10 Destinations Perfect for Celebrating Milestone Birthdays
Surprise parties get old after a while, but you know what doesn’t? A trip to a brand-new (to you) destination. Whether you’re a newly minted 21 or celebrating the big 5-0, we’ve got options—both domestic and international—for ringing in your milestone birthday just right. Here, 10 birthday trip ideas that’ll get you excited for the next decade, from the rugged wilderness of Alaska’s Denali National Park to the white-hot clubs of Argentina’s Buenos Aires.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
Keep it local: Austin, TX
Vegas is cool, but if you want to ring in a twenty-first birthday you’re more likely to remember, head to ATX instead. In Austin, you can throw back a stiff drink just as easily as in Sin City, but you’ll also find top-notch breakfast tacos, hole-in-the-wall music venues, and sceney boutique hotels. As we’re sure you’ve picked up on, we love a good luxury stay, but having been less-than-financially-stable twenty-somethings ourselves, we can also appreciate a chic budget sleep when we see one. Grab your squad and head for Native Hostel, a bohemian-hip stay that’s far more sophisticated than the term “hostel” implies. In communal spaces, it’s all plush velvet couches, black marble, and polished concrete, while dorm-style rooms offer custom-built bunk beds—with velvet privacy curtains—for up to six people. When it comes time to whip out your ID for a drink or two, head to Jackalope on Dirty Sixth. The infamous dive bar—on Austin’s even more infamous street—doles out cheap Lone Stars, crafty cocktails, and all matters of burger (bacon, brie, mushroom, you name it).
Go abroad: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ibiza, Cancun, and Berlin may top the list of the world’s most well-known party destinations, but for a twenty-first birthday bash that balances clubs and culture, you’re better off in Buenos Aires. The sultry Argentine capital has a little bit of everything: stately European architecture, legendary Latin nightlife, and — not to be outshined — the best parrillas (steakhouses) you’ll ever step foot in. A real night out in Buenos Aires doesn’t commence until roughly 2am, so you’ll have plenty of time to fit in a multi-course meal at La Cabrera, a cult steakhouse from Argentine chef Gastón Riveira’s. Here, plates overflow not only with bone-in wagyu, chorizo, pancetta, and 22 other prime cuts of meat, but also as many sides as your table can physically fit. Post-dinner—and, if you’re smart, nap—it’s time to head off to your boliche (club) of choice. We’re partial to Palacio Alsina: a three-story converted palace awash in LED lights and screens that pulsate along to electronic beats as an eager crowd of 1,500 dances the night away.
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Keep it local: Palm Springs, CA
Your twenties may be in the rearview, but we’d argue that’s what’s most worth celebrating come your big 3-0. If you’ve tucked enough party-centric trips under your belt in the last decade, it’s time to head out west for the rejuvenating hot springs, midcentury-modern houses, and Jack Nicklaus links that so define the desert city of Palm Springs. A Coachella Valley getaway done right means checking into a stylish resort—like Holiday House—and logging out of your work email for a weekend of wellness. The 28-room boutique embraces a whimsical mix-and-match theme with Smeg refrigerators, rattan bar carts, in-your-face wallpaper, and artwork by greats like David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein, and these are some of the tamer design elements. Though a vacation here calls for a hearty dose of R&R, you can’t miss out on a trip to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, either. Explore the surreal, sun-bleached wilderness via trails that cross both the Mojave and Colorado deserts before heading back to your hotel for a dip in the palm tree-bound pool.
Go abroad: Toronto, ON
The vibrant, multicultural metropolis of Toronto knows how to host a birthday bash. With some of the world’s most drooled-over restaurants, design-centric boutique hotels, and a glitzy skyline that rivals NYC’s, the dynamic city offers nothing if not options. First thing’s first: Check in at The Drake Hotel, in Toronto’s West Queen West neighborhood. The hip, culture-driven hotel is kitted out with eye-popping artwork, charcoal hardwood flooring, custom millwork, and retro touches. Grab a bite at one of The Drake’s onsite eateries, but also be sure to clear a spot on your itinerary for The Distillery District, a stretch of Victorian-era industrial buildings which have been converted into 80+ galleries, restaurants, and shops. There, you’ll find everything from Canadian brewpubs and Izakaya-style noodle bars to vintage purveyors and Italian menswear shops, so you can grab a drink and buy yourself the birthday present you actually want.
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Keep it local: Nantucket, MA
If your idea of an island getaway features a crisp Atlantic breeze as opposed to a sun-soaked Caribbean beach, your 40th is best spent in Nantucket. The romantic New England retreat is awash in cobblestone lanes, cedar-shingled homes, and historical lighthouses. Grab your beau and bed down at the romantic Union Street Inn. Here, 12 guest rooms are done up in soft pastel palettes, plush Frette and Matouk linens, and traditional Nantucket touches (think: nautical stripes, sea- and sand-inspired artwork, and homey wood-burning fireplaces). Deciding on where to eat is never an easy affair, but one of the island’s best meals awaits at The Club Car. The California-inspired restaurant and piano bar may be a Nantucket mainstay, but it reopened to much fanfare just last year. Now, a light-filled dining room dripping with greenery and baby blue banquette seating serves up farm-centric dishes of shared veggie plates, sustainable meats, and local seafoods, including baked medjool dates, pickled eggplant stracciatella with local honey, whole black bass, and za'atar roasted half chickens. Bring your friends and plan for lots of leftovers—perfect a next-day beach picnic.
