Last updated on June 27th, 2020 at 02:57 pm

Spring Break was an event to behold when I first moved in Fort Lauderdale in the late ’70s. Hundreds of thousands of college students converged on Fort Lauderdale’s beach every year, blocking State Road A1A for a month of steady drinking and assorted debauchery inspired by the iconic ’60s movie “Where the Boys Are.”

Times change. Fort Lauderdale is tamer these days, and Orlando has taken the top spot for college students.

2020 will be no exception with the opening of the new Star Wars attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Spring Break: Late February until Mid-April (Peaks mid-March)


Orlando

disney world star wars stormtroopers
Storm troopers greet guests at the new Star Wars attraction at Disney World in Orlando. (Disney Photo)

Orlando tops the charts as the No. 1 Spring Break destination in Florida, and deservedly so. The closest beach, Cocoa Beach, is only an hour away, but the real attraction is the multiplex of theme parks, with Disney World and Universal Studios leading the charge. This year, Disney dazzles with its new Star Wars attraction at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. With hundreds of hotels and motels (an estimated 130,000 hotel rooms), accommodations are not hard to find, and almost every hotel has a pool where the guys and gals congregate when not spacing out on Star Wars.

Things to do near Orlando

Outdoor adventures near Orlando theme parks

Lake Louisa: Nature near Orlando with great hiking and cabins

Lake Kissimmee State Park: Where Old Florida lives on

Sponsored: Orlando Theme Park Discounts

Places to stay in Orlando

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Book a Hotel Roomimage 4224082 10438023 Spring Break: Top 10 Florida destinations

Camping near Disney World: Our picks within an hour’s drive


Fort Lauderdale

South Beach in Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale’s South Beach is a popular gathering place, but it’s not always this quiet.

The kids are less rowdy today and more into tanning time, but isn’t that how it all started back in the ’50s?  The college kids who visit now are more likely to be crashing at grandma’s condo, rather than ten-to-a-room at a Holiday Inn. The weather and sunshine are the most predictably pleasant of anywhere in Florida, except possibly Key West, and the Elbo Room remains a popular focal point of beach activity. While Lauderdale’s famous “Strip” can still hold its own, the current crowds are just as likely dispersed onto neighboring beaches in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Deerfield Beach.

Things to do near Fort Lauderdale

Kayaking West Lake: Hidden nature

South Florida bike trails: 11 of our favorites

Visitor tips for exploring Everglades National Park

Places to stay in Fort Lauderdale

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Fort Lauderdale Hotels

Best Camping Near Fort Lauderdale


Miami Beach

Spring Break on Miami Beach
South Beach at Spring Break

Topless tolerance and Art Deco panache have helped Miami Beach emerge as a premier Spring Break destination. Beachfront hotels and Lincoln Road’s outdoor cafes are the hot spots for hanging out. The SoBe crowd is well-heeled, so you’ll be stylin’ (and spendin’.)  Not a cheap night out but likely a night to remember. Still, there’s a lot more to Miami and the rest of South Florida than South Beach, so check out our other things to do in South Florida.

Things to do near Miami Beach

Cape Florida on Key Biscayne: Top beach, lighthouse & sangria

Take a ride to the Florida Keys

Storied road through Everglades is a wild one

Places to stay in Miami Beach

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Miami Beach Hotels

Camping and ‘Glamping’ in the Everglades


Daytona Beach

Spring Break in Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach

The World’s Most Famous Beach has long been a popular Spring Break destination, and for good reason. This is a town that likes to party, kicking off the spring season with the Daytona 500, Bike Week in mid-March, and the celebrations continue well into April. It especially gets crazy near the newly renovated Main Street Pier and boardwalk. But beware: the weather can be tricky during spring, and it’s not always “beach” weather. If you want guaranteed beach weather, you’ll need to head further south. If you’re not into craziness, visit nearby Flagler Beach or New Smyrna Beach and pristine Canaveral National Seashore.

