Florida and the Caribbean are all the rage for spring breakers, but what about college students who’d rather do something different? The Midwest is full of hidden gems for kids who are ready to blow off a little steam closer to home. Local travel agent Maryann Totsch, owner of Great Escapes Travel in Belleville, offers this list of popular Midwestern spring break hot spots that are within a seven-hour drive of the STL. 

Wisconsin Dells

The Dells area is loaded with theme parks and indoor waterparks, and offers a perfect environment for college students to reconnect with their fun-loving inner children during their break. Noah’s Ark Waterpark is the largest in America, and the Mt. Olympus park is also very popular. The area also boasts waterpark resorts, like Wilderness Resort, Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resort and Chula Vista. Spring breaking students can’t go wrong in the “Waterpark Capital of the World.”

Branson

The Branson strip stands ready to greet spring breakers with shows, hotels, restaurants, clubs and enough flashing neon lights to rival Vegas. Kids can spend afternoons by their hotel pool, boating on the lakes or riding coasters at Silver Dollar City. In the evenings, Branson offers entertainment in more than 50 theaters, with entertainment options ranging from country music to Chinese acrobats. Fishing and golf round out the fun in Branson.

Memphis

Memphis’s walkable Beale Street, teeming with live music venues and nightclubs, draws young tourists like a magnet. The city’s gritty history as a center of blues and rock, including the legendary Sun Studios where Elvis and Johnny Cash first recorded and Elvis’s Graceland mansion, put it high on many music-loving students’ wish lists. Memphis’s nightlife scene is lively and affordable — perfect for spring breakers. Beale Street is closed to traffic at night and many bars offer drinks ‘to go,’ so the street itself becomes a giant party.

Related: Best Spring Break Destinations For Students On A Budget

Lake Of The Ozarks

A cabin or lodge on the lake is a fantastic way to spend a relaxing spring break. Nature is the star at Lake of the Ozarks, which sets it apart from the nearby Branson area. Boating, swimming, fishing and caving are the most popular activities around the Lake, but there are plenty of bars and restaurants as well. Party Cove, accessible by boat, is the hot spot for college students. The Strip at Bagnell Dam is still an old-school Ozark tourism destination, with bars, restaurants, shops and retro entertainment like skeeball arcades, bumper boats and go-kart tracks. The area offers plenty of waterfront dining restaurants, like Topsider, where you can enjoy fresh fish and cocktails on wooden decks overlooking the scenic lake. H. Toad’s at Camden on the Lake is a full entertainment complex, where you can enjoy live entertainment on an outdoor stage from the swim-up bar. 

Nashville

Known as “Music City, USA,” Nashville is a mecca for country music fans. It’s a great city for “honky-tonking” or bar hopping, and for epic Southern dining adventures. On Monday nights, visit Whiskey Jam at Winner’s, a free show featuring established national artists as well and up-and-comers. St. Louis visitors will enjoy comparing Nashville’s barbecue flavors to our own — try Jack’s Barbecue for authentic local flavor. Yazoo Brewing Company and Blackstone Restaurant and Brewery offer award-winning local microbrews, and the Jack Daniel’s Distillery is a short distance away in Lynchville. You can even arrange a tour of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail from Nashville, and spend the day visiting local distilleries. 

Related: Five Reasons To Visit St. Louis For Spring Break

Lauren Haas was the founder and publisher of The St. Louis Area Family Gazette magazine. Now, Lauren is a full-time freelance writer who travels the world, using St. Louis as her base. Contact her at Lauren@LaurenHaas.com