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A 'night with the girls' is now becoming a luxurious destination weekend for the ladies

The modern refrain is so true. There aren't enough hours in the day. Women, especially, as caretakers of family and friends, fill their lives with obligations and become starved for private space and time for reflection and reconnection. It may be difficult to carve out time in the schedule for telephone conversation with a best friend a half hour down the road, let alone ones a few states away.

There is good news, though. When smart women decide they need a bit of rejuvenation, they do so with style. These accomplished multi-taskers get stress relief while also fulfilling their social requisites. Travel surveys point to an increase in girlfriends-only vacations, and the International Spa Association has noticed an uptick in business at resort spas. Anecdotally, spa directors at some of the Carolinas most luxurious retreats are recognizing, and capitalizing, on the confluence of trends. Women of all ages are coming together for a few hours, or a few days, away at some of the premier spa destinations around. A spa-cation, if you will.

The variations are limitless, says Kim Huber, director of The Spa at Pinehurst, in North Carolina's piedmont. The groups are multi-generational; grandmothers with granddaughters, best girlfriends from work or reunions with gal pals from the past.

"There will be a group of girlfriends together celebrating a birthday, college friends having a reunion. We recently had a group of doctors here, because they were all residents in their final year. We even worked with a group of eight 12-year-old girls," says Annette Sandford-Lopez, director of the health center and spa of Charleston Place hotel in Charleston, S.C. The spa not only caters to hotel guests, but also those visitors drawn to the oasis from all over the Carolinas. They can enjoy a full spectrum or treatments during a getaway weekend, or simply a spa lunch by the saltwater pool.

Not surprisingly, these spas are beginning to offer packages to cater to women in need of a vacation to enhance their menus of massages, chocolate body scrubs and mountain mint facials. For instance, the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, N.C., has started offering Girlfriends Getaway packages for the ladies while their slip on their robes and settle in for a heart-to-heart talk, or just to gossip about the men in their lives.

SIDEBAR: A place for the kids, too

Since first noticing one or two girls getting their toenails painted bright blue while on a break with mom or grandma, the spa and salon at Pinehurst has added more kid-friendly services, too. The KidSpa (for ages 6-11) and TeenSpa (for 12- to 16-year-olds) offer special emphasis on self-image and healthy skin practices, Huber says. Packages include the Mother-Daughter ReTREAT and the Friends Are Forever package.

Sandford-Lopez thinks she knows why the spas are such perfect and popular spots for such retreats.

"I believe it's about providing a safe haven for women and girls," she says. "It's a sanctuary, a place where you really can relax."

The Spas

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa: A historic, four-diamond resort in Asheville, N.C., overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Named one of the Top 5 spa resorts in the United States by Travel + Leisure. The Girlfriends Getaway Package includes accommodations, dinner served in room or at the award-winning Blue Ridge Dining Room, daily breakfast and passes to The Spa at The Grove Park Inn Resort. (800) 438-5800 or www.groveparkinn.com

Signature Treatment: The 80-minute Grove Park Seasonal Facial celebrates the distinct mountain seasons, from wintertime Chocolate & Roses, to Mountain Mint & Rosemary in spring to the Summer Citrus Delight. At holiday time, it's the Gingerbread Indulgence, in homage to the resort's annual Gingerbread House Competition. 
While You're There: Get to downtown Asheville for the creative, eclectic community, local music and coffee shops. Plan a visit to the historic Biltmore House or the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Check out favorite restaurants, like Laughing Seed Café, Savoy, Tupelo Honey Café or The Market Place.


Pinehurst: A 2,000-acre property featuring the Mobil four-star ranked The Spa at Pinehurst, a 31,000-square-foot facility built in 2002. Services include a menu of 40 services, a three-lane lap pool and cascade whirlpool, as well as a salon with hair, makeup and nail stations to accommodate 10 guests simultaneously. (800) 487-4653 or www.pinehurst.com.

Signature Treatments: The Magnolia Facial is a 50-minute custom facial with a special warm mitt and foot massage using a magnolia-blended lotion. The Hot Stone Massage is a 50- or 70-minute treatment using stones combined with massage and essential oil blends for deep relaxation.  
While You're There: Golf is definitely a highlight here. The golf courses at Pinehurst have been named among the most beautiful and are in the Top 50 courses for women. Plan a meal at the four-diamond1895 restaurant in the Holly Inn at the resort and take a side-trip for antiquing to the nearby towns of Aberdeen and Southern Pines.

Charleston Place: An Orient-Express Hotel located in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, the Health Club and Spa at Charleston Place features a heated, horizon-edged saltwater pool with retractable roof. (888) 635-2350 or www.charlestonplace.com

Signature Treatments: The 50-minute Moroccan Scalp and Neck Treatment incorporates a special oil for healthy, shiny hair and a stress-relieving massage in the areas were tension is held most. The Ultimate Bliss is a simultaneous 50-minute treatments, a custom facial with neck and shoulder massage and reflexology foot massage.

While You're There: Stroll through historic downtown Charleston, first founded in 1670. Plan a day at the beach at nearby Isle of Palms and tour the oldest landscaped gardens at Middleton Place. Eat at one of the area's famous restaurants, such as Slightly North of Broad, 82 Queen, Poogan's Porch or Magnolia's.