The weather is warming up, mid-terms are fast approaching, and that means spring break is around the corner. But you don’t need to go to the standard destinations like Mexican beach resorts and neon paradises in the desert. There are some other gems around the country that can inspire great spring break trip ideas. But how do you get around when you get there? Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services can get mighty expensive—especially if they’re surging. So, whether you’re looking for a warm beach getaway, an upscale week on the slopes, or an adventure in the great outdoors, rent a car, save money, and explore the 15 best spring break destinations in 2018. In no particular order, here are the top picks.
1. Laguna Beach, California
The Southern California coast is loaded with gorgeous towns and Laguna Beach just might top the list of the most stunning. You’ll understand why after you make the 14-mile drive in your rental car from John Wayne Airport (SNA) to Crystal Cove State Park. Soak up the sun for a few hours and then head over to the Laguna Beach Art Museum. Nothing says you’re growing up like trying to interpret fine art. End the day by splurging with cocktails, dinner, and a sunset at Driftwood Kitchen at the Pacific Edge Hotel. Cheers to spring break 2018.
Closest Car Rental: John Wayne Airport (SNA) – 14 miles away
Nearby Cities to Explore:
- Newport Beach, CA – 11 miles
- Long Beach, CA – 42 miles
- Carlsbad, CA – 46 miles
2. Clearwater Beach, Florida
Thousands of people descend upon the sands of Clearwater Beach for spring break and 2018 is the year to join them. The downtown district has all sorts of shopping and dining options to keep you occupied during the day. Head to the Palm Pavilion Grill & Bar for a lunch consisting of coconut shrimp and mojitos. If the crowds at the local beach get too thick, make your way 11 miles north to Honeymoon Island State Park. There’s a good chance you’ll have the sand mostly to yourself.
Closest Car Rental: Tampa International Airport (TPA) – 21 miles
Nearby Cities to Explore:
- Tarpon Springs, FL – 16 miles
- Petersburg, FL – 24 miles
- Tampa – 25 miles
3. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Sitting along Florida’s world-famous “Space Coast,” the quiet city of Cocoa Beach turns into one of the best spring break destinations in the country. Plan your trip for the beginning of March when the Ron Jon Beach N’ Boards Fest takes place. It’s three days of non-stop fun—from surfing and volleyball contests to live music shows. Step away from the festivities for a bit and learn how to sail with Beachside Sailing. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for space rockets that may be launched from nearby Cape Canaveral. Elon Musk has been getting busy lately.
Closest Car Rental: Orlando International Airport (MCO) – 52 miles
Nearby Cities to Explore:
- Orlando, FL – 60 miles
- Daytona Beach, FL – 80 miles
- West Palm Beach, FL – 135 miles
4. Beaver Creek, Colorado
Why is taking a ski trip during spring break a great idea? Because when most people are going to the beach, you’ll be enjoying your last ski of the season at Beaver Creek, one of the best resorts in America. Plus, the 134-mile drive through the Rocky Mountains from Denver International Airport is stunning. Depending on the weather conditions, you could ski in the morning and then tee off at Red Sky Ranch and Golf Club for a quick nine holes in the afternoon. Follow those exciting activities up with a fine meal and glass of wine at Splendido at the Chateau. If you’re traveling with family, make your parents pick up the tab.
Closest Car Rental: Denver International Airport (DEN) – 134 miles
Nearby Cities to Explore:
- Glenwood Springs, CO – 54 miles
- Breckenridge, CO – 49 miles
- Leadville, CO – 40 miles
5. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
After hectic midterms, a relaxing vacation in the Smoky Mountains is in order. Pick up your rental car from McGhee Tyson Airport and make the 42-mile drive to Gatlinburg. Hopefully, you’ve planned your trip for the last weekend of March when the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community Easter Show goes down. There are all sorts of handcrafted gifts and products made by local artists that are available for purchase. After getting your art fix, make a beeline for the Hollywood Star Car Museum, where you can admire cars from some of your favorite movies and television shows—yes, there is a Batmobile. Last, but not least, cap off this extraordinary trip by catching a comedy and music show at the Sweet Fanny Adams Theater.
