To a college student — and in recent years, high school, middle school and elementary students as well — the two most beautiful words in the English language have to be "spring break."
College students, who already have had their semester break, have a simple formula for determining a locale: Beach + beer = a good time. Younger students, however, require a bit more supervision than sand and a six-pack, no matter what your teenagers might think.
A family spring break vacation is all about having a good time (but hey, if a little bit of education slips in, so much the better) without breaking the bank. This year, destinations close to Lexington have spring break families in mind with a host of recreational activities.
Note: Most of these are geared to younger family members (ages 6 to 13); high-schoolers might roll their eyes and complain, but just load up their iTunes and cell phone minutes and promise them a trip to the nearest mall, and they should be fine.
For the rest of the family, check out what the following cities have to offer:
It's all about prehistoric creatures this spring in the River City. The Dinosaurs Alive! Exhibit brings a little bit of Jurassic Park to the Louisville Zoo (www.louisvillezoo.org.) Sixteen robotic prehistoric dinosaurs scattered throughout the zoo's grounds will roar and snarl their way into your hearts. Among the invaders are the menacing Tyrannosaurus rex and the mirth-inducing Cryolophosaurus, affectionately referred to by zoo staffers as "Elvisaurus" for the wavy crescent on its skull, which resembles the King's iconic pompadour. Elvisaurus and his mates are on display now and won't leave the building until late September.
For families who like to play together, the nine attractions on downtown's Museum Row offer a variety of hands-on activities, all within six walkable blocks. Whether it's the IMAX film, Hubble, (www.louisvillescience.org), or the factory tours at the Louisville Slugger Museum (www.sluggermuseum.org), there's something to appeal to nearly every taste. If museum browsing seems a little too much like a school trip, how about a tram ride through 17 miles of underground corridors beneath the Zoo at the Louisville Mega Cavern (www.louisvillemegacavern.com); a hike through the Falls of the Ohio State Park (www.fallsoftheohio.org) or a bicycle outing along the river with Waterfront Bike Tours (www.wheelfunrentals.com)?
For other spring break getaway ideas in Louisville, go to www.gotolouisville.com/itineraries for family-friendly activities and a calendar of events that is updated daily.
Our neighbor to the north had spring break families in mind with a promotion for a three-day family adventure, combining attractions in the Queen City and its Northern Kentucky suburbs.
Day one is "Baseball and Boats." You can catch a Cincinnati Reds game (the season starts April 5), and continue the homage to America's national pastime with a visit to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum (http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/ballpark/museum/index.jsp), where the interactive displays and exhibits chronicle the history of baseball's first professional team.
Day two is "Creatures and Culture." Any trip to Cincinnati should include a visit to its famed zoo (www.cincinnatizoo.org), considered one of America's best. New exhibits feature interactive displays with giraffes and manatees, and there are the always popular annual events, including Zoo Blooms in April and Zoo Babies in May.
After you've done the "Creatures," it's time for the "Culture" with a visit to the Contemporary Arts Center (www.contemporaryartscenter.org/unmuseum). On its Web site, the CAC bills itself as an "unmuseum," a place where visitors can see, smell and even touch the art. Through August, the museum's main galleries will host an exhibition by Shepard Fairey, creator of the Hope poster of Barack Obama.
On day three, it's time for "Fishy Fun." The "fishy" part is obvious: a trek to the nationally acclaimed Newport Aquarium (www.newportaquarium.com), rated the No. 1 aquarium in the Midwest by Zagat's Guide.
With 65 exhibits featuring species from bodies of water as diverse as the Gulf of Mexico and the Ohio River, this is a crowd pleaser, especially with the sharks that call the 385,000-gallon tank home.
Going from sharks to ducks might seem like a downgrade, unless the ducks are those in Ride the Ducks-Newport (www.newportducks.com). This 60-minute amphibious sightseeing adventure takes in the historic waterfronts of Newport, Covington and Cincinnati on land and in the river.
The "fun" in "Fishy Fun" is a visit to the Duke Energy Children's Museum (www.cincymuseum.org), ranked among the top 10 children's museums in the world. This is the place to turn the younger kids loose to crawl, climb, squirm and explore, with two exhibits, Little Sprouts Farm and Kids' Town, designed for pre-schoolers.
It's a given that many Lexingtonians would like to be in Indy over the weekend of April 3-5, in the hope that the University of Kentucky men's basketball team will win its eighth national championship. But even if that doesn't happen or you can't be there when it does, Indiana's capital has plenty to offer families over spring break.
Butterflies are free (with regular zoo admission) at the Indianapolis Zoo through September 7. In a special exhibit, the zoo's Hilbert Conservatory will fill with delicate, free-flying butterflies, including American and more exotic species from Central America and Africa. The number of butterflies increases through the summer as they come out of their pupae until as many as a 1,000 are fluttering overhead. Go to www.indianapoliszoo.com.
At Conner Prairie Interactive History Park (www.connerprairie.org) on 200 acres of beautiful woodland, the kids can learn about "little houses on the prairie" and pitch in with the chores that they would have been responsible for had they lived in 19th-century Indiana.
After work comes play — in the form of the park's newest exhibit, the 1859 Balloon Voyage. Adults and kids alike will thrill to the ride as they soar 350 feet above the plains in a tethered balloon.
On April 2, there will be an open practice for the NCAA Final Four teams at Lucas Oil Stadium, and there will be several other basketball-themed events. For a complete list of events, go to www.visitindy.com/finalfour.
Finally, if you are sticking closer to home during spring break, don't fret. There's plenty to do in Kentucky, and the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is making it easy, with a list of fun activities and events through April 30. To find one — or more — just right for your family, go to KentuckyTourism.com/Springbreak.