March (Break) Madness

 

Playing with my Nikon - in camera multiple exposure while on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Playing with my Nikon – in camera multiple exposure while on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

For twenty-five-plus years I’d jumped on the March bandwagon and made my way south – not that I had any choice. I was a teacher and my wife was a teacher. If I was doing a winter getaway that’s when it was happening.

Now I have a choice. But here’s the irony: last year we did Puerto Vallarta on March Break (life lesson one – if you don’t care where you go and you’ve planned ahead, you can even get deals at this time of year) and this year I’m spending the school break on the slopes in Killington, Vermont.

I’ve become inured to March Break madness – or maybe decades of rushing away during the Ides of March has become part of my DNA.  At any rate, I’m still doing it – and you can too.

And even if you have neither the wherewithal or time to get all the way away, never  fear.
You can still have fun on a budget on the cusp of spring.

Playing in the stairwell at the Museum of Nature - Ottawa.
Playing in the stairwell at the Canadian Museum of Nature – Ottawa.

A MUNIFICENCE OF MUSEUMS

If you’re shipping the kids and you’re short on time, money, or both, Ottawa’s an ideal March Break destination.  Temperatures might even get above the big “0” though that’s not a deal-breaker. For me, Ottawa means museums. Spend a few days immersed in art, culture, history and nature. And barely even step outside.

The Canadian Museum of History, just across the Ottawa River, is a must-do no matter who’s in your party. World’s biggest indoor collection of totem poles, interactive displays, life-sized recreations of Canadian towns. The Canadian Museum of Nature is the ultimate kid-friendly attraction, replete with life-size dinosaurs.  The exhibits at the Canadian War Museum are both educational and moving, while the Diefenbunker offers a close-up look at the Cold War – both fascinating and terrifying for Boomers or pre-Boomers.

A surfeit of history? Skate on the Rideau or snowshoe in Gatineau Park.

Then take in another museum.

Lots of fun to ride in the daylight for everyone in the family, and lots of fun for me at night capturing this image of the Myrtle Beach Ferris Wheel.
Lots of fun to ride in the daylight for everyone in the family, and lots of fun for me at night capturing this image of the Myrtle Beach Skywheel.

MAGICAL MYRTLE BEACH

Do the math and you might be thinking Myrtle Beach.  The numbers are magical.

More than a hundred golf courses. A sixty-mile beach called the Strand.

Three water parks by the beach. Nine hundred sculptures at Brookgreen Gardens.  An eighteen-hour drive from Toronto.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

A taste of the Old South in the village of Conway, the sheer natural beauty of Huntington Beach State Park, a helping of history at the South Carolina Civil War Museum.

Never thought I’d like Myrtle Beach until I got there.  Now I’m a fan.

I’d come back in a South Carolina minute.

Among the wealth of family-friendly attractions in the Florida Keys is the Museum of Diving History.
Among the wealth of family-friendly attractions in the Florida Keys is the History of Diving Museum.

THE KEYS TO HAPPINESS

While you can get to Myrtle Beach in less than a day by car, the Florida Keys will take more time – might even want to fly into Miami and rent a car. But there you’re guaranteed to find the keys to happiness.

Given the recent weather there’s an outside chance you could still get down to Florida and be scraping the windshield. Not so if you make it to the Keys.

And once there you’ll find an archipelago of incredible diversity.

More than three hundred bars on Duvall Street in Key West (Sloppy Joe’s is a must-do), but there’s also history (think Truman House, Fort Zachary Taylor), the perfect sunsets on Mallory Square, period architecture like the Hemingway House.

Go deep-sea fishing off Islamorada, home to the biggest charter fleet in the world, take in family-friendly activities like the History of Diving Museum or Aquarium Encounters, where you can feed the sharks, visit John Pennekamp State Park and check out the coral reef in a glass bottom boat. Book a sailing trip or take sailing lessons while staying in Key Largo at Key Lime Sailing Club or go check in to Hawks Cay Resort and go for the almost Caribbean vibe.

Looking to do the islands this break? Here’s a whole archipelago right at your fingertips.

A composite image of the Skyride in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.  The underlying layer of this photo shows the huge gears that drive this ride.
A composite image of the Skyride in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. The underlying layer of this photo shows the huge gears that drive this ride.

GONE SOUTH

Used to be once the Ides of March came around you’d find me way south – ensconced on a Caribbean island somewhere.

Want to emulate me? Taking the kids?

Then consider the United States Virgin Islands.  St. Thomas offers the beaches, family-friendly attractions like the Paradise Point Skyride or Coral World, shopping without equal. St. John appeals to nature-lovers and boasts some of the most gorgeous Caribbean beaches and vistas, while St. Croix combines the best of both – great beauty, seclusion and family-friendly attractions like sailing excursions to Buck Island and Glass-Bottom Kayaking.

Just the two of you? Maybe consider Ladera Resort on St. Lucia: killer views and over-the-top elegance.

Just want a deal and a piña colada?  Still deals for D.R. and Cuba’s showing all-inclusive March Break deals for under a thousand dollars.

Sure you could stay home next week, maybe shovel the drive. But therein lies the path to Madness.

Beware the Ides of March. Get thee out of town.

TRIP TIPS:

Stop the Madness. Check out these great options to ensure a better break:

2 Responses

  1. ted gragg

    Boy howdy, sure is nice to have warmer weather and the articles are great! Now to go see the sights that y’all are describing. Best wishes to you both.

    • Mark Stevens, photos by Sharon Matthews-Stevens

      We have had below seasonal weather this past week in Caledon. Minus -18 Celsius one morning. This week it will go above zero – it will feel like spring I hope. I miss Myrtle Beach – looking and listening to the ocean. You are fortunate. Thank you Ted.