January 2006 Issue
Just for the Girls
Whether your gal pals lvoe to shop 'til they drop or prefer perusing high-profile exhibits. Ohio offers plenty of places to enjoy friendship and have fun.
It calls for profound words, really.
How else could you possibly capture all of those treasured characteristics that make a great friend? From the shoulder to cry on she offers when times get tough, to the fun spirit she provides when you need to cut loose, it seems any definition of the bond between girlfriends would have to be as lengthy and deep as the relationship itself.
"A friend," said Ohio humorist Erma Bombeck, "never defends a husband who gets his wife an electric skillet for her birthday."
All right. Maybe being a good friend sometimes means she simply listens while you vent about receiving a bad gift. For many women, though, the sympathetic ears of their beloved girlfriends have also been around through life's more dramatic ups and downs, such as career changes, marriage and raising kids. No matter if it's two childhood gal pals who've grown up to be more like sisters, a group of former college housemates who, years later, still keep each other laughing, or a mother and daughter who've wound up best friends - the bond between women who've managed to weather life's storms together is more valuable than diamonds and stronger than oak.
So, why not celebrate that bond with a girlfriend getaway?
Ohio boasts plenty of places where women can convene to reconnect, chat about the latest happenings, and rekindle fond memories together, all far away from the worries of work and home. While there'll surely be no lull in the conversation, these appealing escapes - a day of shopping at a renowned factory outlet center or a popular antique mall; an afternoon of perusing a high-profile museum exhibit; an evening of fabulous theater; or a cozy, overnight retreat - also offer plenty of entertainment to go along with the socializing.
Simply put, these statewide getaways are the perfect recipe for getting reacquainted with those girlfriends you love - far away from that gift-wrapped electric skillet back at home.
Take a holiday
The city of Perrysburg, situated on the scenic banks of the Maumee River, is accustomed to playing host to travelers on vacation, drawn to downtown's charming Victorian buildings and re-enactments of the city's historic past.
But since last year, the northwest Ohio locale has been a destination for friends looking to relive a little history of their own. The Holiday Inn Express Perrysburg's girlfriend getaway package offers women the opportunity to catch up on old times while making new memories, with a retreat that's all rest, relaxation and reminiscing.
"We've had it all: friends, moms and daughters, sisters," says Mary Helge, general manager of the newly remodeled hotel. "The fact that women can come here and really be able to spend time together, away from the men, in a very relaxing environment ... it's a fun trip for them to take."
The hotel's $125 "Shop 'Til You Drop" package includes a room with two double beds, an in-room movie, popcorn, a $25 gift certificate to a nearby Max & Erma's restaurant, and shuttle service from the hotel to Town Center at Levis Commons - an outdoor, upscale shopping development that houses such popular women's clothing stores as Talbots, J. Jill, and Ann Taylor LOFT.
Not that a band of fun-loving friends would even need to leave the hotel to appreciate their much-needed vacation. The updated rooms include features such as comfy La-Z-Boy lounge chairs, handsome armoires and free Internet access, while the Holiday Inn's amenities - including an indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool and fitness center - allow girlfriends to swim, sweat, or soak while spending quality time together.
Even the Perrysburg hotel's morning meal gives women something to rave about. "A lot of them comment that they can't believe we call it a continental breakfast," says Helge. Groups quickly find that in this hotel, continental means "practically everything except eggs to order" - sausage gravy and biscuits, assorted fresh fruit, cheeses, fresh Danish and muffins, and much more, all served in a beautifully appointed great room.
From the hotel's pleasing decor to the package's opportunities for socializing, Helge says the Holiday Inn Express Perrysburg provides a comfortable and entertaining atmosphere for women in need of a break and a place to bond.
"That's the most important thing," she says. "That these women enjoy the time they get to spend here." 10621 Fremont Pike, Perrysburg; 419/874-3101.
A dramatic night out
Most married women know the drill. Ask your husband to escort you to an evening at the theater, and his colorful responses can vary from a blank stare to a dramatic eye roll, from a heavy sigh to a high-pitched wail.
But your gal pals - now there's a different story. A production practically begs for dinner beforehand, which means meeting at a restaurant for a round of dining and dishing about work, family and mutual friends. Then, it's off to the performance, where you all sit side by side and watch the costumed actors, colorful sets and dramatic plot unfold. By the time the lights turn on at the intermission, your group is already eagerly making plans for the next night out at the theater.
