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2016 spring-break destinations just one flight from BWI

For The Baltimore Sun
These 10 options for last-minute spring break plans skew hot, cold and in-between.

You're still shaking out the road salt from your shoes and yikes, it's March — spring break already! But worry not: You can still find great and affordable getaways. Whether you'd prefer to recharge everyone's batteries on a powder-sand beach, a sunny ski slope or in a foreign country, here are options you can easily get to, via nonstop flights from Baltimore.

Sarasota, Fla.

Thirty-five miles of beaches, including an array of stunning, rustic barrier islands in the serene Gulf of Mexico; and The Ringling, a venue featuring a circus and fine-art museum, the Ringlings' mansion, a circa-1798 Italian theater, and gardens.

Why now: The Orioles (spring training games all month), the Sarasota Jazz Fest (jazzclubsarasota.org) and Opera Lovers Festival (March 17-20, sarasotaopera.org).

Stay: The beachfront Resort at Longboat Key Club's "Up Your Game" package includes accommodations, paddleboards, kayaks, boogie boards, unlimited tennis and unlimited afternoon golf. From $359. With rate code: UPGAME. (longboatkeyclub.com)

Getting there: Southwest flies nonstop from BWI-Marshall Airport to Tampa for $92 one-way.

Park City, Utah

Just 38 miles from Salt Lake City Airport, Park City offers three major ski resorts, and a half-dozen more within about an hour's drive, making this a spring ski and snowboarding nirvana.

Why now: March in the Rockies often delivers snowstorms dumping waist-deep powder, followed by 50-degree days of blazing sunshine amid bright blue skies. Around town in March, Olympic Park hosts the Bobsled and Skeleton Para World Championship, and aspiring young Olympians can jump-start their luge, ski jump and downhill careers at Olympic Camp (utaholympiclegacy.org). Also here are bobsledding, tubing and adventure courses. Park City and The Canyons resorts host Spring Gruv, a 16-day festival with free concerts and the epic Pond Skimming Contest. On Easter Sunday, both resorts have mountain-wide Easter egg hunts. And downtown Park City is Old West-chic, filled with cute boutiques, imaginative restaurants, and nary a chain in sight. Hint: Check The Park City Register for 2-for-1 dining coupons (visitparkcity.com).

Stay: A number of hotels around The Canyons Village offer Ski Free Stay Free packages where the final night of lodging and final day of skiing is free, with a three-or-more night stay, which includes daily breakfast and discounted lift tickets. Through April 17 (parkcitymountain.com).

Getting there: Southwest flies nonstop from BWI to Salt Lake City from $194 one-way.

Iceland

In about the time it takes to fly to Arizona, you could instead be jetting through the swirly green aurora borealis (aka the northern lights), as you touch down in the Land of Fire and Ice. Where else can you dogsled, traverse glaciers, soak in steamy thermal pools and pay homage to the elves in one day? Daredevils will have fun tasting the dried "jerky" style foods like harofiskur, but even your pickiest eater can't turn away from skyr, Iceland's answer to yogurt. When all else fails, there's always ein meo ollu (an Icelandic hot dog).

Why now: Despite its name, Iceland's average March temperatures are on par with Boston. And Reykjavik heats up with great cultural activities, including Design March (icelanddesign.is) and Icelandic Music Experiments (March 22-25,musiktilraunir.is). Easter, a sweet five-day weekend, is celebrated with decadent Icelandic-chocolate eggs. But to truly experience Iceland, you'll need to venture outside Reykjavik. For an adventure, organize an outing with Oli Schram (highlander.is/tours/), whose family goes back generations here. Schram's tours feature off-the-beaten-track sights and activities, including snow-scootering around the volcanic Eyjafjalla glacier, traversing geothermal fields and cliffs above black sand beaches fronting the winter ocean. All the while, he'll regale you with stories on the history, politics, and local legends of Iceland. About $500 a day for a family of four.

Stay: In Reykjavik, Family Suites are available at both Hotel Odinsve (hotelodinsve.is) and Reykjavik Residence Apartment Hotel (rrhotel.is), centrally located near the city's attractions. From $212.

