Family vacations are great, but time away with you best friends is an emotional necessity, too. To make sure you pick a place worth your cash, we've scoured the country for the top spots to relax, bond and try new things (I.e. cocktails.) If you "forget" your phone in the room, we promise we won't tell. By Meghann Foye, REDBOOK.
The Wild Dunes Resort, Charleston, SCCharleston, SC
Charleston is one of the best girlfriend-getaway destinations for so many reasons-a rising food scene, some of the prettiest colonial-era streets, and an easygoing culture that accepts nightly partying as the norm. Try the responsibly-sourced, low-country farm-to-table fare at Husk, and grab the famously delicious and dense coconut cake at Peninsula Grill. Then enjoy the surprisingly forward-thinking side of the city with a detoxifying hour-long session on the amethyst bed at Seeking Indigo, a wellness center and boutique located on King Street, and founded by an a New York refugee in serious need of a lifestyle change. We suggest booking a townhouse at Wild Dunes Resort, a 45-minute drive outside the city in Isle of Palms, where you can feel the ocean's waves at your feet and take free shuttles to Charleston hotspots at night. Its Sand & Sea Salon's warm seashell treatment-akin to a hot stone massage-offers relief after one of the resort's vigorous stand-up paddling board classes.
The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, PA
If your back has found itself in a curved formation after way too many hours of corporate warrior-ing, we've got the perfect the place. Imagine a lakeside lodge nestled in the middle of 150 acres of oak and pines trees, deep within the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Then, picture that lodge boasting one of the top spa/pool facilities in the world, a restaurant that only serves healthy, gluten- and dairy-sensitive food, and a list of nature-inspired activities-from watercolor painting to forest breathing. That's what you'll find at the Lodge at Woodloch, where you're practically expected, to wear your robe around all day, even at mealtimes. There's even a killer cocktail list featuring garnishes grown right on the property.
Read more about one editor's grown-up sleepaway experience at the Lodge at Woodloch.
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Those seeking the excitement of a big city like New York without all of the hassle will love what Toronto has to offer. Sitting above its 18 miles of underground shopping arcades, the downtown business district is very easy to navigate, and neighborhoods are just a quick trolley or inexpensive cab ride away. With plenty of options for English pub-inspired nights out, the world's best food market to explore, and Niagara Falls-and its awesome wine region-an hour-long trip away, this city has a surprisingly large amount to offer groups looking for everything from drinking to downtime, plus the cool feeling that you're a world-and a short plane ride-away.
Read about one editor's world-class long weekend here.
Sometimes you need to totally get away from it all, and St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, lets you do exactly that, no passport required. Check into the Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, which has a lodge-like, rustic appeal. It's free of the pretentiousness of some island properties, but still boasts picturesque beaches, a screened-in porch outside every room, and oceanside massages. On Friday nights, visit the Pirate's Buffet to sample local delicacies, including cocktails like the Killer Cruzan Confusion-a mixture of the island specialty and various exotic juices-then listen to live music and get caught up in interactive performances. Come Saturday, dip more than just your toes in the water at the Sweet Bottom Dive Center and hike the tide pools. Or take a Tan Jeep Tour through the rain forest, and next to ancient sugar mills, and swim in natural tidal pools formed by the ocean. Don't worry about fitting that all into one day-you've got the whole weekend to decompress.
A word to the wise: Portland may have the image of hipster-central, but look beyond the dudes sporting mustaches well past Movember, and you'll find a totally walkable, shoppable city waiting for your crew to descend on its many coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. Explore the city's breweries with silly-funny BrewCycle's 9-person bike tour, wander Rose City Food Park for high-end food-truck fare (this is the place that brought them to the forefront), or just spend the afternoon catching up at the original Stumptown Coffee, one of the city's best roasters. For a totally swank spot to rest your head and party a little before going out, LEED-certified boutique hotel the Nines just opened in the heart of the city's downtown Southwest neighborhood. At night, head over to Imperial for an affordable take on continental food and cocktails, then nurse your hangovers at Tasty N' Sons, where you'll find chocolate potato donuts with crème anglaise, Auntie Paula's French Toast Sundae, and other items that do justice to Portland's iconic brunch status.
The more modest be warned: If you're heading to Miami, you may want to pack light-that is, in the form of skimpy dresses. This city, known for partying literally to the break of dawn, has a strict dress code-the more skin the better-and it doesn't seem to exclude those with rings on their fingers or kiddies at home with the sitter. Even if you're not all about heading out to one of South Beach's more difficult-to-get-into club-lounges, like the Hyde Beach pool bar at SLS Hotel, there are still many opportunities to feel the Miami heat. The James Royal Palm Hotel, right in the heart of South Beach, has the makings of a perfect girlfriend landing pad: an upscale eatery/bar with plenty of light seafood fare, an integrative holistic spa focused on treatments that bring you to a place where thoughts of soccer schedules don't crowd your brain, and a bilevel pool packed with daybeds for lounging, catching up, and Mojito-sipping.
