Epic Spring Break Adventures Of Past Generations

spring break

The history of spring break goes back to 1936 when a swim coach from New York brought some of his swim team down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to practice at a warm pool during the winter. That proved such a good idea that the coach brought the whole team the following year. Seizing an opportunity in a post-depression economy, Fort Lauderdale quickly grew to be the original “spring break” capital of the world. Today, spring break travelers make life-long memories at destinations around the world. But the spring break options of today are an evolution of what has come before them, some of which were epic moments.

“Most of our lives, spring break has been portrayed as a fabled experience of near-utopian bacchanalia, community with fellow youth and warm sunny weather,” says CoolestSpringBreak, a website dedicated to preserving the history of fellow and future generations of spring breakers, both young and old. They ask, “… where does Spring Break, as a ritual of youth, come from?”

From the end of World War II until the 1980s, Fort Lauderdale was a notorious spring break destination in the United States for college students as was Daytona Beach, Panama City Beach and – well, you get it – warm places with beaches ruled as top spring break destinations.

Other states caught on and started promoting their destinations as spring break-friendly too, but Fort Lauderdale clearly had the lead, drawing as many as 20,000 students in the 1950s. That number grew to over 50,000 annual trekkers coming to Florida in the ’60s but then came the ’70s and along with them a very different scene.

Gone were the wholesome times associated with spring break-defining films like “Where The Boys Are” starring teen idol Connie Francis and the clean-cut songs of the Beach Boys.

Alcohol, a spring break staple, was mixed with drugs, which played a larger role in the festivities. The moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars to bring the hippie “free love” movement. Add college students, on a beach, with little supervision and the cocktail for epic spring break experiences had been mixed.Because of the shenanigans of the ’70s, the ’80s grew spring breaker numbers in Florida to over 350,000, overwhelming city services, taking all available hotel rooms, leaving many in shambles after occupancy and quickly becoming a difficult situation to deal with – but not for long.

The 1990s saw spring break go international in spite of nearly half a million spring breakers coming to Florida as high school students joined the fun. Young professionals began scheduling vacation time during spring break to re-live their college days before turning the ripe old age of 30.

As U.S. destinations tightened up enforcement of alcohol laws, spring break drinkers looked to spring breakMexico, where the legal drinking age is “old enough to see over the bar” and “anything goes” is pretty much a way of life. Already a popular option with budget-minded travelers, Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts offered hotel rooms that held up to four people, included meals and hours of free cocktails throughout the day. Never mind the drug wars, Mexico is perfect for the spring breaker mentality.

Still today, spring break rules the beaches and ski slopes for a period of time each year as a new generation of spring breaker comes forth to create their own epic memories. Google “top spring break destination” today and results vary depending on who is rating them but thousands of hits indicate a whole lot of people are.

Throughout most of the last century, spring breakers did not have anything close to that search ability and relied on newspaper accounts and TV news reports, mostly when something bad happened, for information on where to go and what to do there by reading between the lines. “Students Arrested For Disorderly Contact,” a story might read then go on to say, “25 students were arrested in Florida when things got out of hand.”

Looking for a party place for spring break, the old school researcher needn’t read further in that story than “200,000 students converged on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale to celebrate spring break…” to know this was the place to go. Twenty-five arrested out of 200,000? Pretty good odds for a stage set for epic spring break adventures.

Last week, when Gadling was in town for Seatrade Miami, the SXSW of cruise travel, Victoria’s Secret models Sara Sampaio and Elsa Hosk were hosts for the Ultimate Spring Break Dance Party 2013 with DJ Irie and DJ Cassidy at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach. Here is video of that event:


[Photo credit - Flickr users sean dreilinger and prakash_ut, respectively]

