Countdown to Spring Break

By Karon Warren Photography Credits: Courtesy of respective attractions

Warmer weather has arrived, flowers are beginning to bloom, and cabin fever is at record highs. That can mean only one thing: Spring break is only days away!

To help you plan your family getaway, we’ve compiled a list of some of the top spring break attractions around the South. Whether you make them a destination or a pit stop along the way, they are sure to make your spring getaway memorable.

Hattiesburg Zoo
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
297 miles from Memphis
Opened in 1950, the Hattiesburg Zoo has been a mainstay for families not only living in the Hub City, but also for travelers headed from points north to the Gulf Coast. Although it may not be as large as other city zoos, the Hattiesburg Zoo remains a favorite attraction with families. In fact, the Mississippi Tourism Association named it the Best Travel Attraction of the Year in 2017.
Today, the zoo is home to numerous animals and species, ranging from sloths, reptiles and zebras to tigers, monkeys and birds — plus many more. If that’s not enough to keep the kids entertained, the zoo also offers several attractions, including a ropes course, mining expedition, train and carousel rides, and a splash pad.
In addition, the Hattiesburg Zoo became Mississippi’s first visitor attraction to offer certified resources and accommodations for guests with sensory needs. For instance, guests can obtain special bags equipped with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads to help them navigate the zoo. There are also four designated quiet areas where guests can rest and recharge.
With these new offerings, all ages can enjoy the Hattiesburg Zoo.
Great Wolf Lodge
Grapevine, Texas
474 miles from Memphis
Located minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, this popular family attraction provides an ideal one-stop spring break destination. Inside the 80,000-square-foot indoor water park, kids can splash the day away on the four-story tree house water fort, tackle nine water slides for all ages, float along the lazy river, or ride the waves in the wave pool.
Of course, when everyone is ready to dry off for a bit, the adventure park will keep them quite busy. From the ropes course and XD theater to the arcade and MagiQuest — Great Wolf Lodge’s interactive scavenger hunt game, kids will be on the go for hours. And, at the end of each day, one thing is certain: Everyone will sleep well.
Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine also is home to nine eateries, so there’s no reason to venture out at mealtime. From your daily coffee at Starbucks to pizza and hot dogs to a sweet treat or ice cream, there’s something to satisfy every palate. There’s even dining offerings more geared to adult appetites so mom and dad can enjoy a meal beyond burgers and fries.
Families will love the spacious accommodations at Great Wolf Lodge. Even the smallest rooms come in at approximately 360 square feet, so families can move around in comfort.

Foley, Alabama
430 miles from Memphis
Opened in 2017 in Foley, Alabama, just 10 miles from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, The Park at OWA contains 21 family-friendly amusement park rides. From the scream-inducing Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster and spinning Freedom Flyer to the hair-raising Twister and the diving Air Racer, there’s no shortage of thrills at this park.
Little guests can take a spin on the Happy Haulers truck ride or take flight in a biplane on Flying Aces. There’s even an interactive splash pad to keep you cool on hot spring days.
As part of the 520-acre property, Downtown OWA offers plenty of shopping and dining options for families taking a break from the amusement park. For a bit more low-key entertainment, kids can challenge their parents at The Arcade.
And you don’t have to go far when you’re ready to retreat to your hotel room. Located on the property, the Marriott TownePlace Suites offers spacious guest rooms complete with full kitchens.
Whether you stop at OWA for the day before heading to the beach or you extend your stay a bit longer, you can bet your children will love this spring break attraction.

The Magic House
St. Louis, Missouri
279 miles from Memphis
A spring break visit to St. Louis definitely has a lot to offer families: Touring the famous Gateway Arch, catching a game at Busch Stadium or checking out the Museum of Transportation. But a not-to-miss attraction has to be The Magic House, the city’s children’s museum.
History, science, nature, math, imaginative play — there’s no shortage to the learning youngsters will experience here while they play. That’s right. The kids will think they’re just playing and having fun, but their parents will know the truth: A lot of learning is actually taking place.
For example, in the Children’s Village, they can live their future lives as doctors, car mechanics, restaurant servers, grocery store clerks and more. At the Star-Spangled Center, they will learn more about U.S. history by embarking on a national treasure hunt, signing the Declaration of Independence, and even sitting at the president’s desk in the Oval Office.
And in the Outside Play Garden, children will have a chance to drive a speedboat, splash in a stream and dig in the dirt. Who could ask for more?

Booth Western Art Museum
Cartersville, Georgia
390 miles from Memphis
Located approximately 45 minutes northwest of Atlanta, the Booth Western Art Museum is one of the country’s premier museums showcasing contemporary Western artwork, Civil War art and a Presidential Gallery that contains a hand-signed document from every U.S. president.
But this museum is not just for adults. At Sagebrush Ranch, an interactive children’s gallery, children ages 2-to-12 are encouraged to explore this “working ranch” that contains a farmhouse, barn, bunkhouse and corral. Along the way, there are more than 30 interactive stations to keep kids engaged.
Whether dressing up in their favorite Western wear, saddling up a life-sized horse, or taking a ride in the rocking stagecoach, there’s no end to the fun found here. Visitors even can try their small hands at branding a cow.
The Booth Western Art Museum is an ideal day trip from either Atlanta or Chattanooga, but there’s certainly enough nearby – including the renowned Tellus Science Museum – to spend a couple of days during spring break if the kids want to stay and play for a while.

Read More in DeSoto Magazine online.