Feature: Top 10 Spring Vacation Spots

We’ve scoured the country for 10 seriously fun places that celebrate spring with everything from traditional jazz and cutting-edge film to fresh-caught crab and locally made craft beer.

By Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

Austin, Texas

Texas’s capital has much to offer at this time of year. The biggest draw may be the SXSW music and media conference (sxsw.com; March 13–22), featuring more than 100 stages and 51,000 participants. Boldfaced names (Lady Gaga) and up-and-comers (Australia’s folk-rock band Boy & Bear) took the stage last year. And though music is the major draw, movie buffs come to watch indie projects in Austin’s throwback theaters. For a laid-back view of town, you can take a dip under a 50-foot waterfall in the Hamilton Pool Preserve swimming hole (24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs; 512-264-2740; parks.traviscountytx.gov; $15 per vehicle), hike the Barton Creek Greenbelt trail (austinparks.org) and, of course, eat some barbecue. At Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th St.; 512-653-1187; franklinbarbecue.com; lunch for two, $32*), order the oak-and-hickory-smoked brisket.

Bend, Oregon

High in the snowcapped Cascade Mountain range, the town of Bend has its draws. Cases in point: crystalline glacial lakes and the 9,068-foot Mount Bachelor (13000 S.W. Century Dr.; 800-829-2442; mtbachelor.com; lift tickets, from $79), which usually has snow through the end of May. All that clean air and water makes for grade A brews, which are celebrated every May during Central Oregon Beer Week (centraloregonbeerweek.com; late May; most events are free). There are brewery tours and tastings; you can learn about home brewing and sample Twilight Summer Ale at Deschutes Brewery (or if beer isn’t your thing, cherry or apricot cider at Atlas Cider Company, among others).

Washington, D.C.

If you’ve already seen D.C.’s landmarks, it’s worth exploring its hot spots. Start with a cappuccino alongside politicos at La Colombe (Blagden Alley; 924 N St. NW; 202-289-4850; lacolombe.com), set in an old brick carriage house. Haute Asian cuisine is on the menu at Chaplin’s Restaurant & Bar (1501 Ninth St. NW; 202-644-8806; chaplinrestaurantdc.com; dinner for two, $62). And at Foundry by Freeman (1129 Atlas Ct. NE; 571-277-5245; foundrybyfreeman.com) you’ll find museum-worthy antiques. But you can’t mention spring in D.C. without talking about the approximately 3,750 cherry trees that bloom in the Tidal Basin of West Potomac Park during the National Cherry Blossom Festival (nationalcherryblossomfestival.org; March 20–April 12; most events are free). If the flowers aren’t blooming when you show up, there are cruises and bike tours, and on April 11 a parade down Constitution Avenue will feature marching bands from around the country.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Each spring, artists such as Kirk Whalum and 10-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan perform on the lawn of the Clark County Government Amphitheater, in downtown Vegas, as part of the annual City of Lights Jazz and R&B Festival (yourjazz.com; April 18–19). If you’re looking for a thrill, take a ride on the 550-foot High Roller (3545 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 866-328-1888; caesars.com; from $25) for a view that stretches from the Strip to Red Rock Canyon. Wind down at Oak & Ivy (707 Fremont St.; 702-945-6717; oakandivy.com), beloved for its barrel-aged cocktails, like Blood and Clovers, made of Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey, cherry Heering and sweet vermouth.

Branson, Missouri

Branson is known for its outdoor activities—fishing for spotted bass and catfish on 50-foot-deep Bull Shoals Lake (bullshoals.com) and golfing at 18-hole Buffalo Ridge Springs (1001 Branson Creek Blvd.; 417-339-5430; topoftherock.com; from $70), designed by Tom Fazio. And what better time than spring to get out and enjoy the fresh air? For something slightly out of the ordinary, check out Silver Dollar City’s World-Fest (silverdollarcity.com; April 9–May 3; from $60), where you can watch Celtic Irish dancers, 20 acrobats from more than 16 African nations and fire dancers from Samoa and Tahiti perform. This spring look for performances by Maggie Darlington, the lead Celtic dancer in Riverdance, and the wooden-flute melodies of Ecuador Manta, a troupe from the Andean village of Atahualpa.

San Diego, California

Every spring, this seaside town plays host to the Ocean Beach Kite Festival (oceanbeachkiwanis.org; May 9; free). Kid kite aficionados come to Dusty Rhodes Park with their high-flying creations, including giant octopuses and teddy bears in rainbow hues. (If your kids don’t have a kite, that’s okay; there is a complimentary kite-building workshop, all materials included.) Take in the festivities, then explore the city’s food-and-drink scene. At Tidal (1404 Vacation Rd.; 858-490-6363; paradisepoint.com; brunch for two, $43) you’ll find Brioche French Toast pudding with orange-blossom honey and mission figs. For dinner stop in at Juniper & Ivy (2228 Kettner Blvd.; 619-269-9036; juniperandivy.com; dinner for two, $68) for swordfish grilled over almond wood.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breck, as the locals call it, is one of the coolest high-mountain towns in the state. One of the best reasons to go this spring: Spring Fever (breckenridge.com; March 21–April 19; all concerts and events are free), a fun snow-dusted festival that marks the end of ski season. There are concerts and a snowboarding halfpipe competition. Off the slopes, consider a stop at the Breckenridge Distillery (1925 Airport Rd.; 970-547-9759; breckenridgedistillery.com) for vodka distilled from corn and “snowmelt water,” or shop for herb-infused lip balms and lotions at B’s Modern Mountain Apothecary (301 N. Main St.; 970-453-2408; bboutiquebreck.com).