Go abroad: Bordeaux, France
If your oenophilic interests have already taken you to Napa, Sonoma, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it’s time to pack your bags for Bordeaux—France’s premier wine region. Head for the village of Bommes, in southern Gironde, where you’ll find Lalique Hôtel & Restaurant, a brand new (it debuted in June 2018) prestige property set within Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, a 400-year-old vineyard estate. The influence of Lalique—one of France’s most iconic lifestyle brands—as well as the land’s beloved vineyards present themselves clearly in the hotel’s every design. Bed frames, tables, mirrors and more are accented with the brand’s signature crystal, while towels and bathroom faucets are embroidered and etched with grapes. At the onsite restaurant—which overlooks the vineyards and is adorned with even more crystal inlay—an experimental seven-course menu comes courtesy of chef Jérôme Schilling, previously of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant at sister property Villa René Lalique. While plates of Dungeness crab with avocado cream and braised duck breast with semolina cake are reason enough to hole up in the restaurant night after night, guests of the hotel spend ample time touring and tasting the estate’s Premier Grands Crus and exploring other nearby vineyards also producing Sauternes, a sweet French wine.
Keep it local: Sedona, AZ
Keep pending midlife crises at bay with a trip to one of the United States’ most spiritual wellness meccas: Sedona. The desert town—bestowed with steep canyons, scenic forests, and backcountry trails—may be an outdoorsman’s dream, but it’s also known for its wealth of destination spas. Carved into 70 red rock acres in Arizona’s secluded Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort is Southwestern tranquility personified. Casita guest rooms and suites are plush but rustic, with wood beamed ceilings, beehive fireplaces, wool Pendleton blankets, and sun-drenched skylights. Settle into your cozy guest room, but when you’re ready for spa treatments, it’s off to the hotel’s sister property, the Mii Amo Spa, where Native American traditions inspire one-of-a-kind therapies and mindfulness exercises. Here, 60-, 90-, and 120-minute treatments include traditional deep tissue massages and exfoliating body wraps, as well as more exclusive practices like new moon manifestation (where you write down your intentions for the coming months) and aura readings, which help foster deeper personal connections with yourself and your loved ones.
Go abroad: Bruges, Belgium
If you’ve already checked European hot spots like Paris, London, and Barcelona off your list, it’s time to head for the canal- and cobblestone-lined streets of Bruges for a birthday you won’t soon forget. The well-preserved medieval town is chock full of 13th- and 14th-century buildings, including soaring church spires, landmark belfies, and Flemish art museums. To get a true taste of town, head to The Markt, Bruges’ circa-958 main square that attracts millions each year to see the Belfry Tower and Cloth Hall; shop fresh produce at the weekly market; and dine in converted guild house restaurants. Keeping with Bruges’ quaint character, a B&B stay is in order. We love the Bonifacius Guesthouse—a canal-side 16th-century home that overlooks the Church of Our Lady, The Gruuthuse Palace, and the fairytale Bonifacius bridge. Here, guests are treated to luxury hotel amenities, with antique objects d’art, jacuzzi tubs, log fireplaces, and Hermès bath products just a few of each guest rooms’ features. Another perk? There’s a Michelin-starred restaurant, Den Gouden Harynck, right next door.
RELATED: 9 Fairytale Towns in Europe We Love
Keep it local: Anchorage, AK
If you’ve yet to set eyes on Alaska’s rugged wilderness, then now’s the time. While the US’s lower 48 offers all matter of natural beauty, there’s just something about the northern territory’s glaciers, hot springs, volcanoes, and tidal islands that other states can’t touch. While a trip here can seem like a lot to plan, if you leave your itinerary to a cruise line, it couldn’t be easier. Holland America crowds tend to veer more toward retirees, so you won’t have to worry about party-hardy millennials when you’re blowing out the candles on your 60th birthday cake. The brand’s 11-deck Nieuw Amsterdam ship offers 12 different itineraries that range in length from 7 to 16 days and take travelers everywhere from cities like Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau to iconic World Heritage Sites like the Inside Passage, Glacier Bay, and Denali National Park. When you’re not exploring a port of call, the ship keeps things cushy and entertaining with sophisticated dining, live music, and spacious staterooms.
Go abroad: Tuscany, Italy
Anyone with an Italian grandmother will tell you that their Nonna is hands down the best cook in the world. Whether you’ve got grandkids or not, it’s your turn to pick up the tricks of the trade on a trip to Tuscany. At Tuscookany villa Torre del Tartufo, in the rolling, truffle-dotted hills of Arezzo, guests can settle into a private suite in a circa-1700 villa for a week of hands-on cooking lessons. Instructed by Torre del Tartufo’s resident chef, guests learn the basic techniques behind preparing a four-course Italian meal, including how to roll your own pasta, whip up an Italian meringue, and prepare antipastos like bruschetta and crostini. When you’re not in class, you can tag along on olive-oil or cheese tastings, excursions to nearby wineries, or take a day trip to Florence or Siena, both just an hour away. Of course, guests will have plenty to do on site as the villa also offers a solar heated swimming pool, sauna, wine-barrel-turned-hot-tub, and multiple eateries.
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