If the recent balmy weather isn’t cause enough to start daydreaming about a warm vacation, just one look at the calendar will make you realize that your dream is closer to reality than you think. Spring break is only a month or so away. If you have yet to devise something to keep the kids (and your sanity) occupied, now is the time to plan.
If the beach is your preferred getaway, you have a multitude of options up and down the North and South Carolina coastline. From Cape Hatteras to Charleston, there are resorts, houses, and condos just waiting to be reserved with your down payment. Even one month out, you can find places to stay. Those places might be slightly harder to find, but rest assured with some searching, your toes can be in the sand come April.
If you are looking for a more exotic locale, you might consider the Riviera Maya area in Mexico or destinations in the Caribbean. Resorts, especially the all-inclusive ones, have become more family-friendly over the past few years, offering options for all age ranges and prices for many budgets. Sometimes they offer some great spring break deals in March. Airlines usually keep rates stable during spring break time, so if you can find a decent deal on airfare, a tropical getaway could be more affordable than you think.
A word to the wise: if you are planning a trip that involves hotel reservations and / or airfare, you would be well advised to use a travel agent rather than go it alone. Phil Angelo of Leisure Travel Experts in Mint Hill has seen every possible travel hazard play out over the course of his 23 years in business. “Resorts can overbook meaning that the resort and the room you paid for might not be the one you end up staying in,” he says. “They might end up rebooking you at a neighboring hotel with less desirable accommodations.” It should be noted that travel agents make their money from the resorts, not the traveler; very few travel agents actually mark up costs. And they know about specials and offers from resorts that you would never find by perusing the Internet. “I probably get 20 to 24 offers a day that you would never know about but might be very interested in,” he explains.
If you’re staying local though, and the mountain air is what you’re craving, you have plenty of options close by, with the added benefit of making your visit a day trip if you don’t want to stay overnight. Boone, Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Linville, and many other small towns offer great places to hike, eat, stroll, and shop. You can hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, hike to a waterfall, return to town for lunch and sightseeing, and be home by dinnertime. Phil Angelo offers another fun way to experience the mountains – by bicycle. “Stay overnight at a hotel and bike the Blue Ridge Parkway in one direction on the first day and another direction the next,” he suggests. “It’s especially fun if you have two or three families together. You can stop for a hike break or rest to look at the beautiful scenery.”
Phil also recommends Williamsburg, VA for a spring break destination. It’s not far away from our area and offers entertainment for all ages. “In the historic part of town, children who are learning US history will experience what they’ve talked about in the classroom,” he says. “But Busch Gardens theme park is in Williamsburg too; small kids, teenagers, and adults can all have fun there.” Check the Busch Gardens website for rates, attractions, and places to stay.
Maybe you want to have a staycation this year and are looking for day trip adventures. The one-hundred-mile radius around the Charlotte area has plenty of options. With the advent of warm weather, the US National Whitewater Center near Belmont is a popular location for many reasons. Whether exploring trails on foot or by bike, trying white water canoeing, or flying down multiple zip lines, you can spend an entire day there and still not experience everything they have to offer.
Moving farther west, the Biltmore Estate near Asheville is a truly beautiful and unique way to spend an entire day. Built in the late 1890’s by the Vanderbilt family, a tour of the estate includes the house and the gardens that surround it. After your exploration, you can find a number of wonderful restaurants and local breweries in Asheville for lunch and then visit the art galleries and shops before heading home.
Slightly closer to home is Chimney Rock, a state park about two hours from Charlotte, that offers rock climbing and rappelling for the adventurous ones in your family. All levels of experience are welcome but climbers must be at least seven years old and weigh 50 pounds. Aside from rock climbing, you can also hike, visit the animal discovery den, and ride an elevator all the way to the top of the rock.
To see more animals, you can visit the two wonderful zoos, Columbia and Asheboro, that are an easy drive and a fun way to spend a spring break day, especially with young kids. And if the weather is
beautiful, there’s a good chance the animals will be enjoying the spring sunshine too. Can you say photo opps?
Regardless of what your plans are, to travel far or stay near, get started on your planning before time runs out. And then enjoy every minute of your spring break. Because before you know it, the calendar will be screaming about how close summer is. And planning mode will start once again.