go inside of a volcano. It’s quite a hike over the lava fields to get to the entry point, but it’s well worth the trip. The guided tours will give you all of the historic info as you experience this once-in-a-lifetime wonder.
- Popular festivals held in the spring include the Reykjavík Arts Festival and the Raflost Festival of Electronic Arts. Both are held in May. You can’t make it all the way to festival city without going to at least one festival, now can you?
#3: Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is ideal for almost any traveler, but college students especially can enjoy a tourist-friendly city with tons of history, many ways to get around, and much to do. From castles to coastlines, the city is incredibly picturesque in the very mild climate of spring, when many hotels and tourist sites offer reduced pricing for students and groups.
Separated by the River Liffey, the north and south sides of the city both offer historic architecture, museums, pubs, and cathedrals. For getting around, there are two railway stations, but you may enjoy trying out the Green Bus, the popular hop on/hop off bus. You choose your course and what you want to see and you can take a guided day tour around the city and surrounding areas while you also experience the local life. Dublin is of course also famous for walking tours and pub crawls. A few top spots for your itinerary should be:
- Guinness Storehouse. Although touristy, this is a must-see if you find yourself in Dublin this spring. With seven floors that feature three bars and two cafes (and they’re open seven days a week), it’s a full-day experience. The storehouse is located in St. James Gate Brewery.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral may also be a typical tourist stop, but it’s beyond breathtaking. For history buffs in particular, the cathedral is an essential stop. The building dates back to the mid-1200s and is supposed to have been used by Saint Patrick himself.
- The Dublin Zoo is not your typical zoo; it’s the largest in Ireland and one of the world’s oldest, opened in 1831. The zoo specializes in wildlife conservation and features over 400 animals that include rare and endangered species. A visit to this zoo is also great if you are traveling with kids.
If you’re getting the itch to travel this spring, consider a walk off of the beaten path. Travel is all about experiencing other cultures and transporting yourself into worlds unlike your own. While everyone enjoys a nice piña colada and sandy beach from time to time, save that trip for the summer and do something new this Spring Break.