Here's Where to Go for Your Next Ladies' Getaway
This May, the citywide Passport DC festival celebrates the District’s international cultures. In that spirit—and for true dining adventures—explore tastes from around the globe without leaving the vicinity. Start with Mi Cuba Café near the Cuban Embassy, a popular spot for Cuban-Americans (try the rice, beans, and shredded pork); B Too for chef Bart Vandaele’s Belgian fare (enjoy mussels and frites on Tuesday evenings); and Chercher for Ethiopian Kitfo and Chercher Tibs (beef dishes), with strong brews from green coffee beans. Also check out the menus—regular or “jungle”—at Thip Khao (where chef Seng Luangrath re-creates the tastes of Laos), and the wildly popular Bad Saint, a Filipino restaurant in Northwest D.C. (try arroz caldo, a warm rice porridge dotted with vegetables and meat). Peter Chang, former chef of the Chinese Embassy, has opened Q by Peter Chang—“Q” being short for qijian, the Chinese word for flagship. Chang’s tasting menus are worth the 20-minute Metro ride to Bethesda, Maryland. On May 6, the Around the World Embassy Tour invites visitors into 40 embassy headquarters for an open house. Book your group at the Embassy Row Hotel ($$$) or The DuPont Circle Hotel ($$$).
Walt Disney World for Grown-Ups
This visit is for you, ladies—you deserve it. It’s payback for all those mama trips. Start (or end) your getaway with a luxurious pampering session. Try the spas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for, say, a warm bamboo massage. Or maybe the Rose Renewal Facial at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort is more your style. Either choice will leave you considerably more relaxed than when you arrived. Plan your trip between August 31 and November 13 for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. There you can enjoy tastings, classes, appearances by celebrity chefs, and much more. Share high tea with your pals at the Grand Floridian, or head to “Mexico” in the Epcot World Showcase for a tequila flight at the tucked-away La Cava del Tequila. Find great shopping at the newly reimagined Disney Springs complex, including Southern fare at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming (from Oprah Winfrey’s former private chef). Explore Pandora—the World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom’s newest land, which opens in early summer. It’s like traveling through a bioluminescent rain forest. Your rooms at Disney’s Beach Club Resort on the BoardWalk provide easy access to Epcot, shopping, and grown-up dining ($$$). Room prices will give you sticker shock, but you can cut costs way down with a few strategic moves. Plan on booking rooms with two queens and a daybed so you can share. Or take a look at more budget-friendly lodging on Disney’s website and off campus at B Resort & Spa ($$). Try the dine-and-wine experience at the Flying Fish cafe to enjoy five chat-with-the-chef courses. You can download the new My Disney Experience phone app for convenient restaurant bookings, FastPass+ reservations, and more.
Magic City Adventures
Anchor yourselves at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in the Mountain Brook area for boldly designed rooms, a luxury spa, an upscale art gallery, an indoor-outdoor bar, and arrange-ahead cooking classes or wine-blending sessions. If you’re comfortable sharing, book rooms with two queen beds to halve your cost ($$$). Just out the door are the shops of Mountain Brook Village. (You’ll love Table Matters and B. Prince for starters.) Also nearby are the Birmingham Zoo and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Find more browsing opportunities just five minutes away in Crestline Village and English Village. Splurge at dinner—you have plenty to celebrate—at the renowned restaurants of chefs Frank Stitt (Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, and Chez Fonfon) and Chris Hastings (Hot and Hot Fish Club and OvenBird). End the day with specialty cocktails at The Collins.
A Capital Getaway
Baton Rouge, LA
Step into another world, which is easy to do with the Capital City’s mix of cultures. May is the month for free Live After 5 concerts each Friday. The 14th annual Hot Art, Cool Nights event on May 12 combines music with the original works of Louisiana artists—everything from jewelry to sculpture—over a span of blocks. Then kick back with food and drink. Tsunami sushi restaurant has a rooftop view of the Mississippi, or head to Superior Grill for Mexican food. Serop’s Café is a great spot for fabulous chicken shawarma (bonus points for the chain’s multiple locations), while The Bulldog Baton Rouge admits dogs if you brought yours along. Try Bin 77 for wine, Tin Roof Brewing Co. for tours, and best-name-ever Olive or Twist for craft cocktails. Work it off with a walk through the State Capitol Gardens or a bike ride around the LSU Lakes. (You’ll find fewer students to compete with during summer.) Group-book a show at the Shaw Center for the Arts or the Baton Rouge River Center arena, and then sink into sleep at L’Auberge Casino Hotel if you can resist the entertainment there—everything from gaming to live shows to a music bar ($$).
