Girlfriend Getaways You Need—No, Deserve—to Take This Labor Day Weekend
Labor Day weekend sends a signal to every summer lover that, alas, the good times are coming to a close. Days spent sipping sweet tea on the dock or in the sand, nursing slightly pink cheeks and noses, must give way to pastimes like tailgating and pumpkin picking. Labor Day weekend should—no, must—send off the season with a bang; and all we’re wondering is, who else is ready for a girlfriend getaway? Though spending a weekend in the middle of nothing and nowhere with our best girlfriends would still be a blast, picking the perfect destination just puts the cherry on top. The South is chock-full of Labor Day weekend getaways, from lazy beach towns to bustling big cities, whether wanting to shuck some oysters or wander old cobblestone streets. Some iconic destinations that you’ve yet to explore make great picks, but lesser-known places can be just as entertaining, especially with your best sidekicks in tow. Here are some great Southern girlfriend weekend getaways to take this Labor Day.
Grab your ladies, and get a hearty dose of both history and merlot in this stately Virginia town. Thanks to the University of Virginia campus, the downtown is packed with bars, restaurants, and boutiques, making sure no one gets bored. After getting your fill of colonial stomping grounds belonging to the likes of Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, treat yourselves to a taste of Virginia’s wine country on the Monticello Wine Trail.
As the slogan goes: “Keep Austin weird.” And what better way to do that than packing a group of girlfriends together in an Airbnb right in the heart of this quirky, taco-obsessed city? Saddled with plenty of trendy restaurants and a thriving music scene, it’s a breeding ground for a good time with your gals. Eat up at newcomers Bird Bird Biscuit, a brunch spot with next-level biscuits, and Loro, an Asian-inspired smokehouse with melt-in-your-mouth brisket.
Port St. Joe, Florida
When you enter this port, get ready for a few days of toes in the water, toes in the sand. The name of the game: No shoes, no fancy clothes, and little to no cell service. And around Labor Day, it’s time to go scalloping. Charter a fishing boat complete with its very own salty captain for a fun-filled day of snorkeling and snatching scallops. You can even pay a penance to get those scallops shucked for dinner afterwards! When you don’t want to catch your dinner, drive into Apalachicola or stop at the Indian Pass Raw Bar.
Birmingham sits pretty somewhere on the scale between a charming small town and bustling city, showcasing the best features of both. Shop around the cuter-than-cute villages until your bellies land you at the Highlands Bar & Grill, which just won the James Beard Award for the most outstanding restaurant in the country. (Read that again: In. The. Country.) You’ll be weeping tears after taking a bite of Highlands’ pastry chef Dolester Miles’ coconut cake or peach cobbler. Hint: She just won a James Beard too.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cue the “Duh!” But here’s the thing: When you’re traveling with a group, New Orleans handles the rest. There’s something for everyone, from historic cobblestone streets to perfectly powdered beignets, all tied up with signature Cajun flair and ever-flowing jazz music. Sure, make reservations at fancier joints like Commander’s Palace; but don’t leave the city without trying a real-deal po’boy. Just follow the hissing and roiling of the deep-fat fryer, and hopefully it’ll lead you to the ladies at Domilise's Po-Boy and Bar, fixing up New Orleans’ finest.
Lake Oconee, Georgia
If your girlfriends think for a second that this destination will be “roughing it,” tell them to get ready for a nice little surprise. The hottest spot on this North Georgia lake: The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds. The luxury resort covers every base, from water sports to spa services, fine dining to stunning views. It feels inspired by old-fashioned Southern haunt, Sea Island; but with a more relaxed vibe that comes from being nestled on the banks of a deep blue lake. Once you’re nice and laked-out, round up the trip by spending a night in nearby Athens eating your weight at popular spots, Last Resort Grill and Hugh Acheson’s Five & Ten.
Charleston, South Carolina
Looking for secret gardens and stately steeples, historic homes and horse-drawn carriages? Pick the Holy City. Take a stroll through cobblestone streets that might feel European, but definitely smell of the sweet scent of late-summer hydrangeas and the smoky aroma of Southern cuisine. Hit King Street, the main shopping spot, to easily kill a couple hours; and then make a reservation at one of Chef Mike Lata’s restaurants, FIG or The Ordinary, for a meal you won’t forget. To lay your well-fed head to rest, The Dewberry is a chic option, with its mid-century modern feel as well as the best-looking bar in the city.
Technically, we’re gearing for a girls’ trip to a certain South’s Best resort. Hidden in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains about 45 minutes south of Knoxville, Blackberry Farm will show you what it’s working with in the first few glances: a stately red barn, bright green rolling meadow, crisp white fence, and bushes upon bushes of wild blackberries. The working farm doubles as a charming family bed-and-breakfast, complete with incredible farm-to-table cuisine and classic outdoor pursuits like horseback riding and fly fishing.
Lexington couldn't be more Kentucky if it tried: It’s the unofficial capital of Bourbon Country, the self-proclaimed ‘Horse Capital of the World,’ and a proud member of Bluegrass Nation. And if your crew loves country music? Boy, you’re in luck on Labor Day weekend. Grab some tickets to the Red, White, & Boom festival featuring some heavyhitters the likes of Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, and Rodney Atkins. Bonus: It’s home to our South’s Best barbecue joint, Lexington Barbecue.
Amelia Island, Florida
This Florida gem and its 13 miles of beautiful, picturesque beaches reside quite cozily along the Atlantic Coast, just 45 minutes north of Jacksonville. What makes it a go-to girls’ trip spot? It doesn’t feel nearly as crowded as some Southern beaches, but isn’t just smack-in-the-middle of nowhere. For a crowd that wants easy and breezy, staying at the Omni Amelia Island Resort will make the vacation feel like just that. Bop over to Fernandina Beach for a true Old Florida experience, and make sure to visit The Palace Saloon, the oldest bar in Florida.
Highlands, North Carolina
This cozy yet oddly sophisticated mountain town makes for a relaxing, gal-approved getaway. It’s the kind of weekend you want to stay in your sweats and stock up with some wine and the fixings for a good cheese plate. Then, the stage is fully set for some quality time with your girlfriends. Get some fresh mountain air while hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains, and unwind at the rustic yet upscale Wolfgang's Restaurant & Wine Bistro.
Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, Chickamauga and Nickajack Lakes, and neighboring Cumberland Plateau, this Tennessee town offers up a welcome dose of gorgeous scenery. Not to be outdone by its stunning physical attributes, Chattanooga is flush with hip and modern features like artisanal coffee shops, art galleries, live music, and urban-planned green spaces. If you and your girlfriends are the type that “want to eat your cake and have it too,” divvy the weekend up between outdoor pursuits like hiking and zip-lining and more relaxing activities like listening to live music at JJ’s Bohemia and getting a scoop at Clumpies Ice Cream Co.