Turning 50 years old is a major milestone. If you or someone you love is about to turn 50, what better way to kick off this next phase of life than with an epic trip that ticks off a big bucket-list destination. But how do you choose where to go? Whether you're looking to see one of the wonders of the ancient world, marvel at amazing natural phenomena, or experience new cuisines and cultures, here are 50 suggestions for must-visit places around the world that you need to see before you turn 50.
The oldest American national park east of the Mississippi River and the only one located in the northeastern U.S., Acadia National Park is where you’ll experience one of the places only East Coasters know about. Take to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for a fantastic view, and, if you’re willing to get up early, you can be one of the first people in the country to see a day’s sunrise.
The largest religious complex in the world is Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia, a series of 1,000 temples with Angkor Wat being the most famous. Originally a Hindu temple, Angkor Wat has been in continuous use since it was built almost 1,000 years ago. The well-preserved temple’s architecture is complex, distinct and majestic as it's meant to be an earthly model of the cosmic world. It’s one of the awe-inspiring places of worship you need to see.
Visiting all seven continents has never been easier for thrill seekers looking to step foot on every landmass in the world, but both the North and South pole remain mysterious. Antarctica, the remote southern tip of the world, has become much more accessible to tourists via cruises and expeditions. With no native people, the draw of Antarctica is its unspoiled, bare beauty, including icebergs and glaciers in addition to wildlife such as whales, seals and penguins.
America has so many breathtaking, otherworldly landscapes right in our own backyard. Arches National Park in Eastern Utah has the highest density of natural stone arches in the world, including the famous Delicate Arch. The park also has more than 76,000 acres of rugged scenery to explore, making it one of the most underrated national parks in America.
The hip and happening mountain town of Asheville is a gorgeous, must-visit destination in North Carolina. Asheville has something to offer in every season, but it’s particularly breathtaking in the fall due to the flaming colors that cover the surrounding slopes of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. The city itself has amazing architecture. The most notable landmark of Asheville, however, is actually just a few minutes outside of the city: the Biltmore Estate. This beautiful chateau has over 250 rooms and is one of the largest mansions in America.
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and a must-visit for history buffs. As the heart of ancient Greece, Athens is home to significant sites such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Agora and the Erechtheion. The Panathenaic Stadium is an all-marble reconstruction of the ancient stadium that was the birthplace of the Olympic games. The modern Panathenaic Stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first contemporary Olympics in 1896 and is one of the 50 places you need to see in your lifetime.
Known for its stunning views, the secret is out about Banff, Canada's oldest national park. Banff National Park is home to Lake Louise, the hiking capital of Canada during the summer and a downhill skiing destination in the winter. The park has more than 1,000 miles of trails, many of which start at high elevations, guaranteeing spectacular panoramic views. The lake itself was formed from a melted glacier and it’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glaciers.
If you're a fan of spirits, the perfect celebration for your 50th birthday would be to tackle the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, an itinerary to explore the distilleries that form the heart of America's bourbon industry. From big names like Jim Beam and Evan Williams to micro and craft distilleries, the tour encompasses the variety of the region and offers different experiences and workshops.
A 5-mile stretch of cliffs along the Irish coast are the island’s most visited site, and for good reason. Ireland’s westernmost point, the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are famous for their staggering height and jaw-dropping views. They are also a famous movie location you can actually visit, having appeared in “The Princess Bride” as the Cliffs of Insanity as well as “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon has the deepest lake in the United States. Its depth, along with the fact that it's filled almost entirely by rain and snowfall and not much else, makes it one of the clearest, bluest lakes anywhere in the world. It's one of the most iconic landmarks in the entire U.S.
Alaska's Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the highest mountain peak in North America and one of the majestic mountains you need to see. When measured from base to peak, it is one of the tallest mountains on land on the planet, and it requires 6,000 more feet of climbing to reach the summit than Mount Everest. Besides the mountain, Denali National Park and Preserve includes millions of acres of pristine wilderness for biking, backpacking, hiking and exploring.
Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world, and its almost 900 monumental statues, called moai, made by the Rapa Nui people, have captivated the imagination of outsiders. They average 13 feet tall and weigh 14 tons, standing as enduring testaments to ancient Polynesian society. Besides these mystical sculptures, Easter Island also has pink sand beaches, volcanic cones, snorkeling, surfing and more.
New York City is a world-famous metropolis bursting with celebrity spotting, history, art, culture, dining and more. But no trip there would be complete without visiting Manhattan’s Empire State Building, the city’s (if not the country’s) most famous skyscraper. It is 102 stories and stands a total of 1,454 feet. The Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building for 40 years after it was completed in 1931. A National Historic Landmark and one of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the building’s 86th- and 102nd-floor observation areas offer breathtaking views of NYC.
Considering baseball is America’s pastime, no American bucket list would be complete without a visit to a historic baseball park. While plenty of ballparks such as Chicago’s Wrigley Field offer old-school baseball charm, Boston’s Fenway Park is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium still used by the MLB and is brimming with energy and history.
The Galapagos Islands are home to amazing, diverse animals — and it’s one of those natural wonders you have to see to believe. The remote volcanic islands, which are part of Ecuador, are located in the Pacific Ocean. They are all part of a national park and are considered by UNESCO to be a “living museum and showcase of evolution.” Experience the islands' stunning biodiversity up close by snorkeling, scuba diving and hiking around the islands.
You don’t have to be an experienced mountaineer to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Rocky Mountains. One of the most family-friendly and accessible ways to enjoy the sights of Montana’s Glacier National Park is to cruise down Going-to-the-Sun Road. This paved two-lane, 50-mile road spans the width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide at more than 6,000 feet in elevation.
The Golden Gate is the strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and the bright red-orange suspension bridge that spans it has become an iconic symbol of California, the West Coast and the United States. Described as “the bridge that couldn’t be built” because of the forces working against it, the Golden Gate Bridge was successfully completed in 1937 and is the most photographed bridge in the world.
The Grand Canyon is considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is one of the deepest canyons in the world, offering unrivaled sights and one of a spectacular sunrise view. Intrepid explorers can traverse the canyon by hiking or white-water rafting or tackle the dangerous Bright Angel Trail by mule. You can also simply marvel at the majesty of the canyon along the rim.
With 3,000 individual reefs spread along 900 islands, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world and the only living thing that’s visible from space. See the barrier from afar by skydiving above it or taking a helicopter tour. Or get up close and personal to the reefs and the thousands of animal species that call it home by scuba diving or snorkeling.
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The only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that’s still intact is the Great Pyramid of Giza. Egypt's largest and most technically exceptional feat of engineering is a must-visit. The Great Pyramid is made of more than 2 million blocks of stone, some of which are so large and heavy that scholars still debate how exactly the ancient Egyptians were able to build the structure by hand. The Great Pyramid is also near the Great Sphinx, another defining symbol of Egypt and one of the most famous statues in the world.
An architectural marvel and the longest wall in the world, the Great Wall of China is an awe-inspiring sight that should be on every traveler's bucket list. The wall is more than 2,000 years old, and you can spend hours and even days exploring each section and taking in its views. The Badaling section might be the best preserved, but it's also closest to Beijing, so it gets the most crowded
Despite restrictions, you can still travel to Cuba through a variety of legal avenues. The capital city is the cultural heart of the country and is a must-visit for its pastel-hued vintage cars and buildings. Learn about Cuba's unique artistic history at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Cuba and explore its future at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano.
If you’re looking to marvel at one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, a string of 275 waterfalls stretch for almost 2 miles along the border between Argentina and Brazil formed by the Iguazu River. The system's tallest waterfall stands almost twice as high as Niagara Falls. The falls are also surrounded by a verdant rainforest teeming with wildlife. You can hike close to the falls or ride on a speedboat that will take you right underneath.
