Travel

7 Last-Minute Spring Break Destinations for Sun-Deprived Portlanders

Still wondering where to go? Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Diego, and more await.

By Dalila Brent, Shannon Daehnke, Gabriel Granillo, Katherine Chew Hamilton, Michelle Harris, and Julia Silverman March 10, 2022

Whether you're looking to embark on an Oregon adventure or experience life off the grid, a good vacation is good for the soul. For spring breakers, Portland, lovely though it may be during its blooming spring, isn't exactly at the top of their list—especially if on the hunt for a consistent source of vitamin D. 

From Miami's warm beaches to Austin's delectable barbecue, here are a few last-minute spring break destinations outside of the Rose City. (Check our handy list of direct flights from the Portland International Airport for even more ideas of places to go.)

Seattle

Put aside your city rivalry and head to Seattle for a quick getaway—just a three-hour drive if you manage to dodge traffic. OK, we’ll admit that their food scene isn’t quite as good as Portland’s, but the city does have its strengths in areas that Portland lacks.

Case in point: no other city can match Pike Place Market for its farmers market produce, fresh fish, and eateries from Piroshky Piroshky to Pike Place Chowder to star newcomer Post Alley Pizza. And we don’t have anything quite like the melonpan breakfast sandwich at Saint Bread, which combines the slightly sweet Japanese bun with lemongrass-ginger pork sausage, gooey American cheese, and fried egg. Walk off your breakfast at Gas Works Park, once home to a coal gasification plant, and now with views, grassy hills, and a playground perfect for a steampunk photoshoot. Refuel in the Fremont area at Made in House, a Korean deli with gimbap, kimchi pancakes, bibimbop, and daily bento boxes with a rainbow of vegetables on top. Check out the Fremont Troll sculpture lurking under the nearby Aurora Bridge, shop for houseplants at Peace Love and Happiness Club, flip through vinyl at Jive Time Records, and shop for vintage clothes and doodads at the Fremont Vintage Mall.

Looking for even more? Take a walk through Seattle’s Chinatown and check out the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience, then grab pork and crab soup dumplings at Dough ZoneKH

Phoenix

Spring is the best time to visit Phoenix. (Literally any other time is a mistake.) We’ll spare you the tired “dry heat” jokes in lieu of the truth: good weather strikes the Phoenix area for only a few weeks in March and April but after that it’s fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. (The winters aren’t bad either.)

Sky Harbor Airport nicely straddles Phoenix and neighboring Tempe. In Tempe, check out Cartel Coffee Lab for pour overs and pastries, then hop over to Casey Moore’s Oyster House, a local haunt for sun-dried locals and dive-bar fare. Take a walk later at Tempe Beach Park where there’s always a festival, concert, or weird drum circle happening. In Phoenix, hit up Valley Bar for speakeasy vibes (peep the rotating shadow puppets above the bar) with cocktails named after Arizona politicians, like the Gabby Giffords and the Sandra Day Old Fashioned. Also check out Heritage Square, a historic Victorian-era plaza now home to restaurants and bars, such as Pizzeria Bianco and neighboring Bar Bianco. After catching a Suns game at the Footprint Center, nurse a nightcap at Crescent Ballroom and see who’s playing on the mainstage.

For outdoor types, take a stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden or a hike at Camelback Mountain. Feeling antsy? Mystic vortexes in Sedona, historic hillsides in Jerome, and fresh mountain air in Flagstaff are a daytrip away. Don’t forget to check out everyone’s favorite hole in the ground: the Grand Canyon. —GG

San Diego

When we think of spring break in Southern California, we think of San Diego. That’s not to say that SoCal doesn’t have a million other just as perfect vacay spots (check out Laguna Beach, Balboa Island, or San Clemente), but no matter where you stay in San Diego it'll be the perfect place for a motley crew of spring breakers.  

For the early-riser who not-so-subtly judges everyone else for sleeping in past 9 a.m., check out Better Buzz Coffee before a morning hike along La Jolla Trail. For the friend who bought way too many bikinis for the trip and is constantly checking to see if the UV is higher than 5, try cliff jumping at Sunset Cliffs or roller-skating along the Mission Beach Boardwalk. And for the hungover friend who discovered the local charm of McP’s Irish Pub the second you arrived and is currently recovering by scarfing down fish tacos from Miguel’s Cocina, explore Pacific Beach, (PB, as the locals call it), which has some of the best nightlife in SoCal.  

As long as you brought your passport, you can make it to Rosarito, Mexico, in under an hour. Surf, tacos, and a corona with lime before heading back home to California the same day? We’re here for it. —SD

Las Vegas

Vegas isn’t all about the glitz and glamor of Strip. Technically, the Strip isn’t even in Las Vegas—instead it resides in unincorporated Clark County. Outside the glimmering casinos and fear-and-loathing strangeness of the Strip, you’ll find a burgeoning arts scene, eclectic late-night food options, and a vibrant history.

