Adventure, Relax and Retreat With a Women-Only Getaway
By Alisa Blackwood
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From dog sledding and wilderness canoeing, to wineries and farm tours, an assortment of women’s-specific Minnesota tours cater to a wide range of abilities and interests.
Go solo and make new friends, or plan your own adventure with your favorite group of gal pals. Of course, these trips also leave plenty of opportunities for relaxation, fabulous meals and, the most important part, girl time.
Women-Only Group Bike Tours
Cycle inn-to-inn with Woman Tours’ five-night Lake Wobegon Trail Tour in central Minnesota. This leisurely, summer bike trip packs in the miles (about 145), but leaves your legs feeling fresh thanks to a wide, flat path and a go-at-your-own-pace vibe.
After a meet-up, bike fitting and group warm up ride through Minneapolis on day one, day two begins with a shuttle north to the Central Lakes State Trail. Watch for bald eagles and snowy egrets while cycling and breathing in the natural landscape. You’ll stop for a tasting at the Carlos Creek Winery, and trade your pedaling for paddling on Lake Darling. Once the trail merges with the Lake Wobegon Trail, you’ll cycle through varied terrain of farms, wetlands, forest and small towns, enjoying picnic lunches along the way. Your fee includes lodging with a roommate, most meals, van support and trained guides. Bring your own bike or rent one for an additional fee.
Stillwater-based Wahoo Adventures specializes in custom bike, kayak and snowshoeing tours just for women. “Women really like the relaxed atmosphere, and lack of competition or ‘advice’ while trying new things,” says Wahoo’s owner, Kerri Kolstad. From custom bachelorette parties and mom’s day paddles, Kolstad loves planning trips of all stripes; anything from a single day of kayaking, to a multi-day backcountry adventure involving biking, hiking and camping.
Women-Only Boundary Waters Treks
For a unique learning vacation, head to the International Wolf Center in Ely for its annual Wolves and Women's Weekend: Boundary Waters Adventure. Home to the largest wolf population in the lower 48, the expansive Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) surrounding Ely serves as a majestic backdrop for a weekend full of canoeing, radio telemetry, trekking through the northwoods and learning about wolves. Go hiking in search of a wolf's radio signal, spend an afternoon canoeing on Moose Lake, howl at the moon and wind down with nightly wine and cheese sessions. Canoe training, meals and lodging are all included in your trip package, but be aware the trip is strictly BYOB (bring your own bedding).
Focusing on year-round wilderness adventures, Peta Barrett strives to make each Women’s Wilderness Discovery trip an empowering, learning, confidence-building opportunity. With Ely as her home-base, Barrett leads trips for women and girls into the BWCAW, custom-tailoring each adventure for skill level and any special needs. “There’s a spirituality in nature when you’re out there away from the light and noise pollution and you can really unplug,” Barrett says. “It can be a life-changing experience.” Summer tours include canoe camping or day canoe/kayak trips. Heartier souls seeking winter expeditions head out on snowshoes or cross-country skis for day trips or overnights, with your choice of overnight accommodations: a specialized, heated tent or learn to build-your-own quinzee (snow hut). Each trip includes all planning, gourmet food, permits, user fees and professional guide.
Accessible Women-Only Trips for Disabled Travelers
Wilderness Inquiry’s women’s-only trips pair able-bodied with disabled participants, and boast world-class female guides like Arctic adventurer and Minnesota native Ann Bancroft. Schedule a day trip near the metro area canoeing the St. Croix River or take a long weekend to hike the Superior Hiking Trail — an annual favorite, says Wilderness Inquiry founder Greg Lais. While the company offers trips to both men and women, he added women’s-specific trips 15 to 20 years ago, and they’ve been a hit ever since. The loyal, returning clientele tells him “there’s a sense of freedom to go out with other women and just be who they are,” he says.
Beginner-Level 'Becoming an Outdoors Woman' Treks
Whether you’re already an outdoor lover or just beginning to learn about the great outdoors, you’ll find instruction and support during a Becoming an Outdoors Woman weekend hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. With a robust, year-round calendar of events, weekend workshops can be found for practically every outdoorsy activity imaginable, from winter adventures like dog mushing and snowshoeing, to shooting sports, fly fishing, bowhunting, mushroom identification, kayaking, and even an off-grid lifestyle immersion course. Fees include Friday-Sunday lodging, buffet-style meals and three outdoor skill classes.
Women-Only Luxury Motorcoach Tours
Twin sisters Marci Turenne Hansen and Michelle Turenne Levin run GirlTime Getaways, which offers weekend tours throughout Minnesota by luxury motorcoach. Trips are open to women of all ages, and are launched from a diverse array of cities around Minnesota. Along the way, gal pals, sisters, mothers and daughters, or strangers who become friends stop for cheese and wine tastings, theater performances, or even at an archery range. Fees include hotel accommodations, transportation, lunches and snacks, and tickets for group activities, tours and entertainment.
Hiking and Dog Sledding Trips on the North Shore
Choose from winter or summer expeditions with Adventures in Good Company, a nearly 20-year-old company offering adventure travel for women. Cold-weather trips invigorate by day with dog sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while offering four luxurious overnights at a Lake Superior resort. You’ll get to know your friendly sled dogs while learning how to drive the sled and taking in the snowy, winter scenery. Later, soothe your muscles in a hot tub or sauna.
The Lodge-to-Lodge Superior Hiking Trail trip takes advantage of Minnesota’s gorgeous fall foliage. You choose the intensity: moderate hiking of 3 to 5 miles per day, or longer days of 6 to 10 miles. While your heart pounds, take in the sweeping views of lakes, birch forest and magical fern-filled woods. Each night you’ll cozy up and snooze at a North Shore lodge or resort. Fees include lodging, meals, guide, and transportation for you and your luggage.
Alisa Blackwood is a St. Paul-based writer and editor whose writing has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Cooking Light and Health magazines. As a Floridian-turned-Minnesotan, she embraces her adopted state with a sense of wonder and adoration, especially outdoor adventures in the north woods, the Twin Cities live music scene and “avantouinti” (ice hole swimming).
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