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The sitcom Parks and Recreation popularized Galentine’s Day (February 13), but really, when is it not a good time to get away with the girls? Group trips are a great way to celebrate milestone birthdays and bachelorette parties, but you don’t need an excuse to gather up the girls and spend a few days honoring female friendships. Pack the party hats and get ready to go out on the town: here are 15 fabulous destinations to explore with your sisters.
St. Augustine, Florida
Celebrate old friends in America’s oldest European city, St. Augustine. Established by the Spanish in 1565, the “Ancient City” boasts beautifully preserved colonial architecture and 43 miles of beaches. Nearby, Ponta Vedra is home to the Association of Tennis Players, as well as the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA). History buffs will want to stay at the Moorish Revival-style Casa Monica Resort and Spa (keep an eye out for ghosts).
To hit all of the attractions, like the landmark Castillo de Marcos (the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S.) and the Fountain of Youth (the fountain believed to be the legendary spring that restores youth), hop on a trolley tour. For breakfast, line up for the chicken and biscuits beloved by locals at the Blue Hen and later, enjoy Spanish rice and gazpacho at Columbia Restaurant.
Get in touch with your inner outdoorswoman in the city of Bozeman in southern Montana. A perfect base for exploring Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman is surrounded by four magnificent mountain ranges; see them from the sky in a hot air balloon or from the river while whitewater rafting.
Want an activity with a little less adrenaline? The Gallatin River is one of the world’s best locations for fly-fishing, and nearby Chico Hot Springs is the perfect way to spend an afternoon unwinding. The charming and walkable downtown offers art galleries, boutiques, and a variety of restaurants ranging from upscale steakhouses, such as Open Range, to plant-based restaurant Farmacy, offering mushroom elixirs and vegan grain bowls.
Seattle is sweet, but travelers in the know go east to the attractive, uncrowded, and more affordable city of Spokane. Take in the views while you sip cabernet sauvignon from award-winning Arbor Crest Winery perched on a cliff, fly over Riverfront Park and Spokane Falls on the city’s scenic gondola, and then take a picture on the Childhood Express, a 12-foot-tall, 27-foot-long wagon.
Hike, bike, or walk on the Centennial State Park Trail, which runs all the way to the city of Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. If you’re not staying at the historic Davenport Hotel, you should definitely lunch at the spectacular Palm Court Grill. (Have the Crab Louie Salad, which was invented here.) For dinner, toast the girls with a huckleberry-infused cocktail and amazing New American fare at Wild Sage Bistro.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Balloon City” is fabulous during the International Balloon Fiesta in early October, but Albuquerque is great for a girls’ trip any time of year. Spend the day taking in the four attractions at the city’s BioPark: the aquarium, zoo, botanical garden, and surrounding lakes. Take the tram up to Sandia Peak at over 10,000 feet above sea level for a great view of the city (and grab a drink at Ten 3 while you’re there).
Hit the shops selling handmade Mexican pottery and décor, admire the adobe architecture in historic Old Town, and slip off to nearby Santa Fe for a private soak and spa treatments at Ten Thousand Waves. For brunch, there’s no better place than dining near the lavender fields at Los Poblanos Inn and Farm for housemade chilaquiles, a spicy piña picante and pineapple soda, and a granola bowl with prickly pear yogurt.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Panoramic views meet Southern hospitality in the town of Blowing Rock nestled off the scenic parkway deep in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. No need for snow to hit the slopes (there are four ski resorts nearby). In summer, you can ride a bike down the runs or witness the stunning fall foliage from a chairlift on Beech Mountain.
Stay at an upscale lakeside resort or a historic Victorian inn, and enjoy browsing galleries, boutiques (especially the handmade candles at the historic Martin House), and market stands during one of the many festivals that run throughout the year. When you get hungry, don’t miss indulging in homegrown Appalachian cuisine, such as bean soup, grilled trout, and “hoecakes” (cornmeal pancakes), at Speckled Trout on Main Street.
South Walton, Florida
If you and the girls desire sugary white sand beaches, sunshine, and amazing food, be sure to check out this lovely group of communities along northwestern Florida’s Emerald Coast. There are 16 beach neighborhoods in South Walton, each with its own unique vibe. Thirteen are stretched along two-lane County Highway 30A, where sensitive development protects the delicate dunes and there’s nary a high-rise in sight.
Stop in the city of Seaside, the birthplace of New Urbanism, to admire the candy-colored oceanfront cottages and the gleaming airstream food trailers along “Airstream Row.” Take paddleboards out on the dune lakes at Grayton Beach State Park, and then plan a pamper session at the intimate Pearl Spa. While you’ll find everything in “SoWal” from fish shacks to fine dining, there are two rules to follow: Always order the grouper and never miss Sunday brunch (and Bloody Marys) at Stinky’s Fish Camp (in spite of the name).
Buffalo, New York
Although Buffalo is best-known as the home of spicy chicken wings and as the gateway to Niagara Falls, there’s a lot more to explore in this city on New York’s western edge. Don’t miss heading to the falls or eating your weight’s worth in wings on the Wing Trail, obviously, but be sure to also check out the magnificent collection at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (the main campus reopens in early 2023 after an enormous expansion), the stunning glass conservatories at the botanical gardens, and the grand homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
For more fun with the ladies, head to the city’s redeveloped waterfront district called Riverworks, where your squad can imbibe on their own private floating tiki bar. The party doesn’t have to end early either, as many bars in Erie County keep serving until 4:00 a.m. (Check out Essex Street Pub and the Old Pink.)
