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Best U.S. places to celebrate milestones
Celebrating life’s biggest moments in the best destinations
The date is circled in red on your calendar. You get excited whenever you think about it. That big milestone is right around the corner! From weddings to academic accomplishments, it’s important to mark the memorable moments in your life. Why not use it as an excuse to travel? We always do. Get your Pinterest ready: In no particular order, here are the best destinations to celebrate these 13 big life milestones.
1. Getting Married – Napa Valley, CA
Tying the knot is kind of a huge deal. We say you whisk your loved ones away to Napa Valley for the big day, where scenic vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. You just can’t find a better backdrop. Plus, weddings are the perfect pairing for a crisp pino grigio (or merlot, or Chardonnay, or…any other variety, really). Spend the day before your nuptials on a wine tour or exploring the Muir Woods and dine on the famous Wine Train—your guests can make a long weekend of the trip and retreat to winery tasting bliss once the wedding is over.
2. Honeymoon – Amelia Island, FL
Sometimes planning the honeymoon is more fun than planning the wedding. A week or so of blissful, worry-free travel is just what the doctor ordered after months of planning your big event. Head to Amelia Island, FL if you seek a slice of paradise closer to home than Fiji. Walk beneath the Spanish moss that adorns local oak trees and go horseback riding along the ocean from Peters Point Beachfront Park. Stay at the Hoyt House Inn where you can have the full English Tea Experience, or shack up at the Villas of Amelia Island and spend your evenings around a bonfire on the beach. Reserve a table at David’s Restaurant and Lounge, where a romantic date is on the menu. Be sure to unwind with some couples’ yoga on the beach with Go Yoga while you’re here.
3. Babymoon – Hilton Head Island, SC
When you have a bun in the oven, it’s important to savor your last few months of sound sleep. Take off on a babymoon—that last trip before your little one arrives—to celebrate this special time in your life. Hilton Head Island in South Carolina makes for one relaxing backdrop. Put your toes in the sand, grab some healthy snacks at the Bluffton Farmers’ Market, and get your fill of probiotics at the Juice Hive during your stay. The Sea Pines Forest Preserve provides a peaceful place to have a picnic and observe wildlife. If your swollen feet need some relief, head to Birkenstock Barefootin’ and stock up on supportive sandals. And, hey, you may as well pick up some gear for baby at the too-cute Moonlit Lullaby boutique.
4. 21st Birthday – Las Vegas, NV
You’re turning 21. It’s hard to imagine a better destination than Sin City itself. Order your first poolside drink at a day club in Las Vegas and have a night you’ll never forget (or remember in the first place?) on a VIP club crawl along The Strip. If you’re willing to investigate what’s happing off-Strip, Nacho Daddy awaits with “best margaritas in Las Vegas” and something called the scorpion shot (real scorpion included). For less flashy fun, head to Vegas’ best dive bar, the Dispensary Lounge. You can also dance on the wooden benches of the Hofbrauhaus, stein in hand, and walk into any of the neon-clad bars along Freemont East in downtown Vegas. The next morning, detox with a Nutella latte and “Aliens Left a Burrito in the Middle East” at Sunrise Coffee.
5. Retirement – Albuquerque, NM
You’ve clocked your last day at your desk, and enjoyed a going away party at the office. Now it’s time to commemorate your entry into post-work life with a trip. Pack up and turn your compass toward the American Southwest—Albuquerque awaits! Wide open spaces and burnt orange mountains serve as the backdrop to your relaxing getaway, and attractions like the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center make it easy to fill your time. Sail over the landscape in a hot air balloon ride and see the Sandia Mountains from a whole new angle. Once you’re back on solid ground, we recommend spending your evening at the Casa Rondena Winery or the Foul Play Cafe for some mystery dinner theatre.
6. First Vacation with the Kids – Wisconsin Dells, WI
7. Graduating from College – South Padre Island, TX
Photo via Yelp/Angela F.W.The second your cap hits the ground at graduation, your mind is already in South Padre Island, Texas. Now your body just has to catch up. Catch a flight to this barrier island near the U.S./Mexico border, and pull up a chair at Clayton’s Beach Bar, the biggest of its kind in the entire state. Spend your day with your toes in the sand and a drink in one hand, and stick around for the live music once the sun retires for the day. The next morning, you’re ready for sandcastle lessons or play a round of mini-golf at Gravity Park before you go horseback riding at The Stables. And, hey, adult responsibilities await, you may as well give kiteboarding or flyboarding with SPI Kiteboarding a try while you’re still carefree.
