For today’s brides, destination bachelorette parties are all the rage. Whether you prefer limo rides, athletic pursuits, or pampering relaxation, there’s a location that’s right for you and your friends.
First, there was the bachelor party: gangs of guys drenching themselves in booze and doing wild-oats things with scantily clad women. Then there was the bachelor-party weekend: much more of the same, plus golf and gambling. The motto “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” was probably inspired by such events. Soon-to-be-married women finally came to the conclusion that what’s good for the goose is better for the gander—why should guys have all the fun? And so were born the sometimes wild and crazy and sometimes tame and sophisticated bachelorette parties and getaways.
A recent poll of 246 American Express travel agents revealed that “girlfriend getaways” are a significant trend, with spa, beach, and shopping vacations most often chosen, along with sports, culinary, and city-oriented trips. Two thirds of the agents polled indicated that women traveling together are seeking more active and luxurious vacations, an indication, perhaps, that more soon-to-be-married women tend to be older and wealthier than any previous generation of brides.
We thought you might be eager to join in on this trend, so we researched the options and came up with the ultimate list of bachelorette-party destinations. That male bastion of last flings, Las Vegas, has been deliberately omitted from the list. Instead, you’ll find places to soak in hot cocoa, be rubbed down by muscular river guides, sip Chardonnay beneath budding grapes, suck on anatomically correct lollipops, curl up with a season’s worth of Sex and the City, or indulge in a massage on a hot Caribbean beach—all while bonding, during your last single days, with your best girlfriends.
River Rafting in Lewiston, Idaho
Travel Time: 10-hour flight to Spokane, WA, plus a two-hour drive
For resplendent scenery, nothing beats the rivers of America’s West, along with the guys who ply them. River guides, also known as eye candy for women who want to dip their toes in rugged adventure, are increasingly popular with novice female paddlers—river- running outfitters report a growing number of girls-only groups.
Years ago, I could have used this estrogen power when I found I was the only woman among eleven guys (I wasn’t too disappointed) on a four-day trip down the Lower Salmon River with Orange Torpedo Trips. This outfit puts you in your own inflatable kayak, and by day two, you’re navigating rapids like a pro. Recently, Miss New Jersey left her makeup at home and had her last unmarried fling by flinging herself down chutes and waterfalls with her bridesmaids. The owners of Orange Torpedo tell us that, yes, women are seeking more exhilarating experiences on whitewater, and “having a nice-looking guy give a great massage at the end of the day is an added bonus.”
While whitewater rafting on the Lower Salmon River in
massages—certainly don’t hurt.
For Girls’ Eyes Only: Traditionally a male macho experience, whitewater kayaking is drawing an increasing number of women’s groups, not only for the sheer “you go girl” fun of it but also to be spoiled by hunky river rats. They set up camp; cook really good beer-infused breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and will even knead your tired muscles at the end of a long, hard workout. Many of the stories told around the evening campfire are funny, racy, and just what you need to get through the next challenging day.
Just the Facts: Orange Torpedo Trips runs dozens of trips in several Western states. Beginners favor the four-day and three-night Lower Salmon Adventure in Idaho, which sets out from Lewiston. The cost is $899, which includes meals, transportation from hotel to river and back, and river snacks. For more information: orange torpedo.com, email@example.com or (866) 479-5061.
Vineyard Hopping on the North Fork of Long Island
Travel Time: Two-and-a-half hour drive from White Plains (without traffic)
A smaller version of Napa Valley can be found just a couple of hours from home, on the North Fork of Long Island. The genial Jo-Ann Perry, owner of Vintage Tours, will take you and up to 13 friends on a wildly popular wine-tasting journey, with stops at four vineyards, a celebrated farm stand (worth it for the roasted corn on the cob alone), and a charming wine-enhanced lunch beneath the arbors—all while expounding on winemaking techniques and the history of the region. For now, the North Fork is relatively untouched by the rampant development that seems to be sucking the charm right out of our bucolic waterfront neighborhoods. Perry, who affirms that bachelorette group bookings are on the rise, will pick you up from your hotel to give you a glimpse of this coveted slower-paced life before you head back to the overdrive of wedding planning.
For Girls’ Eyes Only: As the bachelorettes who’ve taken this tour will tell you, there’s nothing like experiencing a nice, mellow buzz with girlfriends and a knowledgeable designated driver. And Perry is a woman who knows what women want and can customize her tours to meet most requests (within reason). She recommends a stay in Greenport. “Most of the properties there are within walking distance to town, which is one of the few areas that offer nightlife on the North Fork.” Stay at the polished-teak-sleek Harborfront Inn, dine at the funky Frisky Oyster, and indulge in a hot-stone massage at the full-service Special Effects Spa.
Just the Facts: You can reach Vintage Tours at vintagetour1.com or (631) 765-4689. For $75 per person, a gourmet boxed lunch is included (wine-tasting is an additional cost). Harborfront Inn: theharborfrontinn.com; (631) 477-0707 (from $289 for a standard room to $699 for the terrace suite in the summer season). Frisky Oyster: (631) 477-4265. Special Effects Spa: (631) 477-2265.
Sea Escape to Nantucket, Massachusetts
Travel Time: 90-minute flight from New York or a four-hour drive plus one hour by fast ferry or two hours by the slower ferry
Rewatch a season’s episodes of Sex and the City, sleep on soft Gayle Warwick organic linen sheets, and wake to ocean views and bloom-filled gardens. This is the bachelorette getaway designed to calm and soothe before the big day.
For beautiful views, ocean breezes, and fresh seafood, it’s hard to beat Nantucket. The White Elephant Hotel provides a relaxing escape.
