Got a hankering to head overseas but keen to explore beyond some of the typical travel destinations?
If you’re wondering where to start, we’ve done the hard work for you, compiling a list of ‘non-basic’ spots you need to hit up, and the best ways to get there. You’re welcome!
Since we’re all the way down here at the bottom of the world, it goes without saying that you’ll be racking up your fair share of flight time, wherever you go. So to make it that much sweeter, these end destinations all include stopovers in Los Angeles, California. Naturally, we suggest you spend a few days there to get your green juice and celebrity sightings in the bag before you explore the rest of the world.
Scroll below for our picks of some of the best destinations to explore in your twenties.
Hit the slopes in Aspen
If you live for outdoor adventures, it’s time to answer the call of the rocky mountains of the American midwest. Grab your board and hit the near-vertical run in the Highland Bowl, explore on your feet with a summertime hike through one of the countless trails in Aspen, Snowmass and beyond, or take a gondola up Aspen Mountain for a yoga class while you breathe in that pure mountain air. As this is a place of indulgence and luxury, you’d be remiss if you skipped the opportunity for a glass of bubbles in a moonlit hot tub – especially after a day on the powder.
Getting there: Fly with American Airlines to Aspen from Auckland International Airport (AKL) via Los Angeles before arriving at Pitkin County Airport (ASE), Colorado. | Book here.
Discover and delight in Sao Paulo
A notoriously tricky city to navigate, Brazil’s Sao Paulo is best explored with the guidance of a local. Depending on your guide, you might find yourself sipping espresso in the morning then club-hopping ‘til dawn, taking in their culture with a museum or cinema stop, or enjoying the culinary delights of this world-renowned food haven, fueled by the melting pot of ethnic groups that call this place home. With 20 million people in the greater Sao Paulo area, it’s the third-largest metropolis on the planet.
Getting there: Departing from Auckland International Airport (AKL), fly American Airlines via Los Angeles, then onto Guarulhos International Airport (GRU), Brazil. Let’s get the ‘festa’ [party in Portuguese] going! | Book here.
Washington for the win
Politico powerhouse aside, Washington, DC is one vibrant city jam-packed with history, culture, incredible food and plenty to ‘gram. To guarantee you fall in love with the city, plan your trip for spring when cherry blossoms blanket the riverbank while you bottomless brunch right into happy hour; two things Washington take very seriously. And, did we mention they also play home to giant pandas at their national zoo? Caaaaute.
Getting there: Fly from Auckland International Airport (AKL) with American Airlines to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) with a quick stop-over in for dinner in Los Angeles on the way. | Book here.
Experience the nightlife of Buenos Aires
With steakhouses on almost every corner, this Argentine city is a carnivore’s dream. Prepare to stay up all night here; restaurants don’t start to ramp up until around 9pm and bars and clubs get busy between midnight and 2am – so an afternoon disco nap is key. If dancing’s your jam, be sure to make time to take part in a tango class or catch a show to witness this signature sensual dance style in all its glory. And we all know how mad the Argentinians are for football, so don your blue and yellow and get amongst the action of a live game.
Getting there: Flying with American Airlines, you can fly from Auckland International Airport (AKL) to Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), Argentina, with a connecting flight via Los Angeles and Miami. Can’t wait to party? American Airlines offers free beer, wine and spirits; plus free Biscoff cookies or mini pretzels and soft drinks. | Book here.
Feeling it in Phoenix
Situated in a thriving desert metropolis, Phoenix, Arizona, is what lazy, sun-drenched dreams are made of. And we’re not just referring to the 300 days of sunshine it receives each year. Boasting some of the best Southwestern and Mexican food you’ll smack lips with – ever, Phoenix has a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ for everyone: showstopping wildflowers at the Desert Botanical Garden; a booty-dropping bar scene in Tempe (pronounced tem-pee); a ritzy Hollywood-esque situation in Scottsdale; and more than 200 golf courses to shake a club at.
