Like the college experience itself, spring break has evolved.
It started with the innocent notions of Connie Francis in the 1960 film "Where the Boys Are," accelerated into the hedonistic MTV-fueled excesses of the early 1990s and down-shifted into the less conspicuous party vibe of the 21st century. Earbuds and iPads are part of the poolside scene now.
Through it all, the lure of sun and surf has kept Florida on the radar as a tempting getaway from the books in the prime spring-break month of March. Here are a few enduring options as spring-break destinations.
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Daytona Beach: Residents of the city known for the "World's Most Famous Beach" lost their patience with spring breakers in the raucous MTV days, but hotels, eateries and surf shops on the city's beachside still embrace the traditional student influx. Driving on the beach is allowed, although vehicles now are banned in prime areas near the Daytona Beach band shell and Main Street Pier. The potential for less-crowded stretches of sand is possible in Ormond Beach (to the north) and Ponce Inlet (to the south). Daytona Beach also is relatively close —roughly a 90-minute drive — to Orlando attractions. (daytonachamber.com)
Panama City Beach: This Gulf Coast beach destination continues to work hard to keep its standing as Florida's go-to place for spring break. Panama City Beach — anchored by a bustling stretch of big hotels priced for budget-conscious students — has a lineup of trendy musical acts booked for March, including rappers Sky Blu (of LMFAO), Lil John and Juicy-J, and country acts Locash Cowboys, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. Visit pcbeachspringbreak.com for an overview of activities, lodging and other topics.
Fort Lauderdale: Much like Daytona Beach, the South Florida beach destination of Fort Lauderdale turned off the welcome sign for spring breakers for years. Now, the city is again courting potential college visitors with a website (springbreakftlauderdale.com) devoted to information about hotels, clubs and activities. The place has heritage on its side, with a spring break history that goes back to the 1950s. Ground zero for the diversions is the "Strip" where State Road A1A runs beside the beach, between Las Olas and Sunset boulevards. Many of the clubs can be found on Southwest Second Street.
The Florida Keys: Yeah, the beaches in the Florida Keys are rocky, which doesn't make the best foundation for the traditional beach blanket scene. But the abundance of night life along Duval Street in Key West and the Caribbean vibe make the Florida Keys a prime spring-break hot spot. Hoisting beers at Captain Tony's Saloon and Sloppy Joe's has been a tradition handed down from Ernest Hemingway to Tennessee Williams, Hunter S. Thompson and Jimmy Buffett. Of course, there's also history (Hemingway's home), snorkeling and sunset street performers at Mallory Square. So some diversions might even qualify as educational. Visit fla-keys.com for more information.