Kansas City, Missouri
With live music, numerous streets for some serious shopping, and an impressive art scene, Kansas City offers a lot more than good barbecue. (But you have to try that, too.) After fortifying the girls at Arthur Bryant’s or Gates Bar-B-Q, check out the greats at the American Jazz Museum and catch a show at the Blue Room or the Gem Theater if you can.
When you’re in need of retail therapy, the historic Country Club Plaza has impressive finds at local boutiques, but the hip Crossroads Arts District and the neighborhood of Brookside are where you’ll find independent boutiques and galleries, along with stellar restaurants like the award-winning Corvino Supper Club and Aixois.
Did you know that you can go surfing in Idaho? Five hundred miles from the nearest ocean, the Boise Whitewater Park is only one of the ways that locals and visitors can enjoy the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt that follows the river as it flows through the city. Rent a raft or an innertube for a leisurely float; there’s even a shuttle between the put-in at Barber Park and take-out at Ann Morrison Park.
Turn from water to wine with a tour of some of the region’s best wineries, and sample more at restaurants like upscale Italian restaurant Àlavita or sleek Juniper serving local entrées, such as wild-caught salmon, mushroom and goat cheese pizza, and squash risotto. The capital is also a great base camp for visiting the surrounding wilderness, including the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, where more than 800 pairs of hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons hatch and raise their young on the towering cliffs.
Wimberley is a slice of heaven in the Texas Hill Country. A popular day trip from Austin but worth a weekend trip of its own, this secluded town is a laid-back retreat perfect for a girls’ getaway. Start the fun at the Shady Llama, a funky outdoor venue serving beer, wine slushies, outdoor games, fire pits, hammocks, food trucks, and llamas.
You might not need anything else, but little Wimberley also has a natural swimming hole, a historic town square with many galleries and boutiques, and a tasting room for sampling freshly pressed olive oil at Bella Vista Ranch. Get a peaceful night’s sleep and relax at the spa at the stylish Blair House Inn, which also offers cooking classes and serves a fabulous breakfast.
Greenville, South Carolina
Take the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 20-mile paved path running through downtown, to get a good grasp of Greenville, which is fast becoming a foodie destination, as well as a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. Stay downtown at the Beaux Arts-style Westin Poinsett, or rent out all the rooms (up to six) at the eclectic Swamp Rabbit Inn for a more intimate vacation.
Explore the trails along the Reedy River, as well as the gardens and suspension bridge at Falls Park before heading to Main Street, keeping an eye out for the adorable bronze mice sculptures scattered throughout the city. If you’re in need of some sweets, make sure you stop at the historic Mast General Store, where you can find your favorite classic candies.
For a taste of Cape Cod on Lake Michigan, look no further than the historic city of Saugatuck, only a few hours northeast of Chicago. Take an afternoon sail on a historic schooner or a tour on a stern wheel paddleboat. No one has to be the designated driver with a beverage tour of the area’s wineries and breweries. Dine in Gilded Age style at the Belvedere Inn, pamper yourselves at one of the city’s day spas, or just hang out and catch some rays on the stunning shores of Oval Beach.
San Luis Obispo County, California
California dreaming comes easy in San Luis Obispo County — known as “SLO” to the locals. The diverse terrain covers wildflower-filled meadows, wineries, and more than 80 miles of rugged coastline that offers shelter for sea lions, otters, and thousands of monarch butterflies.
Only a 3.5-hour drive from both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the county draws foodies (don’t miss trying Morro Bay oysters or Paso Robles pinot noir), art lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts who explore by kayak, beach Jeep, horse, or on foot. Rent a rustic cabin at Avila Hot Springs or enjoy the ocean breeze at the luxurious Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa in Pismo Beach — the whole county is your oyster.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
There’s no need for a car in this former mining hamlet — you can arrive via Amtrak or bus and make yourself right at home in the historic downtown of Glenwood Springs. Presidents and royalty prefer the grandeur of the Hotel Colorado, and their complimentary shuttle will happily chauffeur you and the girls to nearby Iron Mountain Hot Springs, for a peaceful soak with a cocktail or craft beer in pools that overlook the Roaring Fork River.
Shop for treasures in the city center and don’t miss dining at both Brava (for Italian) and Colorado Ranch House (for Western-inspired fare and a killer brunch). If you want a little Aspen glitz, you can make the short drive, bike 42 miles on the Rio Grande Trail, or hop one of the $5 local buses to the city that run every half hour from early morning to late at night.
It’s best-known as a hideaway for the rich and famous, but the tidy seaside village of Kennebunkport is a great place for a girls’ getaway — even if you’re not on a champagne budget. Only a 90-minute drive north of Boston, Kennebunkport was established in 1736 and the downtown historic district has a wealth of beautifully preserved mansions.
Stroll along Dock Square, which is filled with galleries and boutiques, search for sea glass on Goose Rocks Beach, and admire the lighthouse on Goat Island (get the best pictures from the Cape Porpoise Pier). A seafood feast is a must, so don’t skip lobster, chowder, and scallops at Mabel’s Lobster Claw or any of the other great restaurants serving the local catch of the day.