© VXLA / Flickr.com
7 hot spring escapes
Cuba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Mexico, California and more....
Direct flights Air Canada:Toronto; Cubana Airlines: Toronto, Montreal (includes a technical stop).
Overview You might think of Havana as a day trip from a nearby all-inclusive, but the city is well worth deeper exploring. Year-round warm water and pleasantly mild temperatures of just under 25°C in February and March will make your stay comfortable, while the (sometimes crumbling) 16th-century architecture and lively nightlife make it fascinating.
Hotel The Hotel Los Frailes (8 Teniente Rey; hotellosfrailescuba.com; doubles from $95) is an award-winning, 22-room converted mansion hotel in Old Havana with quaint decorations and good rates. If you prefer to rent your own casa, try cubaccommodation.com or havanacasaparticular.com.
With kids The Playas del Este beaches are a quick taxi ride away, but within Old Havana there are colourful souvenir markets, pony rides and more. The Parque Zoológico Nacional (Avenida Zoo Lenin, south of downtown) was recently upgraded and restocked with a gift of 146 animals from Namibia.
Grand Bahama, Bahamas
Direct flights (to Freeport) Sunwing:Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax; WestJet: Toronto.
Overview The Lucayan National Park (bnt.bs) contains six different ecosystems, caverns and, of course, beaches. The island is also home to wonderful scuba-diving opportunities and includes an impressive collection of sites with shipwreck dives (bahamas.com/rapture-wrecks). Bahamians are said to be some of the friendliest people on earth; take in local culture in the form of Afro-Caribbean music or a fish fry in Freeport on the beach. Sunwing just added direct flights to five Canadian cities (in addition to Toronto).
Hotel Freeport is the only real city of note on the island and will be your default base. The Pelican Bay Hotel (Seahorse Road at Port Lucaya; pelicanbayhotel.com; doubles from US$179) is well located in the port area, with clean, colourful rooms.
With kids We think all of the above is all pretty kid-friendly, but a couple of guided options are Grand Bahama Nature Tours (grandbahamanaturetours.com; from US$89) which offers kayak tours of Lucayan National Park, and snorkelling lessons for the littl’uns with Grand Bahama Scuba (grandbahamascuba.com; lessons US$30).
Direct flights Air Canada Rouge: Toronto, Montreal; Air Transat: Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, St. John’s; Sunwing: Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax; WestJet: Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto; American Airlines: Toronto (WestJet code-share); Delta: Toronto (WestJet code-share)
Overview There’s plenty of spring break options in the Sunshine State, but none quite so family-friendly as Orlando. Expect warm to hot temperatures, reasonable hotel rates and theme parks offering everything from Mickey Mouse to Jesus Christ to Harry Potter, often at discounted rates. There’s no city that’s quite so thoroughly engineered for entertainment.
Hotel Orlando sprawls and you’ll want to avoid downtown, so your best base will depend on which attractions you’re going to visit. A good place to start is Orlando’s Deals for Canadians (visitorlando.com/EN-CA/discounts-tickets/deals-made-for-canadians), which will give you discounts on a variety of hotels and theme park accommodation. Otherwise, booking sites such as Hotwire.com are a good place to look for savings.
With kids Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter (universalorlando.com/harrypotter; adults US$128, kids 3 to 9 US$122) is, like the books, good for both kids and adults. If you’re sports-minded, check out the Atlanta Braves’ Grapefruit League (floridagrapefruitleague.com/teams/braves; tickets from US$12) with all games played in Orlando, or for hoops try to catch an Orlando Magic home game.
Napa and Sonoma Valley, CA
Direct flights (to San Francisco) Air Canada: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal; United Airlines: Vancouver; United Express: Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton (Air Canada code-shares)
Overview No, spring in California isn’t quite beach weather, but aim for late March or early April for a trip to wine country. The weather is mild, the crowds are small and the valleys are painted yellow with spring mustard growth. You won’t see the harvest, but many locals will tell you that’s the worst time to go, and the wine’ll surely taste better when you can savour it in relative peace. For details and lists of places to visit, see visitnapavalley.com and sonomavalley.com.
