Travel

Underrated Bachelor Party Cities You Can Actually Afford to Party In

Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
Providence, Rhode Island | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

In theory, the Bachelor Party is a wild, uninhibited, let's-hope-we-don’t-end-up-at-Walmart-buying-shovels-and-garbage-bags-at-3am blowout, a bromantic celebration wherein your buddy revels in the dying days of his singledom. In reality, it’s a wallet-draining slog in a) Vegas b) New Orleans c) Montreal or d) Nashville, where roughly 200 other groups are also having bachelor parties. Lines are long, restaurants are booked, and the good-looking strippers are all in back rooms entertaining guys with bigger bankrolls.

Here’s a thought: Skip the overpriced, overplayed bachelor party destinations in favor of something original. The US -- or even a short flight outside -- has cities chock-full of big steaks, great beer, and all sorts of fun beyond bottle service and g-strings. So get on your group chat and start brainstorming: Here are 11 underrated spots to get you started.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Keith Homan/Shutterstock

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Chicago gets a lot of laid-back Midwestern bachelor party love, but Milwaukee is a better alternative. The drinking scene, for starters, is as good as anywhere. This city is so beer crazy, the public parks have beer gardens where you sample local brews in the fresh air and sunshine. There is, of course, the big brewery tour at Miller, but Milwaukee is so cool even the root beer brewery tours are fantastic. A trip through the Sprecher facility features an indoor beer garden with giant pretzels and four samples of any of their beers or sodas. Beyond beer, the craft cocktails at Bryant’s and Dock18 Cocktail Lab are staffed by people with a serious passion for making great drinks -- your typical bullshit big-city $17 Old Fashioneds these are not.

For steaks, you can go high-end and chic at Carnevor, someone-dropped-me-in-the-1960s old-school at Five O’Clock Steakhouse, or really any of these meat palaces for the requisite bachelor party dinner. Cap it with a full-blown tailgate for a Brewers game -- which is every bit the beer-soaked trip to Wrigley, but with cheaper seats and fresh grilled bratwurst outside.

People in Friendship Park, Playas de Tijuana, Mexico
Tijuana, Mexico | GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images

Tijuana, Mexico

Telling the bride-to-be that the bachelor party’s in TJ is a shortcut to get the wedding canceled. That’s because for decades Tijuana was known as a den of sin where you could get 10 beers, four shots, and a bag of drugs for less than the cost of an LA ribeye. But post-drug war, TJ has evolved into a more sophisticated destination, with breweries like Cerveceria Insurgente, Mamut Brewery, and BCB Tasting Room leading the charge for local beers NOT served in clear bottles. If stuffing your face with tacos in Las Ahumaderas (what Bourdain dubbed “taco alley”) isn’t upscale enough, TJ is the epicenter of Baja Med, a delicious mash-up of Mexican, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisine at spots like La Querencia.

Still, it wouldn’t be Tijuana without some old-fashioned irresponsible behavior. Avenida Revolucion is still awash with whistle-blowing tequila pourers and scandalously cheap drinks. Zona Norte is one of the world’s best red light districts -- not that we’re condoning such activities. Throw live bullfights and a huge casino into the mix and you’ve got yourself a better, budget Vegas.

Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida | Kamira/Shutterstock

Orlando, Florida

Please hold your “Sure, if the bachelor happens to be 10 years old” jokes. Not only has Orlando turned into a pretty badass city in its own right -- one with some of the best golf courses in America -- the theme parks are just as much fun for a pack of dudes as they are for a middle school debate team. No, the park’s not full of strippers and booze, but after coming face-to-face with dinosaurs at Jurassic Park, soaking yourselves on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and having your face peeled back on the high-speed Hulk coaster, you’ll see why this is a better alternative to toxifying yourself for an entire weekend.

That said, there is also some first-rate toxifying to be done in Orlando. Playing “Around the World” at EPCOT might be the best iteration of a drinking game you’ll ever play while wearing mouse ears. Sample Italian wines, chug German beers, have a pint in an English pub, sip margaritas at La Cava del Tequila, and cap it all off with some steaks in Canada. Later head to downtown Orlando for some drinks at the rooftop bar at the Amway Center. Like that, the most benign-sounding bachelor party in history just became one of the best weekends of your lives.