Bourbon for the Belles
Call it exercise with friends—or caring for a cause. You and your girlfriends can do both by team-walking the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk on the track at Keeneland racecourse on May 13, and folks back home can pledge support for your efforts. Make your base camp at the cozy Gratz Park Inn ($$) or the sleek, modern 21c Museum Hotel ($$$). Later on, you can celebrate your walk by hopping from one Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery to the next. Mint Julep Tours’ Public Bourbon Distillery Tour will take you to three—with lunch along the way. Or group-cook your getaway celebration at Wild Thyme culinary school, with a constantly changing class schedule that might teach you anything from Sushi 101 to Everything Goes Better with Bourbon (yes, that word again—you’re in Bourbon Country).
Charming Cakes and Garden Strolls
One visit to Baltimore, and your posse will totally get why it’s called Charm City. Stay at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore ($$) or the new Sagamore Pendry Baltimore ($$$). Then launch your party at the Haute Blow Dry Bar for a quickie makeover (no scissors, no foil). Sign up for a class at Charm City Cakes—they’re the ones from the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes—or wander the wonders of the American Visionary Art Museum to see intriguing works by self-taught artists. Your girlfriends will enjoy a relaxing stroll through the Orchid Room and blooming grounds at Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens. Before making your way to British-style high tea at Royal Sonesta Harbor Court’s Explorers Restaurant & Lounge, shop till you drop. We like Amaryllis for jewelry junkies, Poppy and Stella for the fashion forward, The Sound Garden for eclectic music and movies, and Ma Petite Shoe, which manages to combine chocolate and footwear. At night, opt for Wit & Wisdom, the Four Seasons bar that discounts Champagne after 9 p.m. An aside to bird lovers: Baltimore Birding Weekend (May 19 through 21) offers some in-town bird-watching. Also enjoy an afternoon of baseball at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the hometown birds, the Orioles, play.
Classic Celebrations in Music City
Do what you know first: honky-tonk at Robert’s Western World or Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge; karaoke at Lonnie’s Western Room; bowl and enjoy three meal choices a day at Pinewood Social; and take line-dancing lessons at the Wildhorse Saloon. This is the year to celebrate anniversaries, too—the Ryman Auditorium (125th), Country Music Hall of Fame (50th), and The Bluebird Cafe (35th) among them. Recently opened restaurants ready to tempt you are Fin & Pearl and Bastion; another pick, Little Octopus, has a new home in The Gulch. Head to Germantown for shopping at Wilder, Abednego, Otis James, and Nisolo. For a great stay, try the new Thompson Nashville ($$$), the Hutton Hotel ($$), or The Hermitage Hotel ($$$).
Sips and Spa Services
Charlottesville and Albemarle County, VA
When the wine scene drops names like Dave Matthews and Thomas Jefferson—both claiming terroir here—you’re off to a good start. Monticello Wine Tours & Coach Co. does the driving as you sample, while Cville Tours features hop-on tours of the local wineries, breweries, and cideries. Definitely try the cider scene. It’s significant to the history of this area, where heirloom-apple harvests yield pleasing hard beverages. Taste a flight of seven at Albemarle CiderWorks. Castle Hill Cider, surrounded by rolling hills, features flagship Levity cider. Beer aficionados should start with Pro Re Nata Farm Brewery (meaning take “as needed”) and Starr Hill Brewery. Of course, any trip to Charlottesville has to include lots of antiquing, shopping, and gallery hopping downtown. Then relax with vinotherapy spa services at luxurious Keswick Hall & Golf Club. For lodging, we like The Townsman ($$); Oakhurst Inn, an updated historic Virginia property ($$); and Boar’s Head inn ($$$). At mealtime, try Bodo’s Bagels for breakfast, Citizen Burger Bar at lunch, and Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria for dinner.
