It seems like someone in my life is always celebrating an event. My brother-in-law is celebrating 70 trips around the sun later this year. How did that happen?! My sister just retired after 29 years in the teaching profession. The kids are celebrating college graduations — we’re even going to have a doctor in the family. Milestones are worth celebrating. The really big deals deserve to be celebrated with an over-the-top, full-blown dream week or weekend away.
In my book, celebrations and travel go hand in hand. Of course, great food is an important component of wonderful celebrations. How many times have you reminisced about the food eaten at a celebration event? The U.S. has plenty of destinations that are perfect for your next milestone celebration. All the places I’ve chosen have top-notch restaurants, so you’ll have your choice of fabulous places to try on your trip. Here are my favorite places to celebrate milestone events.
1. Half Moon Bay, California
Less than an hour outside of San Francisco is the idyllic beach town of Half Moon Bay. This laid-back, gorgeous seaside town is an easy drive about 35 miles south of San Francisco. With breathtaking coastal views and a beachy vibe, this coastal northern California village is an artist’s delight! While you’re here, make your dream of horseback riding on the beach a reality with a beachy trail ride where you’ll traverse through wildflowers, and onto the beach where you’ll be riding right along the crystal blue waters of the Pacific.
Half Moon Bay has plenty of places to enjoy coastal views while digging into fresh seafood. My favorite spot is La Costanera. This Peruvian restaurant with views of the Pacific centers on preparing the coastal cuisine of Latin America and it is fabulous. There are also quite a few breweries in town so you can enjoy a local cold one with your dinner. While the beaches are gorgeous, with dramatic jagged cliffs and rocky shores that seem to drop into the Pacific, Half Moon Bay is also home to many hiking trails in different types of natural settings, so you can do beach hiking, mountaintop hiking, paved trail hiking, or hike in old ranch lands. All offer spectacular scenery.
2. St. George, Utah
Head to Utah for a wellness trip amid the gorgeous red rocks of St. George. Plan a stay at any one of the spa sanctuaries in the area and prepare to be pampered! Most offer a multitude of indoor and outdoor wellness activities, classes, and hiking plus you’ll also be treated to healthy, gourmet meals. Spend time taking in the outdoors at Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, two of Utah’s “big five” national parks which are less than a two-hour drive. For in-town hiking and e-biking, head to Snow Canyon State Park. This state park feels more like a national park, minus all the crowds. Set against majestic sandstone cliffs, the beauty here is just as grand as what you’ll find at Zion National Park. I’d try to go to all three parks. They’re all nearby, yet all have a different feel.
3. The White Mountains, New Hampshire
Who doesn’t want to explore New England? Full of quaint villages, historic buildings, and incredible scenery, New Hampshire oozes charm. Home to the White Mountain National Forest, the area is stunning and offers hiking enthusiasts plenty of options. Make sure you drive the famed Kancamangus Highway, a recognized National Scenic Byway, and voted one of the best fall foliage viewing areas in the world.
New Hampshire is a perfect place to celebrate in any season. Summertime means hiking and swimming. In fall, take in the glorious fall foliage. Winter is a skier’s delight, and in spring, you’ve got lots of options, including getting in on the fun that is maple season. March is even recognized as New Hampshire Maple Month! We loved the Woodstock Inn and Brewery for its comfortable accommodations, super convenient location, and onsite brewery and restaurant.
4. New York City
The city that never sleeps is a perfect destination to celebrate just about anything. New York City offers so much to see and do that it’s hard to fit in everything. For foodies in your group, we love food tours. For a splurge, make a reservation at one of the famed NYC Michelin-starred restaurants. Take a pedicab tour of Central Park. Grab drinks at one of the many rooftop bars for spectacular views. Go window shopping on 5th Avenue. Stop into Tiffany & Co and dream of diamonds or go to the Nordstrom Shoe Bar and have a cocktail after choosing a pair (or 3) of the perfect shoes. Of course, New York wouldn’t be New York without Broadway, and there’s a show for everyone.
