If you've ever dreamed of ditching the husband, kids, work, and the cat that shredded your new wallpaper at least for a few days then maybe it's time for a girlfriends' getaway.
You can always go to New York, San Francisco, or Paris good getaways, all. But if you really need a late summer or early fall escape or just an excuse to have an adult-style ladies-only pajama party, rethink these extraordinary, off the beaten path destinations scattered across three continents and suited to every budget.
What: The Maasai Mara is the most stunning natural wildlife spectacle on Earth. Plus there's the "Out of Africa" connection with visits to Bogani, Karen Blixen's former coffee plantation. Several women-only tour operators run trips to Kenya, including WildTrek Safaris with a comprehensive introduction to the East Africa way of life. This fully escorted women-only safari in the mid-price range includes visits to some of the best known parks in Kenya, including the Mara, where you'll have the opportunity to experience a wealth of activities including the Great Wildebeest Migration, traditional cultures, and drives through the intricately picturesque landscape. Accommodations are at renowned lodges and tented camps such as El Karama Ranch, Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Mount Kenya Safari Club that was once the retreat of Stephanie Powers and William Holden, and Elsamere Conservation Centre, which is the former home of George and Joy Adamson of "Born Free" fame.
When to go: Late summer and early fall during the height of the Migration, now one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Why it's great for girlfriends: Women feel safer in numbers when traveling to destinations as exotic and far away as Kenya. Tour operators like WildTrek Safaris keep their groups small and intimate for higher quality of travel.
Who to contact: The Kenya Tourist Board at www.MagicalKenya.com or Wildtrek Safaris www.WildTrekSafaris.com.
Where: Bordeaux, France
What: "Bor" means "next to," while "deaux" means water. The entire Bordeaux region is next to the Atlantic and Garonne River, and it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk and bicycle throughout the historic city filled with public gardens and squares or grab a bottle of Bordeaux and picnic in the in the countryside (yes, it's legal). No question, you come for the scenery as well as an education in wine, and you must take the time for an introductory class on Bordeaux wines to learn about its 8,000 to 10,000 wineries. Bordeaux enchants the soul, and to explore all of it with its host of elegant restaurants, medieval villages like St. Emillion, and regal chateaux, rent a car and just drive the back roads edged with more than 300,000 acres of vineyards.
When to go: For wine harvests, fall is spectacular with color. If you prefer the awakening of the vines, visit in spring. In any case, the coastal air is intoxicating and cool for a relaxing getaway.
Why it's great for girlfriends: If you been to Napa and Sonoma with your gal pals, you'll love Bordeaux and its storybook elements of wine and the French countryside.
Who to contact and where to stay: Visit www.Bordeaux-Tourisme.com or www.Bordeaux.com. Sign up through the tourism office for the "Bordeaux Uncorked" wine class, held July through September. In town, stay at the Hotel Normandie or in the country at a historic castle like the luxurious Chateau Camperos.
Where: Quebec Maritimes
What: The Quebec Maritimes were sculpted by the Ice Age, and much like Kenya, offers a scenic, adventurous yet laid-back outdoor escape. During late summer and fall, kayak or bicycle along the "whale route" of the St. Lawrence Seaway for sightings of blues, belugas, minkes, and humpbacks. Along the way, you'll hear the "ffppphhttthhoosh!" of their blowholes (it's sounds like a big, wet raspberry), pass venerable lighthouses, see a mishmash of seals and dolphins, and have opportunities to sample seafood, freshly baked bread, and scrumptious Quebec cheeses and beers. There are tons of national parks to explore for photo ops, and for the brave at heart, try your hand at ziplining. Visit the Jardin des Glaciers in Baie Comeau to learn all about the Ice Age and Quebec's magnificent glaciers.
When to go: Spring through fall. It's usually cool, even in August and September, so it's a nice respite from summer heat and hot flashes.
Why it's great for girlfriends: The people of the Quebec Maritimes are wonderfully and whimsically friendly, so it's the ideal destination for brushing up on your French skills.
Who to contact and where to stay: Visit www.QuebecMaritime.ca or call 1-888-447-2020. Fly directly into Baie Comeau from Montreal or drive from anywhere in the U.S. Enjoy the food and accommodations at Hotel Le Manoir in Baie Comeau or Hotel Tadoussac in Tadoussac.
Where: Amelia Island Plantation
What: Relax and soak up the sun. This 1,350-acre resort on the Atlantic Ocean at the very northeast corner of Florida is a destination unto itself. Sure, there's championship golf, fishing, bicycling and hiking under the deep canopy of gnarled oaks, tennis, and upscale shopping, but there's also a range of award-winning restaurants onsite including the elegant Ocean Grill known for its seafood dishes and the less formal Verandah, Beach Club, and Marche Burette. Later you can enjoy martinis at the aviation-themed Falcon's Nest. And absolutely don't miss the spa. With yoga, signature treatments, and workshops from everything to losing weight to quitting smoking, it's one of the best-rounded spas I've ever seen. Visit the nearby town of Fernandina for a history-laden excursion to find out why Amelia Island flew under eight flags in its early days.
When to go: It's a year 'round destination, although fall is far less crowded.
Why it's great for girlfriends: The Amelia Inn has luxurious hotel rooms, while the Villas of Amelia have 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units so that all your gal pals have plenty of space. And it's quiet, which means no thunderous city noises to intrude on your getaway.
Who to contact: Visit the website at www.aipfl.com or call (888) 261-6161.
Where: Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country
What: There's just something about the Texas Hill Country that draws you to its soul. Maybe it's the wineries or the fields of wildflowers or even the historic Main Street of Fredericksburg with its myriad shops and restaurants. Perhaps it's because of its intersection of Texas and German cultures. In any case, there's plenty to do. A must-see is the National Museum of the Pacific War, then drop by Luckenbach for a beer and the twang of Waylon, Willie, and the boys. Hike to the top of Enchanted Rock, the second largest granite dome in the U.S. And come for the unique German- and Texas-style food that has no equal. Try the Airport Diner, the Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe, Cabernet Grill, the Peach Tree Gift Gallery and Tea Room, Altdorf Restaurant and Biergarten, and Der Lindenbaum.
When to go: Late summer and early fall to tromp lavender fields and for wine harvests and tastings at local vintners like Becker Vineyards, GrapeCreek Vineyard, and Torre di Pietra Winery. Visit during the holidays for spectacular Christmas shopping in more than 100 specialty stores. In spring, come for the glorious wildflowers.
Why it's great for girlfriends: Everything about Fredericksburg is just too cute, and ladies love cute.
Who to contact and where to stay: Visit www.fredericksburg-texas.com or call (888) 997-3600. Stay at the Hangar Hotel, a former airplane hangar that one of the coolest hotels ever, or in town at a "Sunday house" bed-and-breakfast.