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.