Hotel Accommodation can be pricey, but if you stay outside a winery your bottom line improves, and you don’t have to stray far from the grapes. The Wine Country Inn (1152 Lodi Lane, St. Helena; tel: 888-465-4608; doubles from US$240) is an award-winning hotel with 50 wineries within eight kilometres.
With kids The vintages aren’t for the kids of course, but many wineries offer kid-friendly activities and prices too, like Napa’s Sterling Vineyards (1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga; tel: 800-726-6136; sterlingvineyards.com; adults US$28, under 21 US$10), which includes a ride on its gondola with admission. There are plenty of hikes (napahiking.com or sonomohikingtrails.com) too and Sonoma’s Train Town (20264 Broadway, Sonoma; tel: 707-938-3912; traintown.com; US$6) is a favourite.
Direct flights Air Canada:Toronto; WestJet: Toronto.
Overview Bermuda is tiny, but there’s a surprisingly high concentration of both beach and history there. Weather is great year-round, the water is warm, the town of St. George is UNESCO-protected and there’s no end of activities. Trips to the island nation don’t come cheap though, as the remote location and currency at parity with the US dollar make this is splurge holiday.
Hotel At the north end of the island, near Bailey’s Bay, is the Grotto Bay Resort (11 Blue Hole Hill, Bailey’s Bay; grottobay.com; doubles from US$209), which is good bargain by Bermudan standards.
With kids Formerly a British naval base, the empire made sure to sprinkle a few forts (gotobermuda.com/blog/5-must-see-forts-in-bermuda) around the island, which are great for scampering about. Even more stunning are the Crystal Caves (caves.bm/crystalcave.html; adults US$22, kids 12 and under US$8).
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Direct flights Air Canada: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto; Air Canada Rouge: Toronto; Air Transat: Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg; WestJet: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and occasionally from Victoria, Comox, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Prince George, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg
Overview Cancun is where you’ll find most of the spring break partying in Mexico, but if you’re looking for something with a bit morehistory and slightly more laid-back, Puerto Vallarta’s your better bet. Walk through the Old Town where you can visit the stunning Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, peruse the art galleries and, of course, like everyone else flock to the beach. Expect weather in the mid-to-high 20s.
Hotel There are so many hotels and resorts in Puerto Vallarta, your best bet is perhaps to just keep your eye on booking sites for deals, especially given that March and April aren’t high season. If you’re looking for something safe, the Marriott-run CasaMagna (435 Paseo La Marina Norte; marriott.com/hotels/travel/pvrmx-casamagna-marriott-puerto-vallarta-resort-and-spa; doubles from US$183) is modern, near the marina and highly-rated.
With kids Puerto Vallarta’s hinterland is as beautiful as the beach, and horseback tours are a popular option. Rancho El Charro (Puerto Vallarta; ranchoelcharro.com; from US$61.50) is a popular way to get saddle-sore.
Direct flights Flights head to Dallas Fort-Worth, a couple hours away, but buses are frequent and because Dallas is a hub, you can sometimes find low prices. Air Canada: Toronto; American Airlines: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton (begins April 2), Toronto, Montreal.
Overview It’s one of the fastest-growing major cities in the US and is known for somehow combining the concepts of being hip and Texan. The marquee South by Southwest (SXSW) film/music festival (sxsw.com), one of the biggest in the world, takes over the city from March 7 to 16, so target or avoid those dates as you like, but even without the fest the city is always alive.
Hotel During SXSW’s dates, downtown hotels will be packed and expensive, but the city runs extended MetroRail service, so looking for accommodation along the line, in neighbourhoods like North Burnet and Crestview, is a better bet. Other times, just near downtown is the San Jose Hotel (1316 South Congress Avenue; tel: 512-444-7322; sanjosehotel.com; doubles from US$205), a cool, retro-style property that also serves as a neighbourhood gathering point.
With kids If you’re SXSW-ing, there’s free kiddie-friendly events and expos like the Renegade Craft Fair, Gamer’s Expo, SXSW Create (sxsw.com/free) and more. At any time, check out the massive Zilker Park (austintexas.gov/department/zilker-metropolitan-park) where you can let the little monsters tucker themselves out, and the brand-new Thinkery (1830 Simond Avenue; tel: 512-469-6200; thinkeryaustin.org; US$9) children’s science centre.
*Some flights only operate seasonally until March or April. Check individual airline websites for details.
This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.