For 90 years, the Cleveland Play House, America's first resident theater and the longest-running regional theater in the country, has been the perfect place for an evening of camaraderie and compelling entertainment - and 2006 continues the tradition. The year begins with a classic, as audiences watch the tension build between Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski inside a sweltering New Orleans apartment in Tennessee Williams' play, "A Streetcar Named Desire" (Jan. 13-Feb. 5). Those in your party who like a good love story will appreciate "Intimate Apparel" (Feb. 7-March 5), a turn-of-the-century tale of a seamstress who has given up too soon on finding a good man. Meanwhile, in the comedy "Well" (March 3-26), a woman struggles to write a play about the lives of herself and her mother - while her mom stands nearby, chiming in with her own version of events. If you're nostalgic for some of the great musical acts you and your girlfriends grooved to in the 1960s, then revel in the "nearly true story" of the rise and fall of one of that decade's most beloved groups, the Mamas and the Papas, in "Dream a Little Dream" (March 31-April 23), written by and starring one of the quartet's original members, Denny Doherty.
Turn that trip to the Cleveland Play House into a true girlfriend getaway by staying at the nearby Glidden House inn, then check out all the attractions of University Circle with your group. A gathering at the theater is a nice reminder that there's even more drama on stage than there is at home. 8500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland; 216/795-7000, www.clevelandplayhouse.com.
There's nothing quite like tailgating before the big event: You and your spirited cohorts crammed into a parking lot with some lawn chairs, a cooler of snacks, and enough enthusiasm to make this festive gathering the real show, with the actual event merely offering a good excuse to congregate.
For one group of longtime girlfriends, that lively tailgate setting isn't the lot of some sports stadium, but rather the parking lot outside Prime Outlets Jeffersonville, Ohio's largest outlet center. These revelers could care less about scoreboards and halftime - they converge to shop hard and hang out. And with more than 100 manufacturer outlets, including Banana Republic Factory Store, Bath & Body Works Outlet and Gymboree Outlet, the ladies consider their annual affair far more important than any Super Bowl.
"It's like their tradition," says Lisa Chapman, marketing manager of the center, of the women who informed her of their parking lot party. "I think this place just lends itself to fun activities and people getting together."
As if the promise of an entertaining time amid an appealing backdrop - the attractive outlet center's architecture is inspired by the barns of surrounding farmland - weren't enough of a lure, the women now have even more reason to continue their gatherings. Prime Outlets Jeffersonville is part of the "Girl's Great Escape" package offered by the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Your pack of girlfriends can pick from six different hotels and B&Bs in the area for their one-night stay, as well as choose from a menu of pampering treatments available at nearby spas, with Prime Outlets Jeffersonville also providing a free book of coupons to participants.
Additionally, one of the package's biggest draws is that the tiresome task of scheduling all the lodging and spa reservations is done entirely by the Warren County CVB once women specify their availability. In other words, just make sure you've got the cooler and the lawn chairs for tailgate time. They'll do all the rest for you and your girlfriends' great escape. 8000 Factory Shops Blvd., Jeffersonville; 740/948-9090, www.primeoutlets.com. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information or to arrange a package, call 800/791-4FUN or visit www.girlsgreatescape.com.
Capturing royal memories
What young girl hasn't dreamed of one day having a fairy-tale wedding? Perhaps it's too many viewings of "Cinderella," but all of our romantic musings seem to share the same extravagant features: a carriage; a diamond-studded tiara; and a priceless, glittering gown, its train stretching to the horizon.
Of course, grown women dream, too - they just know that the price tag behind such a grandiose event will likely keep it forever a fantasy.
But in 1981, women everywhere (among nearly a billion TV viewers across the globe) got to live vicariously through 20-year-old former kindergarten teacher Diana Spencer, as she glided down the aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral toward the Prince of Wales. Her tiara sparkled and her wedding gown was adorned with 10,000 pearls and sequins and a 25-foot train.
Ohio women in need of a girlfriend getaway can be among the first in the region to see that storied dress up close - as well as 150 other objects, ranging from paintings to personal mementos - when they visit the exhibit "Diana, A Celebration" Feb. 18-June 11 at the Dayton Art Institute. The Dayton museum is the tour's sixth stop worldwide, and its first in Midwest America.
