College students nationwide spend substantial amounts of money traveling during spring break in search of the breathtaking beaches, memorable entertainment and energetic nightlife that are conveniently surrounding Pensacola, but spring break on a budget isn’t impossible for local students.
Pensacola students can dodge the bulky expenses with a jaunt to Destin. Roughly an hour away, it’s the experience many students seek to unwind before the semester’s homestretch.
“Florida has always been a top destination,” Harley Van Hyning, producer of Destin Florida Podcast and bartender at Pompano Joe’s Seafood House, said in an email interview. “Destin is your top spring break destination. The clear emerald waters and white sand beaches have put the once small fishing village on the map.”
Since Pensacola students are accustomed to white sand and an ocean view, waterfront condos can be considered an unnecessary and pricy amenity. Budget hotels including Comfort Inn Destin,
Hampton Inn and Regency Inn are inexpensive places to stay convenient to the beach.
“Every time we go to Destin we stay in regular hotels,” Bailey Schroll, a student at Pensacola State College, said. “Condos and resorts are a rip-off.”
Unlike many popular resorts and condos, budget hotels at times accept reservations from vacationers as young as 18 years old. According to Marriott’s website, rooms to accommodate four guests are approximately $150 per night. Last-minute rates increase by about $50. Depending on the suite and number of guests, some regular rates decrease by about $40 around March 14 and 15.
The Holiday Inn Express website offers rates comparable to Marriott’s rates, but are roughly $10 more per night. The commute and stay can be fairly inexpensive for local students, which allows them to affordably experience their idea of the ultimate spring break from day through night.
“During the day, crowds can be found at particular beach landmarks,” Van Hyning said. “The Whale’s Tail, Pompano Joe’s, The Crab Trap and The Back Porch will all draw crowds on the beach during the day. During spring break 2012, the Whale’s Tail had thousands of spring breakers at one time on the beach. Locals couldn’t believe their eyes.”
In addition to the daytime experience, local bars and restaurants are a favorite for spring breakers. The local flavor and fresh seafood in Destin has received national recognition.
“Pompano Joe’s has recently been featured on the Travel Channel as one of the top 10 beach restaurants in the U.S.,” VanHyning said.
While white beaches and fresh seafood may be familiar to students in Pensacola, Destin’s nightlife is a guaranteed change in scenery.
“I love going to Destin because it’s different from the nightlife here in Pensacola,” Schroll said. “The local bars and clubs have different entertainment than we do. It’s only a short drive.”
The HarborWalk Village is hosting a spring break concert series every Saturday night in March. The concerts are free and open to the public. Nightown also draws a crowd during spring break with an 18 and older club scene. The nightclub is known for its seven different bars, various dance floors and well-known artists.
“The party scene can also be found at bars/clubs like AJ’s, The Swamp and the Village of Baytowne in Sandestin,” VanHyning said.
Beyond the extensive crowds of students and intense nightlife, a diverse collection of activities and excursions can be found throughout Destin.
“Spring breakers can enjoy parasailing, wave runners, sunset booze cruises and more on the Destin Harbor,” Van Hyning said. “Destin is tuned down from Panama City that is within an hour drive. It is great for its proximity to party and relax!”