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Unexpected spring break vacation ideas

March 5, 2013

Avoid the beers and frat boys and head to these 10 destinations—from bustling cities to beach-side escapes—for a sunny and surprising spring break getaway.

Dining and drinking in Austin


Don't worry if you couldn't make it to SXSW; there's still plenty to see, eat, and listen to in Austin at any time of the year. Ben Edgerton’s Contigo Austin serves tasty drinks like the Texecutioner (mezcál, anisette, Cocchi Americano, and grapefruit juice) with fried green beans and juicy roast chicken (entrées from $8).

Or skip right to the weird stuff of Austin's city motto ("Keep Austin Weird") and head for Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, a tiny bar/barn with so-called chickenshit bingo on Sundays. Want more ideas? Five Austin trendsetters, including a concierge, restaurateur, gallerist, designer, and artist share their picks for the best restaurants, hotels, bars, galleries, museums, shops and more in Austin, Texas.

Surfing in Todos Santos, Mexico

About an hour north of Cabo, this Mexican village is home to some of Baja’s greatest waves. Start each day with some surfing at one of the area’s—if not the country’s—best breaks: San Pedrito. Then spend the afternoon exploring Todos Santos, a dusty little town filled with galleries, cafés, and boutiques. For a snack, try the ceviche at the stylish La Chulita food truck.

Small-city charm in Charleston, S.C.

With the “best beaches in the southeast,” it’s no wonder Charleston took first place in our list of Top 10 cities in the United States.  The seaside proximity doesn’t just allow for some picturesque views, but also for some one-of-a-kind seafood as well. “The food, history, architecture and people are wonderful,” said one reader.  “A bucket list city!”

Hiking the Big Island, Hawaii

While Hawaii is certainly known for beautiful beaches worthy of any spring-break splurge, it's the hiking that grabs our attention. Away from the Big Island’s perfectly pruned resorts lies a savagely spectacular landscape of forbidden valleys, primal lava fields, and mysterious beaches strewn with gemstones—there's no better place to be an adventurous kid again. Here's a guide to hiking and volcanoes in Hawaii.

Shore sports on Amelia Island, Fla.

Sun, swimming, surfing, sailing … who could ask for anything more? But should this Florida beach spot get to be just too blissful, there’s horseback riding, biking, and an almost-deserted island to satisfy the landlubber in you.

Coolhunting in Echo Park

A vintage slice of Los Angeles right out of a Raymond Chandler novel, Echo Park is a Latino working-class neighborhood that’s recently attracted fringe seekers of every stripe: tatted hipsters, musicians, geek-chic writers and artists, and vegans and vegetarians galore.

Art and amazing Views in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Four miles northwest of The Saguaro (10 minutes by car), you’ll find Camelback Mountain—one of the city’s greatest outdoor playgrounds, where hikers ascend 1,280 feet through red sandstone cliffs and are rewarded with spectacular views of the valley below. Post-climb, take a breather at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. A 10-minute walk south of The Saguaro, it’s Arizona’s only museum dedicated to 20th-century art and design.

Culture spotting in Amsterdam

Forget the bongs and the bachelor party clichés—there’s a slew of fresh reasons to visit the forward-thinking capital of Holland. Major museum renovations, mouthwatering locavore restaurants, myriad avant-garde design shops, and, for those newly intrigued with how the Dutch protect their low-lying lands, a crop of cutting-edge architecture (floating house, anyone?)

Style, art, and shopping in London

After a big year for Europe’s largest city—the Olympics! the Diamond Jubilee! the Charles Dickens bicentennial!—the biggest news now is the forces afoot in the East End. Artists, chefs, and digital visionaries are transforming the historically gritty hood that was once home to Jack the Ripper into the British capital’s creative hub.

Walking Barcelona

You’d be hard-pressed to find a European city that offers more to please as many disparate tastes as Barcelona. The capital of Catalonia, a northern province of Spain, Barcelona has two mountains, a first-rate beach that may remind you of Miami’s, and shopping to rival New York’s—not to mention a medieval Gothic quarter that may be the most fascinating in Europe.

Finish this with the city’s ease of navigation, its relative safety and physical beauty, and (not least) the fact that the mind-blowing Modernista architecture of the iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí dots it like jewels, and what’s not to love?