The New Girlfriend Getaway

When Lori Erickson, 48, of Iowa City, Iowa, heard about a ghost-hunting weekend held at the famously haunted Mason House Inn in nearby Bentonsport, she decided it would be the perfect way to bring together six local girlfriends for an exciting getaway. It turned out to be even more memorable than they expected. Erickson and her friends helped a paranormal investigation team attempt to contact and photograph the inn’s spectral residents. While they didn’t bust any actual ghosts, “we sat up late into the night drinking wine, talking and laughing our heads off,” says Erickson.

Once focused primarily on spas and shopping, girlfriend getaways now feature just about every type of boundary-pushing experience you can imagine. Like to sail, ski or sleep under the stars? Want to perfect your downward-facing dog? Dreaming of immersing yourself in the art of “conscious vegetarian” cooking between hikes?

It’s all happening … and more. To start planning your perfect girlfriend adventure, check out Web sites and publications that specialize in girlfriend getaways. Two of the best resources are the online magazine Girlfriend Getaways and the book Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide by Marybeth Bond. In addition, try travel organizations, such as Adventure Women, that specialize in women’s travel.

Or simply search for “girlfriend getaways” or “women’s adventures” and the activity that most appeals to you (e.g., rodeo riding, windsurfing, Mexican cooking classes, etc.).

In the meantime, these seven girlfriend getaway ideas will whet your appetite for adventure:

Master mountain biking Beginners can become pros with six hours of daily instruction at the Gravity Goddesses Downhill Camp in Winter Park, Colo. More experienced riders can take their biking to a new level with coaching in advanced riding and jumping.

Catch some waves Crack the surfing gender barrier with a women’s weekender offered by Northwest Women’s Surf Camps in Seaside, Ore. Or consider the Surf Diva Surf School. Founded in 1996 by twin sisters Izzy and Coco Tihanyi, the venerable surf camp runs two- and five-day clinics year-round in San Diego, and from late November through July in Costa Rica.

Hit the slopes Grab a pink feather boa for the Betty Fest weekend at the Keystone Resort in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. After hours of alpine skiing, you can soak away any muscle soreness in the resort’s award-winning spa.

Kick up your boot camp retreat workout The invigorating boot camp retreats run by Northern California-based Advanced Level Fitness offer intensive workouts in a beautiful setting, like on the beach in Santa Cruz or overlooking the vineyards of Napa Valley. They also include massages, super-healthy meals and cooking classes.

Tackle a new form of transportation After years of being passengers (“luggage,” in motorcycle parlance) on their husbands’ bikes, Julie Botteri, 38, and her best friend headed to the Florida Keys for a weekend of riding instruction. “We finished up on Sunday at the Harley showroom, picking out the bikes we wanted to buy,” Botteri says. (They’re still saving.) Motorcycles not the way you like to roll? Search with words like “racing,” “pilot” or “hang gliding”; add “women,” “weekend” or “school”; and you’ll find what you need to become the next flying or driving ace.

Embrace the grape Wine harvest weekends are the new way to get hands-on instruction in how wine gets from vine to table. Camp participants do everything from picking and stomping grapes to tasting the finished product. For the perfect vinophile’s getaway near you, search with the name of a region -- such as Santa Barbara or Paso Robles, Georgia or Oregon -- followed by the phrase “harvest weekend” or “crush weekend.”

Share your love of craft Craft classes can be the centerpiece of short or long getaways. Serious knitters take weeklong trips to Ireland and Scotland, visiting sheep farms, yarn shops and mills while trading patterns and yarn secrets.

Newest Southern California Getaways

If you’re one of the 26 million tourists who will visit Los Angeles this year, there’s more reason than ever to pack your bags and get out of town. A quartet of snazzy new resorts has opened, and you can drive to them on way less than a tank of gas.

1. Riviera Resort & Spa, Palm Springs
Miles From Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): 120
Don’t Miss: The rhinestone-encrusted Liberace pool table
Room Rates: $249 and up

This was once the playground of the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. all performed here, and even Elvis recorded in an on-site studio. The Riviera shut down for a two-year, $70 million renovation and reopened in October 2008, just in time for its 50th anniversary. Located at the edge of Palm Springs’ lively downtown area, the Riviera’s renovation starts with a lobby that features Warhol-inspired prints of onetime guests like Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Debbie Reynolds and Bob Hope.

The 406 guest rooms, spread over several low buildings, are a minimum of 680 square feet and designed in a motif of mid-century meets Hollywood regency -- white leather headboards, Lucite and chrome lamps, armchairs in chartreuse, tomato-red and Kelly-green upholstery. Riviera’s centerpiece is a stunning starfish-shaped swimming pool with spectacular views of the San Jacinto Mountains. At night, the pool deck, with its flickering fire pits and Bikini Bar, turns into the best cocktail party in town. Cure your morning-after hangover with a Javanese Royal Treatment -- featuring a massage, herbal exfoliation and a soak in a tub scattered with rose petals -- at the Asian-inspired SpaTerre.

1600 North Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262
760-327-8311

2. The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach

Miles From LAX: 48
Don’t Miss: The morning hikes to Crystal Cove Park with an on-staff naturalist
Room Rates: $695 for ocean-view bungalows

For unadulterated luxury, head down to this resort that sits on a 504-acre seaside bluff above Crystal Cove State Park on the Newport Coast. Built to evoke the vision of the celebrated Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, with rows of arched porticos, soaring rotundas and 750 olive trees, Pelican Hill feels more like a seaside Italian village than a SoCal beach town.

Guests at Pelican Hill live large: The smallest of the 204 tile-roofed bungalows, which are stacked on a hill so that almost all have an ocean view, is 847 square feet. The villas range from 2,200 to 3,600 square feet. The Coliseum Pool -- 136 feet in diameter -- is the largest circular pool in the world; with 1.1 million hand-cut blue mosaic tiles lining the bottom, it’s absolutely stunning. The 23,000 square-foot spa has his-and-hers soaking tubs, 22 treatment rooms and an extensive spa menu that includes everything from pomegranate body wraps to oxygen facials.

22701 Pelican Hill Road South
Newport Coast, CA 92657
800-315-8214

3. Hotel Maya, Long Beach

Miles from LAX: 22
Don’t Miss: Sunday’s lively Fiesta Domingo brunch
Room Rates: $139 and up

Don’t have time to head down to Mexico? Consider this boutique hotel with luxurious Latin flair instead. The waterfront Hotel Maya sits directly across the bay from downtown Long Beach -- a water taxi will ferry you there, but why leave when you can relax poolside in a floating cabana? Bring your pooch: The Maya is so pet-friendly, no doggy deposit is required, and canine beds are available.

700 Queensway Drive
Long Beach, CA 90802
562-453-3669

4. Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes
Miles From LAX: 20
Don’t Miss: Whale and dolphin sightings from the deck of Nelson’s bar
Room Rates: $270 and up

This spanking new resort is a 30-minute drive from LAX airport but feels blessedly remote. Perched above the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, it offers unobstructed views of the Pacific from almost every vantage point throughout its sprawling 102 acres. There are three ocean-facing pools here: a family pool with a 140-foot waterslide, an adults-only pool with lounges nestled in the sand, and the tranquil spa lap pool. Rouse yourself from your lounge chair, and you can amble down a walkway to a sandy beach cover or take a self-guided hike along the scenic bluffs of the Discovery Trail. 

100 Terranea Way
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
310-265-2800