Spring Break is back bigger than ever in 2022 as pent-up demand from an exhaustive pandemic explodes across the Sunshine State.
Not that last year was a sleepy spring.
Large crowds were reported across the state in 2021 despite the pandemic, and out-of-control revelers forced Miami Beach to implement a curfew, reminiscent of the wild 1980s in Fort Lauderdale.
Iconic Spring Break destinations didn’t even promote Spring Break last year, but that didn’t stop a tidal wave of students, many of whom attended virtual classes from their hotel rooms on the beach.
What can Spring Breakers expect in 2022?
- Higher prices for hotels are already a sad reality, and there’s no reason to believe that will ease. College students can expect plenty of competition for rooms. It’s been a cold winter up north.
- Campgrounds are impossible unless booked well in advance — like last year. (The smart crowd is already looking ahead to 2023.)
- Air fares are higher right now than they were pre-pandemic, according to a Spring Break story in the Washington Post.
- COVID restrictions are relaxed despite an explosion of cases following last year’s Spring Break. Florida’s governor has pulled the rug from under local controls.
- The weather will be beautiful.
When is Spring Break in Florida?
Spring Break is associated with the weeks colleges and universities take their spring semester break, and every school is different.
The staggered schedule means Florida’s Spring Break begins in late February and runs through mid-April, peaking in mid-March.
The dates don’t necessarily align with the Easter holiday, although that’s when you are most likely to encounter families with children whose spring recess is dictated by primary and secondary school schedules.
This year, Easter falls on April 17.
Spring Break Hot Spots
Orlando continues to top the charts as the No. 1 Spring Break destination in Florida. The closest beach, Cocoa Beach, is only an hour away, but the big attraction is the multiplex of theme parks, with Disney World, Legoland and Universal Studios leading the way.
In 2022, expect to wear masks and practice social distancing at theme parks. Temperature screenings may also be required, as they were last year.
Hot Tip: Try something different and get away from the crowds. The world’s largest concentration of springs can be found north of Orlando. We’ve picked out 19 springs worth visiting.
Things to do near Orlando
Check prices on places to stay in Orlando*
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale is a perennial favorite for Spring Break visitors, despite efforts by the city to quell the debauchery of past years. Expect additional vigilance this year’s pandemic, and crowds will once again be carefully managed with barricades.
Still, with consistent sunshine and the warm Gulf Stream offshore, Fort Lauderdale may have the most predictably pleasant weather of any destination, and the weather so far has been straight out of the promotional flyer.
Never discount Fort Lauderdale’s enduring reputation as a Spring Break mecca.
Hot Tip: This year’s crowds are likely to disperse once again onto neighboring beaches in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Pompano Beach, Hollywood, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, and perhaps the most desirable hot spot, Delray Beach.
Things to do near Fort Lauderdale
Check prices on places to stay in Fort Lauderdale
Topless tolerance and Art Deco panache have propelled Miami’s South Beach to a premier Spring Break destination, but rowdy crowds in recent years have put the brakes on fun.
After a weekend that got out of control last year, causing some drinking establishments to close, Miami Beach implemented a 8 p.m. curfew for the remainder of Spring Break, and the three causeways leading to Miami Beach from Miami proper were shut down at 10 p.m.
Bars, restaurants and sidewalk cafes in Miami Beach’s entertainment district also shut down at 8 p.m. But that could be a blessing in disguise if those same rules are implemented in 2022. SoBe nightclubs are notoriously overpriced, putting a huge dent in your vacation budget.
Hot Tip: If you are looking to get off the grid, cruise out to Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, where the beach is postcard-perfect and there’s plenty of parking.
Things to do near Miami Beach
Check prices on places to stay in Miami Beach*
The World’s Most Famous Beach has long been a popular Spring Break destination and will remain so this year.
Daytona Beach is a town that likes to party, kicking off peak season with rowdy Bike Week in mid-March. It gets real crazy near the newly renovated Main Street Pier and boardwalk.
Expect the beach to be just as crowded in 2022 as in past years, increased beach patrols and more attention is likely be paid to the city’s prohibition of alcohol on the beach.
Things to Do Near Daytona Beach
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Fort Myers Beach
It stands to reason that consistently good weather on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast would draw a Spring Break crowd. Nearby Sanibel Island adds to the area’s charm.
Coed.com’s ranks this beach town as the No. 9 “trashiest destination” worldwide – “where the booze flows and the morals stay loose.”
Hot Tip: Bonita Springs, just 10 miles south, might be a better option with easy access to pristine Lovers Key and Barefoot Beach, “the second best beach in America.”
Things to do near Fort Myers Beach
Check prices on places to stay near Fort Myers Beach
Key West is Key West, and there are plenty of distractions. Parties are a 24/7 event any time of year, whether it’s a pandemic or a hurricane, and everything kicks up a notch when the college kids swarm down Duval Street, crowd beaches and island bars.
Arriving by jet? You’ll be greeted by R2Key2, the disinfecting robot. Arriving by car, bring Florida Rambler’s popular Florida Keys Mile-Marker Guide and check out the fabulous Lower Keys along the way.
Hot Tip: The most underrated destination in Key West, thus the least visited, is the beautiful but unassuming beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
Things to do in Key West
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Cocoa Beach is the surfing capitol of Florida, and you can gear up to look like a real surf bum at the only 24-hour surf shop in Florida, Ron Jon’s.
There is plenty of action on these beaches and in the air around it. This is the space coast, after all, and with a little luck you might see a rocket launch from nearby Cape Canaveral.
These are also the closest beaches to Disney World, Universal Studios and the multiplex of theme parks in the Orlando suburbs. Cocoa is also a short hop to Orlando International Airport.
Hot Tip: Avoid the pier area and venture further south on A1A to Cocoa Beach’s real town center and “Coconuts Beach.”
Things to do near Cocoa Beach
Check prices on places to stay in Cocoa Beach
Clearwater continues to be a Spring Break hot spot, and that won’t change any time soon, but St. Pete Beach further south is sure to draw a crowd after being named TripAdvisor’s No. 1 Beach in America last year.
Hot Tip: The best way to stay safe this year, may be to head 20 miles south of Clearwater to the stunning dunes of Pass-A-Grille, and a great diversion from the craziness is a bike ride on the acclaimed Pinellas Trail.
Things to do near Clearwater
Check prices on places to stay in St. Pete/Clearwater
Panama City Beach
‘Girls Gone Wild’ had its roots Panama City, but the city’s heyday as a premier Spring Break destination has faded in the decade since city fathers enacted laws banning alcohol on the beach during March.
With temperatures rarely rising much above the high 60s during March, this may not be the best place in Florida to soak up the sun, at least not until April.
On the other hand, if you are suffering from sub-zero snow pack, a sunny beach in the 60s could be nirvana!
Hot Tip: America’s No. 1 beach and a cozier, Old Florida atmosphere can be found 30 miles east at Grayton Beach.
Things to do near Panama City
Check prices on places to stay in Panama City
*Editor’s note: Links to accommodations are sponsored.
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning a trip, especially to areas hard hit by hurricanes.
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Bob Rountree is a retired journalist, beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without finding a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 11 years ago.