Grace Lower | Feb 28, 2019
Having lived in the Midwest for a good portion of my life, I know the quintessential spring getaway — a trip to the beach — isn’t always practical for those of us who are landlocked by corn fields. But it was those very same geographic limitations that allowed me to discover hidden gems throughout the country.
Beauty can be found just about everywhere in the United States: you just need to keep your eyes open. And whether you’re hundreds of miles from the nearest coast, or you’re just looking to shake up your travel routine, an incredible spring break destination could be closer than you think. Here are a few unique travel ideas that will take you off the beaten path.
Grand Haven has all the elements of a quaint coastal city: tidy shorefront cottages, sandy beaches, miles of boardwalk, and charming local shops. All that’s missing is the salt water!
Situated along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven is home to an extensive network of public beaches (several of which are perfect spots for surfing!)
For a picturesque view of the waterfront, the Grand Haven Lighthouses and South Pier can’t be missed.
Beloved by tourists and locals alike, these cherry-red buildings are among the most photographed lighthouses in the Midwest. After a long day of sun and sand, you can take the harbor trolley into town. Grand Haven has a celebrated arts scene and an enormous musical fountain that packs a ton of character into the community.
When it comes to spring break trips, Utah often gets overlooked for its southern neighbor, Arizona. But if you’re hoping to marvel at dramatic landscapes and skip some of the massive crowds, St. George, Utah is the destination for you.
Utah.com calls St. George a “national park gateway,” and it’s easy to see why. With national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon, Great Basin, Capitol Reef, and yes, Grand Canyon, all within easy driving distance, St. George is an ideal spot to set up camp between excursions.
Closer to the city lie even more natural wonders: with Snow Canyon State Park, Sand Hollow State Park, and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, to name a few.
Once you’ve had a chance to explore the great outdoors, visiting the town of St. George is the perfect way to unwind. You’ll have the chance to relax and rejuvenate at award-winning spas, enjoy a round of golf, or catch a show at the canyon-lined Tuacahn Center for the Arts.
And if you’re feeling truly spontaneous, the fabulous Las Vegas is just a 90-minute drive away.
If you’re a member of the 21-and-older set, Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail makes for an incredible, cheap spring road trip. The Bourbon Trail is a collection of internationally recognized bourbon distilleries throughout Kentucky.
Each year, tens of thousands of bourbon-lovers flock to the distilleries for in-depth tours and tastings. Guests can learn about each step of the distilling process, dive into the history of Kentucky’s bourbon industry, and even try their hand at pouring and sealing their own bottle of whiskey.
While bourbon is clearly the star of the show, an unexpected benefit of the Bourbon Trail is its network of gorgeous country roads. Between distilleries, visitors drive through Kentucky’s bluegrass hills — peppered with white-painted fences and herds of thoroughbred horses.
Along the way, there are opportunities to stop into main cities like Louisville and Lexington (called the horse capital of the world). But for the “real Kentucky experience” stop by charming, historic towns like Bardstown and Versailles for some down-home cooking, quaint shops, and of course, more bourbon.
Taos is a town that’s all about balance. Ancient dwellings are just a stone’s throw away from contemporary architecture, while creativity and innovation are just as welcome as history and tradition. These elements create a one-of-a-kind community that’s the perfect road trip destination.
For more than 1000 years, the adobe homes in the Taos Pueblo have been inhabited by the Puebloan Native Americans. This Native American community is the only one of its kind in the United States: designated as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark.
Throughout much of its history,Taos has also been home to a vibrant colony of artists and creatives. Visionaries like Georgia O'Keeffe, D. H. Lawrence, and Ansel Adams have all lived and worked in Taos — finding inspiration from the city’s natural beauty. Today, Taos boasts a vibrant Historical District, with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and markets offering the best local fares.
Architecture and environmental enthusiasts will want to check out the Earthship community — a neighborhood of sustainable buildings, created from recycled and repurposed materials.
If you’re early enough in the spring, you can also enjoy the last ski trip of the season with a drive to one of Taos’s many neighboring ski resorts. Or try a hot air balloon ride for a bird’s eye view of an inspiring destination.
Hot Springs, Arkansas might not be anywhere close to an ocean, but it’s got all the right ingredients for a relaxing spring break. Hot Springs was dubbed “America’s First Resort,” and for generations, visitors have enjoyed its naturally heated springs and luxurious bathhouses.
But it hasn’t always been a cushy getaway. In the late 1800s until the mid-1900s, Hot Springs was a hub for organized crime, with famous mobsters like Al Capone, Bugs Moran, and Lucky Luciano counted among the city’s regular visitors.
Today, that rowdy history makes Hot Springs all the richer. Local venues like the Gangster Museum of America now capture and preserve that facet of the town’s past.
Located in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs also has countless opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing. If you’re traveling with kids or kids-at-heart, the Magic Springs theme and water park can get your heart racing.Or if you just want a fun night out on town, make plans to attend the Gallery Walk or Antique/Boutique walk — held on the first and third Friday of the month, respectively. Local shops keep their doors open a little later on those nights, and offer free food, complimentary drinks, and live music throughout the evening.
The United States, has easy access to a rich variety of cultures, climates, landscapes, and regions. While it’s important to stay safe and plan ahead, why not explore someplace totally unique? Whether you’re interested in getting back in touch with nature or you’re just eager to eat your way through a new city’s cuisine, chances are, an amazing spring break could be closer than you think!
Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.