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Retirement is the ideal time to get out and see the world, visiting places you’ve always dreamed of seeing in person. The only question is, where to go? These destinations are sure to spark your motivation to get packing.
If you don’t have a passport yet, but want a totally unique experience, consider a visit to Alaska. It can be as relaxing, or as active, as you’d like. If you want to get out on an adventure, join excursions where you can hike as bald eagles soar above or on water, where you can paddle among the whales and the sea otters. Of course, if you just want to kick back, you can do that too, enjoying a view of passing magnificent waterfalls and grand glaciers. Trips to charming Alaskan towns are a must, where you can be surrounded by wilderness and perhaps spot some of the abundant wildlife.
If you’re craving warmth, sunshine, beautiful stretches of sand and plenty of culture, consider heading to Miami Beach. It has lots to offer retirees and all types of travelers. Not only are there endless picturesque beaches and outstanding beachfront resorts, but in the city itself, there is a multitude of fantastic museums, such as the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum, and an abundance of shopping opportunities. Just minutes away is a tropical oasis, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one of the country’s very best. View the aesthetic beauty of taxonomically arranged and well-documented tropical plants, particularly palms, cycads, flowering trees and shrubs, vines and fruit trees, and check out the documented botanical specimens that have been cultivated or collected since the late 1930s.
A road trip can make for a fantastic vacation, particularly when exploring a place that you’ve never experienced before. If you’ve never traveled Highway One along the California coast, it’s something that you should really do, as one of the most spectacular drives in the world. The stretch of highway between San Simeon and Carmel sometimes referred to as the “Big Sur Coast”, is especially magical, and features a number of gorgeous inns and resorts where you can soak up ocean views from the comfort of your room. If the drive isn’t long enough for you, consider heading further north to San Francisco, or even Mendocino and beyond.
The Caribbean is easily accessible and there is practically an endless number of islands to escape to and enjoy the ultimate tropical getaway. But, if you’d like to avoid noisy casinos and loud parties, Nevis is one of the best choices as it’s peaceful, beautiful and comes without those wild sleep-interrupting celebrations. One of the Caribbean’s greenest islands, you’ll also enjoy lush, breathtaking scenery and idyllic, uncrowded white-sand beaches. Plus, it’s one of the best islands when it comes to cuisine, with fabulous dishes, typically a fusion of African, European and American, along with lots of local fruit like mangoes and tamarind. If you like to golf, stay at the Four Seasons Resort and tee off on one of the world’s most scenic courses, which features several oceanside holes, as well as views of the historic sugar mills and Green Vervet monkeys from Nevis Peak.
The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest wine regions in the world, where you’ll find enchanting valleys and steep slopes that make it a premier wine destination. Just a short drive from Porto and its famous Port wine aged in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia across the river, the Douro Valley is home to grapes that create sweet red wines. Travel from Porto to Pocinho for a scenic train journey.
Sedona is easy to get to from many U.S. cities and is less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix. Located in the heart of a geological wonderland, with multi-hued red rock formations changing color minute-by-minute as the light changes and weather fluctuate. The scenery is hard to beat and the mild climate makes outdoor activities that much more enjoyable too. Just a few of the opportunities include jeep tours, hiking and bird watching. In town, you’ll discover world-class spas, stunning resorts, a vibrant art scene and a New Age vibe – with all sorts of shops and services offering alternative cures for whatever might ail you.
Santa Fe, the oldest state capital in the U.S., has a very colorful history, and a historic main plaza that will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into an entirely different country. It’s renowned for its abundance of unique attractions, a wide array of art galleries and extraordinary museums. In fact, there’s a higher concentration of galleries and museums here than almost anywhere else in the world – and, all are within reasonable walking distance from the town square. The adobe city is also famous for its transformative qualities, drawing many to experience its healing energy. Plus, the food is outstanding, the climate is wonderful, the surrounding scenery awe-inspiring, and there are a variety of trails nearby to explore if you like to hike.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Williamsburg. Here, you’ll have the chance to experience what it was like to be an original settler by staying at one of the 26 Colonial Houses, including everything from a tavern room to a two-bedroom, that are scattered throughout the historic area. Take a walking tour to visit the saddle maker, the blacksmith, a wigmaker and the apothecary, and along the way, meet up with historical characters, like one of the Founding Fathers, or First Lady Martha Washington. Costumed characters act out the details of life in the early years of America, providing a glimpse at this period in time that you could never get from a history book. The area also hosts lots of great shops, museums, and all sorts of other fun things to do – many of which offer senior discounts too.
