Go Local: An Iowa City Bachelorette Party

Vegas. Strippers. Phallic-shaped accessories. This is what most think of when they hear the phrase “Bachelorette Party”. My crew decided to do things a little differently for our classy bride, Jamie. Due to some scheduling complications,  we landed at not one, but two out-of-town bachelorette parties, both marked with rambunctious laughter, old stories and terrible hangovers. This is the story of an Iowa City bachelorette party with our five best friends from childhood.

Some choose Vegas…we chose Iowa City!

You know you’re a Midwest girl when you choose to throw an Iowa City bachelorette party due to the dwelling location of two of your best friends. L & C attended the University of Iowa – and never left. Mind you, those of you out there with your raised judgey eyebrows, Iowa City is one of the loveliest small cities I’ve come across. It rival’s Madison with incredible farmer’s markets, hiking trails, high-end restaurants and a bumping nightlife (though overtaken with twenty-year old boys with barely-there beards). It’s been such a joy to have this small city as a must-visit for so many years.

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Iowa City Bachelorette (13 of 36)Iowa City Bachelorette (15 of 36)As soon as we entered C’s apartment, we were blinded by the immaculate, glittery display curated with hand-crafted pom poms and effortlessly tasteful cut-out hearts. Each corner revealed a new decoration – hot pink cupcakes, gold paper straws, and dozens of candles to warm up the room. Appetizers waiting, we knew that we were in for a sparkling celebration.

C has been known for her cooking and Martha Stewart touch. As we popped champagne and snacked on delicate appetizers on a rustic wooden cutting board, I took a moment to breathe in the love in the room. Five best friends from childhood, sitting around a couch, just happy to be together.

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Our sweet potato gnocchi, seared-steak salad and pinot noir-filled dinner led to catching up over recent life developments and squealing stories about our bride-to-be. You know you’re with you’re best friends when the room literally cannot go silent until you’re sleeping – and even then, someone’s always whispering.

After dinner, Jamie threw in her own surprise. Each girl received four boxes titled, fittingly, something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. This thoughtful bride brought presents for her guests, to her own bridal party. A gesture that does not go unnoticed.

Iowa City Bachelorette (9 of 36)Iowa City Bachelorette (17 of 36)Iowa City Bachelorette (18 of 36)Iowa City Bachelorette (25 of 36)As we opened our boxes filled with personalized gifts that only a group of friends who had spent their whole lives together would find precious, I once again had one of those magical I-just-adore-these-people moments.

After opening gifts, C led us outside for a surprise. Her decorated patio welcomed us to find Chinese lanterns waiting to be sent off with our best wishes into the wind. Playing with fire after multiple cocktails was probably not our best plan (cue the sirens) but watching the red flames burn into the black night left us all *almost* speechless.

Iowa City Bachelorette (20 of 36)Iowa City Bachelorette (23 of 36)Iowa City Bachelorette (34 of 36)Iowa City Bachelorette (31 of 36)We awoke the next day to a destroyed apartment, but nevertheless,  quickly (as fast as four hungover girls can move) got ready for our day. While we had originally planned this weekend around the big Iowa City Oktoberfest, we had some other business to take care of first.

L, our fiercely independent, entrepreneurial best friend, started a Korean dumpling stand, inspired after an older Korean grandmother taught her the local intricacies of dumpling-making when she taught Kindergarten in South Korea for a year. L’s stand, The Dumpling Darling, has been a hit at the markets, so we had to go taste these puppies before she sold out for the day!

Iowa City Bachelorette (8 of 50)Iowa City Bachelorette (5 of 50)Iowa City Bachelorette (3 of 50)Iowa City Bachelorette (7 of 50)Iowa City Bachelorette (14 of 50)Upon our arrival, we found a man visiting from South Korea tasting her creations for the first time – and giving the true stamp of approval of having his wife take his picture, eating a dumpling, in front of her stand! He then went on to encourage another customer, a stranger I would assume, to take a bite of his dumpling, all done through hand motions and the shoving of dumplings into another’s face. If that’s not validation that your dumplings are kick-ass, I don’t know what is!

I can attest too that L’s pockets of heaven are fabulous – spicy and full of creative flavor combinations – and I swear it’s not just the momma-so-proud kind of fabulous! Aside from the typical and scrumptious Korean style, L puts a creative touch on a few different options, like the breakfast dumpling which includes scrambled eggs, kimchi, and bacon. For any Asian-food lover, that’s a breakfast dream come true. Kimchi will now always remind me of my almost six-foot tall blonde longest standing bestie of 18 years, L. *

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After stuffing our faces with our best friends dumplings (and a pizza, and a green juice – okay this every weekend might have revolved around our meals), we headed to the main event: Iowa City’s Oktoberfest. Now, I’ve attended the second largest Oktoberfest in the world in Villa General Belgrano, but it can’t even compare to spending a day tasting craft beers with great friends. Between hunting down the pretzel necklaces to ensure none of us went hungry and ignoring the football game projected in the background, we kept our steins full and our stories flowing.

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Hours of running around in the sun snapping photos, listening to dirty jokes told by an old German yodelist, and waiting in lines for jalapeno beer (yes, it exists), will really wear a group of ladies out. So after heading to one of our favorite establishments, Atlas World Grill (I’m now starting to realize that most of this story has an international flare to it – I must have rubbed on off the girls *wink*), we cabbed home for well-deserved eye resting time. A good bachelorette party always incorporates some good ‘ole  nap time, right?


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Well this bunch of bachelorettes was party pooped after nap time and going out was just not in the cards. What do five girls do when they need some more entertainment but are too tired to walk five feet to the pizza box? Pile on the couch with blankets and pillows and watch season one of Sex and the City, of course! Little does Jamie know we had that planned all along as she grew up quoting Carrie and we knew we  had to incorporate her somehow into the plan.

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I cannot take credit for the planning of this first round of bachelorette festivities. This post comes alongside a plate of true thanks to C, L and R for crafting the plans that made the weekend shine.

*Follow The Dumpling Darling on Facebook and if you’re ever in Iowa City, let me know and I’ll hook you up with a special tasting by L 🙂

Mentioned in this post
  1. Iowa City
    City in Iowa

    Iowa City Iowa
  2. Atlas World Grill
    Restaurant in Iowa City Iowa

    127 Iowa Ave
    Iowa City Iowa
    (319) 341-7700
    http://www.atlasiowacity.com/
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I'm Emily - a twenty-something female travel-enthusiast - here to serve and inspire you. Need help planning your next trip? Email me at emily [at] letsroamwild [dot] com and tag your own travel pics to share with the world @letsroamwild.
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