After years of hard work and saving, retirement has finally arrived — which means you’ve earned the freedom to finally take that extended trip you’ve been daydreaming about.
The hardest part? Deciding where to go. Luckily, we’ve come up with a shortlist of top retirement travel destinations — both stateside and abroad — that will be sure to satisfy, whether you’re looking for beautiful vistas, cityscapes, cultural activities or more.
Despite being in the desert, Scottsdale has plenty to do without needing to venture far beyond the city limits (though it’s car-friendly if you choose to drive).
The city is home to a number of museums including Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, which has permanent exhibits about the American West and Native American art. For less than $20, you can take a 90-minute walking tour of the mid-century modern Hotel Valley Ho. And while Taliesin West — once the winter home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright — is a must-see, it does requires driving outside of the city center to get to the nearby McDowell Mountains.
The Scottsdale ArtWalk, which runs along downtown Main Street, is open to the public every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. Consider staying at the elegant and modern Hotel Adeline in Old Town, and start at least one day with blue-corn pancakes from Breakfast Club.
ESTES PARK, COLORADO
Even if you’re not hot on hiking, don’t rule out a trip to Estes Park. This mountain town is easy to navigate and is located just an hour and a half from Denver.
The star attraction is Rocky Mountain National Park, and if you’d prefer an easier hike over a more strenuous one, there are a handful of flat walks along Bear Lake and Adams Falls each less than a mile long (with options to go farther). You can also take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway (note it’s closed during the winter) up to the summit of Prospect Mountain. If you get there early, you’ll not only avoid the crowds but you can also get a senior discount.
If you feel like splurging, consider a private wildlife tour with Yellow Wood Guiding, which will make you feel like you’re out exploring with a friend. For a special meal, dine at Bird & Jim, where the dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients. Check out Snowy Peaks Winery for live music, and stop by Purple Mountain Taffy Co. for gifts for the grandkids.
If you don’t mind wildlife (there’s a good chance you’ll get to see elk from your window) sleep in one of Valhalla Resort’s rustic cabins, located just three miles from the downtown area.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
A charming seaside town, Charleston is known for its history, culture and food. While The Charleston Museum offers a great introduction to the city’s rich history, the Nathaniel Russell House Museum and the Aiken-Rhett House Museum (which has a self-guided tour about life before the Civil War) are ideal for more in-depth experiences. Plus, you can get a discount for visiting both. For just $20, Gullah Tours’ dynamic guide will take you on a two-hour journey through key historical sites from the comfort of an air-conditioned bus. If you need a break from sightseeing, spend a day exploring nearby Johns Island and picnicking under the 350-year-old tree in Angel Oak Park. End the day at Folly Beach to watch the sunset.
For those looking to avoid driving, consider staying in the French Quarter district. There, you’ll find the popular Charleston City Market, multiple museums and many historic churches. Catch a show at Dock Street Theater after dinner at Slightly North of Broad. The locally sourced fare at this bustling bistro is worth the hype, and you need to have a reservation. For accommodations, Palmer’s Pinckney Inn is less than two blocks outside the district.
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA
Halifax is a mix of small-town charm and international sophistication. While you can travel there by car, another option is via ferry from Bar Harbor, Maine.
The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is an attraction for everyone and it offers a senior discount, as does the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, where you can learn more about the history of the city. Point Pleasant Park has a low-key, self-guided walking tour, and if you visit in season, consider getting tickets to a Shakespeare by the Sea production. Both the Halifax Public Gardens and the contemporary Halifax Central Library are worth a visit as well.
For views of the city, hop on the Halifax ferry and take a 20-minute ride to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Once there, spend a few hours at the Shubenacadie Canal Waterway to learn about the intricate lock system along the canal that connects Halifax Harbour with the Bay of Fundy. If you have time for a day trip, Peggy’s Cove is just one hour from Halifax. While it’s easy enough to drive around, a local tour guide can share all there is to know about this romantic fishing village, including the infamous lighthouse.
Europe can be an overwhelming travel choice because there are so many countries worth visiting. One highly accessible option is Berlin, where almost everyone speaks English and public transportation is a breeze. As a bonus, the city has some of the best cobblestone streets in Europe.
Berlin has many inexpensive and free activities that are truly meaningful. Visit the Brandenburg Gate, where the Berlin Wall first came down in 1989; the nearby Holocaust Memorial is a somber experience. The guided tours at the Berlin Wall Memorial are less than $5 USD, but be sure to reserve tickets in advance.
Berlin has a plethora of museums, including the DDR Museum — an immersive, hands-on introduction to life in former East Germany. Another is the Brücke Museum, which has early 20th-century German Expressionist art. If you plan to visit more than two museums, the 3-Day Berlin Museum Pass costs about $10 USD per day and lets you skip the line at most museums. If you want to see the opera at Deutsche Oper Berlin, book as far in advance as possible to guarantee a ticket.
The Moabit neighborhood has much to offer, including Berlin Central Station for all your transportation needs. Walk around Fritz Schloss Park, have an afternoon coffee and pastry at Garcia Kaffeebar and dine at Paulaner for a delicious Bavarian meal.