We don’t need science to tell us that spending time with our girlfriends is good for us.
But just in case …
Plenty of research confirms that notion — including a pair of Michigan State University studies involving nearly 280,000 people. The studies found that friendships become increasingly important to one’s happiness and health.
“Not only that, but in older adults, friendships are actually a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members,” the university said in 2017.
So, it just might be time to gather your favorite gals and plan a getaway. In the name of science, of course.
Not sure where to go? We’ve rounded up four weekend-worthy destinations for your next adventure:
Distance from Dubuque: 200 miles.
A short drive from Dubuque, the state capital offers plenty of options.
“It’s a great combination of affordability, proximity and variety,” said Jordan Powers, communications manager at Catch Des Moines.
Shopping is an easy task, with popular spots like Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, Iowa; West End Architectural Salvage, a salvage hub made famous by the HGTV & DIY Network; and Outlets of Des Moines in Altoona. The new outdoor shopping center houses more than 70 outlet stores, and groups of 15 or more will receive complimentary coupon books and a special parking area.
Combine shopping and food with a trip to the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market, which is open 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays through October.
You can indulge in the arts with a visit to the Des Moines Art Center, which houses a permanent collection of major 19th, 20th and 21st century artwork. Enjoy the art outdoors at the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, with 30 sculptures on display.
When you’re ready to give your feet a break, stop by Jasper Winery, an “estate style” facility minutes from downtown.
If you’re looking for live entertainment, have your pick from the Des Moines Performing Arts, Des Moines Community Playhouse, a Mystery Dinner Experience and more.
Door County, Wis.
Distance from Dubuque: 280 miles.
Door County is a popular tourist destination — and could be your next getaway.
If your group likes wine, you’ll find eight wineries along the Door County Wine Trail. Some offer complimentary tastings, while others charge a nominal fee.
“When I have friends visiting, we always have to go to all of the wineries. A lot of the wines feature local fruits, such as cherries and apples,” said Jen Rogers, communication and PR manager at the Door County Visitor Bureau.
You’ll find plenty to do in the great outdoors, too.
“If you’re feeling outdoorsy, we have a lot of outdoor recreation activities, including kayaking, hiking and biking,” Rogers said. “We have five state parks, and most of the parks have biking trails.”
For a unique way to experience Door County, tour via the Door County Trolley. Themed rides include the Premier Wine Tour, Lighthouse Tour, Bloody Mary and Brunch Tour, and many more.
You and your friends also will be able to “get your shop on,” as the Door County Visitor Bureau puts it. Each town features its own unique stores, including galleries, boutiques, gift shops and specialty grocery stores.
And you can have your pick from hands-on art experiences, including everything from painting your own pottery and canvases to cooking classes at the Savory Spoon Cooking School.
Lake Geneva, Wis.
Distance from Dubuque: 130 miles.
Ask Stephanie Klett what makes Lake Geneva a fun girlfriend getaway, and she’ll say, “everything.”
“And I mean everything,” said the president and CEO at Visit Lake Geneva. “When I think of girlfriend getaways—and I do, because I do that every year with my girlfriends—I want to be in a beautiful area. I want culinary experiences. I want to hit up the spa and stay somewhere fabulous. And that’s all in the Lake Geneva area.”
Take in Geneva Lake by heading to the Shore Path, which spans more than 20 miles along the shoreline. In addition to the clear, blue waters, you’ll see several historic mansions — many of which were built as summer estates for Chicago natives following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
“You’re literally walking past history,” Klett said.
If you want to get on the water, rent a boat or paddleboard or take a tour with the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. Klett recommends the U.S. Mailboat Tour. The Mailboat is one of only a handful of places left in the country where mail is still delivered by boat—delivering mail to about 75 homes around the lake daily during the summer.
On land, adventure awaits at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours, which allows you to “fly” through a 100-acre forest. The longest of the nine ziplines is 841 feet.
If your group likes live entertainment, check out the Tristan Krist Magic Theatre, a live magic and illusion show. Spoiler alert: the performance ends with a helicopter appearing on stage.
Distance from Dubuque: 170 miles.
You also could make a strong case for heading north to Rochester.
“Rochester is known for its scenic beauty, relaxing pace, welcoming environment and abundant dining, shopping and entertainment options,” said Megan Malugani, communications manager at Experience Rochester. “It’s the perfect girls’ getaway. You’ll want to make it an annual event!”
The city is experiencing “a restaurant renaissance,” with about a dozen new dining options opening since last year. From “fast casual” tacos at Taco Jed to a specialty salad called “Beet It” at Lettuce Unite, you’re sure to find something for every palate.
“Our city has become a regional destination for dining, with the menu of stylish, fun restaurants expanding every day,” Malugani said.
You’ll also find an impressive shopping scene. Here are some spots to get you started: Third Street, downtown’s Shops at University Square, shops along the underground walkways and Apache Mall, the area’s largest shopping center.
Don’t forget to pamper yourself while you’re away. Whether that’s a massage, mud bath or float in saline water, Rochester offers all of the above.
And you’ll have a convenient way to make your way through the city’s downtown scene.
“Groups of girlfriends love to spend weekends in our downtown hotels, which are conveniently connected via skyways and underground walkways to our vibrant restaurants, nightlife and shopping,” Malugani said.
Emily Kittle is a former Telegraph Herald reporter and is a freelance writer from Madison, Wis.