20 empty nest ideas to try in 2024 (by region and season)
Published Date: October 12, 2023
The kids have left for college or jobs, and your once-bustling home is quieter than ever. The empty nest phase can feel unsettling as it opens up new possibilities. All you need are ideas for empty nester adventures — both where you live and in a destination where you may consider owning a second home.
The Northeast is full of seasonal activities to enjoy year-round. From local New England festivals to iconic events in the Big Apple — there are plenty of empty nester activities to enjoy here.
Spring: Cherry blossom viewing
One of the most enchanting places to view cherry blossoms in the Northeastern U.S. is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York. Each spring, typically in late April or early May, the garden's Sakura trees burst into a breathtaking display of pink and white blossoms. Buffalo, New York, is home to Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival, a gathering full of great music, food and blooms.
Summer: Firefly viewing
Head to The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens in Newbury, New Hampshire, to see a dazzling performance of light. Visit the estate in late June when fireflies are at their peak. New England nature enthusiasts gather here to witness the electrifying display of fireflies twinkling over the beautiful gardens and serene lakeside setting.
Fall: Apple picking
One of the quintessential autumn activities in the Northeast is apple picking, and a wonderful place to do this is at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Massachusetts. This family-owned orchard is nestled in the countryside and offers an apple-picking experience for all ages to enjoy — from families to empty nesters.
Winter: Ice skating
Located in Central Park and framed by the city's skyline, the Wollman Rink offers the perfect New York winter experience. Whether you're a skilled skater or a beginner, you can glide across the ice while enjoying the iconic ambiance of the park. The rink is typically open from late October to early April, making it a must-visit winter destination.
Midwest empty nest ideas
The Midwest has so much to offer for nature lovers and empty nesters. Try something you’ve never done before or relish in the familiarity of local seasonal events.
Spring: Tulip festival
In the Midwest, one of the most vibrant flower festivals to attend in spring is the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan. This colorful May event celebrates the Dutch heritage of the region with millions of tulips in full bloom, transforming the city into a vibrant spectacle full of flowers, food and dancing.
Summer: Visit the Great Lakes
Lake Michigan is an excellent choice for a summer visit to the Great Lakes. Its sandy shores and clear waters make it perfect for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. For a more urban experience, you can explore Milwaukee along its western shore, Chicago on the southern shore or venture to small beach towns like Traverse City, Michigan, to the northeast.
Fall: Visit a cider mill
In the Midwest, visiting a cider mill is one of the best things for empty nesters to do in autumn. One cider gem worth exploring is the Franklin Cider Mill in Franklin, Michigan. Nestled amidst colorful foliage, this historic mill welcomes you to watch the cider-making process, savor seasonal treats and take a leisurely stroll along the Franklin River.
Winter: Ice fishing
Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota is a premier destination for a classic ice fishing experience. Visitors to the "Walleye Capital of the World" can set up ice shanties, drop their lines and try to catch walleye, sauger and northern pike. The adventure features the cozy camaraderie of fellow ice anglers from near and far.
West Coast empty nest ideas
From water sports to wine-tasting, the West Coast has it all and then some. Head up north for captivating views of world-famous mountain peaks, or soak up the SoCal lifestyle by the beach. Wherever you go, bring your camera to capture the memories.
Spring: Go whale watching
One of the best places to whale watch on the West Coast is Monterey Bay, California. Spring is the peak season for whale migrations along the Pacific coast, and Monterey Bay offers abundant opportunities to spot gray whales, humpback whales — and even the occasional orca. Don’t be surprised if your first visit quickly turns into one of your favorite empty-nester activities.
Summer: Go surfing
In the summertime, one of the prime surfing destinations on the West Coast is Huntington Beach, California. Known as "Surf City USA," this iconic spot offers consistent waves and a vibrant surf culture. With its long, sandy beach and various breaks catering to different skill levels, it's a fantastic place for surfers of all abilities.