Top American Destinations To Avoid In 2013

Just as useful as a list of top tourist destinations for the upcoming year is one that gives advice on where in the world you should avoid. The truth is, we’ve all had bad experiences, and they can really affect our perceptions of a place. When I solicited social media users for suggestions on domestic destinations to avoid this year, many lively conversations were sparked – and several individuals audibly spewed their disdain for certain cities across the country.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m a pretty open-minded traveler. I’ve had plenty of unpleasant run-ins, transportation failures and otherwise terrible experiences – it comes with the territory. But I’m also not one to throw an entire city into the negative category. Instead, I took the most complained about places and looked into why they have a stigma, and conversely, wrote about what might make the social media users change their minds. Maybe the bad taste in these travelers’ mouths will never go away, but hopefully this will end up changing some perceptions.Detroit, Michigan
Complaint: “just plain depressing”
The Point: Once one of America’s most prosperous cities, today Detroit seems more like a post-industrial ruin. Corrupt city officials, economic decline and budget mismanagement have caused law and order to break down in the city. In October, the Detroit Police Officers union went so far as to warn visitors to enter the city “at their own risk,” and ALT (Alternative Luxury Travel) travel agency called Detroit the “Most Dangerous U.S. City to Visit for Gay Travelers” because of its increase in crime and the shuttering of a high number of landmark gay bars.
The Counterpoint: If you’re looking for trouble in Detroit, you can easily find it – but that doesn’t mean it will find you. The city still has a thriving music, art and theater scene, drawing creatives from around the country and world to live and visit here. And if you like cars, you can visit museums dedicated to both Ford and Chrysler, take a tour of the former estates of auto barons, or check out one of the many automobile-related annual events. There is still a lot of hope for this city, and earlier this year Gadling even wrote about it as a sustainable city to watch.

Reno, Nevada
Complaint: “ZERO attempt at a culture”
The Point: Reno makes the list of cities to avoid because, as one Twitter user put it, “it felt like where old gamblers go to die.” It bills itself as the second largest tourist town in Nevada, and can’t seem to shake the runner-up epithet of a tame, rundown version of Las Vegas. Most people sell the city by pointing out how close it is to Tahoe, which isn’t really a reason to stay in Reno at all.
The Counterpoint: If you don’t like casinos – Reno’s number one tourist attraction – it might seem you are in trouble. The truth is, this city has the same good eats, music, nightlife and boutiques you find in any other major metropolitan areas – you just have to search a little harder to find the gems. The Nevada Museum of Art also has a surprisingly prestigious collection and is well worth a visit (even if it’s just to kill some time during your layover to another destination). Yes, the pace of life is slower here than other major metropolitan areas, but many visitors might find that a redeeming quality instead of a negative one.

Daytona Beach, Florida
Complaint: “dodging trucks that were allowed to drive on the beach”
The Point: When you imagine a day along the shore, you probably don’t conjure images of laying your beach towel next to cars and trucks. On parts of Daytona Beach, automobiles are allowed to park in the sand during select hours of the day, making the beach vibe turn from tropical to tailgating party.
The Counterpoint: Here’s the thing: Daytona Beach is the home of NASCAR, so if you’re visiting for a racing event, you probably don’t mind a few cars on the beach. In fact, you might even enjoy the novelty of it. If you’re not into it, that’s OK too: there are plenty of other stretches of sand in for you to discover.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Complaint: “boring and flat”
The Point: Salt Lake City doesn’t top many travel bucket lists, mostly because the local culture isn’t too supportive of those who like to imbibe. Just a few years ago, the capital of Utah lifted a prohibition that limited the number of bars on each city block to two, but the city can’t seem to escape the conservative stigma.
The Counterpoint: Fostered in part by the Sundance Film Festival, Salt Lake City has a growing film and art scene. Summer visitors can watch live bands outdoors during the annual Twilight Concert Series, and those who come in winter should know that the city is known for its close proximity to the slopes – 14 ski resorts are within an hour of Salt Lake City. Year round, the city has many small businesses worth seeking out, which makes it a great destination for those looking to skip chain restaurants and big box stores. And if your complaint is that the city is flat, take a trip to the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats, and you might be surprised to find out how beautiful a flat landscape can be.

Los Angeles, California
Complaint: “smoggy and snooty”
The Point: Los Angeles is notorious for its smog, a haze produced by millions of vehicles operating in a low basin surrounded by mountains. It’s also an expensive place to visit, and the people who live there have a reputation as struggling actors, models and rock stars who will do anything to get ahead.
The Counterpoint: Multiple California government agencies have been working to reduce smog. It’s still a major problem, but it’s not a reason to avoid the city’s numerous landmarks and other attractions. Besides, the nearly 4 million people who live there don’t seem to be too turned off by it. And that sheer number of people discredits the “snooty” point. Choose your company wisely and you can avoid self-important people with stars in their eyes – or at least learn to roll your own eyes and walk away.

Do you echo these social media users’ sentiments, or can you get behind one of the cities above? Similarly, if you had a bad experience in a U.S. city and think it should be on the list, let Gadling readers know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this article, the population of Los Angeles was incorrectly identified. The article has been updated to accurately reflect the current population of the city.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Ben Amstutz]