The Most Popular Spring Break Destinations in the US Are Really Surprising

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Spring break is upon us, with peak season in full swing this week between March 13-17. But this year, emerging spring break destinations in the U.S. are not where you think. Along with Manhattan, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, Rapid City, South Dakota, and Norfolk, Virginia, are seeing a massive surge in bookings. Meaning Americans aren’t gathering at the usual hot spots. Instead, they are choosing places a little more low-key and affordable.

Top 10 Emerging Spring Break Destinations

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According to Key Data, Airbnb and Vrbo rentals alone for the 2023 spring break season are up 17% compared to last year. Their data compares bookings made on Airbnb and Vrbo for March 2022 versus March 2023. And, this year’s popular destinations are not where you expect.

1.    Manhattan, New York

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Topping the list, Manhattan is seeing a 186% increase in online bookings.

According to a press release by Key Data, “This could be down to the return of the city break, which lost favor during the pandemic and its aftermath. Manhattan is closely followed by Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

2.    Tulsa, Oklahoma

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People are looking to find affordable trips that offer good value due to inflation and the rising costs of living, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, is seeing a 175% increase in spring break bookings. With its vibrant and trendy downtown and midtown areas, Tulsa has a lot of great things to do for the entire family.

“The city is home to one of the top-rated parks in the U.S., Gathering Place. The community also has a substantial urban wilderness area called Turkey Mountain, with miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. And if being outdoors isn’t your scene, there are multiple museums, an aquarium, and many great places to stay, eat and shop,” says Pablo Fechino of The Happiness Function.

3.    Old Orchard Beach, Maine

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Old Orchard Beach, a charming town on the New England coast, is famous for its miles of sandy beaches and stunning ocean views. It’s a great place for unique coastal cuisine, outdoor activities, and entertainment—no wonder this resort town is seeing a 156% increase in vacation bookings for spring break 2023.

4.    Rapid City, South Dakota

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The Black Hills of South Dakota are a top place for people who love adventure travel and getting outdoors. Visitors can easily fly into the Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), rent a car, and head off to explore a handful of fantastic national parks and state parks, such as Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park.

The Black Hills are home to the tallest mountains between the Rockies and the Appalachians.

5.    Norfolk, Virginia

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Local travel writer Alexandrea Sumuel of Wander with Alex says, “If you’re new to Norfolk, you’ve got to explore the NEON (New Energy of Norfolk) District for the amazing murals and local businesses.

And for families, there’s plenty to do too! The Virginia Zoo is a must-visit, or why not check out a glass blowing demonstration at the Chrysler Museum or enjoy the sights on a river cruise? But let’s not forget the foodies out there. Norfolk is known as the “City with Bite,” and for good reason – there are tons of unique and delicious local eats just waiting to be devoured. It’s the perfect destination for spring break.”

If you’re visiting this week, Sumuel says, “You have to check out the hottest event venue in town, Waterside District. DJ S!CK!CK is taking over for the Shamrocks and Shenanigans weekend THIS FRIDAY – you won’t want to miss it! But the excitement doesn’t stop there. The following weekend is the War of the Wings festival – a two-day event full of wing eating contests and live entertainment – it’s going to be EPIC!”

6.    Bella Vista, Arkansas

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Bella Vista is a paradise for those looking to get away into the Ozarks for spring break. This time of year, the weather in northwest Arkansas is perfect for exploring. Located close to Bentonville, visitors can hike, mountain bike, explore the trendy downtown scene, and visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Bella Vista is known for its world-class mountain biking.

There are so many unique things to do in Arkansas – it’s no surprise “The Natural State” is becoming a spring break hot spot seeing a 136% increase in bookings.

7.    Huntsville, Alabama

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Huntsville offers an abundance of attractions in Alabama, from history and culture to delicious places to eat. Spend time touring the museums or hiking in Monte Sano State Park. In addition, the town is known for its military and aerospace scene. For spring break 2023, the city is seeing a 128% increase in reservations.

8.    Alexandria, Virginia

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Alexandria is packed with history and is home to many cultural attractions. From exploring the city’s rich colonial past along cobblestone streets to visiting world-renowned museums and soaking up the sun on beaches of the Potamic River nearby – there are so many neat things for spring breakers to enjoy. As a result, bookings have increased by 128%.

9.    Cleveland, Ohio

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Sitting on the banks of Lake Erie, spring breakers are flocking to Cleveland to explore a metropolitan Midwestern gem. Cleveland is a go-to destination for folks that love culture, sports, and music. Visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and enjoy the vibrant nightlife downtown. Bookings are up 125%.

10. Las Vegas, Nevada

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Whether or not you’re looking to party until dawn, relax at the pools, gamble, or shop until you drop, Las Vegas is a popular spring break destination this year – seeing a 114% increase in bookings. It is an excellent destination for folks traveling solo, with friends, couples, or families. Explore the strip, world-famous casinos, shows, and incredible cuisine.

For all the foodies out there, check out Resorts World Las Vegas, where there are over 40 globally inspired food and beverage experiences to discover. Resorts World Las Vegas is the newest mega-resort in town. During spring break season, visitors can catch a show by artists such as Katy Perry, Kevin Hart, Luke Bryan, and more.

Or head off the beaten path to visit Valley of Fire State Park, Emerald Cove, or Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Americans Are Favoring Lesser-Known Spring Break Destinations

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According to Melanie Brown, Executive Director of Data Insights at Key Data, “Spring Breakers are likely favoring lesser-known destinations as they offer better value than other, more obvious, vacation hotspots. Inflation is still a problem for some and opting for places that present affordable alternatives is a great compromise if you want to protect your getaway.”

Brown explains, “When it comes to more classic destinations, such as New York City and Las Vegas, increasing confidence in traveling after post-Covid and the bounce back of the city break is probably what’s fueling a rediscovery of these locations this year.”

So, this year, consider taking a trip to one of these unexpected destinations and discover why these lesser-known places are emerging as travel hotspots in the U.S.

This article was produced and syndicated by The Happiness Function.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer and founder of The Happiness Function. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and is passionate about the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

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