The best US destinations to visit in your 30s
I am a fully fledged, certified and accredited late bloomer – at least as far as travel is concerned.
Sure, when I was a kid, my family traveled quite a bit, but usually to and from the same familiar places. We lived in Rhode Island and every winter we went back and forth between Stowe, Vermont to ski almost every weekend (and some days of the week when my parents were feeling particularly generous about jumping school to shred). We took occasional trips to Florida and even took a Caribbean cruise or two. But it wasn’t really until I started writing here at Travel + Leisure my airline miles started piling up.
In 2017, at the age of 32, I wrote my first story for Travel + Leisure, and since then I have traveled the world, accumulating passport stamps from around 40 countries in my passport. However, over the past five years, I’ve learned that you don’t have to skip the international deadline to have a life-changing trip.
If this job has taught me anything, it’s that adventures can be big or small, but no matter how small, having them is crucial because they shape who you are, especially in your 30s.
Your 30s are a time of explosive personal growth. You know more about who you are and what you want than in the previous decade. If you’re lucky, you now have a career (freelance, full-time, or otherwise) that allows you to have some spare change in your back pocket and at least a few vacation days to burn. But, if you don’t know where to go, I got you. Here are 11 destinations that stuck with me in my thirties and places I think everyone in their thirties should travel to.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park is criminally underrated. Somehow, this place doesn’t get the hype of more well-known national parks, but packs just as much of an awesome punch as places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. It’s rugged and serene, calm and striking, and absolutely massive. Badlands is over 240,000 acres, making it an ideal place for solitude and contemplation. Come camp in the unique geologic formations, and if you’re visiting in the summer, head to the Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater at night for a ranger-led stargazing lesson, so you know what you search every night.
Turning 30 is the perfect time to learn to ski or improve your game, and there’s no better place to do it than Vail. The mountain town is both a chic destination and home to some of the most pristine skiing (both on-piste and off-piste) in North America. Come here to test your mettle on the slopes, or join me and take a lesson to perfect your skiing and snowboarding game. You may think you know it all in your 30s, but it’s never too late to learn something new. Just be sure to book a hotel with a spa (like The Sebastian Vail) to enjoy an après-ski massage.
Joshua Tree, California
Sometimes in your 30s you just want to get away from this planet for a day or two. That’s exactly what you can do when visiting Joshua Tree, California. Home to the national park of the same name, this city is otherworldly with Martian landscapes dotted with swollen Joshua trees, and thanks to its eclectic and eccentric local scene that prioritizes the pursuit of inner peace over anything else. This can be experienced firsthand with a simple hike in the park or by visiting local destinations like the Integratron, which regularly hosts public sound baths and mediation events. Again, it’s a stellar place to camp, but is also home to intergalactic-ready Airbnbs.
The Overseas Highway, Florida
Doing a road trip in your thirties is a must. While there are stretches of road across the country that can do the trick, none are as beautiful as the Overseas Highway. The 113-mile highway stretches from mainland Florida to the Florida Keys, taking drivers over 42 bridges overlooking crystal-clear waters. Although not terribly long, the route should take you at least a full day, if not longer, as you absolutely have to stop and linger along the way. Don’t miss Bahia Honda State Park, located at kilometer 37. The largely uninhabited island is untouched and a great place to swim in the gin-clear waters and try to spot a fish or two. Then, continue your journey to Key West, where you’ll find great food, stunning hotels, and even better company.
New York, New York
A city break should be high on your travel list in your thirties, so why not do it in style by booking a getaway to the city that never sleeps? New York City is a tried and tested classic when it comes to urban adventures, and now is the time to lean in and let yourself be a tourist. Go ahead, visit the Empire State Building. Take a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty. Walk through Central Park. Shit, have a Magnolia Cupcake if you want. These things are all popular for a reason. Want to bend over? Book a room at one of the hot new hotels in town (The Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad, maybe?).
Friendly reminder: it’s normal to recharge a little in this decade. Whether you need time off from work or family obligations, or simply to reconnect with yourself, your thirties are the perfect time to plan a trip to Sedona. It’s a destination of immense beauty thanks to its famous red rock formations (climb Bell Rock or Cathedral Rock for some of the best views this side of the Mississippi), as well as numerous hotels and retreats to suit your needs. desire to find balance. Find peace at Wilde Resort and Spa, home to a full-service spa that promotes spiritual growth, or L’Auberge de Sedona, which offers immersive wellness classes and workshops like Introduction to Crystals and Meditation .
Hawaii is a perennial favorite destination no matter your age, but rather than following the crowds to the Big Island, in your 30s, it’s Kaui or bust. As the fourth largest island in the archipelago, Kaui still offers plenty of room to wander around, but with fewer crowds. It’s also known as “The Garden Island” because of its lush vegetation, which you’ll likely recognize from movies like the set Jurassic Parkfranchise. Come sit by the beach and dip your toes in the crystal clear waters, stroll through the forest and, if your budget allows, splurge on a cruise along the spectacular Na Pali Coast. Then rest at a resort like Timbers Kauai at Hokuala or grab a vacation rental.
Congratulations, you’re old enough to drink – and more. If you’re going to imbibe, make sure it’s the finest things in the country, which can be found tucked away in the Sonoma wine country enclave of Healdsburg. The quaint town doesn’t draw the same crowds as Napa, which is exactly the point. It’s a place where you can sample wines from smaller producers, including Vérité Winery, specializing in European-style wines, and DaVero Farms and Winery, a leader in biodynamic production. Or roll out of bed at hotels like Montage Healdsburg, which spans 258 acres including vineyards (grapes grown on site go into wine produced at Aperture Cellars, just down the road).
Big Sky, Montana
If you need an all-season getaway destination to add to your decade of travel, look no further than Big Sky. In summer and fall, visitors can take the trails for hikes and bike rides, in search of vistas that will be forever etched in their memories as they watch the changing leaves. In winter and well into spring, it’s a ski destination with incredibly soft powder. It’s also a place where unique opportunities abound, including nighttime headlamp skiing and candlelit dining at the 100-year-old Lone Mountain Ranch. It even has a brand new hotel, the Montage Big Sky, in case you are looking for a luxury stay.
New Orleans, Louisiana
There are good times, then there are great times, and New Orleans more than delivers on those. New Orleans is a destination that surrounds you, embraces you, and sinks into your soul, even if you only stay a day or two. It’s a place filled with culinary adventures, musical offerings, and just the right amount of sorcery to keep things interesting. Come for the party to end all parties, Mardi Gras, or really any other day of the year to experience a similar level of revelry. Find tons of charm at The Chloe, a boutique hotel housed in a 19th-century mansion that also has a private pool for those times when you need a solo dip.
Last, but not least, is your hometown. Coming home in your 30s is a good choice because it shows you how much you’ve grown and lets you experience the place you grew up in a whole new light. It’s a time to reconnect with old friends, family, and places that mean so much to you then, now, and forever. For me, that means a trip back to southern Rhode Island to enjoy delicious seafood at Matunuck Oyster Bar and surf on stellar breaks in Narragansett (sorry, but Rhode Island surfer and code say I don’t can’t tell you anything more about the specific locations of great surf spots, but if you ask around, a local may be willing to help). And that means spending the night at my parents’ house. And when that gets too much, book a stay at either The Shore House in Narragansett for a boutique getaway, or Ocean House in Westerly for five-star treatment.