Closest Car Rental: McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) – 42 miles
- Pigeon Forge, TN – 8 miles
- Knoxville, TN – 43 miles
- Ashville, NC – 82 miles
6. Mammoth, California
Forget spending your spring break spring cleaning, you’ve got First Tracks on the mountain calling your name. Ride the gondola to the top and take in unbelievable panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada. Take a few runs—like 20—up and down the mountain and then head into town. Trade your skis for a pair of snowshoes and trek around just outside of Mammoth Lakes. All that outdoor activity will no doubt give you an appetite, so make yourself at home at Mammoth Tavern. Try the tavern burger for dinner and the cheesecake for dessert. Mountain dining has never been better.
Closest Car Rental: Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) – 8 miles
- Bodie, CA – 61 miles
- June Lake, CA – 21 miles
- Independence, CA – 84 miles
7. Galveston, Texas
Yee-haw! Everything’s bigger in Texas and that includes the spring break festivities in Galveston. Spend your days relaxing on the sand at Stewart Beach or head over to the world-famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark and get your thrills on their amazing water slides. If waterslides aren’t your cup of tea, grab something cold to drink and float down the lazy river. But this town is home to more than just an epic waterpark. Take a stroll down the Strand Historic District and pick up souvenirs from a variety of shops. Pig out on the Gulf’s best seafood from Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar and call it a day.
Closest Car Rental: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) – 70 miles
- Surfside Beach, TX – 40 miles
- Houston, TX – 51 miles
- Port Arthur, TX – 124 miles
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
If sitting by a 75-degree pool under an 80-degree sun sounds like a fine idea for spring break, then Scottsdale, Arizona, is where you’ll want to be. Maya Day & Nightclub is a good place to start. Book yourself a cabana for the day and a table at night. Looking for something a little less hectic? Not a problem. Head downtown to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and take a tour. Speaking of tours, a Taste of Old Town Scottsdale food tour is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the local food culture. Happy spring breakin’.
Closest Car Rental: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) – 9 miles
- Flagstaff, AZ – 154 miles
- Tucson, AZ – 118 miles
- Prescott Valley, AZ – 101 miles
9. Manhattan Beach, California
Sure, Los Angeles is home to movie stars, Hollywood, and the Lakers, but some of America’s best beach towns are located on its coastal fringes. Snag your rental car from LAX and cruise five miles south to Manhattan Beach. Trade four wheels for two at Helen’s Cycles and go for a multi-mile ride along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. You can head north to Venice Beach and Santa Monica or go south to Torrance. And don’t even think about spending spring break in this town without signing up for a surf lesson. One Wave Surf School will have you shooting the pier before the day is done.
Closest Car Rental: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – 5 miles
- Santa Monica, CA – 17 miles
- Malibu, CA – 34 miles
- Beverly Hills, CA – 19 miles
10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
With 18 million visitors a year, Myrtle Beach is consistently one of the best spring break destinations in the country. There are over 60 miles of coastline in this area, so you won’t have a problem finding something fun to do. Start out on the Boardwalk, where there are shops, restaurants, and a 187-foot tall SkyWheel. This is like the Ferrari of Ferris wheels because of its 42 glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled gondolas. You can almost see to Cuba from the top of this beast. Looking for an outdoor adventure? Take a guided kayak tour with Black River Outdoors. After your appetite is through the roof, head to Carolina Roadhouse for a full-rack of ribs. With all this running around to be had, you’ll be glad to have a trusty rental car at your disposal.