Key West is home to the third-largest barrier reef in the world, making it a must-visit if you are looking to see amazing underwater life while snorkeling or scuba diving. Key West also boasts some of the best beaches in the state, and nearby Dry Tortugas National Park is an underrated gem. Best part? Key West is one of the most affordable warm weather destinations.
Las Vegas may be known as Sin City, but it has something for everyone, including families, couples on romantic retreats, thrill-seekers and more. The iconic Las Vegas strip is famous around the world, and the city boasts world-class restaurants and glamorous hotels with accessible prices.
Machu Picchu has fascinated the world since its rediscovery in 1911. It’s an impressive man-made creation that was constructed by the Incan Empire in the 15th century before being abandoned after the Spanish conquest. The series of terraces are connected by more than 3,000 stone steps, a journey that's more than worth it for exceptional views of human ingenuity. Hiking Machu Picchu is one of the travel experiences that will change your life.
Japan's iconic Mount Fuji is one of the best places in the country to see its famous spring cherry blossoms. The mountain provides a majestic backdrop for the amazing floral display, with Chureito Pagoda and the north shores of Lake Kawaguchiko in the Fuji Five Lakes region both providing viewing spots with lovely vistas.
A national memorial and an American icon, Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota features the 60-foot-tall faces of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Originally conceived as a way to promote tourism in the region, the sculpture is a majestic symbol of the country’s storied past as well as an impressive artistic feat.
The capital of Bavaria, Munich is a hub of Germany's automobile making and beer brewing industries. BMW is headquartered there, and you can visit the BMW museum, take a driving lesson from a pro and rent any BMW model by the hour to take them for a spin. If you don't mind crowds in the millions, visit during Oktoberfest to experience a beer tradition like no other. Even if you are not going during Oktoberfest, you can spend an entire trip exploring the city's beer halls and gardens.
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The 17-mile stretch known as the Na Pali Coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai is a national park with breathtaking natural beauty. The 11-mile Kalalau foot trail is a difficult hike, but the reward is unparalleled views of isolated waterfalls, hidden beaches and lush river valleys
The heart of California wine country, Napa Valley is home to 400 wineries. Besides some of the best restaurants in America and world-class wine tastings, visitors can have amazing experiences, including grape stomping at harvest time as well as winemaking and wine pairing classes. The lush vineyards are perfect for taking in by train, bike, horse, gondola, cable car or hot air balloon.
One of the top travel destinations of 2020, Nashville is nicknamed “Music City” and bills itself as the “Songwriting Capital of the World.” Enjoy live music at the city’s storied venues, including the famous Grand Ole Opry, and learn about music history at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the new National Museum of African American Music. Explore the best of Southern cuisine with Nashville’s restaurant scene, and learn about local history at spots like the Belle Meade Plantation.
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While New Orleans does have a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities in North America, it’s also a charming, lively town with a unique blend of Cajun and Creole cuisine and culture. Tour one of the city’s famed above-ground cemeteries, take in a live jazz show and enjoy a large, spiked drink while strolling down Bourbon Street.
The most famous waterfall in North America is Niagara Falls, which is actually a group of three falls on the international border between Canada and the state of New York. More than 6 million cubic feet of water goes over the crest of the falls every minute, making for an epic sight. One of these, Horseshoe Falls, is the most powerful waterfall on the continent
Seeing the Northern Lights is an experience on many people’s bucket lists. Also known as the aurora borealis, it can be seen in the United States, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. But latitude, longitude, time of year and clarity of the sky are all important in determining where to view this amazing natural display. That’s why Fairbanks, Alaska, is considered one of the best viewing places in the United States, and the lights are one of the most gorgeous natural wonders in America. The city also has its own Aurora Borealis Forecast System to guarantee optimal viewing.
Another one of the most famous, scenic drives in America is the 147-mile stretch of road along the West Coast called the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive winds through national and state parks and charming coastal towns as well as past unbelievable roadside attractions. Famous sites include Big Sur’s stunning Bixby Bridge and Pfeiffer Beach.
