By: Matt Meltzer
Spring Break really is the great American contribution to leisure travel. A week every year where the youngest, sexiest people in America go somewhere hot, with virtually no rules, and nobody there to recognize them. It's a week where you can be whomever you want, do things you wouldn't dare do back home, and generally enjoy life without much consequence.
For years, cities in Florida like Daytona and Ft. Lauderdale dominated the spring break scene. But they've worked hard to shed that image and, in their place, a dozen destinations -- from Denver to the Dominican Republic -- have stepped in as the top spots for American college students to cut loose.
To find out to which SB spots all the cool kids are hitting this year, we asked a bunch of them. And then we took their answers, combined them with data from STS Travel (a company that specializes in planning large-group spring break adventures), and ranked the 12 most popular.
12. Panama City Beach
While PCB has worked hard to shed its Spring Break image, it's still the biggest party destination in the Redneck Riviera, and students from all over the SEC flock there in early March. While the city is home to Club La Vela -- the biggest nightclub in the world and ground zero for all Spring Break activity -- it has recently banned drinking on the beach. Consequently, this year is expected to be much tamer. Whether that's true remains to be seen, but this could be the last time Panama City makes an appearance on this list.
11. Los Angeles
For upperclassmen on the west coast who want grown-up nightlife and beaches that aren't connected to a hotel pool, LA has become a big Spring Break destination. Truth. A quick, cheap flight from most western states, here you can lounge by day in South Bay, one of America's sexiest neighborhoods, and then hit the Santa Monica bars or clubs in Hollywood at night. Or go hiking. Or surfing. The abundance of hotels and the variety of activities make this a safe, solid school break locale. And what it lacks in wild, it more than makes up for in options.
At first glance, Miami might seem like the ultimate stateside Spring Break destination. Crazy nightclubs, raging pool parties, and strip clubs that stay open 24 hours. That all said, the city can get expensive, and if your Spring Break coincides with Ultra, the price of hotels might necessitate stuffing six people in a room. Drinks can get costly too, so don't forget to pack your wallet. The upside (if you're a guy): The ratio of guys to girls is always favorable, since the clubs here keep a hyper-strict door. The trick, of course, is getting past the bouncer.
Credit: Flickr/Jeff Krause
Your first reaction might be, "Yeah, great, Spring Break... from FIFTH GRADE!" But look a little deeper: Orlando's glut of theme parks isn't just for families looking to ride the Tea Cups -- some of the best roller coasters in the world are at Universal's Islands of Adventure. And where else could you spend your week drinking with Homer Simpson? Of course, your theme-park boozing doesn't have to limit itself to Springfield, or even the USA. With a little help from us, you can drink in 11 countries in one day at EPCOT. And yes, Mexico is one of them. Add in crazy cheap off-property hotels and this is one of the more underrated Spring Break destinations in America.
Despite its "Man-cun" reputation, the dude-heavy originator of all-you-can-drink SB debauchery is still going strong. No, it's not the world capital of Spring Break that it once was, but what the city has lost in US college kids, it's picked up in students from South America, Europe, and Canada. In Cancun, you can party with people from all over the world without crossing an ocean, and the international draw means A-list DJs perform at the bigger clubs during March. The Hotel Zone has ten of those to choose from, whether it's high-end ultra lounges like Elevate or the high-energy EDM scene at Coco Bongo.
Credit: Flickr/Ted Murphy
7. Punta Cana
The Dominican Republic has become the world's hottest new tropical Spring Break destination. And while Punta Cana has a long way to go to catch Puerto Vallarta and Cancun in terms of bars and nightlife, the slew of all-inclusive resorts like Barcelo Bavaro and Occidental Grand make it so you don't really need to leave your hotel to get the full experience. And if you do choose to leave, the outdoor activities are some of the best in the Caribbean -- a nearby tropical rainforest is full of hiking, zip-lining, and ATV adventure.
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