8. 30th Birthday – Palm Springs, CA
Photo via Yelp/Kayla GIf Vegas was built for 21st birthdays, Palm Springs was designed for the foray into your 30s. Spend your day sunning yourself at the Ace Hotel pool, then treat yourself to a massage at Studio M Salon and Spa before you grab a handcrafted drink at Bootlegger Tiki. If you don’t want to drive, just BUZZ about town on a trolley by the same name. When the sun starts to set on your day in the desert, head out on a 4-wheel adventure to go stargazing along the San Andreas Fault.
9. First PTO Vacation – Clearwater Beach, FL
Your first full-time gig comes with lots of perks, including paid time off. Accruing enough hours for a proper getaway is a big milestone—it’s almost like an adult spring break! Instead of jetting off to a crowded Mexican beach, claim a patch of sand on Clearwater Beach down in Florida. There’s plenty of room to stretch out along the bay, and the Little Toot boat awaits to take you away from shore for a dolphin sighting. Once you return to your landlubbing ways, the Cleveland Street District offers the allure of dining, drinking, and the Capitol Theatre. Don’t forget to stop by the Sunsets at Pier 60 during your stay, which operates 365 days a year and offers plenty of fun to accompany the stunning displays in the sky.
10. Finishing Higher Education – Bend, OR
Passing the bar exam or finally getting the stamp of approval on your PhD dissertation is call for celebration, we say. After all those nights in the library, what about some fresh air? Make your way to the Pacific Northwest for a woody retreat in Bend, Oregon. On top of killer mountain views and a river close at hand, this cozy destination has a dose of modernity, too. And then there’s the beer. Embark on a trip down the Bend Ale Trail (the largest of its kind in the world), and make sure to stop at the Deschutes Brewery. If whiskey is your poison, the Stihl Whiskey Bar is the place to be. Fill out your trip with a shopping expedition in the Old Mill District and by “floating the river” atop your paddleboard or kayak.
11. Paying Off a Major Debt – Newport Beach, CA
Photo via Yelp/Fashion IslandCongrats! You sent in that last mortgage or student loan payment. With your newfound financial freedom, you can afford to splurge on a trip to Newport Beach, California. Head to Fashion Island Mall and get yourself a personal shopper to help you pick out new duds, then show them off at nearby Fig & Olive restaurant while you munch on brunch and sip champagne. From there, your afternoon could be filled with anything from whale watching to Classic Yacht Excursions to a tasting at the Newport Beach Vineyards & Winery.
12. Finalizing Your Divorce – Sedona, AZ
The end of a marriage may not sound like a joyful milestone, but we say it’s an opportunity to look to the horizon with hope and optimism. And that certainly calls for a vacation. Sedona, Arizona is known for its healing arts and therapeutic qualities, and so makes an ideal destination for your post-divorce getaway. Walk across the red landscape at Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, where you’re free to meditate in its 14 unfettered acres beneath Thunder Mountain. Hop into a Pink Jeep Tour, and soon you’ll be sailing over the landscape with your worries in the rearview. You can also relax with a vineyard massage at Page Spring Cellars or challenge yourself to overcome a new feat by going on a Verde Adventure down the river or taking a Wildland Trekking tour. At the end of the day, restaurants like Wildflower Bread Company and Cucina Rustica are waiting to feed your soul…and your stomach.
13. Empty Nesting – Jekyll Island, GA
Photo via Yelp/Alex P.The kids are out of the house! With no more school schedules to coordinate and soccer practices to attend, you’re free to explore the world on your own terms and timetable. You won’t want to hide from Jekyll Island, Georgia—in fact, it’s so charming, you can’t get there soon enough. History tours on the local trolley will immediately endear you to this southern destination, while the Jekyll Island Golf Club is the perfect place to unwind on the greens. You will have to navigate around the local osprey, but that’s just a part of the charm. Have lunch at the scenic harbor and marina, and then head to Three Oaks Farm to ride in the horse and buggy. If you have extra time to spare, explore all the surrounding Golden Isles. Finally, since you’re exploring a seaside place, it’s only right that you stop at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to see some shelled friends up close. The sunrise walks shouldn’t be missed.
Where will you celebrate your next milestone?
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