Travel

7 Unexpectedly Great Destinations for Bachelorette Parties

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California | Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock
Santa Barbara, California | Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock

When planning a last-hurrah bachelorette extravaganza, some brides-to-be will want to get spendy in New York City. Others will be want to take advantage of those jolly open-container laws in New Orleans. And others will be laid-back and down with whatever, as long as it involves seeing Britney in Vegas.

These are all tried-and-true (read: cliché and expensive) bachelorette party destinations. But why not plan a girls’ weekend that’s just as one-of-a-kind as your BFF4L? We’ve culled together a list of spots around the US (or just a hop, skip, and a flight outside it) that make for great group getaways.

Kayaking the Chicago River
Kayaking the Chicago River | f11photo/shutterstock

Chicago, Illinois  

A cleaner, cheaper, sparklier New York with something for absolutely everyone
I could write 10 paragraphs here about how much Chicago brings to the table. For the fashionista bride, there’s the Magnificent Mile and the high-end stores that line it. For the sporty bride, the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox, and 2016 WORLD SERIES-WINNING Cubs all play within a short L train ride from Downtown. Outdoor concerts at Millennium Park are a singular experience -- you can BYO picnic baskets full of booze and snacks -- and for a shot of culture, severaltheaters in town host Broadway productions.

Weather permitting, take the gang kayaking on the Chicago River through the Canyon of Skyscrapers, or take a brunch cruise on Lake Michigan. That’s right, ladies, I said brunch cruise. For more bachelorette brunching, Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club on Sundays offers bottomless mimosas and live drag performances from the stellar Madam X, who sings live and creates her own elaborate costumes.

Don’t miss the nation's first Michelin-starred brewpub, and definitely get a tour of the Willy Wonka-esque Lagunitas facility. And while the Violet Hour is the longtime cornerstone of Chicago's craft cocktail culture, The Aviary is where it's at now for an exceptional experience. For fancy dining head to Smyth, where you can splurge on a farm-fresh five-, eight-, or 12-course tasting menu for your group. If that's a bit too spendy, never fear. The best part of Chicago is that it’s also doable on the cheap, with plenty of things to do there that cost absolutely nothing.

tropical beach resort in punta cana, dominican republic
tropical beach resort in punta cana, dominican republic | Bruno Ismael Silva Alves/Shutterstock

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

A stress-free, all-inclusive-yet-affordable Caribbean paradise
If all you need is a wide, sandy beach lined with palm trees and absurdly crystalline water, go to the Caribbean. Why Punta Cana, specifically? It’s possible the cheapest Caribbean destination when you're trying to do luxury on a budget. It’s a touristy resort town, so don’t expect a ton of authentic local culture. Rather, the point here is to indulge in all the sun-soaking, fine dining, beachfront yoga, and spa treatments you and your girlfriends can handle.

The beauty of the all-inclusive resort is that it takes planning, bill-splitting, and inevitable bickering out of the equation. You can book activities and excursions through the resort, granting members of your party some autonomy to do their own thing -- whether that’s snorkeling the coral reefs, swimming with dolphins and stingrays, or ordering unlimited drinks by the pool.

All-inclusives aren’t all created equal -- some don't include all your meals, for instance -- so make sure you read the fine print. Bottom line: When you pay more, you get more, so round up as many girls as you can stand to help split the bill. Aim for shoulder seasons, split two girls to a room, and this becomes a VERY affordable luxury vacation, even when flight prices run high.

Vineyard
Vineyard in Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan | Le Do/Shutterstock

Traverse City, Michigan

Gorgeous Midwestern wine country that rivals California
Traverse City is flat-out one of the best small cities in America to spend a weekend, with oodles of small-town charm -- the good kind, not the what-the-hell-is-there-to-do-here kind. DO NOT LEAVE without having dinner at Trattoria Stella, helmed by five-time James Beard semifinalist chef Myles Anton. I’d also be remiss not to mention the shit-tons of breweries in Traverse City, but hey, you’re here for the wine.

With TC as your starting point, you have two options for touring Michigan wine country: the Leelanau Peninsula and the Old Mission Peninsula (and yes, you can book a party bus to shuttle your group around). On the Leelanau side, L. Mawby Winery makes only sparkling wines; he was among the first winemakers in the state to dispel the "Michigan wines are crap" myth. Black Star Farms is an expansive estate with an inn (where your group should definitely consider staying) and excellent dining at the truly farm-to-table Hearth & Vine Cafe. Pay a visit to the Leelanau Cheese Company and take home some award-winning raclette.

Over on the Old Mission side, Brys Estate, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Chateau Chantal, and Chateau Grand Traverse should all be on your list. The real standout is 2 Lads Winery, with the most dramatic setting and the sexiest tasting room. For some of the best dining anywhere in the region, head to Mission Table for dinner, and enjoy it on the patio that directly overlooks West Bay.

Route 66
Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico | Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Top-notch dining (and drinking) in the artsy Southwest
Santa Fe tends to get all the attention, but right now we’re crushing on Albuquerque, an hour south in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. Picture the fun of Austin or Nashville at a fraction of the prices, minus the tourists. Start at the spanking-new Hotel Chaco (on the pricier side, but usually under $170/night) where every room has been uniquely designed by New Mexican Native-American artists. From here, you can explore the shops and galleries of Historic Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.  