Explore the labyrinth that is the Arts Factory in the 18b Arts District and meet the local figures who use the space to create. Afterward, stop by Cornish Pasty, a Phoenix, Arizona-based restaurant that serves up signature meat, veggie, and vegan pasties (think of them as old-school hot pockets). Enjoy drinks there over a game of pool, or swing over to ReBAR, a vintage-retro antique store and neighborhood bar. While on Main Street, hit up the other vintage shops and unique eateries that dot the area. Can’t decide what to eat? Explore Container Park near Fremont Street and try the many cuisines there—just don’t get burned by the giant fire-spouting praying mantis.

Looking for a touch of old Vegas? Explore the buzzing lights at the Neon Museum and learn about how deep the mafia’s roots go at the Mob Museum. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the handful of trails at Red Rock Canyon featuring petroglyphs, ancient rock walls, and rolling desert hills. —GG

New Orleans

New Orleans is one of the most festive cities in the world. With the excesses of Mardi Gras over and the shimmery, oppressive summer heat still a few months away, spring happens to be the perfect time to visit the Big Easy. And there’s so much more to the city than Bourbon Street, booze, and beads.

For starters, New Orleans’ food scene is a decadent delight. Visit the world-famous Dookey Chase to get your creole fix, get shrimp and grits from Evangeline in the French Quarter, visit Mother’s for baked ham, and head to Bucktown’s New Orleans Food and Spirits for a fried seafood feast. Once you’ve eaten yourself into oblivion, shed your Cajun calories by perusing local shops on Magazine Street or make your way to the Garden District to see the area’s most beautiful homes.

Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Familiarize yourself with the creatures that lurk in the bayous by taking a Swamp tour—DB

Austin

While we may share the same slogan with Austin, Texas’s capital, (like our own dear city) has a lot more going for it than being “weird.” Between a thriving live music scene, beautiful parks, and eclectic eateries, including some of the country’s best barbecue, there’s a little something for everyone in Austin.  

Take in some history with a tour of the Texas State Capital Building or if that’s not your speed, spend the afternoon paddle boarding at one of the city parks, like Lady Bird Lake. The Barton Creek Greenbelt also has 12 miles of hiking trails along with opportunities for biking, rock-climbing, and swimming. Head to East Austin, one of Austin’s largest and more diverse neighborhoods, for dining. Rainey Street, lined with old houses that have been transformed into hip restaurants and bars, is where all the action is. And a trip to Austin isn't complete without a visit to The White Horse, a classic honky-tonk live music venue with dancing.  

And while Austin’s cultural landscape is lively any time of year, spring breakers get an extra dose with the annual SXSW, a three-week festival of live music, film, art and conferences featuring noted speakers that runs from March 11 through March 20. —MH

Miami

Miami is Portland’s polar opposite, as American cities go. Bright sunshine is the norm and there are so many, many people with bulging muscles and implants of all sorts (butts, breasts, the list goes on) whereas we Portlanders cover all those things with layers of fleece and Gore-Tex. And this is exactly what makes it such an ideal spring break destination.  

Once you get there, beeline for Calle Ocho, the city’s historical heart of the Cuban community, for Cubano sandwiches, croquetas, and cafecitos from the famous Versailles Café or its competitor, La Carreta, across the street. For dessert, a giant sculptural ice cream cone plastered to the building welcomes visitors to Azúcar, a Cuban-influenced ice cream shop where cream cheese, guava jam, and María cookies mingle in a pastelito-inspired scoop. There’s always pick-up dominoes at Máximo Gómez Park nearby, but try settling in for a mojito, salsa lessons, and live music at Ball & Chain nearby. After a night of partying, gorge yourself at Yambo in East Little Havana, one of the city’s finest examples of the Nicaraguan fritanga. Instagram fiends flock to the Wynwood Walls in the city’s Design District for an eye-popping street art collection, but locals take their quinceañera and engagement shots at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a curiously curated Gatsby-esque manor house on Biscayne Bay. Rent a kayak and float among the mangroves off peaceful Virginia Key or nab a bike from Key Cycles and pedal out to the lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  

Looking to get some sand between your toes? Head to Miami’s neighboring city, Miami Beach, where between beach reads and seashell collecting, you can also take in some culture with a tour of the city’s art deco architecture or stop by The Bass for your contemporary art fix. In South Beach, dine on stone crab claws and some of the tartest key lime pie at historic institution Joe’s Stone Crab—KH & JS

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