Although Fort Lauderdale and Daytona are by far the most popular cities for the Spring Break crowd, a number of other towns in and outside Florida host small armies of college students.
In Florida, many students who have gone to Lauderdale or Daytona for two or three years opt for Key West or Fort Myers for a change of pace. Key West, long famous for its casual atmosphere, offers excellent diving and fishing, a number of historic and rowdy bars and the renowned sunsets at Mallory Dock. Be warned, though: Cheap lodging and cheap food are as rare on Key West as sandy beaches.
Fort Myers, on the other hand, can be a very cheap Spring Break spot -- though perhaps a little too sedate for the average college crowd. But if you need a secluded stretch of beach to catch up on a semester's reading, most anywhere on Sanibel and Captiva islands, just across the bay from the town of Fort Myers, will do just fine.
Florida's panhandle, commonly known as the "Redneck Riviera," has long been a favorite of students from southern schools. Fraternities and sororities descend on Panama City and Fort Walton around Easter, when the big universities like Georgia, Alabama and LSU have their vacations. The towns are small and a car is a necessity, but the panhandle undoubtedly has the most beautiful beaches in the state.
Many Texas students, realizing that a 32-hour drive to Fort Lauderdale is asking a little too much, have decided to create their own haven on Texas' Gulf Coast. South Padre Island is doing a booming Spring Break business -- an expected 120,000 students this year -- from Texas as well as Oklahoma, Kansas and the rest of the Midwest. The beach is lovely, the beer companies sponsor concerts and contests, the bars are plentiful; and if you want to get away from the crowds, the enormous Padre Island National Seashore is just a few miles north.
Finally, for those who hate the sand and the smell of suntan oil, there are always the ski slopes. The big resorts like Aspen, Vail, Mammoth Mountain, Sugarbush and Killington get a large number of Spring Breakers.
After all, if you go to school in Florida, Texas or California, another week on the beach in the sun is no big treat. With the proliferation of all-inclusive package deals -- lodging, lift ticket, equipment, even meals -- many students have discovered that a ski week can be just as affordable as a week on the beach. And you can still get a great tan.