12 Places to Add to Your Bucket List in Your 50s
Whether you've been before or not, there are many places that will make a perfect vacation in your 50s.
As we reach our 50s, many of us find that we have more free time and disposable income, so why not put those resources to good use? Now is a great time to check off some destinations off your bucket list—and if you don't have a list of your own, we can help. To get you started, consider these must-see places across the country—from cities that will excite all your senses to beautiful scenic spots with breathtaking views and wildlife. If you've already been when you were younger, you may want to consider another visit with all your newfound wisdom. Read on to find out which 12 U.S. destinations you should travel to in your 50s.
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Napa Valley, California
If you didn't get there on your honeymoon, consider a trip to Napa Valley after 50. There are plenty of spas and hot springs to enjoy while taking in the region's expansive rolling hills, but Napa is a particularly perfect destination if you enjoy a bit of vino.
"Napa Valley is known for its world-class wineries and vineyards," Mark Fang, founder of WineO Mark and certified sommelier, tells Best Life. "It's home to some of the best wine producers in the world, and visitors can enjoy wine tastings, vineyard tours, and wine pairing dinners."
Beyond just sipping fine wine, the food stands out on its own. "Napa is home to some of the best chefs and restaurants in the country," Fang says. "Visitors can indulge in gourmet food and wine pairings at high-end restaurants or enjoy casual dining at local cafes and eateries."
If you've always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon, Napa again checks that box. "Hot air balloon rides offer a unique way to experience the stunning scenery," Fang says. "And they can be quite a memorable experience, especially for older adults who are looking for new and exciting activities to add to their bucket list."
Vero Beach, Florida
Florida is a popular spot for retirees in general, but if you only see one Floridian destination in your 50s, Pam Howard, owner and author of the travel blog Our Adventure is Everywhere, recommends Vero Beach.
"One of our favorite spots (and I'm in my 50s), is Vero Beach, Florida. It's along the Atlantic coast south of Daytona and north of Fort Lauderdale, so it definitely has a quieter vibe," Howard explains. "With wonderful seafood restaurants, local shopping, a lovely farmer's market on Saturday morning, and more boutique hotels versus high-rise condos, its slower pace is perfect for the mature crowd."
But if you do want to stay active, you'll always have options in this seaside city. "There are still plenty of breweries, festivals, and spots with live music, but the area has less of a 'spring break party scene,'" Howard tells Best Life.
She recommends visiting during the "shoulder seasons"—May through June or September through October. During these months you'll have "warm enough weather to enjoy the ocean" and your pick of different activities. As a bonus, you'll skip the chillier winter season and the humidity of summer.
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It's no surprise that experiencing the natural beauty of Alaska tops many people's bucket lists. From summer to winter, there's no shortage of breathtaking landscapes to explore, along with a wealth of wildlife viewing that's unrivaled by other states. Plus, if you visit Fairbanks between Aug. 21 and April 21 of each year, you're likely to catch the aurora borealis, also called the Northern Lights. That's a true bucket list item!
Spread across 278 miles in Arizona, the Grand Canyon showcases panoramic views that are almost too gorgeous to believe. Plus, regardless of season, there will be no shortage of activities to choose from during your visit. Hiking, whitewater rafting, cycling, guided tours, and more are available to fill your itinerary. Plus, you can book accommodations inside the national park so you won't have to travel far to start exploring or relaxing after a day of adventure. There are also several campgrounds and RV parks inside the national park if you prefer to be a bit closer to nature.
If you're looking to see a bit more of Arizona, Tammi Kaeberlein, travel blogger behind Wander Healthy, recommends heading south to check out Sedona.
"Sedona is a beautiful city in Arizona known for its stunning red rock formations and amazing sunsets," Kaeberlein says, noting that you can enjoy outdoor activities like biking, yoga, and jeep tours—or you can opt to join a spiritual retreat.
"Overall, Sedona offers a unique combination of natural beauty, wellness, art, and culture that can appeal to people over 50 who are looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation," Kaeberlein explains.
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Blue Ridge Parkway
Weaving its way along the southern and central Appalachian Mountains between North Carolina and Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides the ideal route for your next road trip. Highlights along the way include Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain peak in the eastern United States, Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, and Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon. Of course, there's also no shortage of scenic overlooks and picturesque vistas where you can stop and enjoy the view.
One must-see spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway is Asheville, North Carolina, Kaeberlein says.
