After months of long, cold winter days, we all need a break…spring break! Whether you’re in school yourself, a parent to a school-age child, or just want to escape the daily grind for a few days, hopping on a plane (or jumping in your car) and arriving at a vacation wonderland is a time-honored tradition this time of year.

Maybe you’re attracted to crystal-clear ocean waters, a few days on the slopes, or just a bit of shopping, relaxing, and taking in the local sights. And if those locations have a rich and exciting food scene filled with local specialties, incredible restaurants, and world-class ingredients, all the better — let’s plan that trip with these spring break ideas!

Why staycations rule

As much fun as it is to travel, even a beautifully organized spring break can have some not-so-great qualities. Trips can be expensive, destinations can get crowded, and even though we adore our kids, spouse, or friends, sometimes we just wish we were traveling solo.

Spring break ideas with a mom and daughter doing a spa day.

But here’s the good news: Whether you have to work through spring break this year, you’re just taking a pass on traveling for a bit, or you’re saving up for a summer blowout, you can still get away. There’s no reason not to indulge and give yourself that culinary spring break you so richly deserve — even if you never set foot outside your home. In other words, bring spring break to you!

Planning your “getaway”

A perfect spring break-style staycation is easier than you think. First, pick an area of your home (or outside, if it’s warm enough) you can turn into your own Xanadu. Decorate accordingly with fresh flowers, a favorite candle, or perhaps the contents of a DIY home spa day kit. Disconnect from work entirely — take a day or two off (if you can) or plan your virtual excursion over a weekend when you can avoid all outside distractions and focus just on yourself (and your family and friends, of course…if they’re invited).

Finally, pick your destination and plan the rest of your “break” — and menu — around that place and what it is known for. Cancun, Las Vegas, and Hawaii are all good options if you’re planning a big party or group event, but don’t stop there. Let your imagination soar. What local dish would you love to try for the first time? What sort of vacation flavors have you been craving? What kind of excursion would really help you to relax, unwind, and prep for the warmer months ahead?

As you answer those questions, here are five of our favorite food lover hotspots to serve as further inspiration for your spring break ideas.

5 best spring break ideas

New Orleans

With top rankings on several 2024 travel tip sheets — it’s the top “foodie” destination in America according to TripAdvisor and a top budget-friendly spring break option per U.S. News & World Report — this Mississippi River city is an all-around vacation favorite. It’s the birthplace of jazz, home of Mardi Gras, and, perhaps best of all, the epicenter of Creole seasonings and Cajun cuisine.

Any trip to the Big Easy — in person or virtual — must include a sampling of andouille sausage, homemade gumbo, jambalaya loaded with succulent shrimp or prawns, crawfish étouffée, and those iconic beignets. Sample a bit of it all, and plan your staycation menu with diverse flair. You can mix the best of French, African, Spanish, and Caribbean favorites — everything from po’ boys and muffulettas to savory bisquesseafood boils, and decadent pralines.

With each scrumptious bite, you’ll be speaking like the locals: “Laissez les bons temps rouler.” Let the good times roll!

Spring break ideas with a low country boil on plates and platters.

Key West

Even if your spring break starts with a South Beach-style celebration, when visiting Florida, you should always take the time to enjoy that scenic 150-mile coastal drive south to The Keys, and Key West in particular.

With its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and eclectic culinary scene, this island in the Florida Strait is rich with inspiration for an incredible escape — even one where you never leave home. Center your meal around seafood: crab legs or perfectly cooked white fish, such as Chilean sea bass, halibut, or cod. If you can, prepare your fish on the grill outside, or, if weather’s an issue, pan-sear those fillets on the stove to golden perfection. Then, round out your meal with some fresh kiwi and mango, a lush garden salad topped with tangy dressing and chunk crab meat, and a decadent slice of Key lime pie. Classic cocktails (like margaritas, mojitos, and piña coladas) are optional but highly encouraged!


The Mile High City is a mecca for folks who love the great outdoors: skiing, biking, hiking, or simply absorbing the breathtaking scenery. If you’re up for it, nab your own similar adventure in a local park or green space. Then, come home hungry because in Colorado, they know how to eat.

Beer in all forms is a local favorite, so start your meal with your favorite craft beer and perhaps a snack of pretzels and bacon beer cheese dip. The farm-to-table movement is especially trendy in Denver, so plan a giant salad packed with in-season produce, such as leafy greens, fresh herbs, and root veggies. Pair your salad with a selection of artisan meats and cheeses in homage to the city’s numerous gourmet food trucks (which specialize in everything from grilled cheeses to savory empanadas and hand pies).

Then, grab your rubs and marinades and get ready for some meat. It wouldn’t be a trip to Denver without feasting on a grass-fed burger or hearty ribeye steak as your main course — cooked rare, of course — followed by peach cobbler or a homemade pear tart for dessert.

Spring break ideas with a grill full of meat and vegetables.


From that stunning lakefront, through Millennium and Grant parks, all the way to the Navy Pier, Chicago is made for spring break. But as impressive as the Windy City’s world-class museums and charming neighborhoods are, the bustling food scene is what really draws visitors to this Midwest jewel along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Any Chi-town-inspired staycation menu should start with a bowl of Chicago-style popcorn (caramel and cheese popcorn mixed together). From there, you’ve got enough mouthwatering options to fill any good-quality diner: You could go for the city’s famous deep-dish pizza, its savory take on Italian-style roast beef sandwiches (think French dip but spicier), or an iconic Chicago-style hot dog (an all-beef frank served in a steamed poppy seed bun and topped with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, and a dash of celery salt). Or, better yet, serve all three!

And be sure to save some room for dessert, such as the city’s famous Atomic Cake. This gravity-defying layer cake includes a triple threat of banana, yellow, and chocolate cake, stacked on top of one another and sandwiched with fresh fruit (usually strawberries) and mounds of lush whipped cream.


Italy has its countryside and the Amalfi Coast. Spain has flamenco dancing and Barcelona’s beautiful architecture. But when it comes to an ideal spring break escape outside the U.S., France has them all beat.

Like any good meal, in Paris or elsewhere, start your evening “en Français” with a glass of your favorite red or white wine. From there, it’s time for “l’aperitif” — appetizers. Break out that charcuterie board and an assortment of dried salamis, cheeses, olives, pickles, marmalades, crackers, and more. Make it indulgent, but don’t go too crazy — we’re just getting started. Following the hors d’oeuvres course, it’s time to move on to a soup. French onion, anyone?

spring break ideas charcuterie spread

For your entrée, consider Parisian staples like duck confit, coq au vin (braised chicken), boeuf bourguignon (beef stew made with red wine), or a delicate casserole (or “cassoulet” as the French call it) of white beans, herbs, and spices paired with a grilled pork sausage coil — a dish that originated in the picturesque town of Toulouse, in the southwest of France.

Finally, in honor of the Eiffel Tower, end your meal with a tower of your own: cookieschocolates, or a mixture of all your favorite sweet treats. Or just go for a rich and classic chocolate cake or a couple of decadent macarons. And don’t forget to cleanse your palate with some incredible cheese before turning in for the night. What could be more French than that? Probably more wine!

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Brian Good is a writer, editor, and project manager with more than 20 years experience in publishing. He's written for some of the country’s biggest magazine brands including Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Shape, Men's Health, Muscle & Fitness, US Weekly, AARP: The Magazine, and websites including Mashed, Health Digest, DiversityInc and others. Good specializes on topics including lifestyle, travel, pop culture, health, food and nutrition, spirits, products, politics, and activism.

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