Mary's All Nude Revue Portland
Portland, Oregon | Flickr/Todd Mecklem

Portland, Oregon

Portland has the most strip clubs per capita of any major city in America. And not, like, seedy, degenerate, stigma-inducing strip clubs either. They’re just as much a part of the nightlife here as live music and food trucks. The preeminent steak-and-stilettos destination is the Acropolis Steakhouse, where an 8-ounce filet mignon will run you a fat $10.50 with a loaded baked potato. Even if you don’t feel like clogging your heart at the tip rail, Portland has a ton of other legitimately good strip club food options to keep you fed all weekend.

Another thing Portland is known for beyond strippers: beer! Oregon is to craft beer what Florida is to mutant alligators. You can easily spend the entire bachelor party hopping from places like Fire on the Mountain (get the wings) to Burnside Brewing Co. to Old Town Brewing (get the pizza). And though Portland is right up there with Austin and Nashville on everyone’s list of cities to visit-and-move-to, somehow the bachelor party circuit hasn’t quite landed here. Yet.

Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia | Gal Schweizer/Getty Images

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is a mere three-hour flight from Miami, five hours from New York, and generally six to eight from the rest of the country. No, it’s not the closest option, but it’s the best bang for your bachelor party buck in the Western hemisphere.The fortified city is historic and beautiful, and while cultural immersion might not be your weekend MO, it’s a place you can bring your whole crew that really feels like a full-blown getaway. The food is fantastic: parrilla at Quebracho, fresh seafood at La Vitrola, Asian-Caribbean fusion at Moshi. Meals are filling, savory experiences that cost less than most chain restaurants back home.

Seriously, Cartagena is amazingly cheap, the kind of place where you’ll throw down at Bar Babar for a couple bottles at the best tables and walk out with a tab well under $200. Total. If clubbing isn't your thing, there’s La Casa de la Cerveza, an outdoor beer bar tucked into the city walls with a sick view of the Castillo lit up at night. Of course, there are the vices most people associate with Colombia, which, while not legal, are certainly plentiful. If you want to party like a soon-to-be-dismissed Secret Service agent on your buddy’s last send-off into married life, Cartagena is the best place to do it.

Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina | Andrew Thomas Lee

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville’s 21 breweries give it the highest concentration of breweries per capita of any city in America. We don’t advise trying them all in one weekend, but grab a map for the Asheville Ale Trail and see how many of them you can notch. The brass beer palace that is Sierra Nevada’s eastern outpost is a mandatory stop, but delve a little further and you’ll find Ben’s Tune Up, where you can drink on a patio furnished with old car seats and other repurposed items. Or Wicked Weed, the go-to for the sour beer buffs in your crew.

Don’t waste the day hungover, though; part of the allure of this city is all you can do outside. Asheville is a quick skip from some 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails (again, we suggest not trying to do them all) and a 60 foot natural waterslide at Pisgah National Forest. Getting to Asheville isn’t always easy (typically you need to connect through Charlotte or Atlanta) but if you live in the southeast or mid-Atlantic it’s a scenic drive that only adds to the experience.

Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island | ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Providence, Rhode Island

A bachelor party in a college city full of cheap drinks and brainy/artsy students is the perfect recipe for a raucous weekend. During the day you can cruise the Providence River, lined with waterfront bars like the Hot Club and Whiskey Republic, where day drinking is as much a staple of summer as half-days on Friday. Once it’s time to eat, Federal Hill has the best collection of Italian-American restaurants outside New York, and a big group dinner there will provide you with a solid foundation of carbs for less than $40 per person, with wine.

Nightlife in Providence is fun as long as you’re comfortable with a younger crowd. Since it’s a bachelor party, we’ll assume that’s a yes. Grab cocktails at the Rooftop at the ProvidenceG, then hit Ultra and Roxy. They might not be South Beach-level clubs, but it’s a lively bottle-service environment at college-budget prices.You’ll probably still have cash left in your wallet when you get home.

florida
Key West, Florida | AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

Key West, Florida

If you’re side-eyeing the cost and shit-showiness of a South Beach bachelor blowout, consider taking the three-hour drive to the end of the Overseas Highway instead. The Keys offers unparalleled access to deep sea fishing charters, where for about $100 apiece you can spend half the day catching that night’s dinner. Not only is it cheaper than a big steak dinner, it also delivers that good ol’ testosterone boost a gentleman gets from eating something he caught and killed. Plenty of restaurants in Key West are happy to cook up your fresh mahi, from local staples like Blue Heaven and the Hogfish Bar & Grill, to big-party favorite Benihana.

