Less than a decade ago, I remember planning bachelorette parties for my girlfriends as one big, wild night on the town. As we have gotten older, and our lives more hectic, we are finding that using the bachelorette party as an opportunity to have a real girls getaway and spend some quality time together tends to be a lot more fun. While both the one-night and weekend options have their pros and cons, when budgets permit, my preference has turned to the bachelorette weekend in a fun destination or coinciding with a spectacular event in recent years.
As mini-vacation bachelorette parties have become more popular, the trend of leaving town is nothing new. Movies like Bridesmaids and The Hangover highlighted Vegas vacations and I imagine if you have had friends get married the last few years, you may have already made a few trips there. However, if the bride you are celebrating just isn't the Vegas type, here are a few suggestions for other destinations and specific events to center the trip around.
A few words to the wise -- if you are a member of the bridal party planning the trip on behalf of the bride, please keep her personal taste in mind before selecting a destination or an event to make the centerpiece of the weekend. Also, it's always considerate to factor in the financial capabilities of the other attendees. If most can't afford a cross-country flight, try to stay a little closer to home where driving is an option and select a hotel that will work for everyone involved. The main point is that nothing about a bachelorette party needs to be typical. Do something that feels right for the bride and it will be a memorable trip for all.
If early May is a good time for the bachelorette party, consider a trip to the Kentucky Derby. Since Louisville hotels will be exceptionally high at this time of year, plan to stay in Nashville -- which is incredibly fun itself and can be your base of operations -- and then rent a party bus to make a day trip to the Derby. What would be more fun than big hats, sundresses and cocktails all day? If the ticket price for grandstand seats is too high, you will still have a blast in the infield where tickets are much less expensive.
Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Utah each year in mid-late January and provides a festive atmosphere, celebrity sightings, gourmet meals and of course skiing. If the dates don't work out for you, a trip to Park City any time during ski season will be a blast if you are traveling with a group that gets excited at the idea of hitting the slopes and relaxing with some après-ski cocktails in a hot tub at night.
As a Tampa resident, you can call me biased for this selection, but Gasparilla is my favorite time of the year. Gasparilla dates back to 1904 and is a pirate-themed festival that has expanded into a full season of events including the famous Gasparilla Invasion and Pirate Fest, the Knight Parade, the Gasparilla Music Festival and the Gasparilla Film Festival. Beginning in late January and continuing through March, there are all sorts of events to center a fun-filled weekend around. This is the perfect time to come to Florida as the weather tends to be mild and bachelorettes from colder climates will appreciate the warmer temperatures. Hotel options could range from downtown Tampa to be close to the action or you can stay out at St. Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach and then just make the 30 minute drive to Tampa for the day if you want a mix of sun and sand in your Gasparilla weekend.
South by Southwest is a combination of a music festival, film festival and interactive festival that takes place each year in Austin, Texas in mid-March. It is known for bringing in a convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies, but besides that it's the best time of year to head to Austin, TX due to gorgeous weather. If you decide to go this route, book your accommodations early as they will fill up fast. If you can't make it in mid-March, Austin is an incredible city for bachelorette parties all year long with tons of laid back bars, live music, dancing and some of the best BBQ I've ever tasted. It's also not too far from the Texas Hill Country wineries, which would make for a fun day trip.
Crush Season in Napa
While a weekend is wine country is pretty much always a good idea, crush season makes for incredible experiences that don't happen year round. Beginning in early September through late October, wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma invite wine lovers to crush grapes, drink wine and enjoy incredible meals. Options for bachelorette activities include "crush camps" where you can learn some wine basics, cooking classes and walking tours. Since the hotels will be more expensive than the off season, check out HomeAway or AirBNB to rent a home that will accommodate all the gals.
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Continuing on the topic of food and wine, South Beach -- the most glamorous part of Miami -- is home to this national, star-studded, four-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world's most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities. Between food and wine tastings, you can relax on the beach and then you can dance the night away at the hottest clubs. Held every year in mid-February, the SOBEWFF presents another opportunity to escape a cold winter and party in sunny Florida.
Are you planning a bachelorette party, or had a blast on one recently? Please share your advice in the comments as we are sure there are many incredible destinations that didn't make this list.