Those enamored of Princess Diana's famous fashion sense can marvel at the exhibit's 28 stunning dresses, suits and evening gowns, created for her by such iconic designers as Versace, Valentino and Chanel. However, her brother Charles, who organized the exhibit, wants admirers to also remember the many humanitarian causes Diana championed before her tragic death in 1997. To that end, the exhibit includes photographs and video presentations of the princess's work with victims of AIDS and land mine explosions, and how her legacy of charity continues today.
The Dayton Art Institute's expansive exhibit captures every facet of Diana, allowing each getaway guest to discover which aspect of her life they find most interesting. Thankfully, it includes plenty from that time when girls around the world were equally intrigued: the moment when a beautiful young woman married a prince. 456 Belmonte Park North, Dayton; 937/223-5277, www.daytonartinstitute.org. Mon-Wed. & Fri.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thur. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Exhibit: adults, $18.50; seniors and students, $16.50; children ages 7-18, $9.50; children 6 and under, free.
A shopper's delight
Come on, do you really need a reason to shop?
Maybe it's more like you need an excuse. After all, without the company of your girlfriends, the kids and significant other back at home might not see the merit in your taking a jaunt out to Prime Outlets Lodi, equipped with nothing but a credit card and a passion for purchasing.
So, here's the plan: Tell them that you and your exhausted friends desperately need a relaxing getaway - one that will be made even more leisurely if you indulge in a bit of retail therapy.
But both your spouse and your group of friends can take heart in the fact that a trip to Prime Outlets Lodi need not be a budget-busting event. For women who appreciate the quality that comes with brand names, but have no interest in spending the big bucks normally required to attain them, Prime Outlets Lodi is like an affordable Shangri-la. The center is home to more than 70 of the country's leading retailers and manufacturers, allowing customers the ease of browsing a wide range of items in one place, while also promising sophisticated shoppers a great value for whatever they buy.
The Children's Place, Liz Claiborne Outlet, Mikasa Factory Store, Bass Outlet - stores of all the most popular manufacturers abound at Lodi. And the diversity of retailers makes it convenient for those in your group who start feeling guilty about their family at home. Images of your husband springing to mind? Wander over to Eddie Bauer Outlet, or the John Deere Store. Thoughts of those cherubic grandchildren creeping in? Make a beeline for OshKosh B'Gosh or Gap Outlet and pick up some cute gear.
With Prime Outlets' shopper loyalty program, 1Club, visitors have even more incentive to shop: The program has exclusive offers from customers' favorite stores and alerts to exclusive events. That helps to keep your family from raising their eyebrows at all the shopping bags you bring back, and reassures your girlfriends that a shopping getaway need not be an expensive excursion, affordable only to those ladies who lunch. 9911 Avon Lake Rd., Unit 80, Burbank; 330/948-9929, www.primeoutlets.com. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
We all know passionate women whose hobbies turned into obsessions long ago. Perhaps they spend all their spare hours scouring the Internet for yet another piece to add to a beloved vintage toy collection. Or, maybe they wait with baited breath to pore over the latest wares at the annual pottery convention - for aficionados like them, missing that gathering would be like skipping the social event of the year.
Try indulging all of your girlfriends' addictions with a getaway to the Maumee Antique Mall. From colorful Fiestaware and old Jim Beam bottles, to aged Marx toys and Longaberger baskets, the mall's more than 160 dealers and 200 booths will keep antiques-loving ladies elated for hours. Even for those who haven't yet found a compulsion, the 120,000 square feet of knowledgeable vendors and varied displays - including furniture, china, primitives, jewelry, and much more - virtually guarantees that everyone finds something worthy of becoming an enthusiast for.
Although it just opened in 2004, the Maumee Antique Mall has already become one of the Toledo area's premier shopping destinations and one of the largest antiques malls in America. Some of the mall's devotees have no problem turning their girlfriend getaway into a long-distance affair, traveling from Chicago just to browse through the quality merchandise. And with a new stream of antiques constantly being brought on to keep people intrigued, there's always something new for diehard customers to discover.
When you and the girls need a bit of rest between all the buying, stop by the Maumee Antique Mall's charming cafe. With painted windows bordered by quaint shutters and flower boxes, the decor is reminiscent of an outdoor bistro, allowing women to recharge with their refreshments in style - before they quickly head back to the action at the display booths. 1552 S. Reynolds Rd., Maumee; 419/893-2468, www.maumeeantiquemall.com. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.