When you’re lucky enough to get the chance to plan a getaway with girlfriends, you can also consider yourself lucky that the Carolinas has so many great destinations for a proper celebration within just a few hours’ drive. Whether it’s mountains, coast or urban setting your group craves, the Carolinas offers no shortage of destinations sure to please the most varied tastes. Some of the highlights:
Even if you’ve already experienced the breathtaking views and legendary attractions of Asheville, it continues to be worth the trip – especially if your destination is the AAA Four Diamond Omni Grove Park Inn, now celebrating its 100th anniversary. Book a treatment in its $50 million, 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa with 20 water features – including 10 mineral-based, chlorine-free pools – and plan to linger all day. The main pool area features two therapeutic waterfall pools, a warm mineral pool and lap pool with underwater music and 6,500 fiber-optic stars embedded in the ceiling.
Shop the wares of local artisans at many stores in downtown Asheville, including The Kress Emporium and Woolworth Walk, both art galleries housed in historic department store buildings.
If it’s more convenient to meet up in the Carolinas’ hilly center, try the AAA Five Diamond Umstead Hotel and Spa for a surprisingly serene retreat nestled in the bustling high-tech Research Triangle area (off Interstate 40 in Cary). Groups of girlfriends are frequently observed enjoying treatments together in its newly renovated and expanded spa, with eucalyptus steam room, meditation garden and revamped nail salon featuring botanical products. For dining, enjoy the AAA Five Diamond Herons restaurant, featuring dishes crafted with the produce of local farmers. Or take a self-guided tour of the art scattered throughout the resort, much of it produced by Carolinas artists.
If Charlotte is more your speed, you can catch a pro sports game – including the imminent return of the city’s beloved Hornets NBA mascot when basketball season begins – or hunt for bargains nearby at the state’s most-visited shopping destination, Concord Mills. For a unique dinner experience, try the Speedway Club for a view of the infield of Charlotte Motor Speedway and a taste of the state’s NASCAR obsession – you don’t have to be a member to make a dining reservation.
When you picture Myrtle Beach, you may think more of “families with kids” than a female-friendly escape, but you don’t have to venture too far out to find a quieter atmosphere still convenient to the city’s large-scale shopping amenities, such as Broadway at the Beach, where King Kong Sushi is a favorite dining destination, and groups of women always have fun requesting tunes at the Crocodile Rocks dueling piano bar. Shopaholics will also appreciate the relatively new Market Common, a pedestrian-friendly shopping complex featuring a 14-screen movie theater and a wide range of shopping and dining options. Surfside Beach, just a few miles south, offers a little more room to spread out and proximity to the famed seafood dining of Murrells Inlet, a historic fishing village where restaurants including Drunken Jack’s and Nance’s are two of the area’s most famous options. Try the nearby Gulfstream Café in Garden City, known for its spectacular salt-marsh views, where you can enjoy a cocktail on the upstairs deck before your meal.
If you really want a dose of history with your beach travel, then of course you can’t beat Charleston. One quick way to get an introduction to this centuries-old port, founded in 1670, is a horse-drawn carriage tour starting just outside the Charleston City Market, where well-informed drivers share trivia on the surroundings. Staying in the city provides a more urban experience (AAA Four Diamond HarborView Inn is a favorite for its stunning views of the Waterfront Park), but if you really want to enjoy the sand and sea, venture out to Isle of Palms, a seven-mile-long barrier island offering pristine beaches just a short drive away from the city, or more laid-back Folly Beach.