Getting there: Departing from Auckland International Airport (AKL), American Airlines will you see you right through to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) with a cheeky stopover in Los Angeles. | Book here.
Feel the magic of Mazatlan
A trip to Mexico should certainly include hotspots such as Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum, but to truly experience this eclectic country, it pays to go off the beaten track – at least for a couple of days. Mazatlan, with its 20km of sandy beaches has recently had a reawakening, with ‘tropical neoclassical’ vibes evoking the spirit of the 1950s. Head out of the city’s Golden Zone to the refurbished old town with its beautiful beach promenade to enjoy magical sunsets and a bit of chill-out time.
Getting there: Fly with American Airlines from Auckland International Airport (AKL) to General Rafael Buelna International Airport (MZT), Mexico, with a connecting flight via Los Angeles. | Book here.
Live like a local in Lima
This Peruvian city is steeped in history, with pre-Columbian temples, colonial facades and high-rises all vying for space amongst the dry landscape. There are food carts on every street corner to grab delicious cheap eats; bars, restaurants and theatres bursting with life and culture; coastal promenades perfect for perusing by bike, and headlands to hike for spectacular views. Coffee connoisseurs will revel in the delight of a cuppa Joe made from locally grown beans.
Getting there: Fly with American Airlines from Auckland International Airport (AKL), stopping off in Los Angeles before touching down at Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), Peru. | Book here.
Chicago, and all that jazz
Baffled by the beauty of buildings? Fall over backwards inspecting the architectural wonders in Chicago or faceplant a Picasso installation on the streets. This modest, yet undeniably cool, city will have you gawping at every corner. But it’s not all arts and awesomeness, Chicago does dining in the most indulgent capacity: peanut-butter-and-banana-topped waffles for breakfast; chicken, apple and cranberry hot dog for lunch; deep dish pizza for dinner and plenty of authentic ethnic finds to feast. And after you’ve blown your daily caloric intake, it’s time to blow your eardrums at one of the 200 gigs between March and September. And the sports scene? Major.
Getting there: Fly with American Airlines from Auckland International Airport (AKL) via Los Angeles to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD). | Book here.
Visit the valleys of Southeastern Utah
If natural wonders never cease to amaze you, then Southeastern Utah with its rugged desert beauty will no doubt be a source of inspiration for your soul. Pack your camera for a trip to Goblin Valley State Park with its otherworldly, melted-rock landscape or get out of your comfort zone in some of Utah’s most famous canyoneering routes; take a boat across Lake Powell to the world’s largest natural bridge, Rainbow Bridge, on a sacred Navajo site; or channel your inner paleontologist at the Dinosaur Museum (which has a goal to cover the complete history of the world’s dinosaurs).
Getting there: In less time than it takes to get to Dubai alone, you can fly from Auckland International Airport (AKL) to Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah, including a stopover in Los Angeles with American Airlines. From here, it’s just a two-hour drive, bypassing the Utah Lake, along to Southeastern Utah. Yee-haw! | Book here.
See the sites of Cincinnati
Also known as the Queen City, Cincinnati, on the banks of the Ohio River makes for an ideal three-day stop on your travels. There’s a wealth of art deco architecture, rooftop terraces with spectacular views of the skyline, Findlay Market with its gourmet delights, and brewery tours which take you underground to experience the pre-Prohibition beer culture. If the weather is nice, there’s no place like the green spaces along the river bank. Bring a picnic and park up, or pick up a Cincy Red Bike and ride at your leisure past the Great American Ball Park and Carol Ann’s Carousel.
Getting there: Departing from Auckland International Airport (AKL), American Airlines will have you touching down in Cincinnati’s Northern Kentucky Internal Airport (CVG) with stopovers in Los Angeles and either Dallas or North Carolina. | Book here.
This article was brought to you by American Airlines.
Words: Lucy Slight, Terri Dunn
Photos: Supplied, Shutterstock