When it came time for my bachelorette party, I knew one thing for sure: no cheesy stripper. What I really wanted was some bonding time with my closest friends—many of whom are scattered around the country. The solution? A girls' weekend in Las Vegas. Pals flew in from New York, Michigan, Chicago, and Los Angeles for a few days of toenail-painting, disco dancing, and low-level gambling. It was a perfect getaway—and the kind of experience more and more women need in the midst of frantic pre-wedding duties.
Planning Like a Pro
To keep travel hassles to a minimum, pick a city that everyone can get to easily. Give yourself plenty of time to coordinate with your friends' work schedules (and remember that plane tickets are usually cheaper if you buy them early). You can do research and make reservations on Web sites like travelocity.com and orbitz.com, and get trip ideas in the travel section of about.com. If your travel times are flexible, you can save big bucks by bidding for airfare at priceline.com or hotwire.com.
When it comes to entertainment, buy tickets and make reservations—for an amazing theater performance, a cool new restaurant, a superpampering day spa—well before you leave. Nothing's more disappointing than arriving at a sizzling hot spot only to find that the place has been booked solid for a month.
More may not be merrier on this kind of trip. Aim for six to eight pals at the most, because moving a gaggle of gals around town can turn into a major production. Pack everyone into two adjoining hotel rooms for the full girls' sleepover experience.
Where to go? These are our top picks for girl-friendly hot spots:
If you're a fun-in-the-sun person, Miami offers the best combination of resort atmosphere and big-city sophistication. Stay on South Beach, with its cool mix of Art Deco hotels and nonstop nightlife (it's excellent for people-watching).
Miami is popular year-round, but prices are highest in the winter, says Michelle Revuelta of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. "In May through October, most hotel room rates do drop a bit, so it definitely is a better value."
During the day, relax on the beach or spend an afternoon at the Miami Seaquarium, where you have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with dolphins. At night, savor the local flavor at a Latin American restaurant or chow down on superfresh seafood. (At one of the hottest restaurants, B.E.D., you eat while sprawling on a fully made bed!) Funky lounges include the new Beauty Bar at the Albion Hotel, where you can get manicures and minimakeovers while sipping cocktails. Dance the night away to Latin beats at a salsa club for a truly Miami experience.
For listings of hot restaurants and clubs, check out oceandrive.com.
New York City
Ready for your own version of Sex and the City? Go on a shopping spree with your gal pals in the Big Apple. The best neighborhoods: Madison Avenue for gawking (that's where you'll find the huge flagship stores for Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani, etc.); SoHo for cool boutiques; the East Village for funky stores from up-and-coming designers.
Tear yourself away from the clothes racks long enough to take in an only-in-New York experience: a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, tea at the Plaza Hotel, or a ride on the Staten Island Ferry for perfect views of Manhattan's skyline (best of all, it's free!).
Manhattan hotels are notoriously expensive, which is why it pays to cram in as many people as possible per room. Restaurants aren't cheap either, but the variety is mouthwatering. Try Chinatown for authentic Asian dishes at reasonable prices. Greenwich Village is great for wandering, with lots of dining spots to choose from.
For more ideas, visit timeoutnewyork.com or nymetro.com.
Guys have been having bachelor parties in Vegas for years, now it's our turn! Las Vegas is all about fun, and the relaxed vibe is infectious.
You don't have to be a card shark to love Vegas. Sure, you'll want to try the slots or a hand of blackjack, but unless you're a gambling whiz—or have money to burn—stick to the $5 minimum bet tables. Watch as your friends play, then have them hang out while you play, and you've got a couple hours of entertainment without shelling out much cash.
You can spend days wandering between casinos, checking out the gondolas and canals at The Venetian, the exploding volcano in front of the Mirage, the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. Many hotels even have mini theme parks. "How about making that bride-to-be ride as many thrill rides as she can stomach?" suggests Erika Brandvik of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Restaurants can get pricey (for all those high rollers), but a long-standing Vegas tradition continues: cheap, all-you-can-eat buffets. Go ahead and stuff yourself (there's plenty of time to work out before the wedding). Vegas is all about nightlife, so expect to stay out late (casinos supposedly pump in oxygen to keep people lively all night). Visit lasvegas24hours.com for more ideas.
Before heading home, Brandvik suggests some great photo ops for girl groups to commemorate their trip: with a pirate at Treasure Island or with a male genie at the Aladdin. Just don't forget to get pictures of those other priceless moments—you guys in the hotel, lounging in flannel PJs, wearing face masks, and laughing like crazy. Now that's a bachelorette party.