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10 Less-Crowded Spring Break Destinations Across the U.S.

SmarterTravel

This spring break, forgo tourist traps (sorry, Miami and NYC — we still love you!) and avoid the crowds in favor of more under-the-radar cities and towns instead. Read on for a few of our favorite less-crowded spring destinations across America: Each packed with a vibrant culture scene, an array of attractions, and, of course, plenty of great food and drink options to choose from. (It is spring break, after all.)  

Editor’s note: As a reminder, the CDC is currently recommending against Spring Break travel. Save these ideas for when it’s safe to travel again, and always follow all COVID-19 restrictions, rules and safety regulations both at your destination and upon returning home. 

Paso Robles, CA (Instead of Napa, CA) 

This central California city features 40,000 acres of rolling vineyards and dozens of wineries, including Eberle Winery and Sculpterra, the latter of which is one-part winery, one-part sculpture garden. Paso Robles is also home to Tablas Creek, the world’s first Regenerative Organic winery. After you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy a meal at The Hatch (which serves up cool comfort food and creative cocktails) or BL Brasserie (where you can enjoy upscale French cuisine). Shopping options abound here: Expect many a chic boutique like Firefly and AndBe. Meanwhile, history buffs can visit the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum. The museum itself displays centuries-old photos and artifacts and is housed in a 19th-century-era schoolhouse and former jail. 

Where to Stay: The Piccolo offers a central downtown location, chic decor, and industrial-chic accommodations. The sleek 24-room property is decorated with custom artwork. There’s also an on-site rooftop bar, wine lounge, and library. 

Pigeon Forge, TN (Instead of Orlando, FL) 

While this mountain town is best known for Dollywood, it’s also home to several other theme parks, like Outdoor Gravity Park and SpeedZone Fun Park. Here, you’ll also find the Titanic Museum, a two-story, ship-shaped structure that’s home to 400-plus historical artifacts. Meanwhile, true crime buffs can visit the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, which takes inspiration from the infamous 19th-century prison and spans 24,000 square feet of exhibit space. Other highlights include The Hollywood Wax Museum and The Island at Pigeon Forge, the latter of which is dotted with countless shops, restaurants, and rides.  

Where to Stay: Transport yourself to the tropics and escape to Margaritaville. Rooms here are spacious and complete with margarita makers (!) plus private balconies. Meanwhile, the outdoor pool and sun deck with stunning mountain views. There’s also dozens of entertainment options — plus a serene on-site spa. 

Providence, RI (Instead of Boston, MA) 

Rhode Island’s capital is full of cosmopolitan charm — sans the city crowds. The city offers plenty to see and do, from Roger Williams Park Zoo to the on-site art museum at the famed Rhode Island School of Design. Other attractions include the Providence Children’s Museum and the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, along with dozens of historical sites (don’t miss the 1836-era Providence Athenaeum, with its instantly recognizable Greek Revival style facade). Providence also boasts a  flourishing culinary scene, with restaurants like Nick’s on Broadway for upscale and savory bites paired with libations,  Venda Ravioli for — you guessed it — ravioli, and Knead Donuts for dessert or breakfast (you do you). Cap off your trip with a visit to one of the nearby craft breweries. 

Where to Stay: The uber-hip Dean Hotel features 52 sleek accommodations and an arty, industrial-chic aesthetic. The rooms offer fun touches like rotary phones, vintage furnishings, and custom artwork. On-site amenities include three unique drinking and dining venues: a coffee shop, karaoke bar, and an upscale restaurant. 

Greenville, SC (Instead of Charleston, SC)

This scenic southern city offers dozens of (free!) and fun attractions to choose from. Greenville is best known for Liberty Bridge, the only single-suspension bridge in the western hemisphere. Here, you’ll also find lush greenery plus 36 acres of gardens — not to mention awe-inspiring waterfall views. The pedestrian-friendly destination is also known for its up-and-coming food and drink scene, many of which can be found in the city’s Uptown district. (Think: Blackbeard Coffee Roasters for a cup of java, The Breakfast Barn for the most important meal of the day, Molly’s Community Cafe for lunch, and SoCo Grille for dinner). Greenville and its surrounding small towns are dotted with over one-dozen breweries (18 total, to be exact) where you can raise a glass and toast to a terrific trip. 

Where to Stay: The Westin Poinsett, which is located in a striking 1920s-era structure in the heart of the city’s bustling downtown area, makes the ideal place to stay when in town. Expect upscale accommodations — there are over 200 elegantly appointed, spacious rooms and suites — plus three on-site eateries, including a coffee shop and piano bar. 

Sarasota, FL (Instead of Miami, FL) 

Beaches, boutiques, and breweries: What more could you ask for in a spring break vacation? Sarasota offers all this and more. It’s also chock-full of galleries, museums, and theaters that are sure to delight and inspire art enthusiasts and culture vultures alike. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which happens to be Florida’s official state art museum, is arguably the city’s most famous attraction. Here, you’ll find extravagantly manicured landscapes, a Circus Museum, and an over-the-top, 56-room 20th-century mansion. Sarasota’s vibrant downtown is lined with eclectic eats — including Duval’s for fresh seafood, C’est La Vie for hot pastries, and Bijou Cafe for upscale American fare, Caragiulo’s for old-school Italian, and Drunken Poet for Asian eats in a boho-chic setting — plus dozens of one-of-a-kind shops. No trip is complete without a day at the beach followed by a beer at Sarasota Brewing Company

Where to Stay: As its name suggests, the Art Ovation Hotel is an art enthusiast’s oasis and is sure to spark creativity. The unique boutique property also offers an on-site gallery comprised of specially commissioned works. Meanwhile, rooms are outfitted with sketchbooks, colored pencils, and ukuleles. There’s even a rooftop pool and bar with live music.