The Palace of Versailles it is one of the most famous and opulent palaces in the world. The residence of French royalty for more than 100 years until the French Revolution in 1789, the sprawling palace outside of Paris has 700 rooms, 1,250 fireplaces and 67 staircases. The stunning chateau includes royal apartments, a museum, manicured gardens, an opera, a chapel and the famous Hall of Mirrors.
If you haven't been to the City of Light, you're missing out on all the history, art, culture and food that France's capital has to offer. The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world and home to the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and other world-famous works. The city is full of iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral, which is currently being restored after a 2019 fire.
Philadelphia is the birthplace of the U.S. as both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted at Independence Hall. The city’s historic district also includes the Liberty Bell, Congress Hall, the Betsy Ross House and more iconic locations every American history buffs need to see.
California’s Redwood National and State Parks are home to some of the tallest trees on Earth, including Hyperion, the tallest known living tree in the world at more than 380 feet. Other stunning sights in the parks include a rare albino redwood and massive drive-through trees.
Rome is a living museum with over 3,000 years of artistic and cultural icons to experience. Home to the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica and more, Rome has a rich heritage as well as lively modern scene for dining, art and shopping.
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Driving the legendary 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica is one of the most iconic adventures you can undertake. Many stops on the route preserve its unique sense of Americana. Along the way you’ll also find stunning panoramas, charming towns, mom-and-pop businesses, rocky cliffs, and beautiful deserts and parks. While it's not right on the route, the Grand Canyon is just a short distance from the Mother Road, so you can tick you must-sees off your list in one go.
One of the most amazing places in the world to experience wildlife is Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is famous as a viewing site for the extraordinary Great Migration of herds of wildebeest and zebras. On top of that, Serengeti is one of the best places to spot animals, as it has the densest lion population in the world and is home to all of the "Big Five" African animals.
Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire until 1918. The city is a living monument to Soviet history, and much of the landmark architecture has remained unchanged since the 19th century. Notable landmarks include the Peterhof Grand Palace, the Bronze Horseman, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and the Hermitage Museum, the second-largest art museum in the world.
For archaeology and history buffs, visiting this world-famous prehistoric stone monument on Salisbury Plain is a surreal experience. Visit around sunrise or sunset for a truly otherworldly feeling, and make sure to take a guided tour of Stonehenge to learn about the site's scientific and mystical history.
The Taj Mahal is a world-famous landmark for good reason. The embellished white marble complex, which emperor Shah Jahan commissioned in memory of his wife in 1632, is an architectural masterpiece. Despite the crowds of tourists that flock there every day, taking in the building’s story while basking in its radiance is a spiritual experience that can’t be missed. If you can’t make it to the Taj Mahal by 50, exploring India is a wonderful trip to take once you’re retired.
If you’re dreaming of a Mexican getaway, the city of Tulum, along the Riviera Maya, boasts gorgeous blue waters and world-class beaches as well as Mayan ruins. Go snorkeling in cenotes (underground water-filled caverns) or take wildlife tours at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Iceland has become one of the hottest travel destinations because of its otherworldly landscape, which includes Vatnajokull Glacier. Vatnajokull is the largest glacier in Europe and can also be explored from the inside. You can hike inside a series of ice caves that form during the winter.
Washington, D.C., is not only the safest major city in America but also one of the richest cities in arts and culture. It’s a must-visit destination for history, art and nature lovers alike, as well as an affordable, family-friendly vacation spot. The nation’s capital is home to the White House, the National Mall, the United States Botanic Garden and the Smithsonian museums, including the newest addition, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The world's first national park, Yellowstone National Park is home to about 60% of the world’s geysers, including one of the most famous, Old Faithful. This highly reliable geyser has lived up to its nickname and erupts every 60 to 110 minutes and shooting water a staggering 100 to 180 feet into the air. Other amazing sights at Yellowstone are the Grand Prismatic Spring, multiple waterfalls, and opportunities to see wildlife like bison and gray wolves. Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring are just two of the most beautiful places in America's state and national parks.
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