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In Southport, N.C., kayakers explore swamps. Photo courtesy The Adventure Company
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Charleston, S.C., offers excellent cuisine at Circa 1886, a AAA Four-Diamond restaurant. Photo courtesy Circa 1886
Richmond brides, not to sound like your moms, but if the point of bachelorette parties is to spend some quality girl time with your besties before you walk down the aisle, don't you want to be able to remember said quality time? Let us, then, suggest some overnight excursions that will beat out Bottom bars and even Vegas.
Ride the Wedding Wave
Plan to arrive in Baltimore by 11:30 a.m. so you and your maids can catch a lunch cruise along the Patapsco River (888-848-3822 or baltimoretours.net). The two-hour trip aboard the ship Spirit will take you by sites such as the National Aquarium and historic Fells Point. Tickets are $56.69; online discounts are available. Next, one-up the guys at their tried-and-true bachelor romp — baseball. But instead of opting for cheap seats and a beer at a Baltimore Orioles game, spring for a suite (888-848-BIRD or baltimore.orioles.mlb.com ).
Prices vary depending on the suite and game date. For example, a 14-person suite ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 (catering is additional, or your guests can purchase food from anywhere inside Camden Yards), says Linda Jones, party facilities manager. After the ninth inning, enjoy a leisurely walk back to your hotel, InterContinental at Harbor Point (410-234-0550 or harborcourt.com ). The following morning, try a yoga class, a massage or a facial at the hotel spa before heading back to Richmond.
For a more active water-centric trip, try kayaking in Southport, N.C., with The Adventure Company (910-454-0607 or theadventurecompany.net). If your group lacks experience, sign up for a 2-hour lesson. Kayak veterans can take a 2-to-4-hour swamp tour. After a rigorous afternoon, check into the BlueWater Point Motel and Marina (910-278-1230 or bluewaterpointmotel.com ) on Oak Island, where you can wind down with shuffleboard before a seafood dinner. One option is Island Way restaurant (910-278-7770 or islandwayres.com), where conch fritters bless the dinner menu.
Toast the Bride-to-Be
Raise your glass to the occasion with a winery tour in Leesburg with Reston Limousine (703-478-0500 or restonlimo.com ). Two-winery tour options are available, including Fabbioli Cellars and Lost Creek Winery & Vineyard. For this tour, opt to meet the van or bus at your hotel, Lansdowne Resort (877-509-8400 or lansdowneresort.com ), one Saturday morning.
If some of your gal pals aren't normally wine drinkers, Fabbioli's Aperitif Pear and Raspberry Merlot are easy on the palate. The 5-to-7-hour public tours are $35 per person; bring some extra cash for tastings and to buy commemorative bottles for a wedding day toast. After a long day, lounge by one of the hotel's several pools or enjoy its Spa Minerale. Simple manicures all around ($40) might be an ideal way to continue the day's chatter. Don't miss Sunday brunch ($49) at the hotel's On the Potomac restaurant. After filling up on tasty things such as caviar and crab claws, hit up Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets (703-737-3071 or premiumoutlets.com ) for honeymoon luggage at Coach and look for out-of-the-box bridesmaids' dresses at Michael Kors.
If you'd rather head south, play hooky on a Friday and drive to Charleston, S.C. About 30 minutes southwest of the city you'll find the Charleston Tea Plantation (843-559-0383 or charlestonteaplantation.com ). Take a free factory tour and then see the 127-acre farm via trolley ($10). Back in Charleston, check into the French Quarter Inn (877-946-8772 or fqicharleston.com ), where you will be welcomed with Champagne and ladyfingers.
Once everyone is refreshed, stroll to dinner at Circa 1886 (843-853-7828 or circa1886.com ), a AAA Four-Diamond restaurant that doubles as a great place to talk wedding plans or dish on the groom. Items from a recent seasonal menu included saffron-infused rutabaga as well as Nilgai antelope filet with lentil-and-foie-gras stew. Keep your taste buds happy the following morning with a Savor the Flavor food tour (800-918-0701 or culinarytoursofcharleston.com ). The Saturday walking tours are 9:30 a.m. until noon and run $42 per person. As you walk through 300-plus years of culinary history, you'll sample Southern staples such as grits, Charleston Benne wafers and low-country barbecue.
Gamble on Love
The guys aren't the only ones who can celebrate their last moments of singlehood at the slots. Save your airline miles, though, and drive to Charles Town, W.Va., which is just three hours north of Richmond. At Charles Town Races & Slots (800-522-4700 or ctownraces.com ) you'll find something to please all of your girlfriends: more than 5,000 slot machines, horse racing, live entertainment and table games (coming this summer).
Book a night at the casino's inn or venture a few miles down the road to Harpers Ferry's River View Cottage (877-468-4236 or theledgehouse.com ), which can sleep six for about $200. The 1930s cottage overlooks the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and is just off the Appalachian Trail.
With excursions like these, you have no excuse not to step out of the bar-crawl box.