Where the sun is: Escaping winter for spring break

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2015 3:25 PM
Where the sun is: Escaping winter for spring break

NEW YORK (AP) — Who doesn't need a spring break from the cold weather so many places are experiencing? Here's a look at destinations offering everything from beaches to baseball to music festivals.

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FROM ITHACA TO KEY WEST

The winter in Ithaca, New York, has been so rough that all Noah Zheutlin can do is joke about it. "Snow almost every day and temperatures low enough to freeze an egg on the sidewalk," said the Ithaca College student. "I have more degrees than the weather and I haven't even graduated yet!"

Things are so bad that when the local tourism website, VisitIthaca.com, put up a link to Key West, Florida, the site was overwhelmed by clicks and crashed. No wonder Zheutlin — like lots of other weather-weary folks — is heading south for spring break. But not to Key West — he's looking forward to some beach time in South Carolina.

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FROM CANCUN TO THE GULF COAST

You don't have to be as far north as Ithaca to plan a spring break getaway. Zheutlin's cousin Zoe Gelman, a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, is heading to Cancun with five friends to an all-inclusive resort. "It is my first time in Mexico and I'm really excited to escape to somewhere warm," she said.

March and April are among Cancun's busiest months. Hotel occupancy last March was 90 percent, according to the Cancun Hotel Association.

Back in the southeastern U.S., beach season on the Gulf Coast kicks off when the college kids arrive in March. Callie Brabender, a junior at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, is driving with friends to Gulf Shores, Alabama. It's their second year going there. "We plan on spending the entire week we are there simply relaxing on the beach and refueling from a heavy workload at school," she said.

A three-hour drive east of Gulf Shores lies Panama City Beach, Florida, which is instituting some tough love for the college crowd. To consume alcohol on the beach, you must have a valid ID with you, and bars will close at 2 a.m. in March instead of the usual 4 a.m., according to Dan Rowe, president of Visit Panama City Beach. Country singer Luke Bryan is performing his seventh annual free spring-break concert March 11 and 12 at the Spinnaker Beach Club in Panama City Beach, but he's ending the tradition with this year's farewell show.

Eight-five percent of visitors drive to the region, but options are increasing for flying in to Northwest Florida Beaches airport in Panama City Beach, with Southwest and United adding service from Texas beginning in March.

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TOP DESTINATIONS FROM BOOKING SITES

Top destinations from three airfare booking sites for spring break season show not everyone is heading to the beach. There's plenty of love for big cities too:

— Expedia.com's top 10 based on bookings: Las Vegas, Orlando, Cancun, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and San Francisco.

— Top 10 from StudentUniverse.com, which specializes in trips for 18-to-25-year-olds: Orlando, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Cancun, San Juan (Puerto Rico), London, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago.

— Hipmunk.com's 10 most-searched destinations: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Cancun, San Juan, New Orleans, Tampa, Cabo (Mexico) and Costa Rica.

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BASEBALL AND MUSIC

For baseball fans, spring break means spring training as teams face off in practice games before the official start of Major League Baseball. The Cactus League in Arizona plays in Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Goodyear, Peoria, Surprise and Glendale. The Grapefruit League in Florida plays in Bradenton, Clearwater, Dunedin, Fort Myers, Jupiter, Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista at Disney World, Lakeland, Port Charlotte, Port St. Lucie, Sarasota, Tampa and Viera.

For music fans, spring means festivals. "We are seeing more spring break festivals happening this year than ever before," said Vito Valentinetti, whose website MusicFestivalJunkies.com lists events by month.

Valentinetti says "the undisputed king of spring break festivals" is the Ultra Music Festival in Miami's Bayfront Park. The BUKU festival in New Orleans, on the other hand, is "about as opposite from a beach experience as you can get on spring break," in a venue that's been described as an "intimate post-industrial setting." BUKU offers electronic dance music, along with indie rock and hip-hop.