New Mexico is also a seriously underrated foodie destination -- you’ll find fresh, distinctive Southwestern cuisine that highlights local growers and ingredients (talk to me, green chile cheeseburgers). And, it's a bachelorette party, so of course you want to drink. The Level 5 rooftop restaurant and lounge at Hotel Chaco gives you one of the best views of the city. Beer lovers should visit Bow & Arrow Brewing Co., a super-stylish communal beer hall with a wood-burning fire pit on the outdoor patio. At Zacatecas you’ll find tasty tacos, interesting takes on the classic margarita, and an extensive selection of tequila and bourbon. And for world-class live flamenco dancing alongside Spanish tapas, sangria, and artful cocktails, book a table at Tablao inside the Hotel Albuquerque.

alberta, canada
Canoes at Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada | Nick Fox/Shutterstock.com

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Outdoorsy adventures in the scenic Great White North
Perpetually overlooked Canada has some bachelorette-worthy cities in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, but for an outdoor excursion straight out of Wild (but without all the underpreparedness and navel-gazing), journey to the province of Alberta. In the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is full of gasp-inducing, jaw-dropping, and other cliché-inspiring scenes at every turn (like these). A full spectrum of lodging is available, both in terms of cost and levels of roughing-it: Stay in one of 14 campgrounds (some of which come pre-equipped to save your group the packing headache), or glamp in a fully equipped lodge, or better yet, go full baller at the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Your options for adventure are quite literally endless: skiing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, white-water rafting, snowshoeing -- pretty much anything you can dream up where mountains, freshwater, and snow are involved. You can also tour an ice field, take a lake cruise, soak in a hot springs, or go on a wildlife tour. You might even catch a glimpse of a shirtless Trudeau while you're there!

santa barbara
Court house buildings in Santa Barbara, California | Bill Perry/Shutterstock

Santa Barbara, California

The beautiful Pacific Coast and, duh, wine
If you simply must do the whole California wine thing, do it in the "American Riviera" of Santa Barbara. The 200+ wineries here have not only proven themselves more nimble and experimental than those in Napa: they contend with drastically different growing conditions, thereby producing drastically different wines. The region also beats Napa in the looks department; ringed by the Santa Ynez Mountains along the Pacific Coast, Santa Barbara is pretty as a picture, and you will take lots of them. Stay in Los Alamos, which retains its Old West charm despite its newfound trendiness for farm-to-table dining and family-owned estate wineries (the Presqu'ile Winery is a highlight).

If you’d rather skip the drive into the countryside, head downtown to the The Funk Zone -- I swear to God it's called that -- a warehouse-turned-arts district with 10 walkable blocks of excellent restaurants, galleries, and shops. Take the gang to a brewery, distillery, beer bar/bottle shop, and multiple wine tasting rooms that compose part of the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. Stay at the boutique Hotel Indigo, or go full college dorm throw-back at the Wayfarer, provided your friends would enjoy shared hostel-style rooms, and “on-site amenities” like inflatable oversized red pool chairs, giant Jenga, and cornhole.

While you’re here you can also kayak through sea caves, hike to waterfalls, bike down the coastline, surf, get open-air rooftop terrace massages at Bacara Resort & Spa, or play bocce on one of Pure Order Brewing Company's two Olympic-sized bocce courts. The drawback: it's California, so it's expensive. Beware the May Gray and June Gloom (California’s foggy season). Early spring and fall are lovely, with the added advantage of being a bit cheaper and less crowded.

Burlington Marina
Burlington Marina, Burlington, Vermont | Erika J Mitchell/Shutterstock.com

Burlington, Vermont

For hiking, good eating, and beer-guzzling
Vermont has some tremendous brews you're almost guaranteed not to find elsewhere, with 13 different beer trails to follow throughout the state. For the sake of brevity, stick to Burlington. Foam Brewers is an all-around great option with food trucks on-site daily, but for the serious beer nerd -- and I mean the funk-loving, #staysour serious beer nerd -- check out the House of Fermentology.

Just as you will drink well in Burlington, so too shall you dine well. This quaint New England farm town doesn’t so much have "farm-to-table restaurants" as they have, uh, restaurants. "Locavore gastropub" fare is in steady supply, but your short list should include Hen of the Wood, American FlatbreadThe Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Butch and Babe's, and the old-school Leunig's Bistro. And if y’all happen to be in town when Hen of the Wood is hosting a cocktail class, do it. You can also experience Burlington’s farmy goodness by taking a trip out to Bread & Butter Farm, or spend a day making bread at Brot Bakery.

If you want to take the gang outside the town for a bit, Topnotch Resort is a luxury spa and resort well worth the splurge, or you can keep right on driving all the way up to the Stowe Mountain Resort. Hike the surrounding mountains (including Vermont's high point), do a zip-line canopy tour, or take a gondola ride through the sky. You can also ski!

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Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer covering food, travel, arts, culture, and what-have-you. She winters in Las Vegas and summers in Detroit, as does anybody who's anybody. Follow her at @eatsdrinksandleaves.