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Exciting alternative spring break destinations

SmarterTravel

Bored with the beach? Tired of the same old party scene? That precious week of freedom from the academic grind can also be used to explore the rest of the world. Here are three destinations that offer interesting sights, outstanding cultural institutions, great restaurants, and nightlife to rival Daytona or South Padre. It’s time to think outside the beach.

Dublin, Ireland

For years the capital of Ireland sat in the shadow of London, a position that actually made it seem dark and downtrodden. What a difference a little more than a decade makes. Today, Dublin is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, and one of the most visited destinations in Europe. From its long list of home grown literary greats (James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw) and rock music moguls (U2 and the Corrs)—not to mention renowned cultural institutions like Trinity College, the National Museum of Ireland, and the Abbey Theater—Dublin offers visitors an array of interesting historical and pop culture sites to savor.

Although lately the city has gained a reputation for being pricey, it’s also home to tons of students, meaning there are plenty of student discounts and perks to be had. All of the government run museums offer free admission, and there’s a hop-on, hop-off bus pass that enables you to see (if not enter) all of the major attractions and get a real feel for the city. The pass costs about $15 and can be purchased at local shops, on the bus itself, or online.

Stroll through St. Stephen’s Green, the historic and beautifully landscaped park at the center of the city, and then peruse the vintage clothing shops and rare book and record stores of Temple Bar (Dublin’s version of Greenwich Village). Enjoy a frothy Guinness at any of the city’s pubs (there’s one every 500 feet) or see a live musical performance for free on Grafton Street. At night, check out the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, a guided tour of four famous pubs conducted by Irish actors who recite funny vignettes about popular writers. Students pay about $4 less than everyone else. Be sure to pick up a copy of inDublin, a free weekly guide to everything that’s hot and happening in the city, and don’t forget to pack your student ID.

Getting there

For travel from March 1 through April 30, Aer Lingus offers fares starting at $306 round-trip for travel from East Coast cities to Dublin, and $376 from Los Angeles. Special deals on accommodations and flights, plus helpful travel info, can be found at VisitDublin.com or Ireland.ie.

Reykjavik, Iceland

“What did you do this spring break?”

“I went to Iceland.”

How cool does that sound? Talk about party central, the northernmost capital of Europe has consistently been named one of the hottest party cities in the world. Combine this reputation with stunning natural beauty, access to extreme sports like glacier hiking, monster jeep driving, and white water rafting, and you have the makings of an off-the-scale spring break.

When night falls in Reykjavik, things are just getting started. Young people fill the streets hopping from one funky club to another a few doors down. The crowd’s energy, like the throbbing music heard every time a club door opens, is palpable. All of the major bars, dance clubs, cafes, and shops are located on (or just off) the main downtown street, which makes getting around easy. A few worth checking out are Kapital, Café 11, and Pravda.

By day, unwind at the soothing Blue Lagoon, a natural pool of warm seawater known for its healing properties. For an affordable and tasty vegetarian meal, head to Gardurinn on Klapparstíg Street. What’s On magazine is an excellent source of information on events taking place in and around the city.

Getting there

Although notoriously expensive once you’re there, money can be saved on this trip in other ways. Check Icelandair for deals on airfare and three- and four-day packages that include accommodations and air. The Reykjavik City Hostel is clean, cheap, and well located.

Montreal, Canada

If Europe is not in your budget this year, consider the next best thing-Montreal. The French language, chic style, and favorable exchange rate (one American dollar equals $1.2 Canadian dollars) add up to an affordable and interesting spring break, right on your own continent. The city’s nightlife is famous worldwide—just pop into any of the lively bars and cafes that line Sainte-Catherine Street to see why.

Those looking for a more cultural experience should head to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, where an extraordinary exhibit on Ancient Egypt runs through May 22. Students pay only $5 to enter. In addition, the cobblestone streets and quaint shops of Old Montreal are not to be missed. While you’re there, stop in at Cluny, a hip cafeteria-style eatery, for delicious yet affordable fare.

Getting there

Check Air Canada for special web fares between major U.S. cities and Montreal. You can drive to Montreal from Boston in six hours, or from New York City in 10. Also, consider taking an Amtrak train from New York City to Montreal. Students with a Student Advantage discount card, get 15 percent off the regular fare. General information about Montreal can be found at Tourisme-Montreal.org.

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