Things to Do Near Daytona Beach

6 Things to Do in Ocala National Forest

When birds migrate, they perch on Merritt Island

Canaveral National Seashore: Florida’s longest unspoiled beach

Places to stay in Daytona Beach

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Daytona Beach Hotels

Best “Natural” Camping Near Daytona Beach


Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach and its popular fishing pier. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Fort Myers Beach and its popular fishing pier. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

It stands to reason that consistently good weather on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast would draw a Spring Break crowd, and the room rates in Fort Myers Beach are seasonably reasonable. 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.”  If you can pull yourself away from the Lani Kai, escape the maddening crowds with a side trip to one of these nearby destinations.

Things to do near Fort Myers Beach

Lovers Key State Park: Great beach, kayaking, manatees & birds

9 Ways to Enjoy Sanibel Island

Lovers Key: Great beach, kayaking, manatees

Places to stay in Fort Myers Beach

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Fort Myers Beach Hotels

Best camping near Fort Myers and Sanibel


Looking for a seafood festival? Check out Florida Rambler’s 2020 Seafood Festival Calendar


Key West

Key West sunset at Mallory Square
Sunset celebration at Mallory Square

What happens in Key West stays in Key West, and there are plenty of distractions. Parties are a 24/7 event any time of year, and everything kicks up a notch when the college kids swarm down Duval Street, Key West’s beaches and bars. Mallory Square pops, as always, with its sunset freak show, and there are plenty of restaurants where you can impress that cute girl or guy from the University of Iowa. Nobody should visit the Keys without taking along our popular Florida Keys Mile-Marker Guide and checking out the fabulous Lower Keys along the way.

Things to do in Key West

On a budget? Key West on the cheap isn’t easy, but here are tips

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park: Key West’s hidden gem

Key West chickens: Noisy, colorful, just like Key West

Places to stay in Key West

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Key West Hotels

Camping near Key West: Try these ‘affordable’ hideaways


Cocoa Beach

Coconuts Beach in Downtown Cocoa Beach
“Coconuts Beach” in Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach is the surfing capitol of Florida, and you can gear up to look like a surfer 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.

Things to do near Cocoa Beach

5 things to discover in Cocoa Beach

When birds migrate, they perch on Merritt Island

Get naked at Canaveral National Seashore

Places to stay in Cocoa Beach

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Cocoa Beach Hotels

Jetty Park: Beachfront cabins & camping in Cape Canaveral


Clearwater

Caladesi Island State Park
Beautiful Caladesi Island State Park is a fabulous beach in Clearwater.

Clearwater has long been a sleeper in this roll call, but the kids will tell you that it has always been popular, rivaling Daytona and Fort Lauderdale with its crowds and party action. While the main beach in Clearwater is the center of the action, smart Spring Breakers trickle off to some of the Gulf Coast’s prettier beaches on Honeymoon Island or Fort Desoto, and for a real treat, paddle a kayak out to Caladesi Island and camp, weather permitting.

Things to do near Clearwater

Pinellas Trail: Treasured bike trail from St. Pete north

Pinellas Trail: Scenic window to another world

Tarpon Springs: She ain’t what she used to be, but still worth visiting

Places to stay in Clearwater

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Clearwater Beach Hotels

Best Camping near Tampa Bay: 9 choice campgrounds


Panama City

Spring Break in Panama City
Panama City during Spring Break

‘Girls Gone Wild’ has its roots Panama City, but its heyday as a premier Spring Break destination has faded ever since city fathers enacted laws banning alcohol on the beach during March, and they are actively enforcing the ban with beach police patrols. Nothing against this fine beach town on the Redneck Riviera, but I would personally seek a destination further south, where spring weather is a bit more predictable. It can get downright chilly in Florida’s Panhandle during March, which is the peak Spring Break month.

Things to do near Panama City

Grayton Beach: Camp, kayak and bike at one of America’s top beaches

Panama City Visitors Guide

30A Visitors Guide

Places to stay in Panama City

Bed and Breakfasts

Beach House, Condo or Cabin

Panama City Beach Hotels

Best beach camping in Florida’s Panhandle


Editor’s note: Links to accommodations are sponsored.

2 Comments

  1. Margie walder

    When is spring break in Smyrna Beach?

    • Same as other destinations around Florida, peaking in late March. It’s not tied to any community event but rather is determined by when colleges take their breaks. Every college take different dates, most in March or April.

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