Special Report

Senior-Friendly Vacation Destinations

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Done with raising kids and unburdened by work, senior citizens are stepping up their travel game. The share of Baby Boomers who say they travel to relax and rejuvenate increased from 38% in 2017 to 49% this year. Half of Americans are expected to make travel plans this year, with Florida and California being the most popular domestic destinations, according to AARP.

The sheer size of the United States provides for a range of vacation experiences for all types of travelers – from the eco-conscious to the adventurous. Most people over 55 years of age prefer to head to warmer destinations, according to the latest Priceline data. With the exception of New York, Boston and Chicago, the top 10 most popular cities have one type of weather year-round — nice and warm.

Baby Boomers book the longest vacations and spend a lot more on flights and accommodations than younger people. They also spend a lot on excursions. The senior demographic is booking more Airbnb Experiences — tours and activities that can be booked with locals — ranging from surfing to going on zen nature adventures.

Traveling has many health benefits. A study of older adults in China found that those who had traveled rated themselves as healthier. It is also linked to lower risk of heart disease. Men who did not take a vacation all year had a 20% higher risk of premature death. Separate research found that “experimental purchases” — money spent on activities such as traveling — made people happier and for longer.

The following list, in descending order, is based on hotel bookings made by people over 55 years old on Priceline for travel between Nov. 22, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2018.

The popular destinations are almost the same every year, according to Priceline. One notable difference, however, is the absence of Texas in 2018. No Lone Star State cities made it to the top 10, compared with three — San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas in 2017.

Click here to see 10 of the most senior-friendly destinations in the country.

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10. Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Disney theme parks are technically in Lake Buena Vista. You may be used to seeing kids and honeymooners having fun at the parks, but older people frequent them as well. After all, they also grew up with the characters. The theme parks evoke memories of childhood fun. There are plenty of golf courses in the area, too. Although Disney does not offer senior discounts on tickets, organizations such as AARP and AAA do.

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9. Boston, Massachusetts

Tourism to Massachusetts is flourishing. Domestic and international visitors spent $20.7 billion there in 2016, more than ever before. Boston, the biggest city in the state, is one of the most historic cities in the country and a top attraction. It’s rich in culture and beautiful scenery. Hop-on hop-off trolley tours are usually recommended for seniors. The Freedom Trail, a walking route of about 2.5 miles, tells the story of how the nation was founded. The Museum of Fine Arts, the Cheers bar, the New England Aquarium, the Paul Revere House, and Fenway Park are popular attractions. Salem and Plymouth Plantation are popular day-trip destinations.

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8. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is a historical city with Civil War and Civil Rights significance. The Civil War Museum features what used to be the world’s largest cylindrical panoramic painting showing the Battle of Atlanta.

You may also enjoy visiting the World of Coca-Cola museum to see artifacts from every year of production. With rich history, Southern charm and food, plantation homes, and nice weather, it’s easy to see why people book a vacation in Georgia’s capital.

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7. San Francisco, California

San Francisco is a popular destination year-round, with visits going up year after year. More than 26 million tourists are expected in 2018, an increase of 2.6% from the previous year. Riding a cable car is a must — but do it on the California/Van Ness line because it’s less crowded. Walking the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most beautiful and iconic in the world, is breathtaking, and seeing the giant redwood trees of Muir Woods, which can reach more than 300 feet, is humbling.

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6. Anaheim, California

Anaheim gets about 63,000 visitors a day. It has more than 2,700 places to eat, and 800 monthly events. Disneyland Park is Anaheim’s star attraction. Going to a game at Angel Stadium, the fourth oldest baseball stadium in the country, is also a thrill. Anaheim hosts the SawDust Winter Festival between Nov. 17 and Dec. 16, offering unique holiday shopping.

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5. New Orleans, Louisiana

Nola is a lot more than voodoo magic, haunted tours, Mardi Gras, drinking, and eating. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the French Quarter — which you can enjoy from a carriage ride — Jackson Square, and the Garden District are just a few senior-friendly options. For more adventurous fun, sign up for daytime jazz cruises along the Mighty Mississippi and airboat rides or swamp tours.

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4. Orlando, Florida

The big attractions are Disney and Universal. But, unlike them, the Orlando Science Center, Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and the Orlando Museum of Art offer senior discounts. The National Park Service offers seniors recreational land passes at a fraction of the regular price. They give you access to national parks, monuments, historic sites, and wildlife refuges, including the Cape Canaveral National Seashore, which is just about an hour away from the city.

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3. Chicago, Illinois

Seniors and their families may enjoy an architectural tour aboard a cruise. If you like the opera, you will love to go on a backstage tour of the Lyric Opera. Hop-on hop-off buses take you to the famous Michigan Avenue Bridge, Adler Planetarium, Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, the Water Tower, and other popular sites.There are dozens of senior centers throughout the city that offer classes and programs designed for older people such as tai chi and digital photography.

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2. New York, New York

The vibrant culture and diversity of the Big Apple drew 62.8 million visitors in 2017, a record. They come for the Broadway shows and iconic places like Times Square; they go on tours to see the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tour; they come to eat New York-style pizza and to explore world famous museums. A chocolate and dessert tour is a fun and delicious way to end a trip.

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1. Las Vegas, Nevada

Vegas is no longer known as the wild party destination for 20-somethings, even though parties still occur on a regular basis. Casinos and shows in the Entertainment Capital of the World, or Sin City, as Vegas is known, are always very popular with older people. When noisy casinos becomes too much, they can go on scenic tours exploring Vegas’ backyard – the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Valley of Fire are a nice change of pace.

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