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 2020: Late February until Mid-April (Peaks mid-March)
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
Sponsored: Orlando Theme Park Discounts
Places to stay in Orlando
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
Places to stay in Fort Lauderdale
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
Places to stay in Miami 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
Places to stay in Daytona Beach
Fort Myers Beach
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
Places to stay in Fort Myers Beach
Looking for a seafood festival? Check out Florida Rambler’s 2020 Seafood Festival Calendar
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
Places to stay in Key West
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
Places to stay in Cocoa Beach
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
Places to stay in Clearwater
‘Girls Gone Wild’ has its roots Panama City, but its heyday as a premier Spring Break destination began to fade after the city fathers enacted laws banning alcohol on the beach, and Panama City is still recovering from Hurricane Michael in 2018. 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.
Things to do near Panama City
Places to stay in Panama City
Editor’s note: Links to accommodations are sponsored.