Jennifer Levesque Photo
Disney World, Orlando, FL
Bachelorette bashes aren’t just for Saturday night anymore. More and more wedding parties are taking the bride away for a long weekend of girlfriend fun, a getaway that can include everything from spa visits and nightlife to fine dining and shopping. In general, girlfriends’ getaways are gaining ground, according to a recent study conducted by Royal Caribbean International of more than 1,500 women nationwide.
Close to half the women surveyed (48 percent) have taken a girlfriends-only trip in the past three years, and nearly nine out of 10 said they either have plans for a trip in the near future (33 percent) or would like to take one (56 percent).
So kidnap that stressed-out bride and wow her with a great weekend of fun with her closest friends. Here are examples of three different getaways to give you some ideas.
Blues, Barbecue and Beale Street
Memphis, Tennessee is the home of the blues, the birthplace of rock and roll and about as much fun as girlfriends can have and still stay legal. This isn’t a town for the faint of heart; visit Memphis and you’re guaranteed to get barbecue sauce on your face, smoke in your eyes and a groove in your soul. Princess brides need not apply. Soak up only-in-Memphis culture by day if you’re so inclined, from a trip to Graceland to a music tour of the famed Sun Studios and Stax Museum of American Soul. The American Civil Rights Museum, built into the hotel where Dr. King was shot, is of special interest.
Don’t Leave Town Without: taking a juke joint blues safari with tour guide Tad Pierson. Pierson takes clients beyond Beale Street to the clubs that are really off the beaten track. For $75 per person, you’ll travel in style in his ‘55 Cadillac and go where tourists don’t usually trek. This Blues Safari is not for girlfriends who can’t get down and dirty. Thick smoke. Live music. If you can’t dance, you’ll learn. Legendary joints like the Hard Luck Cafe and Wild Bill’s or new clubs like the Gibson Lounge lay down a scene that can only be branded “the Memphis Sound.” And Pierson is the only chaperone you’ll need (www.americandreamsafari.com).
You must eat at: Rendezvous, arguably (nobody ever agrees about barbecue) one of the best spots in town. This is the place Memphians take out-of-towners for a hometown atmosphere and great food. This place is famous for its dry rub of secret spices, with sauce served on the side. The slabs of rib are huge, the pulled pork sandwiches divine and the crowd friendly. Don’t forget the dental floss. Rendezvous. 52 S. Second St., 901-523-2746. Walking distance from the hotel.
Where to stay: While Memphis has lots of great hotels, one of the best and best located is the Peabody Memphis downtown (www.peabodymemphis.com 1-800-42-DUCKS). Located steps from the nightlife of Beale Street, The Peabody is a grand hotel with excellent service and amenities, comfy rooms and a cadre of marching ducks. (They live in a duck penthouse on the roof.) And the hotel is adjacent to a big mall, perfect for shopaholics in search of Southern style. Rates are in the $200-per night-range, but, heck, split four ways, that’s a bargain.
For more Memphis info, contact the Convention & Visitors Bureau, 901-534-5300, www.memphistravel.com.
Not Your Kid’s Walt Disney World
If you’ve only done Disney with the kids, Mickey has a surprise for you. While the theme parks appeal to the kid in all of us, there’s plenty of grownup stuff to do, like fine dining at resort restaurants, de-stressing at the spa and partying in one of the clubs in Downtown Disney.
Don’t Leave Town Without: a trip to Disney’s Grand Floridian Spa and Health Club, a cushy sojourn into pampering guaranteed to erase those pre-wedding jitters. Treat your body to a mustard bath and body wrap, purify your skin with a marine algae body masque or enjoy an aromatherapy massage. There’s a great spa shop that is sure to tempt. Prices are what you’d expect at a fancy resort, with treatments starting at $110 for a fifty-minute massage, $225 for a body wrap plus massage.
You Must Eat At: Jiko in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. In a setting that conjures up the opening scene of The Lion King, Swiss-born chef Anette Grechi-Gray channels bold flavors from all over the African continent, a New African cuisine that is uniquely her own. You’ll swoon over African dips like Barbere curry and cilantro chili dip with flaxseed naan and lentil papadams. Dense layers of flavor arise at every turn, from her smoke-grilled pork tenderloin with mushroom ragout and sweet potato dumplings to a Moroccan-style roasted chicken with preserved lemons and kalamata olives with harissa sauce. Even simple dishes are done with style, like her cucumber, tomato and red onion salad topped with organic arugula with three vinaigrettes—lemon, vanilla and watermelon. Ask the sommelier to pair your courses with South African wines and indulge. For reservations, call 407-938-3000.
Where’s the Party? Disney’s Pleasure Island is the spot, home to eight themed nightclubs including BET SoundStage Club for hip hop and house, 8Trax for nonstop ‘80s tunes and Jazz Company for live jazz. There’s a nightly street party that includes fireworks, confetti, music and live performers (think New Year’s Eve 365 days a year). Admission is $19.81 plus tax.
Where to Stay: the Grand Floridian is a Victorian-themed hotel voted one of the Top 50 resorts in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. It’s located across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom; transportation is onsite by monorail, boat and bus to all theme parks and attractions. There’s a grand lobby, a fancy restaurant (Victoria and Albert’s) and afternoon high tea served daily. Request a room facing the lagoon for a view of Cinderella’s castle. Rates start at $349 per room. 407-824-3000, www.disneyworld.disney.go.com.
Always Turned On in A.C.
Atlantic City has its groove on. Once equated with busloads of senior citizens headed to the slot parlors in shuffling masses, these days Atlantic City is, as the town’s new tagline proclaims, “always turned on.” The 2003 opening of the billion-dollar Borgata Casino upped the ante for the rest of Atlantic City’s twelve casinos, all of which are now in some kind of expansion mode. The Borgata is still one sexy casino (home to the cushiest spa in town), but there’s a lot of action up and down the Boardwalk these days.
Don’t Leave Town Without: going shopping. It used to be that shopping in Atlantic City meant deciding which kind of saltwater taffy to bring home. No more. The Quarter’s Vegas-style Latin-themed shopping and restaurant complex includes fun shops like Chico’s, White House/Black Market and bluemercury apothecary and spa. At The Walk (609-343-0081), an eight-block Michigan Avenue project adjacent to the Convention Center, is a 300,000-square-foot mega-mall that will feature dining and entertainment along with big name shops like Ann Taylor, Coach, Liz Claiborne and Nautica. The Pier Shops at Caesars is a $140 million version of the Forum Shops in Vegas; it includes the likes of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hugo Boss and Armani.
Where the Party Is: Swanky Cuba Libre and 32 Degrees, a lounge with bottle service, are two spots that offer a high-energy vibe in The Quarter. While you’re in “the neighborhood,” there’s also Red Square, a Russian-themed vodka emporium complete with an ice bar, and Ri’Ra’, an authentic Irish pub that just happens to have great food in case you get the munchies. For an evening of soul, check out The Sound of Philadelphiaic for live soul, R&B, jazz and Latin acts.
Where to Stay: The spanking new Havana tower at The Quarter offers 466 comfy rooms with great views of the bay and ocean. Stated rates range from $100 to $550, but check discounts. www.Tropicana.net, 1-800-THE-TROP.
For more information about Atlantic City, call 1-888-AC-VISIT (1-888-228-4748) or visit www.atlanticcitynj.com.