2024’s Hidden Gem Travel Destinations for Seniors

Brianna Maguire

Written by Brianna Maguire on Mon Jun 17 2024.

An older white man and woman are smiling while on a hike. The man is holding a pair of binoculars and has a beard. The woman has a sling bag and wears glasses and has her hair in a braid. The background is a mountain with green trees and a lake below.

Want to uncover the best-kept secrets in senior travel? Our latest study is all about hidden gem destinations that provide seniors with exceptional vacation conditions, affordability, and vibrant communities. We studied over 160 cities with populations between 75,000 and 100,000, examining key factors such as lodging, dining, bars, and senior populations. Discover the ideal spots where seniors can enjoy a great vacation.

Key Takeaways

  • The best hidden gem destinations for seniors are Palm Coast, FL; Clifton, NJ; Evanston, IL; Rochester Hills, MI; and Largo, FL.

  • The hidden gem city with the most affordable vacation rentals is Bloomington, MN, with an average daily price of only $61.

  • The city with the most hidden gem bars is Redding, CA (33.3%).

  • The city with the most hidden gem restaurants is Iowa City, IA (38.9%).

  • Palm Coast, FL, is the hidden gem city with the highest senior population (31.1%).

Top Hidden Gem Travel Destinations in the U.S. for Seniors

To locate where older adults can find the perfect blend of comfort and adventure, we gathered the following information on 164 medium-sized cities and ranked them from best to worst:

Size of the local senior population

We wanted to make sure that each destination had an active community of older adults. After all, it’s more enjoyable to travel to places where you’ll meet people in your age group who share your interests. A larger senior population often means more age-friendly activities and events, creating a welcoming atmosphere.

Average daily vacation rental rates from Airbnb

Traveling on a budget? We’ve got you covered. We checked the average daily rates for vacation rentals so you can find a comfortable place to stay without breaking the bank. Affordable lodging means you can extend your trip and enjoy more of what each city has to offer.

High-quality bars, restaurants, and parks (based on Yelp reviews)

Good food, great drinks, and beautiful parks are essential for an enjoyable vacation. We looked at Yelp reviews to find cities with top-notch bars, restaurants, and parks. This way, you can savor delicious meals, enjoy a relaxing drink, and take leisurely strolls in picturesque settings.

Walkability (how accessible amenities are on foot)

Convenience is key, especially when you’re exploring a new city. We assessed how walkable each destination is so you can easily reach amenities like shops, cafes, and attractions without needing to drive everywhere. More walkable cities mean less hassle and more time to enjoy your surroundings.

Safety (based on crime rate per 10,000 residents)

Your peace of mind matters. We looked at crime rates to ensure each city is safe for visitors. A lower crime rate means you can focus on having fun and making memories without worrying about your safety.

Health (based on the number of urgent cares listed on Yelp per 10,000 residents)

Health concerns can arise unexpectedly, so we considered the availability of urgent care facilities. We checked Yelp for the number of urgent cares to make sure you can easily access medical help if needed. This way, you can travel with confidence, knowing that care is nearby.

Based on these factors, here’s a mapped-out look at the most desirable yet often overlooked locations across the country for senior vacations.

A map of the best hidden gem travel destinations for seniors

Overall, Florida’s Palm Coast, New Jersey’s Clifton, and Evanston in Illinois stood out as the best hidden gem travel destinations for seniors. These cities provide a unique blend of affordability, community, and access to essential services that cater to the needs of older adults. Here’s a quick snapshot of the top 3 cities for senior travel:

A picture of the beach in Palm Coast at sunset. There are palm trees and a lifeguard station is centered in the photo.

1. Palm Coast, Florida

Palm Coast offers a beautiful coastal setting with plenty of sunshine and outdoor activities. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Scenic beauty. Explore the miles of unspoiled beaches and picturesque waterfront parks like Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, known for its stunning gardens and coastal views.

  • Golfing. Home to several world-class golf courses, Palm Coast is a golfer’s paradise — perfect for those who enjoy a leisurely round of golf.

  • Nature trails. Take advantage of the numerous walking and biking trails, including the popular Graham Swamp Trail, ideal for staying active while enjoying nature.

  • Cultural events. Head to local Palm Coast events like art festivals and farmers’ markets to enjoy a lovely community atmosphere.

A photo of Clifton, New Jersey. There is a tan rowhouse in the foreground that has a turret. Cars are parked along the side of the street. The sky is blue with white clouds.

