It's that time of year again. High school seniors and college students of all stripes look forward and either loved or loathed by hoteliers, shop keepers, bartenders, and the entire hospitality industry. Yes, my friends, I'm talking about Spring Break, when students flock to (mostly) coastal cities in Florida, California, and any number of places outside the U.S. to drink, debauch, and generally behave in so self-indulgent a way that would it would give Caligula pause.
Personally I have never really gotten the operating ethic behind Spring Break, but having grown up in a favored Spring Break destination where every weekend was comparable to Spring Break, I understand why (I also never quite saw the attraction of dedicating an entire vacation to making a first world ass of myself). Time on both the vacationing and working side of Spring Break has soured my opinion on the whole thing and I'm hardly alone in that sentiment, which is why today I'm going to talk to you about three places ruined by Spring Breakers.
1. Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas
Let's get the most personal and bitter listing out of the way. My hometown loses much of the fun it usually offers once Spring Break hits. Ease of accessibility (flights are short and cheap from Fort Lauderdale and Miami) and drinking laws that are looser than a five year old's tooth make it a favorite with every Spring Breaker that hasn't hit twenty one yet. Unlike the rest of this list though there hasn't been an official backlash against Spring Breakers. Local legislators have gone out of their way to pointedly ignore any issues that may arise, though given the tourism based economy they can't be blamed for it.
The bars in the tourist quarter that is Port Lucaya are also very tolerant of behavior that would otherwise get you cut off at even the most uncaring bar. While I'm game for a good debauch every now and then weeks on end of giddy 16 to 20-year-olds (age limits are rarely enforced) binge drinking themselves blind has a tendency to ruin not only the local's taste for partying, but also can sour the experience of any other visitors to have the dubious luck of being on the island at the same time.
2. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A bit less of a personal choice, Fort Lauderdale enjoyed a reputation stretching from the end of the Second World War all the way through to the 1980s. The reputation owes it's thanks to two events: The first in 1935 when the Colgate University men's swim team went there to practice over break, as well as the film, Where the Boys Are.
By the time the mid-1980s came around though, many residents had become tired of the amount of damage done by vacationers that the local government passed laws restricting parties (This happened at the same time the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was enacted). These two efforts served to effectively end Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale, with numbers dropping form 350,000 in 1984 to 20,000 by 1989.
3. Palm Springs, Calif.
One of several inland destinations, Palm Spings is another city that can sing the same sad tune as Fort Lauderdale. Made famous by the movie, Palm Springs Weekend, Palm City was the West Coast capitol of Spring Break until the early 1990s when excessive fighting, drinking and drug use finally pushed the city government to impose restrictions similar to those enacted in Fort Lauderdale.
Perhaps there's a moral or lesson to all this, something that successive generations of Spring Breakers have missed in the mad blitz to booze binge that our own generation might take away from the successive ruination of what once were Spring Break's finest destinations. If I had to wager, it'd be that leaving a city looking like it's been sacked by Mongols once a year is not how you endear yourself to the locals and get an enthusiastic second greeting.