So You Wanna Spring Break on the West Coast?

Whatever kind of spring break you’re looking for, there’s a place out west for you

So You Wanna Spring Break on the West Coast?

The hilly streets of San Francisco

Photo by Greg Balzer/Flickr

Whether you’re coming from across the country or the next city over, there are endless places to spring break on the sunny West Coast. Use your time off school—or plan some time off of work—to take a relaxing drive down the Pacific coast, get artsy, play in the sand, and eat hyper-local.

There’s a spot for every traveler. Here, our six favorites for a week—or even just a weekend—off.

1. Get multi-cultural in San Francisco

This is not the place to go if you’re looking for long days at the beach. Instead, the perfect day in San Francisco starts with an insanely delicious breakfast, of which there are many options, followed by the tough decision of where to work up your appetite for lunch. Make sure to explore some of the city’s less touristy neighborhoods, like Japantown or the Sunset, and check out those on the beaten path destinations with a fresh eye thanks to the Detour app, which offers audio tours like you’ve never heard them before.

San Francisco may be only 49 square miles, but every neighborhood can feel like a different world. You’ll find crazy-beautiful street art—perfect for inspiration or Instagram—in the Mission District’s Clarion Alley; genuine Italian cappuccinos in North Beach’s Little Italy; and a straight-out-of-Germany biergarten in Hayes Valley.

For yet another view of the city, ride the 22 Fillmore bus line through five not-to-miss stops, or try seven hard-to-find global eats—like a traditional Sri Lankan egg hopper or Guamanian chalakilis—scattered throughout the city. Leave room for San Francisco’s iconic dish, cioppino, at the Financial District’s Tadich Grill.

2. Sink into the art scene in Los Angeles

This destination is high on many spring break lists because, duh, warm weather and beautiful beaches. But if you’re heading to SoCal’s major hub just for that, you’re missing out.

Our suggestion? Go for the art. L.A.’s scene goes beyond Hollywood movies and street art—though there’s plenty of that, too. The new Broad Museum has taken center stage in the eyes of many art fanatics, both for its incredibly cool architectural design and for the 2,000 artworks inside. More in good art news: The Museum of Neon Art, which closed its downtown L.A. location in 2011, re-opened in Glendale this February. The space is a museum-sized love letter to L.A.’s retro neon signs.

History is not something L.A. is necessarily known for, but it’s definitely not something L.A. is lacking. See the city through the past by taking an unofficial tour of six old L.A. icons, such as the Bronson Caves and the John Sowden House.

3. Discover a little bit of everything in San Diego

San Diego usually conjures up images of the following: postcard-quality beaches, oceanfront property, always-80’s weather, and, of course, surfing. All of that is true—and part of what makes San Diego one of the most ideal spring break spots on the West Coast. Though most come to kick back and relax, the beachside city may surprise you with all it has to offer outside of chilling on the sand.

First of all, it’s up there with Cairns, Australia, and Utila, Honduras, as one of the seven best places in the world to get your scuba diving certification. Downtown San Diego also boasts one of the most thriving Little Italys in the States, dating back to the 1920s. Furthermore, San Diego’s prime border location means day trips can be international (hello, Mexico!).

Even the beaches offer options for you to choose from: Silver Strand State Beach for (mostly hidden) soft, white sand; Torrey Pines for hikeable, ocean-side cliffs; La Jolla Cove for snorkeling or swimming with leopard sharks.

4. See both sides of Las Vegas

Spring break in Las Vegas often means limiting your excursions solely to those few miles that make up the Strip—but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to see both sides of Vegas—the “real” side, off the Strip, and the best side of the glitzy boulevard—in only a few days. Head downtown for a classy new French bar, which serves wine in baby bottles (for good reason, we promise), or to the Gamblers General Store for casino accessories and knick-knacks. You can hike in Spring Mountains National Recreation Area or check out Fremont Street, also known as Old Vegas.

There’s no shortage of food and drink to choose from in Vegas, but there are a few places that are definitely worth a special visit, like off-Strip’s Golden Tiki or Lago, where a window table gets you a view of the Bellagio Fountains. After dinner, stop by the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar and ask for the Verbana, an off-menu cocktail made with an edible Szechuan button flower that promises to kick your taste buds into overdrive. For an incredible day trip from Sin City, drive two hours to Death Valley, which is experiencing an incredibly rare superbloom. Why see it now? Well, see for yourself.

>>Next: So You Wanna Spring Break in Florida?

Sarah Purkrabek is a Los Angeles-based travel writer.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR