14 Top Girlfriend Getaways
Gather up those college roommates or far-flung female family members for a long-overdue girlfriend getaway of pampering and togetherness. From renting a farmhouse in Tuscany to taking cooking classes on Florida's Amelia Island to camping out in the middle of crowded New York City, each of these trips is ideal for bonding, relaxing, and learning something new.
Scottsdale, Arizona, has long been synonymous with spa resorts. In fact, Scottsdale is believed to have more spas per capita than any other place in the United States. Unwind at the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, where the open-air rooftop pool (pictured) is a huge draw. Even if you're not a guest at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, you can hang out and use its facilities all day just by booking a treatment. And in nearby Paradise Valley, the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort invites contemplative interludes in the meditation garden or by the reflecting pond.
Massages and skin treatments always go over well on girlfriend getaways—but with so many spas around, how can you sort out the good from the so-so? And how can you find the best deals? Search Spafinder for information on treatments and rates at facilities around the country, or just for ideas for destinations you might not have thought about before. Some of our faves: Tucson's Miraval Arizona (Oprah likes this one, too), Carrillon Miami Wellness Resort (pictured), and The Peninsula Chicago.
Wine lovers already know about California's Napa and Sonoma. For a different type of wine vacation, head up to Oregon's Willamette Valley (pictured) for award-winning vintages or to the Columbia Gorge region straddling the Washington border for tastings and tours among waterfall-laden scenery. A stay at the Allison Inn & Spa puts you close to Willamette's 200 vineyards, whereas the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa is an hour's drive from Mt. Hood and what oenophiles call "a world of wines in 40 miles." Visit Travel Oregon for suggested routes and planning tips for both the Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge regions.
It's hard to go wrong with a trip that starts with champagne and pastries. In April, May, August, and October, the Ritz-Carlton on Florida's Amelia Island puts on a Salt Cooking School. Each of these one-day events centers on a certain theme, such as Latin street food or dinner party hors d'oeuvres. Guests arrive at 9am and are treated to breakfast as chefs outline the menu for the day. Everybody leaves with an apron, recipe book, and significantly improved cooking skills.
Additionally, the hotel offers a weekend-long vacation once a year called the Salt and Savor Culinary Weekend. This event, while pricey, is an incredible opportunity to experience two days of hands-on cooking instruction from the chefs of the Ritz-Carlon themselves. The package also includes a daily breakfast, valet parking, more aprons, and take-home recipes.
If you and your friends are serious about food, DISH runs a culinary boot camp to get cooking skills up to speed. Admittedly, the program is more of a skills-related immersion experience than a by-the-books vacation, but intensive learning can be rewarding—and just think of the incredible dinner parties you'll throw afterwards. Boot camps are offered year-round for two, three, four, or five days at locations in New York, Texas, and California.
For extra-special occasions, Italy is the ultimate destination for a friends' trip. There's no better place to indulge in food and wine while also learning a little bit about art and history. Consider renting a Tuscan farmhouse to immerse yourself in the medieval past; in addition to searching Airbnb and its major competitors for options, don't forget about smaller outfits such as Papavero Villa Rentals. You'll explore historic cities filled with Gothic architecture and world-renowned artistic treasures, then return to the surrounding countryside to savor wines—and views. No one in the group will ever forget it.
For those who find New York City overwhelming at times, Governors Island, a long-abandoned military base in the middle of the Hudson River, is a breath of fresh air. All it takes is a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge Park to be transported to a natural wonder right in the city. Rent a bike from Blazing Saddles or a surrey that can accommodate you and up to three friends, and explore the island's parks, art installations, old military buildings, and food vendors, all while taking in prime views of the skyline.
At night, head over to Collective Governors Island, a luxury campsite where tents are tricked out with upscale amenities including Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and, in some cases, private bathrooms with rain-style spa showers and private decks with reclining chairs. You can have dinner at the onsite restaurant or barbecue your own eats at a personal grill before grabbing a spot around the communal campfire to make s'mores with your friends and fellow glampers.
Groups that have noble aspirations—and sizable budgets—can reserve a Duchess Room at Dukes hotel in London. A staff member escorts you to the door and handles all room service and housekeeping inquiries. Small touches—fresh flowers, a fruit bowl, bedroom slippers—can make all the difference after a long flight. The five-star boutique hotel, less than a 15-minute walk from Buckingham Palace, offers high tea in the afternoon. The 90-room hotel is also close to gourmet food emporium Fortnum & Mason (a favorite of the royals), along with classic luxury brands such as Chanel and YSL on Old Bond Street.
There's no shortage of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. If you've had your fill of those, look further north in the Atlantic and give Bermuda a try. The Reefs Resort & Club offers ocean views from every guest room—and from the bathrooms. At this luxury hotel, lounging on the private pink-sand beach is practically required. Exuding warm hospitality, the Reefs serves afternoon tea daily and has resources to help you explore the island. Girlfriend getaway–themed packages may include spa credits or a special three-course dinner at one of three onsite restaurants.
Airfare to Hawaii seems to get cheaper all the time, so there's really no excuse not to fly out at this point. Hit the waves on Oahu and spend the night at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort to enjoy lovely views, beaches, and genuine Hawaiian decor. The spacious rooms reflect the rich history of the islands with their outrigger theme. Many neighborhing hotels also sell solid surf packages for short stays. Make sure to take full advantage of the sunset views—and to snag a few delicious drinks—at Duke's Waikiki.
Pictured: Haleiwa, Oahu
There is no doubt that the Prana del Mar in Cabo San Lucas helps guests unplug. Cell phone coverage and Wi-Fi service are spotty, and the eco-friendly retreat generates its own electricity. All of that makes this a good choice for groups seeking a digital detox in order to connect with one another and work on mindfulness and wellness. There are onsite yoga and Pilates classes, plus more active diversions such as hiking, surfing, and horseback riding. You can even sneak out of the enclosure and explore Baja on your own, or—perhaps more in the spirit of things—just stay put and enjoy the beautiful vistas on campus. Weekly rates include seven nights' lodging, airport transfers, three meals a day, and daily yoga classes.
Go west to Whitefish, Montana, for Cowgirl Up!, a six-night, women-only retreat in the spring and summer. It's an all-inclusive western fantasy filled with trail rides, horse clinics, good food, and end-of-day massages. Not to mention the lessons—by the time you cowgirl down, you'll not only have become proficient in horseback riding but also in line dancing, barrel racing, skeet shooting, and fly fishing. The retreat is hosted three times per year by the Bar W Guest Ranch. In a similar vein, be sure to check out Call of the Wild, which specializes in women's outdoor vacations all over the American West, from Yellowstone to Death Valley.
There are scores of companies that lead women-only trips around the world. Extremely popular with multigenerational groups, these companies can help you plan big adventures. Adventure Women has been in the game since 1982. Past itineraries have included hiking in the Swiss Alps (pictured), exploring the treasures of Turkey, and cruising through the Galápagos Islands with stops to see one-of-a-kind wildlife.