Celebrate your birthday girl’s Sweet 16 on a mini-vacation with family and friends.

Some teens are sour on traditional Sweet 16 parties—with their elaborate chocolate fondue fountains and personality-plus disc jockeys—opting instead to gather a few friends for a Sweet 16 getaway at a fabulous resort or cool destination.

City getaways have long been popular for such celebrations, particularly for suburban dwellers. “The kids, especially girls, like to go into the city by limo, see an off-Broadway or Broadway show, book a couple of spa treatments, spend a night or two in a hotel and take a limo or train ride home, says Deborah Shannon with New York–based Coronado Travel Services.

Hotel and resort spas are beginning to cater to young girls too, with teen packages and treatments becoming increasingly popular. Loews Hotels was one of the first brands to address this trend. The Loews Coronado Bay Resort near San Diego offers its Golden Goddess spa package ($175) where teens are treated to a youth therapy facial (25-minute ginger and green tea facial), an organic full-body bronzing treatment, and a pedicure featuring Artemisia flowers and gold minerals. Between treatments, the young goddesses can pass the time in the hotel’s PBTeen beach-themed lounge, complete with a Nintendo Wii and iChairs.

At Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, the Queen For a Day spa package ($150) features an elaborate up-do complete with tiara, gloss application and lips tips, and a classic manicure-pedicure treatment with non-toxic nail polish.

Here are some additional suggestions:

Cake at the Lake

When Carleigh Knowles of Madison, Wis. was on the cusp of turning 16, she and two of her almost-16-year-old high school friends decided to celebrate their big days together at a weekend getaway at the Heidel House Resort in Green Lake, Wis. The 199-room property features a lodge and several estate buildings, including the 10-room Guest House where 12 teens (girls and boys) and three sets of parents checked in for a couple days of celebrating.

“It was really the best party I’ve ever had,” says Carleigh, “because we were able to hang out all day and do what we wanted.”

“It was fun watching the kids get ready for dinner,” says Mae Knowles, Carleigh’s mother. “The boys had actually brought shirt-and-tie options and sought second opinions from the girls!”

The Guest House’s kitchen/sitting room became headquarters for game-playing and hanging out. The group also hiked along the lakeshore, swam in the pool, played board and card games, listened to music and, on Saturday night, ate at the resort’s highly rated Grey Rock restaurant. “Parents hung around, but we didn’t hover,” insists Carleigh’s dad, Gary Knowles.

Nice touch: The birthday girls had requested “no presents” and suggested that if anyone felt they must, to donate to the Madison Ronald McDonald House. Many of the guests obliged.

Heidel House room rates begin at $79 per night (but if you book 10 units, rates are negotiable). Tel. 800-444-2812, www.heidelhouse.com.

Ultimate Sleepover

The Westin St. John Resort and Villas in the United States Virgin Islands offers a Suite Sleepover birthday package, perfect for a Sweet 16 celebration.

The package includes accommodations in a one-bedroom suite, a birthday party, two pizzas and beverages, ice cream with all the toppings, a birthday cake turndown and a $100 spa credit for chaperones. The resort staff decorates the suite according to the client’s age and celebration theme. The staff will also arrange for games, hairstyling and make-up products, and a karaoke machine.

Room rates start at $1,159 per night. To book the Sleepover package, call 866-627-7206 and mention the BDAYPKGK code, or visit www.westinresortstjohn.com.

Maine Event

Magic Falls Rafting Company in West Forks, Maine, recently hosted a Sweet 16 party for the birthday girl, her sister, two friends and their parents.

“The nice thing was that the kids could go down the Kennebec River in their own raft with a licensed guide and the parents followed in another raft,” says Wende Gray, spokesperson for Magic Falls.

The group stayed overnight in a cabin tent, which has a platform floor, cots and basic electricity. “The cabin tent gave the kids a sense of wilderness without having to actually pitch the tent,” says Gray, “like wilderness on quasi-urban terms.”

The overnight also included an outdoor barbecue of steak, chicken, fish and veggies, and even candles on a blueberry cake for dessert.

A similar rafting party costs $119 per person ($111 if you bring your own sleeping bag), or choose from several specials and package deals. Magic Falls Rafting Company, tel. 800-207-7238. www.magicfalls.com

Ways to Sweeten the Deal

Here are some additional tips for making the Sweet 16 getaway fun for everyone.

  • Spell it out: “Besides the kids’ invitations, we wrote a letter to the parents,” says Mae Knowles, birthday girl Carleigh’s mother. “This way, parents knew what the sleeping arrangements would be, what clothes the kids would need (we asked for semi-dressy and no jeans for dinner), and explained what expenses, if any, the kids would be responsible for.”
  • Build in free time for chaperones/parents: Remember to make this a vacation for the parents, too. “Other than laying out lunch and dinner for the kids, all of the parents got to enjoy free time during our stay,” says Knowles. “We had a wild game of Trivial Pursuit and took vigorous walks into town.”
  • Find a resort or destination with many options: The more there is to do the better, so the kids don’t have to do everything as one big group. Knowles says that the gang often split up into small groups to take walks, play volleyball, swim and play board games.


Maine, West Forks, Green Lake, U.S. Virgin Islands

Family Travel

Hiking, Arts and Entertainment, Rafting, Spas, Swimming

Article by Laurie Bain Wilson, originally written for TravelMuse