American college students have participated in a travel vacation away during the spring break vacation period since the late 1800s, but it was not until the late 1950s that college students from all over the country were flocking to the beaches of Florida in March and Fort Lauderdale became the first Spring Break destination.
A student interviewed by Time Magazine at the time said that she had come to Fort Lauderdale because "this is where the boys are." This simple comment set the scene for the 1960 movie - Where the Boys Are, which premiered at Fort Lauderdale's Gateway Theatre on Sunrise Boulevard on 21 December 1960. The movie was a massive success and promoted across the country the annual mass migration of college students to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale. The "invasion" in March of 1961 saw over 50,000 college students arriving in Fort Lauderdale, overwhelming the 80,000 local residents.
In the early 1980s, Fort Lauderdale residents became upset at the damage done by Spring Breakers and in 1985 the local government passed laws restricting parties. As well, this was around the time that the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was enacted in the United States, which meant that Florida raised its minimum drinking age to 21. This encouraged many 18 to 20 year old spring breakers to travel outside the United States for Spring Break. By 1989, the number of spring breakers heading to Fort Lauderdale fell from 350,000 at its peak, to just 20,000.
However, a new hot spot was emerging just up the Florida coast in Daytona Beach. This was mostly because of MTV's first Spring Break from Daytona Beach in 1986. In the following few years up to 200,000 students headed to Daytona Beach for Spring Break. Daytona's local government undertook similar measures to Fort Lauderdale and the crowds of the mid-1990's and early 2000's had fallen away.
These days Panama City Beach is the destination of choice for Spring Breakers, making Spring Break a major factor in the city's economy. Panama City Beach in Florida has become the most popular Spring Break destination due to its relative proximity to many southern colleges, as well as the fact that the locals welcome Spring Breakers.
Other major Spring Break destinations in the USA are South Padre Island in Texas, Las Vegas, Miami's South Beach and Daytona Beach has reamerged as a Spring Break destination.
Spring Break international destinations, with their lower minimum drinking ages, are a major factor for the increase in Spring Breakers heading overseas for their vacation.
Internationally popular Spring Break destinations include Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatln, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco in Mexico, as well as the Bahamas, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.
For the must-do event on any college students calendar do not forget Spring Break.