10 Budget-Friendly Girlfriend Getaways for Fall
From Ocean Spring’s small town charm to San Antonio’s booming Pearl District, we’ve gathered our favorite affordable picks around the South.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
85% of accommodations here are vacation rentals, and you sure won't miss cramped hotel rooms. Thankfully, you can also book these spacious homes without breaking the bank during the fall off-season.The best way to snag a deal is to check out the visitors bureau's fall deals page to score spacious beach homes at steep discounts. To navigate these low-key beach towns, pick up a bike (which you can rent for as little as $25/day). The more active set may enjoy exploring the 27-mile Backcountry Trail, which weaves through Gulf Shores, Gulf State Park, and Orange Beach. Or, get active in the kitchen with your bounty from the Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermens Market for a locally-sourced feast.
We'll never grow tired of touring the Victorian-era downtown with marvelous architecture and plenty of locally-owned shops and restaurants. Average hotels and bed and breakfasts average around $80-$95 a night. Worth noting: Georgetown is the fastest-growing city in Kentucky, so rates may not hover that low forever. While in town, venture along the Buffalo Gals Barn Quilt Trail, a free attraction where you can see some of the 100+ barn quilts, each telling a unique story and a testament to the rural traditions of Scott County. If your group includes horse aficionados, swing by Old Friends, a sprawling Thoroughbred retirement farm where you can hang with Kentucky Derby winners for $10. Fuel your adventures with breakfast at Josie's, where traditional Southern fare can be savored for $15 or less.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
During high season, rates in Hilton Head can be steep, but you'll be blown away by how affordable the island is during the off-season. Book a vacation rental for as little as $130 a night at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, equipped with a full kitchen and washer/dryer. Head for dinner at Shelter Cove Harbour where you can choose between seafood to Mexican menus while overlooking sweeping views of Broad Creek. Now through October 19th, Music & Taste on the Harbour features free live music every Thursday. Pack those dancing shoes!
Howard County, Maryland
Close to both DC and Baltimore, it’s time to add HoCo to your vacation radar. Shopaholics? You and the crew can stick to a shoestring budget at the Historic Savage Mill at thrift shops like Charity's Closet, where women's fashion finds are all $5. Lee Anderson’s monthly factory store sale on the first Saturday of every month are also particularly noteworthy (girlfriend groups can arrange a special visit by calling 301-725-5555). Don't miss a meal at AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar, where the robust wine on tap program allows you to sample by the taste, glass, half carafe and full carafe at discount. Rest up at Turf Valley Resort, where you can book a room starting at $113 per night, and enjoy breathtaking autumn foliage greeting you every morning.
Banner Elk, North Carolina
They had us at "Blue Ridge Mountain town." In this gorgeous nook 30 minutes outside of Boone, the pack can partake in a wine tasting at Banner Elk Winery ($10), catch a play at Ensemble Stage Theater Company ($20; "A Christmas Carol" kicks off December 1, hint hint), and horseback ride at Banner Elk Stables ($40). Or, leave your wallet in your pocket and enjoy a hike to Elk Park Falls or soak up the fall colors on the Profile Trail at nearby Grandather Mountain State Park. As the moon rises, retreat to Azalea Inn Bed & Breakfast. The average nightly rate hovers under $150 and includes a full breakfast.
San Antonio, Texas
Channel zen with the gals at San Antonio Parks Foundation's Japanese Tea Garden (Jingu House), admission is always free and the scenery is magnificently grounding. Ride that serene vibe all day long with Hill Country Wine Tours where $149 per person includes lunch and tastings at four wineries. Or grab a river tour along the winding San Antonio River which only costs $10 each. Let your dollars travel farther at Red Roof Plus+, with fall rates as low as $72 (including free breakfast). For a lively excursion, wander around the Pearl Brewery district, where you may stumble upon an author lecture, live music, or farmer's market. Whatever you unearth here, the $4 pain au chocolat at Bakery Lorraine is worth every penny—and then some.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Kick off vacation with your dearest pals by clinking milkshakes at the delightfully retro Lovelace Drugstore and Soda Fountain. Then, continue exploring the historic downtown area (Miner's Doll & Toy Store is a must-stop for picking up a surprise for the kids back at home), or lounge beachside at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. For bigger groups, you may want to consider a beachfront picnic by Eat Drink Love Catering (BYOB!). Our favorite venues for counting sheep? Cottages of Rosetti Park, where rates as low as $89 will get you a night’s stay, free bike rentals, and an outdoor fireplace and grill. Or check out Front Beach Cottages with beautifully decorated homes that are a quick walk to the white sands of Ocean Springs Front Beach; rates start at $135 per evening (free use of beach cruiser bikes, paddleboards, and kayaks included).
Bryson City, North Carolina
"Adults-only boutique mountain inn" sounds pretty amazing. Did we mention that there's a spa, onsite hiking trail, yoga studio, and treetop soaking cabana? Weeknight rates start at $99 ($119 on weekends). After you’ve soaked up adequate adults-only bliss, round up the girls for a fall foliage tour on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to unwind after a long hike at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hungry? Check out Big Wesser BBQ & Brew where a $10 pulled pork sandwich comes with free views along the banks of the Nantahala River.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
With no shortage of spots to count sheep for under $100 a night, Hot Springs has a bustling downtown with fun pit stops in between like the Gangster Museum and art galleries. Outdoorsy? Beeline to Cedar Glades Park for disc golf, miles of trails, and a treehouse. Or swing dance for free every Friday and Saturday at Arilington Resort Hotel and Spa to live music (you can also grab some popcorn and watch from the sidelines). Whatever you opt for, be sure to tip one back at The Ohio Club, where Al Capone and other Flappers-era gangsters tippled in the day.
Iberia Parish, Louisiana
“Happy Besties, Happy Bank Accounts” will become the de facto motto for your Iberian Peninsula vacation. With diverse free attractions ranging from fall "artwalks" through downtown galleries to birdwatching the 240 different species at Spanish Lake in New Iberia and Rip's Rookery on Jefferson Island, all the gals will be pleased. To cap off your travels, grab fresh ingredients at the Delcambre Seafood and Farmers Market to cook up a special group meal. A recent Airbnb search for fall vacation rentals in New Iberia revealed entire homes for as little as $110 a night.