When the going gets rough, the girls get going. Few things do a woman more good than getting away from it all with her besties for a few days (or a few weeks — whatever it takes). But when you’ve done Vegas, Nashville, and Miami, and you’re over your home turf, it can be difficult to figure out where to book tickets for a rejuvenating and fun-filled time away.
In these underrated party cities across the US, you’ll find ideal and affordable destinations for your next girls trip. Whether it’s great eats, a secluded setting, or an over-the-top (and under-the-radar) party scene, these spots will provide you with the getaway you need with your favorite girls by your side.
1. Mackinac Island, Michigan
There’s something about an island setting that encourages you to let loose and enjoy yourself, no holds barred. But this island is no beachy tropical paradise; instead, Mackinac is a 3.8-square-mile seasonal destination in northern Michigan. Tucked between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas in Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is only open to visitors between the months of May and October, and there are no cars on the island. The only available modes of transportation are bicycles, horse and carriages, or your own two feet. Mackinac is famous for its old-timey charm by day and raucous nightlife scene once the sun sets. One late night of dancing and live music at the Pink Pony and you’ll see what I mean. As the night winds down, whether you take a carriage ride back to the iconic Grand Hotel or book other Mackinac Island lodging options, stumbling home late at night is perfectly safe. Spend your days strolling the quaint Main Street, and make sure to sample all the Mackinac Island fudge you can.
2. Key Largo, Florida
Few places are more laid-back than the Florida Keys, and this northernmost key is no exception to the casual “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” vibe. While Key West is the well-known wild child of the Keys, carousing in Key Largo will give you a run for your money, too. Conveniently located just an hour or so south of Miami, the two-lane bridge into Key Largo immediately transports you to island time, where you’ve got nowhere to go and all day to get there. There may be more retirees than millennials living in Key Largo, but trust me, you’ll have a hard time keeping up with the party-hardy locals at hotspots like Gilbert’s, the Caribbean Club, and Sharkey’s. Don’t leave without digging into a fresh fish sandwich at the family-owned Fish House, and any visit to Key Largo must involve a scuba or snorkel trip to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where you’ll find colorful reefs teeming with sea life — and an underwater statue of Jesus. Stay at Playa Largo Resort & Spa for an ideal base in Key Largo; the beachy resort offers water activities like sailing lessons, sunset cruises, parasailing, and more.
3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Anyone into desert vibes and self-care from the inside out will fall head over heels for the spiritually charged city of Santa Fe. Set at an elevation of over 7,000 feet, this hotspot in the American Southwest seems to carry with it an air of mystery, a sense that people play by their own rules here. With ingredients like a funky downtown, New Mexican cuisine, and judgment-free locals, Santa Fe makes for a perfect place to get away from it all. Kick off your trip with a cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking to orient yourself with local eats; then, stay at La Posada de Santa Fe if you desire easy walking access to Santa Fe’s downtown, or check into Sunrise Springs: An Ojo Spa Resort for a completely transportive stay filled with locally inspired spa treatments, mineral soaks, wellness classes, and a meditative 70-acre setting fed by natural springs.
4. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Branch out from South Beach and check out the rest of South Florida. Cities like Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are on the rise, offering the heat and flavor of the Miami experience for a fraction of the price — and with a lot less traffic. For drinks with a view, check out the new bar Rooftop, or check into any of the modern-luxe resorts lining Fort Lauderdale Beach if you’d prefer to enjoy amenities like spas, rooftop pools, chef-driven restaurant concepts, and more. Fort Lauderdale’s white-sand beach is significantly less crowded than anywhere you’d find in Miami but just as eye-catching. Head to Las Olas Boulevard for shopping and restaurants, FAT Village for an art-filled industrial district (and murals that make for perfect Instagram backdrops), or Riverwalk for a pleasant waterfront stroll. Best of all, the recent advent of the high-speed Brightline train gives you the ability to hop between Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Miami in under an hour, so the party never has to stop.
5. Santa Maria Valley, California
Santa Maria Valley, set along California’s dramatic Central Coast, is a visually stunning, affordable, and largely unknown destination for a girls trip. It’s located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, making it accessible yet irresistibly off on its own. With 13 beaches, 34 wine tasting rooms, and 24 hikes all within a 30-minute drive, there’s no way your group will grow bored. Whether you and your friends are in it for the wine scene — the area is known for its chardonnays, pinot noirs, and syrahs — or adventurous activities like hiking, cycling, and riding dune buggies, Santa Maria Valley is the kind of spot that’s sure to receive an immediate thumbs-up text from everyone in your group chat.
6. Atlantic City, New Jersey
Considered the Las Vegas of the East Coast, Atlantic City is dotted with casinos, resorts, hotels, and restaurants along its landmark four-mile boardwalk and six miles of beach. The city is within driving distance of one-third of the country’s population — both New York and Philadelphia are easily accessible from Atlantic City — so chances are, all your girls can find a way to make the trip. Whether you head to Atlantic City for the nonstop party, the daily headlining entertainment, the spas, the shopping, or simply the friendlier price point, this oceanfront spot somehow remains under the radar, giving you the chance to enjoy a memorable time without the stressful bustle of more popular girls-trip destinations. To kick off your night, check out the rock-n-roll tequila bar called Gypsy Bar inside the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, then choose from a range of fine-dining restaurants by celebrity chefs, including Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Michael Symon.
7. Bowling Green, Kentucky
If you’ve seen and done it all in Nashville, consider heading an hour north to Bowling Green, Kentucky. This down-home spot is relaxed yet packed with unique activity options, from trekking the longest underground cave system in the world at Mammoth Cave National Park to taking a zip-line tour at Lost River Cave. If you end up staying out way past your bedtime, no worries: you’re up at the perfect time for a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over Kentucky’s rolling green hills. Penthouse suites at the Kentucky Grand Hotel & Spa start at just $459 per night, so you and your girlfriends can live it up without breaking the bank. Combine your trip with a jaunt to Louisville to enjoy the Urban Bourbon Trail; the state of Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, after all.
8. Aspen, Colorado
If you and your girls are into classy escapes to world-renowned ski capitals, look no further than ritzy Aspen, Colorado. There’s a reason it’s a preferred winter destination for celebrities and the jet set. Spend the day on the slopes, then defrost your digits with après ski libations and comfort foods — after all, you won’t have to worry about squeezing into a bikini on this snowy trip. Heat things up in one of the town’s nightclubs, like Escobar or Bootsy Bellows (an outpost of the Sunset Strip hotspot), or find a hot tub somewhere to decompress in quintessential ski-bunny fashion. If you’re in town after President’s Day, scout out the Oasis Veuve Clicquot, a secret pop-up bar that moves locations every weekend. Don’t worry if a ski-season trip isn’t in the books this year: in the summertime, Aspen transforms into an outdoor lover’s paradise, highlighted by mild weather and sunny hikes among fields of wildflowers.
9. Memphis, Tennessee
Home to live music venues and breweries, Memphis is made for girls trips where late nights, great drinks, and high energy are a must. From historic Beale Street to the Levitt Shell, where Elvis Presley held his first public performance, this music capital invites visitors to sing along to the most popular tunes of yesterday and today. To balance out the beers and bar crawls, Memphis also holds space to unwind in nature. At over 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and visitors can rent a canoe or kayak on the lake or go on a horseback tour of the park. Alternatively, get the girls together for a downtown bike ride across the longest bridge on the Mississippi River, Big River Crossing, which stretches from Tennessee to Arkansas. And no, it’s not your imagination: drinks really do taste better in Memphis. The city sits on an aquifer, and all spirits are made from a base of this naturally filtered water.