"Asheville offers a unique combination of natural beauty, arts and culture, wellness, and culinary experiences that can appeal to people over 50 who are looking for a relaxing and enriching vacation," she tells Best Life. "There are many outdoor activities to enjoy, such as hiking, biking, and kayaking, and the city is also home to many art galleries and music venues."
Schedule a visit to Asheville in the fall, per Kaeberlein's recommendation, and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage all around you.
New York City
You might like to go to bed a little earlier than you did in your youth, but The City That Never Sleeps offers plenty to both during and after hours. In fact, with so much to see in this bustling metropolis, there's really no possible way to do it all in one trip.
So, even if you've been to New York before, your next visit could be completely different. If you're a first-timer, the obvious tourist highlights such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the High Line, and Times Square might be on your list. But you can also just pick a neighborhood and wander, seeing where the day takes you.
The Big Apple is overflowing with an energy that offers something new around every corner. If you're a museum person, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Natural History are some of many. And, naturally, a person has to eat. Thankfully, New York has a fantastic array of restaurants and eateries that will satisfy every appetite and budget.
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What's not to love about Hawaii? Scenic natural beauty, arts and culture, outdoor recreation, health and wellness retreats, amazing cuisine—there's a lot to choose from for your bucket list trip.
Nick Mueller, director of operations at HawaiianIslands.com, recommends this specifically for the over-50 set. "Island life is slower, more relaxed, and the island chain has something for everyone," he explains. "Relax, enjoy the sun, enjoy the beaches, enjoy a luau, and maybe scope out retirement possibilities while you're there."
Think about it: Taking a volcano tour, viewing the islands from above in a helicopter, and hiking through a rainforest are just the start of the adventures you'll find in Hawaii. Or, you can simply relax by the pool of your resort hotel, enjoying the ocean breeze as it blows through your hair.
A visit to our nation's capital is a must for everyone at some point in their lives. In Washington, D.C., start your visit by checking out the city's memorials and monuments such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Then hit up the museums, everything from the amazing Smithsonian Museums to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to the International Spy Museum.
Be sure that you make time to stroll along the National Mall taking in the sights, sounds, and views. You'll also find plenty of top-notch restaurants where you can refuel throughout the day and night to keep you going.
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If you're looking for a destination where history and music are intertwined, Memphis, Tennessee, is it. This city has a lot of stories to tell. As the birthplace of rock 'n' roll and home of American soul, both woven in with blues and gospel, Memphis showcases its musical past at such notable attractions as the Stax Museum of American Soul, the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, and Sun Studio.
That musical history also is a part of the city's Black history, which is documented at the aforementioned music museums as well as Slave Haven (an Underground Railroad stop) and the National Civil Rights Museum.
When it's time to relax and unwind, start with dinner at Itta Bena before heading downstairs for an evening of live blues at B.B. King's Blues Club on Beale Street.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco welcomes visitors to enjoy everything from its historical attractions to outdoor recreation to culinary excursions and much more. History lovers will find plenty to entertain with tours of Alcatraz, visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, and taking a ride on one of the city's famous cable cars.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of hiking trails, bike tours, kayaking, golf, and much more to enjoy outside. And while there is no shortage of quality restaurants that allow you to eat your way through San Francisco, you definitely should head over to Chinatown for some of the city's best dim sum.
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While the Canadian side of Niagara Falls gets a lot of attention, the U.S. side of these majestic falls has a lot to offer, too. In fact, Niagara Falls in New York offers a natural experience of the falls and surrounding area that is hard to beat.
At Niagara Falls State Park—America's oldest state park—you can get up close and personal with the falls aboard the Maid of the Mist. You also can walk along the Cave of the Winds to stand under the rushing waters of Bridal Veil Falls. And in the evening, you can enjoy views of Niagara Falls as they are illuminated.
There are also opportunities for hiking, bird watching, kayaking, fishing, and more. In the winter, suit up and get ready for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice skating.
U.S. National Parks
Yes, we mentioned the Grand Canyon, but, seriously, there's no way to pick just one national park. From Yosemite in California to Dry Tortugas in Florida and everything in between, our national parks are a collection like no other. Outdoor recreation, history, and wildlife viewing are just the start of all you can see and do.
For a more urban experience, check out Hot Springs National Park, which actually is downtown Hot Springs in Arkansas. Looking for something more remote? Try Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. You may be lucky enough to find a national park right around the corner from your home, or you can journey to one across the country. The choice is yours!