Closest Car Rental: Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) – 3 miles
- Charleston, SC – 96 miles
- Wilmington, NC – 74 miles
- Kiawah Island, SC – 120 miles
11. Mt. Bachelor, Oregon
Flying down perfectly groomed slopes in the Cascade Mountains during a week off of school or work isn’t some far-off dream. Plan accordingly and it may be a new reality come spring break. Mt. Bachelor sits in central Oregon and offers fantastic opportunities for spring skiing. Test out your freestyle skills in their terrain park or just stick to the groomers. For a truly unique experience, sign up for a sled dog ride. You can pretend to be competing in the Iditarod. Hop back in your rental car and go for a scenic drive via the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway along the Deschutes River. You’ll feel right at home in the Pacific Northwest.
Closest Car Rental: Roberts Field, Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) – 39 miles
- Bend, OR – 22 miles
- Eugene, OR – 143 miles
- Willamette National Forest, OR – 99 miles
12. South Padre Island, Texas
Know what you should do during a spring break trip to South Padre Island? Post up at Rockstar Beach and join in the annual Padremaniac that begins in early March. The live DJ shows are must-attends. After the party is over, head over to 2812 Padre Blvd and sign yourself up for the thrill of a lifetime at South Padre Island Sky Diving. Discuss the terrifying adventure over cold ones with friends at Padre Island Brewing Company.
Closest Car Rental: McAllen International Airport (MFE) – 76 miles
- Corpus Christie, TX – 176 miles
- Brownsville, TX – 28 miles
- McAllen, TX – 74 miles
13. Alta, Utah
A short 32-mile drive southeast from Salt Lake City International Airport will bring you to the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s here, in the town of Alta, that your 2018 spring break will shift into another gear. Widely considered one of the best mountains in the state, the runs here are steep, challenging, and fun. Once you live out your fantasy of being a ski bum, take your rental car for a drive through Big Cottonwood Canyon. Have the camera at the ready for multiple Instagram posts.
Closest Car Rental: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) – 32 miles
- Salt Lake City, UT – 28 miles
- Park City, UT – 42 miles
- Wasatch Mountain State Park, UT – 55 miles
14. Laughlin, Nevada
You can’t rent a jet ski in Vegas with your winnings from the blackjack table, and we’re pretty sure Caesars Palace would take issue with you doing donuts in their pool. But in Laughlin it’s a different story. No, you can’t ride a jet ski in your hotel pool, but you can rent one from Best-Jetz Watercraft Rentals and have a blast on the Colorado River. If you’re more into a relaxing boat ride down the river, Laughlin River Tours can accommodate you. And when your appetite gets huge, a porterhouse from The Range Steakhouse will suit you just fine. Hit the tables again after. Who knows? Lightning may strike twice.
Closest Car Rental: Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IFP) – 3 miles
- Mojave National Preserve, CA – 53 miles
- Lake Havasu, AZ – 72 miles
- Kingman, AZ – 34 miles
15. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Thousands of spring breakers have been attracted to southern destinations for decades and when you arrive in Gulf Shores, Alabama, you’ll understand why. As if the beautiful scenery of miles of white sand beaches weren’t enough, there are plenty of other attractive things to do. See if you can hook a massive amberjack with Orange Beach Fishing Charters. Then, get a history lesson while wandering the grounds of Fort Morgan. Now, for a true Gulf Coast experience, take an 11-mile drive east to the world-famous Flora-Bama. This oyster bar and lounge lies directly on the state line of Florida and Alabama and serves something called the Bushwhacker. They say a few Bushwhackers “will give you the best experience you won’t remember”.
Closest Car Rental: Pensacola International Airport (PNS) – 38 miles
- Pensacola, FL – 34 miles
- Gulfport, MS – 127 miles
- Perdido Key, FL – 17 miles
Spring break is one of the greatest weeks of all time, which is why we took time to cherry pick the 15 best destinations for you. From the mountains to the coast and everything in between, we’ve got you covered. Pack. Arrive. Rent. Party. That’s all you have to do.
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