Fall: Sample wines
Calling all empty nesters who love to sip back and relax. For an unforgettable wine-tasting tour experience, head to California's Napa Valley. This world-renowned wine region is especially gorgeous during the autumn months as grapevines turn vibrant shades of red and gold. The cooler temperatures create ideal conditions for both wine production and enjoyment of these legendary librations.
Winter: Visit a national park
With the scorching desert heat subsided, the cooler temperatures make exploring Joshua Tree National Park more comfortable. Enjoy navigating through the park's surreal rock formations and iconic Joshua trees. You can take advantage of the numerous trails or simply relax and stargaze in one of the best dark-sky areas in the United States.
Southwest empty nest ideas
The Southwest is far more than just cowboy country — although horseback riding is first on the agenda. Luxury hot springs and river adventures await you in the desert landscape.
Spring: Try horseback riding
Head to the Red Rock Country of Sedona, Arizona, for a horseback riding experience you won’t soon forget. The stunning red rock formations, steep canyons and picturesque desert landscapes provide a breathtaking backdrop for trekking with your steed. Horsin’ Around Adventures has experienced wranglers who are ready to show you the ropes this spring.
Summer: Go river tubing
What do empty nesters do to beat the southwestern summer heat? You float down the Salt River near Mesa, Arizona, with a cool drink in hand. With the desert landscape in the background, grab a tube and cruise through breathtaking scenery. Numerous outfitters in the area provide tube rentals and transportation to the launch points, making it accessible for all ages.
One of the best ideas for empty nesters who love the great outdoors is to go camping in autumn. The crisp air makes hiking, fishing and stargazing more comfortable. Zion National Park in southern Utah is an idyllic place to set up camp in the fall. There are fewer crowds, dozens of trails to explore and an awe-inspiring backdrop for your camping adventure.
Winter: Soak in a hot spring
Pack your bags for a fall getaway to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where luxury hot springs with towering mountain views await you. Whether you want to soak in the public baths or book a private hot spring suite, Riverbend Hot Springs has it all. If tranquility is a priority, don’t skip one of the most relaxing empty nester pastimes.
Southeast empty nest ideas
Last but not least, the Southeast promises thrilling experiences for empty nesters who love history, leisure and being near pristine water. With various landscapes to enjoy, these empty nester activities will keep you busy all year long.
Boating is one of the more relaxing activities for empty nesters to enjoy before it gets too hot. Consider Lake Norman in North Carolina for your next maritime adventure. This expansive lake, often called the "Inland Sea," offers a wonderful setting for a day on the water. With over 500 miles of shoreline, you can explore secluded coves, enjoy water sports and drop anchor for picnics.
Summer: Visit a botanical garden
The Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta, Georgia, is a must-visit destination for empty-nest nature enthusiasts. This lush oasis offers a refreshing escape from the summer heat, featuring beautifully landscaped gardens, including the Orchid Display House, Japanese Garden and the whimsical Children's Garden. Don’t miss seeing the garden from above at the treetop Canopy Walk.
Fall: Take a haunted house tour
For a spine-tingling experience, head to the historic city of Savannah, Georgia, and embark on a haunted house tour or two. Known for its rich history and eerie legends, Savannah offers numerous ghost tours that guide you through its haunted mansions, cemeteries and squares. The Sorrel-Weed House and the Mercer-Williams House, both famous for their paranormal activity, are popular stops.
Winter: Head to the beach
One of the best empty nester ideas is to hit the beach. Visiting the Florida Keys in the winter means soaking up the sun and enjoying everything you’ll love about at a tropical destination — like snorkeling and seaside dining. Catch the spectacular sunsets from Key West's famous Mallory Square. Do these empty nest ideas already have you thinking about how to stay at these destinations year-round? If you could see yourself enjoying a seasonal home away from home in one of the regions, consider co-owning a second home in another state. Plus, Pacaso’s streamlined buying process makes it possible to buy your new luxury home sight unseen.