Best Spring Break Destinations for Families

Mar 11, 2019

Winter is a special kind of hell for parents, with little kids picking up every possible germ, school-agers going stir crazy—and teens freaking out over midterms. You all need spring break, and you need it bad.

But parents in the trenches know there’s another key need: playing to your kids’ interests so you have a relatively whine-free week. And that’s where this guide comes in: It’ll help you sync your plans with your kids’ passions for an enriching, engaging and totally awesome trip. (Got kids with warring interests? Skip to the last item on our list to keep the peace in a tropical paradise.)

Top Chefs in training

If your kids have seen every episode of Chopped!, the Great British Baking Show and Master Chef Junior—twice—indulge that hunger. Tuscany’s Al Gelso Bianco Resort and Winery will get junior Giadas (6+) aproned up and schooled with a course catalogue that includes Tuscan Cuisine; Homemade Pasta Making; and Pizza and Biscuits (no, we don't know either, but we like the sound of it). As for your digs: Picture a cluster of family-sized “apartments” (which look more like little houses) in the Florentine countryside, where parents can pair local wines with meals prepared by the little sous-chefs. Cin cin!

If you’re looking for something a bit closer to home, check out Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas, where the cooks@play program teaches techniques—from whisking to rolling dough to airbrushing on chocolate—between sessions at Aquaventure, the famed water park full of adrenaline-rush rides. 

Rocks for jocks  

If your kids have been obsessed with top-roping, belaying and rappelling from the first climbing gym birthday party they ever attended, take them to experience the real thing—in the dreamiest possible environment (but don't let them see Free Solo before you go). The Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service offers full-day classes for all skill levels. If your kids are 12 or older, you can do your own thing. 10- and 11-year-olds can participate if a parent is along. And if your kids haven't yet hit 10, consider the private lessons.   

If unstructured play seems a better idea, head to Utah's Red Mountain Resort, home to a mesmerizing lava field and neighbor to Snow Canyon Park, where your kids can race around 7,000 acres of red rock canyons and cliffs, lava caves and volcanic cones. While you're there, day-trip to Bryce Canyon to take in its spectacular hoodoos—towering, spiky rock formations. And if you fly in via Vegas, don’t miss the hike to the trippy Fire Wave, a swirly swath of sandstone with a candy-cane gradient in Valley of Fire State Park.

For America’s next You’ve Got Talent stars

If your kid’s already rehearsing a Grammy acceptance speech, head to the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun. While you commune with the Caribbean, children 12 and older can hang at the Music Lab, where industry experts deliver insider instruction in jamming, on-stage performance, dj’ing, mixing tracks—and crafting a Youtube-ready vid. Yes, a star may well be born.  

If your kid is more of a Mrs. Maisel in the making, consider Spring Break camp at Chicago’s famed Second City (for kids 6-18), where the likes of Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Jordan Peele trained. While your stand-up star to-be is in class, do a deep dive into Bon Appétit's and Conde Nast Traveler's recent decisions to declare this town a national culinary capital—and the James Beard Foundation's recent announcement that the Oscars of the food world would be held here for the foreseeable future. When you come up for air, hit this spring's Rembrandt exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Then there are the aspiring aerial artists, for whom Cirque du Soleil Creactive was created: At the Dominican Republic’s Club Med, participants will learn the basics of trapeze, bungee, aerial, wall-dance and other circus acrobatics directly from Cirque-trained staffers. And hey, no one puts parents in the corner—you can join in, too (as long as you can live with your kids' mortification, of course).

For Potterheads

Given that any resident Potter fanatic in your home has no doubt been to at least one Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter, make this the year you cross the Pond for an experience that's as close to the real thing as you can get without a functioning Firebolt. (Also: Going now means you'll beat the summer crowds and take advantage of an uncommonly strong dollar.) Start at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London's Making of Harry Potter, whose biggest expansion to date will debut on April 6: Gringotts Wizarding Bank, where you'll walk by goblin tellers (each equipped with inkwells, quills, ledgers and piles of Galleons) to the Lestrange vault, home to the Sword of Gryffindor and Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup, among other treasures. Of course, you'll also visit the sets of the Great Hall, the Forbidden Forest and Platform 9 3/4.

Then hit the real Kings Cross station (specifically, platforms 4 and 5) on a tour of London's Potter filming locations. And try to score returned or late-released tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child before making your way to Scotland to check out the dreamy local filming locations—not least, the iconic Highlands viaduct that any Hogwarts Express wannabe-rider will recognize in a nanosecond.

For budding naturalists 

Get your Wild Kratts fans to Captiva Island's South Seas Island Resort, stat: 330 nature-rich acres await, as does the Sanibel Sea School (ages 6-13). While you golf or downward-dog, kids will track seahorses, manatees, birds and more with marine educators.

Farther south, the Grand Cayman’s Ritz Carlton houses the Ambassadors of the Environment program, a collaboration with Jean-Michel Cousteau—Jacques' kid. Yours will snorkel among coral reefs, kayak through mangrove forests and visit the endangered Cayman Blue Iguana Recovery Program. Join in for some activities, or wave as you float by on your paddle board. 

Something for everyone

If your fam is a mix of ages and interests, from arty to athletic to videogame-obsessed, Beaches has you covered. The three Caribbean locations have certified baby nannies, staff trained to care for children with special needs, and an outsize lineup of kids' programming. Tots can go treasure-hunting, sand-castle building and puppet-show spectating; bigger kids can sail, snorkel, make pizza, or join a reggae jam; and teens have their own tennis clinics, cruises, Xbox lounge and karaoke disco. Adults, y’all are hardly left out: You get to choose from scuba-diving and an array of sports, spa treatments and, yes, swim-up bar offerings.

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