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Red Mountain Resort, St. George, UT
For all of its slapstick comedic hijinks, the movie City Slickers got one thing right: When it feels like you're stuck on the routinized treadmill of life, head to the desert for an instant reorientation. That's what St. George, UT, is: wide-open terrain with massive red mountains that create a centering point you can physically feel. Red Mountain Resort blends naturally into the landscape to maintain the open desert environment, and it's a one-stop destination for the city slicker seeking rejuvenation and some R&R. From canyoneering (yup, that's a thing-and it's unlike any activity you've done before) to spa-ing, this is where you want to head when you need some wide-open spaces.
Read more about one editor's weekend escape here.
The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, Henderson, NV
If you've seen any of the Hangover movies, you probably already know Las Vegas gets its favorite tagline for a reason. Still, that doesn't mean it isn't a great option for a fabulous, low-key desert vacay with your friends. At the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, just a 20-minute ride from the Strip, you get an oasis from all the over-the-topness, with just enough spill-over edge to make sure things won't get boring. Revamped with new room decor just a few years back, the 493-room property, complete with suites perfect for trios and quads, sits overlooking Lake Las Vegas, a manmade lake created in the early 2000s to take advantage of the early housing boom (including many celebrity mansions). The cobblestone district just next to the hotel has been built up with plenty of cute shops, a wine bar, an Irish pub, and other restaurants, and the area serves as a venue for concerts, food festivals, and wine crawls just about every weekend. You can hop on one of the many nightly shuttles to the Strip if you feel like it, but we'll wager that after one or two signature "Casablancas" at Arabesque Lounge, you won't mind staying in.
If your crew is the sort that always plans Saturday nights around the best reservations in town, why not make your next trip a culinary adventure? Willing Foot, a cool new tour company specializing in the 30- and 40-something crowd, puts together carefully-selected itineraries of all the best restaurants, nightlife, and things to do in destinations as far as Istanbul and as close as Martha's Vineyard. Its four-day Coastal Maine: Food and Wine excursion will have you tasting craft brews in Old Port, trying the best farm-to-table fare from James Beard Award-winning restaurant Primo in Rockland, and learning the fine art of garden foraging at Salt Water Farm's cooking school. As if that weren't enough coolness, your own personal Mainer will show you the best cheese shops, bakeries, and mead distilleries in and around southern Maine, while you get to stay at the most charming and authentic B&Bs Downeast has to offer.
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Just like its now-minted SXSW scene, Austin has a particularly awesome mix of forward-thinking start-up energy, indie-music cool, and bottomless margaritas. Even if you don't speak Southern Hipster perfectly, you can pick it up after a night or two at the W Austin in town. Then book a few nights at Travaasa Austin, located 30 minutes from downtown in the middle of Texas Hill Country. Part of the latest trend to provide a high-quality spa resort experience coupled with guided activity offerings, Travaasa Austin is a luxurious 50-50 mix of relaxation and adventure. For example, you can test your adrenaline reserves on its Outward Bound-designed Prickly Pear Challenge Course, or even develop a better sense of self-awareness through its popular equine encounters, then bring your brain waves waaay back down with a relaxing "On the Road Again" massage, in which, you guessed it, the famous Willie Nelson song is played while hemp oil calms your road-weary body.
Lakedale Resort, San Juan Islands, WA
Just a short ferry or floatplane ride away to San Juan Islands is Lakedale, an island camping and activities resort where you and your friends will have no choice but to get reacquainted with your outdoorsy sides. The beautiful environs are set amidst 82 acres of forest and three spring-fed lakes, and offer outdoor camping and a 10-room lodge. We suggest the Canvas Bunkhouse, a 6-person, 450-square foot canvas-walled cabin with two queen beds and a full-size futon. There's electricity, but the canvas walls really make it feel out-of-doors, especially since the showers are token-operated and not attached! Signature Lakedale granola served at the grounds' "mess" brings the camp aspect, while hot-water bottles to keep your tootsies warm at turn-down add the glam to a weekend of one of the hottest vacation trends: "glamping."
Amansala Eco-Chic Resort & Spa, Tulum, Mexico
Relax, restore, and renew your right to wear yoga pants for six days in a row in one of the coolest beachside retreats in all of Mexico: Amansala Resort's Bikini Bootcamp in Tulum. The owners, two female New Yorkers, were inspired to create the place after longing for a more natural way of life. You'll awaken to fresh-squeezed smoothies, yoga on the beach, and a special array of ceremonies designed to get you centered. With candlelit, TV-free rooms, the rustic luxury vibe of its new Amansala Chica annex may feel different than the sea of Wi-Fi we're used to, but different isn't always a bad thing, especially when you come back more toned, lithe, and buzzing with sexiness than you have in years.
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