With droves of out-of-school kiddos filling up local pools and parks this month, it might seem a bit odd to start thinking about next year’s spring break for your family. But with so many excellent travel deals ramping up in June (and almost a full year to save and build an itinerary), there’s no better time to start planning. Between sandy beaches, historic monuments and thrilling theme parks, Carlsbad, California, and Orlando, Florida, provide a plethora of options for even the most disparate of vacationers.
From where to stay to what to do, here are the best ways to plan a spring break on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Between playing with giant building blocks in theme parks and relaxing at gorgeous state beaches, there’s a wide array of things to see and do in Carlsbad. What’s more, the town is a half-day drive away from major cultural and beach hubs like Los Angeles and San Diego, should you want to venture out.
Where to Stay:
Hilton Grand Vacations Club at MarBrisa (near Legoland)
Carlsbad Seapointe Resort (overlooking the Pacific, minutes from Legoland)
Grand Pacific Palisades Resort (within walking distance of Legoland, minutes from the ocean)
What to Do:
On top of the Lego-themed rides, endless gift shops and quintessential park food, Legoland has a water park and an aquarium, too, so plan for a multiday visit. The Sea Life Aquarium contains a shark tunnel, a touch pool, an octopus feeding exhibit and more than 5,000 animals in total.
Find refuge from screaming kids, strollers and the whirling of roller coasters (and possibly even inspire a lifelong love for music) at the Museum of Making Music. If the thought of hauling energetic children to a museum makes you wince, fear not—the facility features frequent live performances and educational classes to keep budding Mozarts busy.
Whether you want to surf, snorkel, swim or simply lie on the beach with a good book, there’s plenty for you and your family to do at Carlsbad State Beach. Consider this your day of rest from Legoland or the museum. But if sand and seaweed really aren’t your things, consider hanging by the pool at Carlsbad Seapointe Resort, which is perched atop a bluff with rooms that overlook the Pacific.
Before planning your Florida excursion, be sure to map where exactly you’ll be traveling to ahead of time. Several Hilton Grand Vacations Club properties provide shuttle service to many major parks, but if your sights are set on the beach or Kennedy Space Center, your best bet is to rent a vehicle.
Where to Stay:
Hilton Grand Vacations Club at Tuscany Village (near Disney World)
Hilton Grand Vacations Club at SeaWorld (near SeaWorld)
Las Palmeras, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club (near Universal Studios)
Parc Soleil by Hilton Grand Vacations Club (near Disney World)
What to Do:
Break out the wands (both fairy godmother- and wizard-style) or set your sights on watching aquatic life in action at the three major Orlando-based theme parks: Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. The parks are within a 15-mile radius, so there’s no need for a rental car. Mobile ride services and shuttle buses will do just fine. While you’re at Disney World, make sure to check out Pandora, the brand new alien world of avatar that opened this May, as well as Universal’s newest addition, Volcanic Bay: a 30-acre waterpark full of twists, turns and trapdoors.
If theme park crowds get to be too much, don’t be afraid to take a rest day at the hotel property—your feet, and your sanity, will thank you. The Las Palmeras property will be adding a water slide and splash pad later this year, perfect for a lazy, daiquiri-drinking day in the shade.
After a day (or consecutive days) living in an adventure at any of the area’s parks, transport your family to a site where real magic occurs: the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions inspired a nation here, and the complex allows you to touch, feel and learn.
3. Vero Beach
Although you’ll need to enlist the help of a rental car, trust us—Vero Beach will be worth it for a day trip. On top of its gorgeous beaches and palm-lined walkways, it’s also the center for Florida’s citrus industry, so come hungry.