First, there was the Bachelor Party -- where gangs of guys drench themselves in booze and do wild oats things with unclothed women. Then, there was the Bachelor Party weekend, where they'd do much the same but include golf and gambling. 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 was born the sometimes wild and crazy and sometimes tame and sophisticated Bachelorette Party getaway.
Here are my three favorites:
For the Adventurous Bachelorette: Rockin' and Rollin' on the River
Orange Torpedo Adventures
Travel Time: 10-hour flight from New York to Spokane, WA, plus a two-hour drive
For resplendent scenery, nothing beats America's wild western rivers -- along with the guys who ply them. River guides -- aka eye candy -- gladden the hearts of many a novice female paddler so much so that 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 11 guys on a four-day trip down the Lower Salmon River with Orange Torpedo Outfitters. (However, I wasn't TOO disappointed.) OT puts you in your own inflatable kayak (ducky), and by day two, you're navigating rapids like a pro. Miss New Jersey left her makeup at home and had her last unmarried fling by flinging herself down chutes and waterfalls with her bridesmaids and you can, too. The owners of Orange Torpedo tell me 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."
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 brats. They set up camp; cook really good beer-infused breakfasts, lunches and dinners; clean up; and will even knead your tired muscles at the end of a long, hard workout. While many of the stories told around the evening campfire are so much bull... fertilizer, they are funny and racy and just what you need to get through the next challenging day.
Just the Facts: Orange Torpedo Outfitters runs dozens of trips in several Western States. Beginners favor the four-day/three-night Lower Salmon Adventure in Idaho which originates in Lewiston, ID. ($1,049 includes all meals, transportation from hotel to river and back, and all river snacks). For more information, log onto www.orangetorpedo.com. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (866)-479-5061.
For the Wine-Loving Bachelorette: Vineyard Hopping
Long Island, NY North Fork
Travel Time: two and a half hours from NYC Penn Station on Long Island Rail Road
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-fueled lunch beneath the arbors; all the 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 charm right out of our bucolic waterfront neighborhoods. Joanne, who affirms that bachelorette group bookings have been on the rise of late, will pick you 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: There's nothing like experiencing a nice, mellow buzz with girlfriends and a knowledgeable designated driver. As a fellow female, Jo-Ann knows what women want and can customize her tours to meet most requests (within reason). She recommends a stay in Greenport. "Book rooms at the Bartlett House Inn, Stirling House or Ruby's Cove, all in Greenport. It's easy to take the train in and walk to any one of these great B&B's. Plus, after wine tasting they can walk to dinner, bars, etc... Noah's, Frisky Oyster and 1st & South are great restaruants in town. Claudio's Clambar is the fun spot in the summer with live music and dancing on the weekends out on the docks."
Just the Facts: Vintage Tours, (631) 765-4689; $75pp M-F, $87.50 Sat/Sun includes five-hour guided tour, wine tasting and a gourmet boxed lunch. Rooms at B&Bs begin at $200/night.
For the Sweet-toothed Thrill Seeking Bachelorette: Chocolate Dreams and Roller Coasters
Hershey Hotel and Chocolate Spa
Travel Time: two-hour drive from NYC
If your bliss is dark and creamy and melts in your mouth, and you're the type who dreams of being sloughed with cocoa beans, caressed by creamy chocolate and then immersed in hot cocoa after a day screaming on loop-de-loop roller coasters, then get thee and thy girl-buddies to the Hershey Hotel in Hershey, PA. The 15-minute Whipped Cocoa Bath ($50), an experience comparable to sitting in a cup of hot chocolate and the spa's most popular treatment, was in fact 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 60 rides; 10 of them roller coasters, including the pulse-quickening Fahrenheit with a 121 ft. 97 degree negative drop -- the deepest in the United States.
For Girls' Eyes Only: After fast-motion flings on twisty ribbons of steel you'll really appreciate slo-mo treatments at the 30,000 sq. ft. Chocolate Spa. Leave it to the folks at Hershey to determine all kind of ways to be immersed in the sweet stuff; dipped like fondue, wrapped like a burrito and submerged -- all without a single calorie!
Just the Facts: Hotel Hershey and Chocolate Spa starts at $1,100 per person for two nights includes deluxe accommodations, in-room spa amenity, $300 allowance for spa services or choice of spa products, Admission to Hershey Gardens (seasonal) and admission to the Hershey Story's Museum Experience.
(Portions of this article first appeared in Westchester Weddings Magazine).