After dinner, you’ll hit the bars on Duval Street which, while not exactly undiscovered, are still quirky and occasionally downright wild. Get heckled by the live musicians at Irish Kevin’s, drink like Hemingway at Sloppy Joe’s, or just wander the street until you find a bachelorette party that invites you along. Accommodations here can be pricey, but Key West has uniquely bachelor-party friendly lodgings at the NYAH hotel where twin bunk beds can be converted to fit up to six people. At under $200 a night, it’s the only way you’re fitting that many dudes in a room without someone sleeping in the bathtub.

Québec, Canada

If snowmobiling, dog-sledding, fishing, and snowshoe hiking are more your speed than strippers and poutine, a guys’ weekend in Québec is paradise. Get the night of drinking in Montreal out of your system, then tromp into the natural wonderland of this rugged, French-as-hell Canadian province. It’s twice as large as Texas, rocks more than half a million lakes, endless wilderness, and some of the best cold-weather recreation in the world.

Even dudes who aren’t super stoked about the prospect of ice fishing will be pleasantly surprised; guides at spots like Pourvoirie du Lac Blanc will filet and fry the fish for you right on the spot, too. Further into the wilderness in the Lanaudiere region, your crew can do a DIY Iditarod, captaining a sled team of dogs whilst sipping Canadian whiskey and speeding through the forest. Wilderness lodges like the Auberge du Lac Taureau offer the experience for half a day, or skip it and get straight on the snowmobile.

mississippi
Biloxi, Mississippi | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Biloxi/Ocean Springs, Mississippi

The temptation here would be to get gleefully stuck in Biloxi, what with its mega-casinos and $29-a-night rooms at spots like the IP and Beau Rivage. And yes, Vegas-on-the-Gulf boasts a bevy of luxurious resorts, where you can play poker, drink for free, and gorge on buffets for almost nothing. Oh, and one of the prettiest minor league ballparks in America at MGM Park. But when it comes time to eat, drink, and recreate with things other than poker chips, head across the Biloxi Bay Bridge to Ocean Springs.

There you’ll find one of the country’s best small-town nightlife districts, where live music pours out onto Government Street and strolling the street with a beer is largely tolerated. Spots like Government Street Grocery, Kwitzky’s Dug Out, The Juke Joint, and The Office make bar-hopping here easy, and for the most part, you won’t pay more than $5-$7 a drink. Also along Government, you’ll find the best barbecue in the area at Murky Waters, and your requisite bachelor party steakhouse at Charred. If the weather is cooperating, you can also grab some kayaks from Paddles Up and cruise through the area’s many swamps and mangroves, or head to the beaches on some of the outer islands. Or just call it a day and head back to the $1 tables at the Hard Rock, still a bargain compared to (real) Vegas.

buffalo
Buffalo, New York | Icon Sports Wire/Getty Images

Buffalo, New York

Late-night closing times and a blue-collar culture of hard-partying give Nickel City the requisite ingredients for a first-rate guys’ weekend. Locals will actively chat YOU up -- and often invite you to join them in whatever insanity they’re about to get into. It’s a city with some of the best drinking neighborhoods in the country, where beers are rarely over $4 and drinks not more than $8, and the best food is also the cheapest. So your big nights out will rarely run more than $80, even if you’re paying for the bachelor’s shots.

It’s also a perfect spot for another great bachelor party tradition: the NFL away game. As long as you’re not a fan of the Jets, Patriots, or Dolphins, you’ll find Bills fans overwhelmingly welcoming after a few good-natured (figurative) jabs. A stroll through the famous black lava tailgate lots, where Bills fans stage dive through tables, will have you sharing shots with some of the most passionate fans in American sports. Even if you’re rooting for the other team, the people in the New Era parking lot are just as welcoming as they are in the bars. Inside, the small, vertical stadium makes the place seem warm even when snow is falling. If your team wins, great. But if it doesn’t the all-encompassing glee of Bills fans makes it hard to feel bad.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer to Thrillist who hopes he never has a bachelor party. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.