The spring break tradition is as quintessentially American as black Friday sales, Superbowl Sunday, and Fourth of July fireworks. Except way better.
Starting in January, students and teachers alike have their eyes on the calendar counting down the days until March and their spring breaks roll around. A full week away from school, this is the first real time off since Christmas. It also signals the home stretch to summer.
American spring break conjures up visions of sun, beaches, skiing, and road trips. Thanks to movies like The Real Cancun and MTV specials, spring break is also synonymous with wild parties fueled by keg stands, bong hits, and Jello shots. I must say, that’s somewhat of an accurate account with a bit of Hollywood hyperbole thrown in for good measure.
I’ve had about 30 spring breaks in my lifetime—ten as a teacher. While I freely admit that the week-long holiday was one of the perks of teaching, it isn’t enough of an incentive to ever go back into the classroom. I do remember the elation and instant relief that came over me as both a teacher and a student when the Friday bell rang signaling absolute freedom for nine glorious days. The only feeling that rivaled the start of spring break was the start of summer.
As a little kid, spring break meant skiing. Both of my parents were educators, so it was easy for all of us to hop in the car and head north to the mountains. Once I got to high school, spring break meant going to Austin and Houston. Once I got to college, I did what every other college kid in the state of Texas did; I went to South Padre Island down on the Texas-Mexico border.
For most people, a pilgrimage in search of sun and sand is the priority. Florida has for decades drawn people to gorgeous coastline. Daytona Beach used to be the spring break destination in the Sunshine State, but now places like South Beach in Miami, Panama City Beach, and the Keys have budget conscious students looking for a great time and warm weather.
Another massively popular spring break destination is Mexico with Cancun arguably being the number one spot. With it’s giant hotels, blue water, and white sand, this resort town on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula draws spring breakers in like moths to flames. Normally a popular place for weddings, Puerto Vallarta instead turns into a place to party during the month of March. Once a place for Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood A-listers, Acapulco is overrun with students fueled by booze and warm Mexican sun.
Perhaps the destination that conjures up thoughts of spring break more than any other place for me is South Padre Island in Texas. This southern most tip of Texas is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre Bay. Most of the year it’s a popular family-friendly destination, but during March spring breakers from around the world descend on this tropical slice of Texas. Spring break is taken so seriously here that the tourism board has its own Website dedicated to providing information to those flooding South Padre.
Although I no longer have a spring break, I’m still intrigued by the tradition of it all. I look back fondly on my weeks in Acapulco, the mountains of Colorado, and South Padre Island. I miss that feeling of hearing the school bell signaling my freedom. There’s really nothing else like it.
What’s your favorite spring break destination?