Stretching from Biscayne National Park in the north over 125 miles to Key West, the Florida Keys offer some of the best opportunities for sailing and other water sports than almost any other destination in America, and Key West is its crown jewel. It’s also one of the best places to be for those who want to enjoy a slower pace of living, so no matter how active, or how relaxed you want your vacation to be, you’ll find it here. The sunsets are absolutely glorious, and one of the best ways to experience them is to take a sunset sailing cruise, but if you prefer to stay on land, watching the sun go down from the dock at Mallory Square is unforgettable too. You’ll also have the chance to take a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, renowned for its world-class snorkeling, and sample electable Cuban-inspired cuisine at any one of the hundreds of eateries that line the island’s main beachfront.
Kauai offers something for everyone of just about every age. For those who want to take in its stunning beauty rather than surf powerful waves, there’s plenty to do, including visits to botanical gardens. After all, this is the “Garden Isle.” Limanhuli Gardens & Preserve is a favorite. Located along the north shore, it’s been named the No. 1 natural botanical garden in the country, with pristine forest and riparian habitat, including rare native ferns, palms, and culturally significant plants like taro and papaya. There are lighthouses to visit and countless beautiful beaches to relax on too. Don’t miss the Waimea Canyon Lookout, and if you’re here in the winter, consider a whale watching tour.
Tuscany is on the bucket lists of many and retirees will find plenty to enjoy here. Base yourself in the heart of Florence, the “Cradle of the Renaissance,” or enjoy a more budget-friendly trip with a stay in the countryside, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. There are wine tours of all types, including private and small group tours that can bring you around to the top wineries with opportunities to meet some of the winemakers and enjoy local delicacies too. Unwind in picturesque squares, gaze up at centuries-old palazzos and cathedrals, or just soak up the Tuscan sun while surrounded by the breathtaking scenery.
You might think you’ve somehow landed in Europe when you step onto the cobbled streets of Quebec City. With its French culture and 17th-century ramparts, it’s oozing with Old World charm throughout its top attractions. While French is spoken here, most locals speak English too so it’s not hard to get around or order a cafe au lait and a crepe. At the Citadel you can watch Canadian troops stage a military ceremony and then perhaps sip afternoon tea at the Chateau Frontenac. The magnificent Notre Dame Basilica is a must-visit and there are many parks for a scenic stroll. Just a few miles north in Montmorency Falls Park you’ll find a gorgeous 272-foot-high waterfall.
Morro Bay is a beautiful beach town on the central California coast with fun shops to browse, restaurants serving fresh seafood, uncrowded stretches of sand, and vineyards to tour. It’s renowned for its abundant marine life, including whales that can be seen in every season and an active sea otter population that inhabits the water just offshore year-round. Kayaking, beachcombing, picnicking, birdwatching, and hiking can all be enjoyed here too.
Bali is a paradise for all who visit with postcard-perfect beaches, lush greenery, waterfalls, countless magnificent temples, and much more. It’s also budget-friendly so you’ll probably have cash left to spend on relaxing spa treatments like a Balinese massage with traditional herbs and spices. Ubud is a must-visit with markets and galleries, the Ubud Palace, and Sacred Monkey Forest all found here. If you want to explore the entire island you can hire your own private driver for cheap to take you around while getting more insight into the culture.
Canada’s easternmost province offers lots of things to see and do, while it’s also home to some of the friendliest people on the planet. Its historic capital city of St. John’s is the oldest in North America and features colorful homes and buildings that house galleries, museums, specialty shops, and pubs hosting live music every night of the week. Just a few hours away is the town of Trinity, which might just be the prettiest you’ve ever seen, looking as if it was built as a film set. In mid-to-late spring, icebergs often float by or land in one of the many picturesque coves, while humpback whales can be seen in high numbers during the summer. A short drive north in Elliston you’ll find one of the best places in the world to watch puffins up close, sometimes within arms’ reach.
Twice named the “best city in the world” by Travel + Leisure magazine, San Miguel de Allende offers colonial charm, a thriving culinary scene with organic farm-to-table eateries, art galleries, shops selling handcrafted items, and relaxing hot springs. It’s so appealing (and safe), that many retirees and others from across the globe have decided to call it home. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic center is filled with well-preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and with the narrow cobbled streets and leafy courtyards, it’s fun just to wander.