Orlando, Florida

You may not immediately think of culture when you think of this Florida city, which has surpassed New York as the most visited in the country. But check this out: Each year, screen luminaries, such as Susan Sarandon and Paul Sorvino, descend on nearby Winter Park and Maitland for the Florida Film Festival (floridafilmfestival.com; April 10–19; from $95); you can attend screenings, discussions with industry leaders and parties where you can mingle with directors and film buffs. And at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (445 S. Magnolia Ave.; 407-839-0119; drphillipscenter.org), performers such as Emmylou Harris and Emmy winner Clint Holmes take the stage. For a pre-show dinner, try The Coop (610 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park; 407-843-2667; asouthernaffair.com; dinner for two, $44), where dishes include ham-and-pimento-cheese sandwiches, maple-glazed carrots and chicken and waffles.

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix has relatively mild spring temperatures, which can make for great hiking at Camelback Mountain (5701 N. Echo Canyon Pkwy.; phoenix.gov). After your hike you can stop in at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (1 W. Jefferson St.; 602-340-1924; bitterandtwistedaz.com), set in the city’s former Prohibition department headquarters. And every spring, nearly 15,000 people, including 600 Native American artists, come here for the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market (heardguild.org; March 7–8; single day general-admission ticket, $20). This year the basket-weaving process will be on display. And don’t miss the handmade leather purses by Southern Cheyenne–Arapaho designer Victoria Adams. In the amphitheater you may see powwow champs, such as the Oklahoma Fancy Dancers and Navajo Pollen Trail Dancers.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This South Carolina town, as its name suggests, has spectacular beaches. But when you need a break from the sand, check out the two exhibitions on the Civil War at the Horry County Museum (805 Main St., Conway; 843-915-5320; horrycountymuseum.org; free), which was recently revamped to the tune of $6.4 million. And Brookgreen Gardens (1931 Brookgreen Garden Dr., Murrells Inlet; 843-235-6000; brookgreen.org; from $14), a 9,100-acre garden and zoo, has an education area for kids. To go above it all, you can board the Myrtle Beach Skywheel (1110 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach; 843-839-9200; myrtlebeachskywheel.com; tickets, from $13) for an 18-story view over 60 miles of sand and sea. Twenty-four miles outside town, the hamlet of Little River plays host every May to the Little River Blue Crab Festival (bluecrabfestival.org; May 16–17; advance tickets, from $3), which celebrates the blue crab—turned into crab cakes, burgers and fritters. Craft vendors and live music acts line the streets, and folks from all over enjoy a taste of spring.

RCI affiliated resorts near some of the featured destinations include:
Silverleaf’s Holiday Hills 1004

Expect a championship-caliber golf course and a pro shop. 2380 E. Hwy. 76, Branson, Missouri

Branson’s Nantucket C340

Set on Table Rock Lake, this hotel offers access to Branson attractions. 2837 Hwy. 265, Suite 2, Branson, Missouri

Woodstone at Massanutten 5711

It’s all about staying active, whether skiing, golfing, swimming or hiking. 1822 Resort Dr., McGaheysville, Virginia 

The Summit at Massanutten 3640

Shares amenities with above resort.

Grandview at Las Vegas 6923

Adjacent to a casino, this resort has access to a movie theater and bowling alley. 9940 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada

Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Boulevard 6300

At the northern end of the Strip, near the city’s attractions. 2650 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada

Bluegreen Club 36 A851

A modern Vegas resort. 372 E. Tropicana Ave., Las Vegas, Nevada

Tahiti Village C610

A 27-acre Tahiti-theme resort with a lagoon-style sand-beach-entry pool. 7200 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada

Vacation Village at Parkway 4940

This resort features six swimming pools. 2949 Arabian Nights Blvd., Kissimmee, Florida

Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort—West Village 0670

A 1,450-acre resort. 8505 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy., Kissimmee, Florida

Harbour Lights 5303

You can bike or walk along the winding paths at this Myrtle Beach resort. 2690 Harbour Lights Dr., Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Presidential Villas at Plantation Resort 4220

Surrounded by palmetto trees, this is a peaceful retreat less than 10 miles from Myrtle Beach. 1250 Hwy. 17 N., Surfside Beach, South Carolina

For member reviews and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.

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Other Vacation Options:
BlueSky Breckenridge

Ski in, ski out at this resort. 42 Snowflake Dr., Breckenridge, Colorado; 855-426-4835; blueskybreckenridge.com; one-bedroom condos from $239 a night 

Lone Star Court

All 123 rooms are outfitted with cowhide chairs and industrial barn doors. 10901 Domain Dr., Austin, Texas; 866-842-0100; lonestarcourt.com; doubles from $209 a night

McMenamins Old St. Francis

In a former Catholic school, you’ll find 19 guest rooms. 700 N.W. Bond St., Bend, Oregon; 877-661-4228; mcmenamins.com; doubles from $155 a night

The Clarendon Hotel and Spa

A sleek property in downtown Phoenix. 401 W. Clarendon Ave., Phoenix, Arizona; 602-252-7363; goclarendon.com; doubles from $305 a night 

  • *Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Spring 2015