Foraging for Fun
Penland and Asheville, NC
A trip to a workshop at Penland School of Crafts can teach you to make collages, lithographs, and natural dyes or explore other media, with many classes for beginners. Sessions run a week or longer and include housing options and a meal plan. For alternative lodging about an hour southwest in Asheville, try Asia Bed & Breakfast Spa ($$) or the Albemarle Inn ($$). Celebrate all of your crafty achievements with a post-session trip to the Asheville Herb Festival (May 5 through 7). Or enjoy the music and crafts of the Leaf Festival in nearby Black Mountain (May 11 through 14) and the River Arts District Studio Stroll (May 20 through 21). You can also try a No Taste Like Home foraging tour, which includes a morning walk to find the elements you’ll later savor at a meal at a participating restaurant, like Nightbell (from James Beard Award semifinalist Katie Button). Don’t miss the craft cocktails at Nightbell—or the small plates. Try dishes such as Farro and Roasted Beet Salad, and Crispy Waffle with Duck Confit Poutine and Cheddar Mousse. Finish your meal with Bourbon-Pecan Pie, Spiced Apple Turnovers, or a Warm Bittersweet Brownie. Biltmore Estate’s annual event Biltmore Blooms runs through May 25. Also catch their Designed for Drama exhibition, which showcases 40 incredible costumes from classic movies. For North Carolina brews, your best choice is the South Slope, Asheville’s hot new beer district. Don’t miss neighboring Buxton Hall Barbecue for fried chicken sandwiches, and try Vortex Doughnuts, where you can even have one topped with bacon. The newest and buzziest dining spots include Local Provisions (for Southern fare), Golden Fleece (for Greek bites), Smoky Park Supper Club (for a wood-fired meal), and Pete’s Pies (for a taste of savory, British-style foods).
Coastal Chilling with the Girls
The Mississippi Gulf Coast
If you’re looking for a posh yet affordable total resort experience on this slice of the Gulf of Mexico, Beau Rivage Resort & Casino is it ($). Rates can vary dramatically, from under $100 to over $300, so check the rate calendar when planning your trip. At this MGM resort, you can lounge by an expansive pool overlooking Mississippi Sound. You and your girlfriends will love raising those lovely red flags on your lounge chairs whenever you need any little thing. Chill at the spa, or take your credit cards for a stroll through the shopping promenade. After enjoying pre-dinner drinks at the resort’s happening lobby bar, Eight75, choose from the in-house dining options. They include surprisingly affordable white-tablecloth Italian at Stalla, inventive pan-Asian at Jia, and the upscale steak house BR Prime. Want a non-casino lodging option? Try the beautifully renovated White House Hotel in Biloxi ($$). When you’re ready to explore the area, you’ll find two artsy towns bookending the coastline: Ocean Springs and Bay St. Louis. In between these cool spots, enjoy quiet stretches of man-made beach near Pass Christian and Long Beach—just expect flat water, because the barrier islands break the waves. But you can see them on Ship Island, which is reachable by ferry. Don’t miss Gulfport’s vibrant restaurant district downtown. Great dining picks in Ocean Springs include Woody’s Roadside, Phoenicia Gourmet Restaurant, Mosaic Restaurant & Bar, Leo’s Wood Fired Pizza, and Government Street Grocery. In Bay St. Louis, check out 200 North Beach Restaurant, Trapani’s Eatery, and The Blind Tiger.
Trails for Bikes and Brews
Bentonville, Rogers, and Fayetteville, AR
Rent mountain bikes and pedal the 36-mile Razorback Regional Greenway—a paved and perfect connection between these three towns—and feel free to shop and dine en route. The Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is shorter, quicker, and plenty satisfying. But there’s a lot more than biking here. The Bentonville Film Festival, held May 2 through 7 this year, was cofounded by actor Geena Davis and specializes in women and diversity. Summertime also brings music to the outdoor Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers. Hogshead Tours will escort you to stops along the Fayetteville Ale Trail. The cool 21c Museum Hotel offers a great stay and artwork, including green penguin sculptures that secretly relocate around the place ($$). The hotel also features The Hive restaurant, which has a Fork + Bottle dinner series with events on May 31, July 26, September 27, and December 6 of this year. Besides downtown shopping in all three stops, don’t miss the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (from Rockwell to Warhol and everything in between); the Museum of Native American History (turquoise in the gift shop); and The Walmart Museum (with history and homage to the little five-and-dime that grew to big-box fame from this very neck of the woods).