2. Clifton, New Jersey

Clifton combines suburban comfort with easy access to urban amenities. Here’s what makes it special:

  • Proximity to New York City. Just a short drive or train ride away, Clifton offers the convenience of visiting NYC’s iconic attractions without the hustle and bustle (and expense) of a city stay.

  • Diverse dining. Enjoy a wide variety of dining options in Clifton, from cozy cafes to international cuisine, reflecting the city’s diverse community.

  • Parks and recreation. Visit beautiful parks like the Garret Mountain Reservation, just to the north of town. It offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of the New York skyline.

  • Community attractions. Check out local attractions in Clifton, including the Ghost Hawk Brewing Company and the Clifton Arts Center & Sculpture Park. Or maybe do a historical tour of Passaic County, starting at the Hamilton House Museum in Clifton.

A photo of Evanston, Illinois that is taken in a park. There is a pond with a fountain in the background, with a path leading to it in the foreground. The trees are lush and green.

3. Evanston, Illinois

Evanston blends the charm of a college town with cultural and recreational opportunities. Here’s what to look forward to:

  • Lakefront attractions. Enjoy the scenic shores of Lake Michigan with beautiful beaches, parks, and walking paths perfect for leisurely strolls and picnics.

  • Cultural scene. Experience a rich cultural life with venues like the Evanston Art Center, museums, and theaters offering a variety of performances and exhibitions.

  • Dining and shopping. Explore restaurants, boutique shops, and local markets for delightful shopping and dining experiences.

  • Educational opportunities. Take advantage of the programs and events offered by Northwestern University, including lectures, performances, and art exhibits that enrich the community — and your trip.

Use the interactive table below to see our full results.


Ranking Senior Destinations by Factor

From affordable vacation rentals to vibrant dining scenes, here’s a closer look at what sets hidden gem travel destinations apart. Next, we break it down by each category we used to determine our rankings.

A graphic showing the best hidden travel destinations by our ranking metrics

Bloomington, MN, emerged as the city with the most affordable vacation rentals, boasting  an average daily price of only $61. This affordability makes it an attractive option for seniors traveling on a budget. Redding, CA, was notable for having the most hidden gem bars, with over a third of its establishments falling into this category, offering plenty of opportunities for socializing and enjoying local culture.

Iowa City, IA, took the lead in hidden gem restaurants, with 38.9% of its dining options rated highly yet still relatively undiscovered. This makes it an excellent destination for seniors who enjoy exploring new culinary experiences. Palm Coast, FL, was highlighted as the hidden gem city with the highest senior population at 31.1%, indicating a well-established community with amenities and services tailored to older adults.

Explore Hidden Vacation Spots for Seniors

Our look at the best hidden gem destinations reveals a treasure trove of vacation spots perfect for seniors seeking affordability, vibrant local cultures, and communities geared toward their needs. Whether you’re drawn to the scenic beauty of Palm Coast or the social scenes in Redding, there’s a destination to suit every taste. Hidden gem cities, with their unique charm and senior-friendly amenities, will likely make for a memorable and fulfilling travel experience.


We analyzed cities with populations between 75,000-100,000 residents. The following variables were used in our meta-ranking:

Senior Population (30%)

Vacation Rental Affordability (20%)

  • The average daily rate from AllTheRooms reflects the historical average over three months prior to May 2024. Data was collected in early May and may vary over time.

Hidden Gem* Dining and Drinking (20%)

  • Percentage of hidden gem bars on Yelp (10%)

  • Percentage of hidden gem restaurants on Yelp (10%)

Health and Safety (15%)

  • Number of urgent cares on Yelp per 10,000 residents (7.5%)

  • Crime rate per 10,000 residents from NeighborhoodScout (7.5%)

Outdoor Accessibility (15%)

  • Walkability score from Walk Score (7.5%)

  • Percentage of hidden gem* parks on Yelp (7.5%)

*Hidden gem amenities were defined as places with a high rating (4 to 5 stars) and between 5 to 75 reviews. 

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Brianna Maguire
Brianna Maguire

Brianna Maguire heads up Carewell’s Customer Care Team, and serves as a resource for caregivers that need support. Whether it’s helping customers decide which products are best for their needs, answering caregiver questions, or just providing a shoulder to lean on on a tough day, her job is to make caregivers’ lives easier.