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8 Destinations to Celebrate the Big 5-Oh

Choose your own birthday adventure in the U.S. or splurge on a getaway around the globe

spinner image grace bay in turks and caicos
Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos Islands is a beautiful destination to celebrate a milestone birthday.

Every milestone birthday comes with its own feelings and phases. However you mark it, hitting the half-century mark is a noteworthy occasion in life — and a time to celebrate you, your family and friendships. 

​If travel happens to be your self-love language, planning a trip you’ve always wanted to take for your 50th birthday is a great way to celebrate five decades well lived. 

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​From surf lessons in Florida to a far-flung culinary adventure in Cape Town, South Africa, here are fun activities and destinations and splurge-worthy recommendations to consider for your 50th birthday adventure. 

spinner image left a pier in cocoa beach florida right people swimming in the blue lagoon in iceland
The historic Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier at sunset (left); people enjoying the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

For outdoor adventure: Florida’s Space Coast 

If staying active in the sunshine sounds like your idea of a great way to ring in the big 5-Oh, Florida’s Space Coast, east of Orlando, is an often overlooked and wallet-friendly jewel along the state’s Atlantic coast. 

​Spend your days taking group or private surf lessons in the mellow waves with School of Surf and head out on a kayaking trip after dark during the warmer months to see the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence glowing in the waters of the Indian River Lagoon. For a fun night on the town, try historic downtown Cocoa Village for wine bars, pubs and restaurants. There might even be a rocket launch from nearby Cape Canaveral during your stay, so be sure to check the schedule and consider it a giant birthday firework lighting up the sky in your honor. 

​The affordable oceanfront suites at Beach Place Guesthouses have full kitchens and living rooms that are perfect for entertaining. The location is also pretty perfect: The Beach Place Guesthouses are set just behind some of Cocoa Beach’s most gorgeous sand dunes and make a perfect base for a romantic celebration or for gathering a group of friends in one scenic spot. 

Overseas splurge: Iceland 

Tania Swasbrook, cofounder and travel specialist with Vgari Lifestyle, says Iceland checks all the boxes for outdoor adventure. “From spa services at the Blue Lagoon to hikes and snowmobile tours, there’s something for everyone,” she says. Consider whether you want to plan your trip for the darker months (fall, winter and early spring) for the chance at seeing the northern lights, or opt for the warmer months when it stays light nearly round the clock and you can maximize your time outside and enjoy the country’s wild nature. 

​The capital city, Reykjavík, is a good home base for easy access to the Blue Lagoon and other outdoor adventures. 

spinner image left the smokey mountains in tennessee right the dolomites in italy
A couple looking at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee; a view of the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.

For mountain magic: Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee 

If cozying up in a mountain cabin with your crew to celebrate your day sounds idyllic, head to the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg. 

​Learn the secrets of authentic Appalachian cuisine during a class at Smoky Mountain School of Cooking, rise early on your big birthday for a sunrise hike within Great Smoky Mountains National Park or plan your visit to coincide with a multiday art workshop (perhaps basket weaving, pottery or tapestry weaving) at Gatlinburg’s celebrated Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, one of the oldest craft schools in Tennessee. 

​To stay, browse through cabin rentals via Mountain Laurel Chalets to find the perfect base of operations for your group. 


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Overseas splurge: Dolomite Mountains, Italy

Gina DiPrima, owner and luxury travel adviser at Prima Italy, points to northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains as a destination for “comfortably challenging both your mind and body, and feeding your soul with some of the best gourmet food in Italy.” The Dolomites region is known for skiing and challenging hiking trails. “But from spring through fall, you can hike along gentle trails and challenging ascents,” she says. If you’re up for even more of a challenge, consider trying a via ferrata (Italian for “iron path”), says DiPrima, who tackled one of the climbing paths with cables and rebar that you can clip into for safety for her own 50th birthday. “Reaching the top of the mountain filled me with an enormous sense of physical and mental achievement,” she says.

​Accommodations in the Dolomites range from rustic cabins to wellness hotels and five-star lodging. In the latter category, Forestis has a penthouse with its own private saunas and pools and priceless mountain views to match the celebratory mood.

spinner image left a vineyard in napa valley california right a winery in cape town south africa
Visitors are surrounded by vineyards at the Castello di Amorosa winery in Napa Valley, California (left); people are relaxing at the La Motte Wine Estate in Cape Winelands, South Africa.

For foodies: Napa Valley, California 

For travelers who want to pair exceptional dining experiences with their travels, gone are the days of having dinner and calling it a day, Swasbrook says. “People want to have a cooking class with a chef and wine pairings,” she adds. “There are always components of education and adventure, especially in this age group. They want to learn and be active.” 

​California’s Napa Valley region offers everything from affordable vacation rentals to luxury inns. You can book a celebratory dinner aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train’s observation dining car as you roll through vineyards, take a hands-on cooking class incorporating seasonal local produce at Silverado Cooking School, and hire a driver to take your group wine-tasting through Napa’s famed vineyards. 

Overseas splurge: Cape Town, South Africa

Maya George, founder of Our Black Passports, points to South Africa’s Western Cape region as “wine and foodie central” for a 50th birthday bash. Rent a classic car with a chauffeur to arrive in style from Cape Town to the Stellenbosch or Constantia wine lands. Cape Town’s regular Food Jams events are culinary parties curated by top chefs at which you’re paired with strangers and challenged to cook an amazing meal together, creating lots of camaraderie.   

​For a five-star stay and special occasion dinner, try the oceanfront Twelve Apostles Hotel. The chic on-site Azure Restaurant serves local seafood that is sustainably caught in surrounding waters. 

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A small group of hikers make their way through the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona; a scuba diver with a Hawksbill sea turtle in Turks and Caicos

For health and wellness: Sedona, Arizona 

Swasbrook says yoga and wellness retreats are popular among her clients turning 50. “They’re making sure that there are gyms where they’re staying, hiring a yoga instructor or asking about hiking options where they can exercise with a sense of place,” she notes. 

​Sedona is a favorite domestic destination where you can tailor a wellness vacation to be as luxurious or DIY as you like. Go hiking through the region’s red rocks and vortexes on your own, take a local yoga class in town, and book into one of the creekside vacation homes at the Junipine Resort, complete with full kitchens, for a relaxing stay.

​You also can go big with a wellness retreat tailor made for you with spa treatments, mindfulness experiences and outdoor adventures (including hot-air balloon adventures) in the mix at the storied Enchantment Resort.

Overseas splurge: Turks and Caicos 

The coral islands of Turks and Caicos abound with wellness resorts that maximize soothing sea views made for meditating to the sound of gently lapping waves. The private island resort Como Parrot Cay includes 1,000 acres of Caribbean wilderness and offers a private Pilates studio and yoga pavilion and a world-class spa with unique treatments made with Dead Sea mud and marine algae. 

​The Shore Club’s private oceanfront villas fronting Long Bay Beach make for a relaxing pied-à-terre, especially if you’re traveling with a group. You may not want to leave, so consider hiring a private chef and your own yoga instructor. 

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