The very words “spring break” conjure images of campy 1980s movies featuring beer-swilling co-eds in board shorts and bikinis. Of course, it might still mean the same thing to a new generation of co-eds—Ah, youth. Whatever it means, it’s still time off from school and it’s a great time for families to spend time together, and maybe sneak away for a small vacation. If you have a boat, it means heading south where the water isn’t slushy. If your family is into watersports, it can mean specific destinations miles away from the famous—or infamous—locales like Panama City, Fla., Fort Lauderdale or Corpus Christi, Texas.
For those families, we’ve compiled a short list of the best spring break destinations. They’re in the South, and they’re geared toward being out, on and in the water. Maybe one of them is within driving distance of you.
If you’re looking at a virtual guarantee that you’ll have warm weather and water the play in and on, Orlando is a sure bet. If you want to bring your boat along, there are plenty of lakes and lake chains where you can play.
Just north of Orlando is Lake Ivanhoe, which used to have a slalom course and a genuine ski ramp. Those are gone now, but Lake Ivanhoe is still one of the best ski lakes in the city. It overlooks the Orlando skyline and has three separate bodies of water so you’re sure to find enough room to ride. What’s more, Ski World of Orlando is right across Orange Avenue if you need any supplies.
If you’re looking for a little touring while you’re out on the water, check out the Winter Park chain of lakes or the Butler chain on the southwest side of Orlando. There’s plenty of water, much of which is protected from wind by cypress trees and, well, enormous homes on the lakeshore.
When you put the boat away, there is plenty of nighttime activities in Orlando. For that matter, you don’t even need a boat to get out on the water. The Orlando Water Sports Complex lies on the south side of Orlando. It’s a cable park where you can learn to ski or wakeboard without a boat. Orlando Watersports Complex offers a standard and an advanced cable course, a quiet area for stand up paddle boarding, an inflatable aqua park and a pro shop. Of course, you can get some time behind a boat, too. OWC is sponsored by Nautique boats, which are manufactured right in Orlando. Tours of the Nautique factory are available by appointment Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you don’t mind driving a bit farther south, you can head to Deerfield Beach, which isn’t far from the spring break destination city of Fort Lauderdale. Deerfield Beach is home to Ski Rixen, a ski school and cable park set up on its own lake. Seriously, you’ll have the place all to yourself. Well, you and other Ski Rixen clients. They’ve got jumps and ramps for boarding and skiing, a pro shop and even advanced lessons for riders who want to take it up a notch.
The Lone Star state offers up some great spring break destinations for boaters and co-eds alike. In Austin, Texas, watersports enthusiasts can get in some riding and instruction at Quest ATX Cable Park. Located on a small lake south of the city, Quest ATX offers a full cable system with jumps and rails and the availability of private instruction. You also can slow down and just cruise around in a kayak or on a standup paddle board. New for 2018, Quest has a water park that offers a rock wall, monkey bars, slides and a wiggle bridge.
If you want to bring your boat along, the Austin area has plenty of places to use it. Lake Travis lies to the northwest of town. It’s a manmade lake on the dammed Colorado River. Not that Colorado River. This river originates in Texas and empties into the Gulf of Mexico in Matagorda, Texas. The Colorado River runs through downtown Austin and is lined with parks and marinas. When you put the boat away for the day, Austin is one of the premier destinations in the country for live music and good barbecue.
Up in Dallas, watersports enthusiasts can choose between Flyboard Nation and Hydrous Water Park. The weather in Dallas can vary during spring break, but on the odds that it’s warm, these two parks have a lot to offer.
Unlike most other destinations mentioned in this story, Flyboard Nation is not a cable park or a place to brush up on your wakeboarding skills. Here you can strap on one of those water-jet-powered boards and ride it like a jet pack. Located on Lewsiville Lake just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, Flyboard Nation offers instruction to get you started and flying. Helmets and PFDs are provided, but you’ll need to bring your own wetsuit.
Hydrous Wake Park also is located on Lewisville Lake, but it has 10 acres of riding all to itself. The cable park offers lessons for private parties and individuals or you can just show up and ride. It’s got the jumps and rails to keep things interesting and challenging. Hydrous also has an inflatable aqua park for younger children.
Drive farther south for better weather and you can check out the Texas Ski Ranch outside San Antonio. You could spend a lot of time here because the place has so many activities. You can go wakeboarding in the cable park and go wakesurfing behind a boat. There’s also a skateboard park, a paintball range, trampoline park and year-round snowboarding on artificial turf. It’s set up for beginners, so there’s no half-pipe. And no snow, but that’s the whole point of spring break, isn’t it?
For guaranteed good weather and plenty of sunshine, head to Arizona, specifically Lake Havasu City. Spring break goes off in this town, so Havasu might not be the first choice for families with young children. But it has water in abundance. Head out early for skiing and wakeboarding. The winds can pick up in the afternoons and the open sections of the lake can get pretty choppy. There are plenty of coves on the Arizona and California sides of the lake to explore and they’re protected from the winds in some small measure, but it’s best to get your runs done in the mornings.
Afterward you can beach the boat in the channel near the London Bridge and people watch. Lodging is plentiful and hotels like the Nautical Beachfront Resort have room for you and your family and the boat.
If you’d like a more laid-back place with just as much sunshine, Parker, Ariz., likes just south of Havasu and the Parker Dam. The “Parker Strip” is much calmer in terms of water conditions and atmosphere. Also known as Moovalya Lake, the strip has campgrounds and hotels on the Arizona and California sides of the river and, of course, boating and watersports are the main attraction. There are plenty of waterfront eateries and even a casino at the southernmost end of the strip.
If one casino isn’t enough, tow your boat a little farther north to Laughlin, Nev., where there is a litany of casino hotels, most of which have amenities for your boat. Check out the shows and gambling at night, and enjoy miles and miles of Colorado River boating during the day. There’s enough water that you can find your own stretch to have all to yourself. Fill up and make a day trip down to Needles, Calif., and have lunch at the Pirate Cove Resort and Marina.
Looking for more spring break destinations?
Of course, the most memorable spring breaks usually involve one heck of a party—check out boats.com's list of the 10 Best Party Coves in America. If you want to continue your travels after spring break, here's few more getaways to consider:
- Destinations for Snorkeling & Diving in 2018
- Destinations for Sailing in 2018
- Destinations for Deep Sea Fishing
- Top 10 Fishing Destinations Bucket List