Tempe, AZ (Instead of Phoenix, AZ)

Tempe may be often overlooked in favor of larger cities like Phoenix and Sedona, but trust us — the destination is certainly worth a detour. Highlights include the Arizona Heritage Center, the Arizona State University Art Museum, and Butterfly Wonderland: the latter of which is home to over 3,000 species. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the 1,500-acre Papago Park — home to several postcard-worthy hiking trails — as well as Tempe Town Lake, where sunbathing, kayaking, biking, and paddleboarding opportunities abound.  Alternatively, art lovers can (and should!) take a self-guided tour of the city’s public artworks. After an action-packed day, head downtown, where you’ll find endless shopping, dining, and entertainment venues.

Where to Stay: The Graduate Tempe takes inspiration from its southwestern surroundings with its vibrant decor and bright color palette. Rooms here have retro-inspired accents like vintage stereos, colorful artwork, and comfy lounge chairs, and patios. After biking around the city (the hotel offers complimentary rentals), sip on margaritas by the outdoor pool or refuel with a hearty meal at the on-site bar and restaurant.

Bellingham, WA (Instead of Seattle, WA)

Whether you prefer exploring the outdoors or pursuing through museums, Bellingham truly offers something for everyone. Popular attractions also include the 250-acre Whatcom Falls Park (nest known for its serene surroundings and hiking trails), the interactive SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, and the Whatcom Museum (which is housed in the city’s former city hall — an 1892-era structure — and boasts over 200,000 artifacts). Washington State’s best craft breweries, including Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen, Wander Brewing, and Stones Throw Brewery, are also nearby. Of course, no visit is complete without a stroll down the city’s Historic Fairhaven District, dating back to 1903. Today the district offers cool shops and neat finds like Fairhaven Toy Garden and Village Books, along with restaurants like Skylark’s Hidden Cafe

Where to Stay: Situated across one acre of lush gardens, Sehome Graden Inn features postcard-worthy surroundings and magnificent flora. The modern bed-and-breakfast is housed in a beautiful Mid-Century Modern home complete with stylish accommodations.   

Columbus, OH (Instead of New York, NY) 

The capital city of Ohio is surprisingly chic. In fact, Columbus’ thriving boutique scene comes as no surprise, considering it serves as the headquarters of major fashion brands like Abercrombie and Victoria’s Secret. Visitors can shop the day(s) away at one of the hundreds of locally owned shops, like the Book Loft (books), On Paper (gifts), Thread ( woman’s apparel and accessories), and Homage (vintage clothing). Alternatively, browse the Columbus Museum of Art, stroll through the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and explore the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Afterward, refuel with a refreshing bite — locally loved favorites include Skillet (which serves farm-to-fork food in a trendy ambiance), Hot Chicken Takeover (where you’ll find Southern-inspired fare), and Guild House (expect upscale eats in a stylish setting). Toast to your trip with a cocktail at Lincoln Social Rooftop, where dazzling city views await. 

Where to Stay: With 149 stylish rooms and suites, Columbus’ Hotel LeVeque is designed to dazzle guests. The property offers a grand lobby, ultra-modern design touches (think statement-making lounge chairs, marble bathrooms, and gold-framed mirrors), and, of course, the 47-story Art Deco exterior. The nightly turndown service is just the icing on the cake. 

Albuquerque, NM (Instead of Santa Fe, NM) 

This southwest city seamlessly mixes old and new. Visitors can expect stunning architecture, incredible art, and swoon-worthy design. Take it all in on a self-guided walking tour of the city. Additionally, The National Hispanic Culture Center hosts 700-plus music, theater, and literary events, while the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is dedicated to preserving Pueblo Indian Culture (as its name suggests). There’s even an on-site restaurant. The seasonal Rail Yards Marketplace, which brings together Albequerque vendors, farmers, and business owners, is ideal for wandering and people-watching. Alternatively, plenty of shopping opportunities await in Downtown Albequerque. Here, you can peruse curated boutiques like Southwest Cactus (which sells, you guessed it, cacti) before noshing on chicken wings or ‘wiches at Happy Chickenzz, or nachos and burritos at Buen Povecho.  Complete your bucket-list-worthy getaway with a hot air balloon ride — after all, Albuquerque is considered the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World. 

Where to Stay: Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town is among the city’s most iconic properties — and it’s easy to see why. Highlights of the historic 188-room hotel include its Old Town locale, rustic design touches, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and six on-site drinking and dining venues (including a flamenco theater and nightclub). 

Savannah, GA (Instead of Atlanta) 

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Savannah dates back to 1783. Today, the centuries-old city retains its historic charm, with its oak tree-lined trails, quaint streets, and signature southern hospitality. Bonaventure Cemetery, Jepson Center for the Arts, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and Pin Point Heritage are all must-see sites that draw thousands of travelers — and for good reason. The city also has 22 historic districts, including Chippewa Square (made famous by Forrest Gump). On River Street, you can stroll through shops housed in former cotton warehouses and dine on locally inspired fare at Vic’s on the River, which serves up fresh seafood (think crab cakes, tomato bisque, shrimp and grits) in a historic 19th century-era warehouse. Where to Stay: Located in the city’s historic, now-burgeoning Plant Riverside District — which recently underwent a $375 million redevelopment project — the sprawling JW Marriott Savannah makes a great home base for exploring. Guests can enjoy luxury accommodations, 11 bars and restaurants (including a nightclub, tequila bar, sushi restaurant, and African lounge, to name a few), and a pristine spa. 

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