Getting there: Wow Air flies nonstop from BWI from about $289 one-way.

Colorado

Few destinations around the U.S. offer a wider variety of outdoor adventures than Colorado. From heli-skiing to snowmobiling, every snow-related active adventure happens here.

Why now: Even in March, your teen can get a tan because the Rocky Mountain state averages 300 sunny days a year, making it a pleasure to be outdoors.

Stay: Snow Mountain Ranch is an old-fashioned YMCA family resort in the Rocky Mountains, offering dog sledding, fat snow bikes, Nordic skiing, tubing, horseback and sleigh rides, and a working farm with pigs and goats. Accommodations include lodge rooms and private or dorm-style cabins. From $104. (snowmountainranch.org)

Keystone Resort has 3,000 skiable acres of terrain, family ski trails, sled ride dinners, a top-notch ski and ride school, and night skiing. And they've already gotten more than 15 feet of snow this season. The Kidtopia program offers a variety of novel children's activities, including wildlife treks (with Bigfoot) and parades. March offers include accommodations discounts of up to 30 percent, free night skiing on day of arrival, free ice-skating, and kids under age 13 ski free. (keystoneresort.com)

Getting there: United and Southwest fly direct from BWI to Denver, both from about $147 one-way.

London

It's Europe without the language barrier. The history is cool, and there are fairy-tale scenery, thrilling theater and locations from Harry Potter movies (in Oxford).

Why now: March is off-season, so lines at attractions are practically nonexistent, and hotel occupancy is low enough to inspire discounts in one of the world's priciest cities. There's the Head of the River Race featuring crews from around the world; the St Patrick's Day parade and festival; Kew Gardens' Orchid Festival; English National Opera's "Akhenaten," the last of Phillip Glass' "portrait" trilogy. The Playhouse Theatre is staging "The End of Longing," the world premiere of Matthew Perry's play with recollections of his role as Chandler from "Friends."

Stay: The four-star Lancaster London's Easter Treat Package includes accommodations, breakfast, discounts at the hotel restaurants and an Easter treat. From about $188 a night. (lancasterlondon.com/springtimespecial)

Getting there: Fly from BWI nonstop on British Air from about $372 one-way. Hint: Since flying internationally requires getting to the airport early, consider bringing sandwiches with you, as BWI's international terminal offers few dining options.

Phoenix

When it comes to family-friendly vacation spots, Phoenix sets the bar pretty high. In March, the Southwest desert is brimming with sunshine and an endless array of activities and sights.

Why now: Ten stadiums host MLB spring training (cactusleague.com). At the Desert Botanical Garden’s new exhibit, “Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light,” glowing fiber-optic sculptures guide visitors through the nighttime garden (dbg.org). The 45th annual Scottsdale Arts Festival (March 13-15, scottsdaleartsfestival.org) and the Tempe Festival of the Arts (April 8-10, tempefestivalofthearts.com) feature artworks, handicrafts and live entertainment.

Stay: Phoenix has so many great resorts, it’s hard to go wrong. But one of the best deals is the all-suite Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, with an on-premises water park featuring supervised pool games and dive-in movie nights, 18-hole championship golf course and a spa offering youth and teen treatments. (arizonagrandresort.com)

Getting there: American and Southwest fly direct from BWI to Phoenix, both from about $179 one-way.

Camelback Mountain Resort, Tannerville, Pa.

This family resort boasts the largest offering of winter sports amenities on the East Coast, including the biggest tubing park in the U.S. and a "ski-in-ski-out waterpark."

Why now: Snow or no, there's always Aquatopia, Camelback's year-old indoor waterpark, with seven pools, slides, surfing and interactive play areas. Camelback Mountain Adventures offers a 4,500-foot steel-track mountain coaster, 1,000-foot dual twin zip lines, twin zip-fliers, indoor climbing walls, miniature golf, Laser Maze and more.

Stay: Sunday-Thursday (nonholiday) stays receive four free lift tickets or snow tubing tickets and $250 in deals and discounts on resort amenities. From $199. (camelbackresort.com)

Getting there: About a 31/2-hour drive from Baltimore.

Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Fla.

If you want to experience old coastal Florida in all its glory, check out the beaches of Sanibel (sanibelisland.com) and Captiva (captivaisland.com) islands. Both islands are great for bicycling and exploring on foot, with 25 miles of multi-use paths. For more of the natural coastline, take a water taxi or Captiva Cruise (captivacruises.com) to the neighboring barrier islands and coastal beaches around Fort Myers.

Why now: Especially after the storms of winter, searching for seashells (serious business in these parts) is at its peak on Captiva and Sanibel. Some 180 varieties have been identified. Stop by Sanibel's Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum (the only one in the U.S.) for shelling walks and tank talks (shellmuseum.org). If you are seeking a little more action, both the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins are in spring training in Fort Myers through March.

Stay: The 330-acre South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island has its own shelling concierge, in addition to kayak, paddleboard and wildlife tours. Families receive a fifth night free and $25 resort credit per day and a coupon book for area activities (through May 31, southseas.com).

Getting there: Southwest flies direct from BWI to Fort Myers from $92 one-way.

Dude ranches

We've selected two in warm-weather locales, allowing you to swap your snowboots for cowboy spurs, and get your ride and rustle on.

Elkhorn Ranch, Tucson, Ariz.

This working horse ranch has an extensive riding program, kids' activities, wildlife and birding, swimming and tennis. Meals are included in addition to lunch on the trail and picnics.

Why now: One package includes riding, food and lodging, no charge for children 5 and under, 45 percent discount for kids 6-15 and 35 percent discount for ages 16-18. From about $320 per person per night (elkhornranch.com)

Getting there: Southwest flies direct from BWI to Phoenix. Elkhorn is about a 2½-hour drive from Phoenix.

 

BlissWood B&B, Cat Springs, Texas

This is a budget-friendly, 500-acre working ranch.

Your kids will get the chance to interact with the animals: horses, cattle, miniature donkeys, peacocks, fallow deer, black buck antelope and American bison.

Why now: BlissWood's Texas-Style Family Fun Package includes family horseback riding, ranch games, ranch feeding tour and campfires. From $229 for a family of four, plus accommodations — which begin at $199 in March. (blisswood.net)

Getting there: Fly United from BWI to Houston or fly Southwest from BWI to Houston, both from $102 one-way. From Houston, BlissWood is about an hour-and-15-minute drive.

New York

Towering skyscrapers, museums with hands-on exhibits, family-friendly Broadway extravaganzas, and the widest array of dining options in the world.

Why now: The International Children's Film Festival (nyicff.org), the American Museum of Natural History's "Dinosaurs Among Us" exhibit (amnh.org), the Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival (Fifth Avenue between 49th & 57th Streets) and Macy's Flower Show.

Stay: NYCGO (nycgo.com/hotels) lists a wide array of deals at family-friendly hotels around town. Here are three:

•Conrad New York's Family Fun Package includes suite accommodations, daily continental breakfast, New York Water Taxi "Hop On/Hop Off" bus and boat passes and tickets to the Children's Museum of the Arts. From $229. (conradhotels3.hilton.com)

•The Peninsula New York's Camp Peninsula package includes check-in gifts, a Camp Peninsula tent pitched inside the suite, a picnic lunch at the swimming pool, complimentary dining for children under 10, unlimited movies on demand and a scavenger hunt.

Guests in one-bedroom suites may book an adjoining room at 50 percent off the regular rate. Rates from $695, or $1,350 for two rooms, with code NYFAMILY. (newyork.peninsula.com)

•The Family & Fun package at Le Parker Maridien — famed for its burgers, rooftop pool, and large rooms — includes a $75 Burger Joint credit and upgrade to a junior suite.

Available Thursday-Sunday, from $339. (parkermeridien.com/deals)

Getting there: Without traffic, New York is a three-hour drive up Interstate 95. But if you prefer to avoid the roads, Amtrak will deliver you into NYC's Penn Station, from $49 one-way. (amtrak.com)

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