5. Kennebunkport, Maine
For all the seafood lovers in the house, it doesn’t get much better than “lobstah” fresh off the boat in the seaside town of Kennebunkport. This quaint village is a foodie’s delight thanks to the many restaurants and bars that line the village. Among the best are the Clam Shack and Mabel’s Lobster Claw. While you’re here, make sure you get out on the water. Many different water tours are offered.
We liked the Scenic Lobster Tour with Kylie’s Chance. The Maine seaside is stunningly picturesque, so make sure you hit the beach for a long morning walk or an afternoon soaking up the sun. It’s also fun to explore Walker’s Point and take a peek inside the historic St. Ann’s Church. The stone chapel is unbelievable. I can’t think of a more picturesque spot for a wedding than outside at the Seaside Chapel.
6. Longboat Key, Florida
Upscale, beachy vibes abound in beautiful Longboat Key. This Florida key is located on the Gulf coast, near Tampa, and has all you could want in a celebration destination. Relax on beautiful Lido Beach, play a round or two of golf, and end your day with drinks by the water. For your special occasion dinner, go to Euphemia Haye. This comfortable spot for fine dining is one of the best around.
You can’t go wrong with any of the fresh fish selections and the grouper is particularly amazing. After dinner, walk upstairs to the ultra-quaint Haye Loft space where you can select your choice of indulge-worthy dessert and wine to top off your evening. Don’t forget to grab a spot on the sand to watch the magical sunset. People around here drop what they’re doing to catch the last golden rays before sunset. The best part about a visit to Longboat Key is that you can do it all again tomorrow.
7. Yellowstone National Park
There’s no place on earth like Yellowstone. Our nation’s first national park is also one of the most spectacular. Many people choose to visit Yellowstone as a way to celebrate milestone birthdays and anniversaries in the great outdoors. There’s no shortage of things to do in all seasons here: hiking, snowmobiling, wildlife spotting, and simply enjoying nature. Make time to go to Artist’s Point and relish some of the views that made the park famous. Fantastic lodging options are available year-round. Consider Old Faithful Inn or Mammoth Hot Springs for an epic stay in the park. Add a visit to nearby Grand Teton National Park by driving through Yellowstone to the southern end.
The scenery in Grand Teton is just as spectacular as Yellowstone, and since the park is much smaller, it’s manageable to see the top spots in just a couple of days, making it the perfect add-on to Yellowstone. However, many people base their whole trip around Grand Teton. You can drive the 42-mile scenic loop in a couple of hours, with time to make plenty of stops for hiking along the way. The majestic Tetons are something to behold. Also, the wildlife is extraordinary. Stop in Jackson, Wyoming, right outside of the Grand Tetons, and have a celebratory drink at the famed Cowboy Bar. This legendary spot is a fun place to check out, day or night.
8. Cottonwood, Arizona
A small town in Arizona’s Verde Valley, Cottonwood is the perfect location to explore the red rocks and beyond. Only twenty minutes from the towns of Sedona and Jerome, Cottonwood is the perfect milestone destination if you enjoy hiking and wine in a truly gorgeous setting. Wine enthusiasts will love delving into the Verde Valley Wine Trail, the newest Arizona AVA region. We enjoyed Alcantara Vineyards and Page Spring Cellars. Nothing beats touring the vineyard grounds, listening to some music, chatting with the winemaker, and tasting great, local wine.
In downtown Cottonwood, explore the shops and restaurants on Main Street. Try Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room And Osteria for delicious, scratch-made, breakfast, lunch, and dinner using homegrown and locally sourced ingredients. It’s all fresh! Also, try their vine-to-glass Arizona wines. Cottonwood is also home to hiking, outdoor pursuits, and historical sites. Visit Dead Horse Ranch State Park for hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and horseback riding. Check out Tuzigoot National Monument to explore cool ruins.