27 Cheap Spring Break Destinations for Students and Families


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By the time spring break rolls around, lots of people are ready for a serious change of pace. Many popular spring break destinations may be off limits for frugal vacationers, but there are deals to be found for families and students willing to look beyond the usual options. With appealing destinations across the country, there's bound to be a fun spring break trip within driving distance.

Related: Money-Saving Spring Break Staycation Ideas for Families

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A true beach vacation on a budget is not out of the question in a versatile and affordable place like Myrtle Beach. With an abundance of golf and mini-golf courses, amusement parks, and restaurants, it's possible to choose your own budget. Myrtle Beach also boasts more than 60 miles of waterfront with plenty of beach relaxation that doesn't cost a dime.
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The nation's capital abounds with inexpensive activities. The monuments and Smithsonian Institution museums are always free, and the city takes on a special glow during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival beginning March 20. Free sightseeing nearby includes Arlington National Cemetery, with the Tomb of the Unknowns and John F. Kennedy's gravesite.
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Biloxi, on the Gulf Coast, offers sun, sand, and plenty of gambling. Visitors can enjoy some history at the 1848 Biloxi Lighthouse (tours are $5 for adults and $2 for students). Culture awaits at the Pleasant Reed House and Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, where an emancipated slave craftsman and famed potter are honored in a complex designed by architect Frank Gehry. Admission is $10 for adults, with discounts for seniors, service members, and AAA members.

Related: 18 Lighthouses to Visit on a Road Trip

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European-style charm can be enjoyed surprisingly close to home. Head up to Montreal and stroll through the city's historic center, featuring cobblestone streets and stunning architecture. One U.S. dollar currently equals about 1.31 Canadian dollars. Free attractions include Mile End, a neighborhood filled with artistic delights; St. Patrick's Basilica; and Tohu, a circus venue with free spring break activities for kids.
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Vermont is chock-full of ski resorts, organic farms, and maple syrup, a winning trifecta for many vacationers. Farms such as the Sugarbush Cheese and Maple Farm in Woodstock demonstrate how maple trees are tapped and syrup is made. In early spring, biking, hiking, and even horse rides become options, and skiers can find discounted rates.
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Known for white sand, abundant seashells, and crystal blue water, this is an appealing and affordable beach destination compared with the state's party-centric spring break hotspots. February to April is high season, when the weather is at its peak. While there are upscale hotels, travelers on a budget will find plenty of comfortable accommodations.
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The wet season in Seattle typically ends around March, just in time for spring break. One of the most popular destinations in this culture-filled town is Pike Place Market, where more than 200 vendors make browsing just as fun as buying. The Frye Art Museum, a 10-minute drive away and accessible by public transportation, is free.
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The average temperature in April is in the low 70s, good weather for exploring the city and nearby mountains. The Cumberland River Valley is a popular place to hike. Stones River Bend Park and the Old Hickory Dam provide scenery and natural attractions. At night, it's easy to find dozens of cafes and venues with live country music for a small cover charge.
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Best known for horse racing and bluegrass music, this can be a family-friendly destination with sites such as the Louisville Slugger Museum and the city's popular historic district. The Kentucky Derby Museum, where admission includes a walking tour of the legendary Churchill Downs Racetrack, is a must. Admission is $15 for adults with discounts for seniors and children.
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The National Park Service offers free entrance April 15-16 and 22-23 for National Park Week, and Yosemite is one of its crown jewels, with epic views of granite cliffs and breathtaking waterfalls. Adventure-seeking families can camp, hike, and climb before the summer crowds descend and take advantage of free shuttle service in Yosemite Valley.