The White Elephant has been luring guests to Nantucket since the 1920s and, with its recent renovation and the opening of the new White Elephant Spa in August 2007, it’s considered one of the premier properties on this island off Cape Cod. The gray-shingled main building and cottages line a quiet, residential street—removed just far enough, though within walking distance from the resort shops and galleries that greet day-trippers right off the ferry. While in town, make sure to stop in at the iconic Brotherhood of Thieves, which serves flasks of mead-like drinks to pirate wanabes in an appropriately rustic cellar.
For Girls’ Eyes Only: The White Elephant offers
Just the Facts: You can reach the White Elephant at whiteelephanthotel.com or (800) 445-6574. A four-day, three-night stay in a three-bedroom cottage starts at $2,400 for a group of six.
INDULGENCE AND ADVENTURE IN Hershey, Pennsylvania
Travel Time: Three-hour drive from Westchester
Do you like chocolate? Enough to have your skin sloughed with cocoa beans, caressed by creamy chocolate, and then immersed in hot cocoa? If so, get yourself and your friends to the Hotel Hershey, a four-star property with a spectacular chocolate-themed spa in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The 10-minute Whipped Cocoa Bath ($40), an experience comparable to sitting in a cup of hot chocolate and the spa’s most popular treatment, was awarded a U.S. patent in 2001. But it’s just one of many such treats awaiting a certain type of bachelorette heading to this singular destination. Hersheypark, opened in 1907 as a retreat for Milton Hershey’s factory workers, has grown into a major theme park with more than 60 rides, eleven of them roller coasters, including the new pulse-quickening Fahrenheit, set to open in May 2008 with a 121-foot, 97-degree negative drop, the deepest in the United States,
For women with a weakness for a certain type of confection, the Hershey Hotel’s main attraction is the chocolate-themed spa. The desserts are sinful too!
For Girls’ Eyes Only: The hotel’s room décor is rather standard (beige brocade, traditional furniture), but you won’t be spending much time in your room anyway. Between fast-motion flings on twisty ribbons of steel and slo-mo treatments at the 30,000-square-foot Chocolate Spa, you’ll be otherwise engaged. Leave it to the folks at Hershey to concoct endless ways to immerse guests in the sweet stuff. Whether you’re dipped like fondue, wrapped like a burrito, or submerged, this is comfort food without the calories.
Just the Facts: Hotel Hershey and Chocolate Spa, reachable at (800) 437-7439 or chocolatespa.com, offers an incredibly popular Girlfriends Getaway that includes accommodations for two nights, a daily spa lunch, a Spa Rain Shower (16 showerheads alternating hot and cold), a 50-minute massage, $175 toward any spa service, and a gift at turndown. Cost: $1,450 for the first two guests and roughly $400 per person thereafter.
European Chic in Montreal, Canada
Travel Time: 90-minute flight from New York
London’s too far; New York is too close. So what does a cosmopolitan bachelorette do for some freewheeling urban fun? Hop a short flight to Montreal. This Canadian city has a very French vibe sans riots, protests, and the out-of-control euro (the U.S. dollar has fallen here, yes, but Europe is still far more expensive). Cobblestone streets, patisseries, trendy boutiques, vintage shops, and the charm of Paris—not to mention a thriving nightlife—draw fashionable party girls for some last sowing of wild oats. Luxurious hotels are within walking distance of blistering-hot clubs like Club Opera and Club Seven. Montreal VIP, a complementary city concierge service, takes the stress out of bachelorette-party planning and can make it as spicy or staid as you’d like. “Custom” is the word.
For Girls’ Eyes Only: Though penis-shaped lollipops and gallons of booze are often requested, “hosts” are on call 24/7 to arrange the perfect girls’ getaway. They’ve been known to manage the nearly impossible, such as arranging private jets from New York to Montreal with limos waiting on the tarmac to whisk you to your hotel. No need to wait at baggage claim or stand in those pesky customs lines.
Just the Facts: You can reach Montreal VIP at (800) 371-1224 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost of a weekend ranges from $300 to $2,000 per person.
Clear Water, Sun, and Sand on St. Lucia
Travel Time: Four-and-a-half-hour flight from New York
Newlyweds may opt for the long travel time required of a Tahitian honeymoon, but the Caribbean rivals the Pacific Ocean islands in easygoing mood, clarity of water, and palm-tree magnificence. Plus, you can leave home in the morning and get to most parts of the Caribbean for an afternoon Planter’s Punch.
St. Lucia, one of 13 Frommer’s Choice Destinations for 2008, is small enough to feel warm and welcoming and large enough to supply ample nightlife, nature hikes, Catamaran cruises, and shopping. Rum tours, Creole culture, dolphin viewing, and dozens of other water and land excursions set this French Caribbean island apart from the rest. The CoCo Palm Hotel on Rodney Bay is a hip option for Westchester brides-to-be and bridesmaids who shy away from wet T-shirt contests in favor of a private alfresco massage by the pool sans T-shirt.
For Girls’ Eyes Only: Whether you worked up a sweat ascending the challenging Piton Mountain ranges or spent the day dipping your toes in vodka-clear water from a chartered sailboat, you’ll enjoy returning to the soothing traditional French furniture in your yellow, blue, or green “garden view room” at the luxurious CoCo Palm. Learn yoga or tai-chi, enjoy a basket lunch on the beach, submit to an hourlong manicure and pedicure, feast on dinner at the prestigious Ti Bananne Caribbean Bistro & Bar, and party with the locals at an authentic
Just the Facts: You can reach the CoCo Palm Hotel at (866) 588-5980 or coco-resorts.com
Its five-day, four-night Girlfriend Getaway package, which includes dinner for four at Ti Bananne, a one-hour massage or manicure, yoga/tai chi, a trip to the Friday night Fish Fry Street Party and a basket lunch on the beach, costs $690 per person.
Malerie Yolen-Cohen is a frequent contributor to the magazine.