San Antonio, TX
There’s no better place for a foodies’ getaway. Whether you love to cook or just love great food and drink, this is the spot for you. The fun starts at Hotel Emma, which is named for a spunky widow who ran her late husband’s brewery during Prohibition. You’re greeted at Hotel Emma’s check-in with La Babia, a freshly mixed-while-you-watch margarita that may entice you to ask for a refill ($$$). Nearby, at the only Southern outpost of The Culinary Institute of America, take fun classes in Delicious Vegetables (May 6), Bistros and Brasseries (May 13), and Everyday Grilling (May 20), or sign up for a more intense Culinary Boot Camp with your travel buddies. San Antonio’s Culinaria Festival rolls out May 18 through 21 with international vintners as well as talented local chefs celebrating their crafts. For delicious eats, try Botika, which opened last year and specializes in “Chifa” (Chinese-Peruvian) and “Nikkei” (Japanese-Peruvian). At Signature, another newcomer to the local food scene, the fare is French with traces of South Texas. There, try chef Andrew Weissman’s inspired entrées and irresistible desserts. If any we-really-should-exercise guilt creeps in, you can rent bikes to explore The San Antonio Missions, a UNESCO World Heritage site, or arrange a tour.
Boardwalks and Boutiques
Pensacola and Pensacola Beach, FL
The Hilton Pensacola Beach has two outdoor pools, a poolside bar, a spa, a 24-hour workout facility, and a white sandy beach ($$). Or find more affordable chains and condos at Pensacola’s visitor website. Hint: Look for something on Via De Luna Drive for a beachfront property. Get adventurous and sail the Gulf with Lanier Sailing Academy for boats or Condor Sailing Adventures for catamarans. Look for dolphins with Chase-N-Fins or Premier Dolphin Cruise, or try stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking with Sup Dogs. Then enjoy shopping both on the beach and back in town. Make a stop at Duh for pretty home and garden wares. We like Scout and Indigeaux Denim Bar & Boutique in town as well as the shops on the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk near the Hilton. While Gulfside, let sunny days fade into cool nights at Hemingway’s Island Grill or Red Fish Blue Fish. In town, there’s Dharma Blue for girls’-night-out sushi; Cactus Flower Café for margarita fans; and The Wine Bar, A Bistro, plus a fleet of ever-changing food trucks (from Caribbean fare to classic hot dogs).
Your tent at The Martyn House’s The Farm (just over 2 miles from downtown Ellijay) is without a doubt one of the most feminine and well equipped of your camping career ($$). It’s little wonder that most guests unpack and stay put to glamp (camp glamorously), soaking up the pastel ambience of elegantly appointed, raised tents, complete with showers and indoor plumbing. Lattes are available nearby at Coffeehouse. You can end the day on outdoor chairs circling a bonfire. Five wineries close to Ellijay—with names like Fainting Goat and Chateau Meichtry—will entice you to venture out. Their roots trace to German, Swiss, and French stock, producing a variety of wines ranging from Sauvignon Blancs to Merlots and more. You can manage about two stops in an afternoon, but you’ll want to get back in time for dinner at The 1907 Restaurant, which has a mostly organic menu. Your hosts, JoAnn Antonelli and her photographer husband, Rick Lucas, will point you to nearby kayaking and zip-lining. Their glamping season runs from April 15 through November 15.
Roanoke, Weston, and Clarksburg, WV
Roanoke’s Stonewall Resort offers out-in-the-country girlfriend-getaway packages featuring Mtn. Laurel Spa treatments ($$). Arnold Palmer designed the golf course here. And there’s a meandering pool and a wraparound lake for cruises, paddleboarding, kayaks, and the CraigCat (a speedboat for two). The fisherwoman in you can go for trophy bass or crappie. Landlubbers can opt for hikes, tandem bikes, or Segway tours. Clarksburg, just 30 minutes away, is the home of the must-try pepperoni roll. For decades, D’Annunzio’s Bread and Tomaro’s Bakery have served the staple, created for the lunch boxes of Italian-immigrant coal miners. In nearby Weston, there’s the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum—not as crazy as it sounds—with tours of massive 19th-century architecture and tales of ghost hunts. Too spooky for you? Area vineyards offer a more serene option. Lambert’s Winery and Batton Hollow Winery are the closest, and the resort will arrange a driver. Also nearby: the must-see Museum of American Glass and Ron Hinkle’s glass studio.
Exploring the Arts
Greenville is filled with new offerings to enhance the already great ones. Plan your trip around Artisphere (May 12 through 14) for live music and international visual artists. Rent bikes from Pedal Chic, the first women-specific cycling store in the U.S., and head to the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is hospitable to novices. Catch special chef and writer events at M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers. Newest on the food front are Jianna, The Anchorage, and Vault & Vator. And include a stop at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts. After all that riding and dining, you can rest your heads where celebs stay at The Westin Poinsett ($$$) or the Aloft Greenville Downtown ($$). Wake up the crew each morning with brews from Methodical Coffee.