Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Spring Break Students Coming Here, Too; Lower Prices, Less-Crowded Beaches Drawing More to Northeast Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Spring Break Students Coming Here, Too; Lower Prices, Less-Crowded Beaches Drawing More to Northeast Florida

Article excerpt


Three Kennesaw State University students had already visited Panama City for spring break this month. But they said they didn't start their real vacation until they landed at the Beaches.

"This is my first spring break here and I love it," said Kylie Floyd, a 19-year-old Kennesaw freshman who was taking a break from a game of beach volleyball south of the Jacksonville Beach pier.

Panama City was too crowded "and you couldn't move," Floyd said. "This [Jacksonville Beach] is so chill. I like it and I can relax."

Janel Higdon, her friend and fellow freshman from Kennesaw, which is outside Atlanta, agreed that Jacksonville Beach was a welcome relief from the spring break scene earlier in the week at Panama City.

"We came here to vacation from Panama," the 18-year-old Higdon said, laughing.

"Everything is so much lower in price here," Floyd said.

Their other friend, Mandy Shilt, another Kennesaw freshman, said she lived in Jacksonville when she was younger and she suggested the spring break trip to the First Coast.

"The volleyball is right on the beach," the 18-year-old Shilt said. "It's a little cold. But you can just chill out with tanning. It's a lot more fun than Panama City."

An influx of college students into the Beaches over the past few years has been building, by many accounts from businesses who operate near the shoreline.

Dan Woods, the restaurant manager at Bukkets bar and restaurant on the beach off First Street in Jacksonville Beach, said while the Beaches area has nowhere near the profile of Daytona Beach or Panama City in terms of spring break lore, it's becoming a destination for college students.

"Last season and this season, we've seen a lot of spring breakers," Woods said. They're coming from schools in many states and they gravitate to Jacksonville Beach as an alternative because it's extremely affordable in comparison to other spring break sites and the hotels, restaurants, bars and beach are centrally located within walking distance of each other, he said.

"Jacksonville's a cheaper destination hotel-wise," Woods said. "We [Bukkets] have some of the best pricing in all of Jacksonville with one of the best views of the ocean. So they're coming here to enjoy that."

Nice weather is key, but the entire month of March is a significant business boost for Bukkets because of college spring break in the past two years, Woods said.

"Very much so," Woods said. "I'd say it's good. If the weather's right for us, it's going to be great for us."

Less than a block away at the Seawalk Hotel on First Avenue North, employees braced for a flood of spring break students this year.

"We start to see the spring break influence in the middle of March," said Grace Castro, assistant to the manager at the Seawalk hotel. …

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