Related: 13 Money-Saving Tips for Visiting U.S. National Parks

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Explore this Southern city's history and culture at the Birmingham Museum of Art, 16th Street Baptist Church, and Civil Rights Institute (ask about discounts for seniors and students). Head to the top of the tower at the Vulcan Park and Museum for a unique (and cheap) view of the city.
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This bucket-list destination doesn't have to be expensive. A trip of hiking, biking, driving, and camping doesn't cost much more than the price of food and other necessities, and spring sees some of the best weather. Although it gets cold at night and the North Rim is closed until May, the South Rim receives visitors year-round. Reservations are recommended.
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The nation's largest subtropical wilderness is enjoying its dry season during spring break, with comfortable temperatures and few biting insects. For $25 a car, a family can spend up to seven days exploring mangrove swamps, cypress forests, and all the wildlife in between. The park is home to crocodiles, manatees, and more than 350 species of birds and 300 species of fish.
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Attending a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is expensive, but a bus tour of the track and entrance to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum cost much less. Museum admission is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6 to 15, and free for children 5 and under. Indianapolis also boasts a famed children's museum.
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Baltimore's popular and active Inner Harbor area offers live entertainment, concerts, fireworks, parades, and an abundance of restaurants and shopping. The Baltimore Museum of Art, Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, and Little Italy are free to visit. The Maryland Historical Society museum and library is an all-day trip that costs $9 for adults and $6 for children.
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One perk of visiting a city that welcomes the cold weather is there are things to do year-round. Perhaps the best known is the Mall of America, which is packed with activities including an aquarium, movie theater, and Lego store, along with traditional retail stores. An all-day, unlimited-ride wristband for Nickelodeon Universe is $5 off online.
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The Gettysburg National Military Park and its famous battlefield are free to visit, and the park stays open until 10 p.m. beginning April 1. The onsite history museum, with a film narrated by Morgan Freeman and a cyclorama painting program, costs $15 for adults and $10 for kids 6 to 12. The landmarks and monuments are perhaps best explored via 4- or 10-mile hiking trails.
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For foodies looking for new sensations, this is a unique and affordable destination. Street food has become a phenomenon in the City of Roses, making interesting and inexpensive meals easy to find. Coffeehouses and microbreweries are plentiful and provide restful pit stops between trips to the farmers market, city parks, and free museums.
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Picture cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, an open city market, and the site of the first shots of the Civil War. Charleston is a charming destination that can be explored on a budget. Free Tours by Foot offers walks through the city with ghost, historic, Civil War, and architectural themes.
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The Alamo museum is free to visit, and audio tours cost just $7. Nearby and also free of charge are the 11-acre Japanese Tea Garden, with a waterfall and elaborate koi ponds, and the city's famed River Walk with its shops and restaurants.

Related: 11 Cheap and Free Museums for the Whole Family

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The U.S. and Canadian sides offer different perspectives on the breathtaking falls, which spectators can take in for free from dry land on either side of the border. For visitors with passports, Canada offers a glitzier tourist experience and a direct view of the most spectacular falls.

Related: Beyond Niagara: Waterfalls in All 50 States

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The shores of Lake Erie offer walking trails and unique architecture, and the local Sandusky Maritime Museum teaches about local shipwrecks, wetlands, and commercial fishing. Admission is for $6 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under, or $14 for an entire family. Drive a half-hour south to visit the plunging Seneca Caverns, which open April 1.
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Asheville is one of the warmer destinations on this list. Depending on the dates, there may be wildflowers and dogwoods in bloom, as well as more than a dozen farmers markets ready to enjoy. Check out the downtown art district and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which has been named one of the top scenic drives in the country.
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This waterfront town about 70 miles south of New York City boasts an energetic boardwalk and an amusement park that traditionally opens by Easter weekend. An Easter sale April 14-16 includes 2-for-1 ride passes and half-off family admission to the aquarium, miniature golf, and fun house. In the springtime, hotel rooms are typically a third of the in-season price.
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Beignets and crawfish are calling. The French Quarter Festival, April 6-9, is a good reason to head to the Big Easy. Take in the city's jazz performances, free self-guided tours sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz Historical Park, unique Creole-style architecture, and other free and cheap attractions.
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After road tripping to this coastal city, park the car for good and tour by foot to appreciate cobblestone streets lined by mature oak trees. In spring, the azaleas begin to bloom and River Street comes alive. It's free to visit the McDowell Nature Center and Preserve and hop on a ferry to Hutchinson Island. The ride lasts only two minutes each way but provides gorgeous views of Savannah's historic district and Talmadge Memorial Bridge.
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If the average temperature of almost 70 degrees in April is too cold to surf the waves, it also keeps a lid on crowds and prices. Between the Northern Beaches, Southern Shores, and Hatteras Island, there's still plenty to do. The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and Duck Town Park and Boardwalk will help fill the time for free. The area also features the Wright Brothers National Memorial.