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Breaking for fun mid-planning

A Land Rover Experience Driving School session in Manchester Village, Vt., might attune a bride to marriage’s bumpy spots. A Land Rover Experience Driving School session in Manchester Village, Vt., might attune a bride to marriage’s bumpy spots. (Land Rover Experience Driving School)
By Shira Springer
Globe Staff / February 6, 2011

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Dress dilemmas, guest list cuts, budget-busting venues, opinionated future mothers-in-law, seating chart predicaments. Planning for the big day can be stressful and all-consuming. It’s certainly more than just cake tastings.

As tough decisions mount, a pre-wedding getaway might be the best plan a bride makes. A trip to a nearby New England destination might make preparations for a trip down the aisle less nerve-racking.

Ideally, it should provide a fun-filled break from debates about entrees and centerpieces. Depending on the bride, that break can be a few hours or a few days, involve overnights in neighboring states or a night out in Boston. It can include a few close friends, a large bridal party, fiancés, family, or all of the above.

Since brides are different in taste and temperament, there is no one-trip-fits-all deal. Some have a more adventurous spirit, others prefer pampering or indulging their creative side. Some are short on time, others are short on cash. Only a bride knows when she’s found the right match.

Adventurous bride Sometimes living life on the edge, or on a sharp incline, is a great escape. The Land Rover Experience Driving School in Manchester Village, Vt., takes you on an off-road thrill ride, climbing up, over, and through rugged Green Mountain terrain. Vehicles can accommodate up to four people, not including the professional instructor who coaches you from the passenger seat. Between the instructor and safety of the vehicle, it’s an adventure where the bride is protected.

“About 40 percent of our clientele is female,’’ said Vermont location manager Josh Williams. “They typically don’t want to drive. But as soon as we get them behind the wheel, they don’t want to stop driving.

“You’re going up steep hills, down steep hills, side tilts, across logs. Things that you would typically avoid, we’re having you drive through them. It’s a learning environment.’’

Lessons come in one-hour ($250 per vehicle), two-hour ($400), and six-hour, full-day ($1,200, including lunch) packages. The one- and two-hour experiences traverse an 80-acre, purpose-built course. The full-day excursion explores local trails. Customers decide how to divide driving time if a group piles into the Land Rover.

With extra time to spend in Manchester, you can sample other activities fit for the adventure-minded and nature-loving. Canoeing, fly fishing, falconry, hiking around the summit of Mount Equinox are all options. www.landroverusa.com/driving schools, 802-362-0687

Short-on-time bride Since weddings and wine traditionally go together, why not extend the pairing to winemaking? The Boston Winery will let you channel your inner Lucille Ball. Sort of. While you don’t stomp fresh grapes in a barrel barefoot, you do participate in the whole winemaking process from crushing and de-stemming to bottling and corking. Or, you can participate in the 11-month process as your schedule allows. The winery will make sure you can take home the final product, getting things started or finished.

When asked what people take away from the experience, winery manager Marnie Martorano said, “They’re surprised that they could be involved in a process that makes the wine taste as wonderful as it does.’’

Her son Andrew, also a manager, added: “The biggest problem we have is not what they walk away with. It’s that nobody wants to leave.’’

Would-be winemakers purchase a barrel ($3,500 for 288 bottles) or a half barrel ($1,850 for 144 bottles). It all sounds like a lot until Marnie Martorano does the math. “There are 365 days in a year and, if you enjoy a bottle a day, you’re still short bottles,’’ she said with a laugh. Plus, the cost includes all parts of the process and bottles can be spread among a group of participants. The whole group doesn’t need to show up for every step.

The final bottles come without labels allowing you to personalize the packaging. Perhaps you can create something that celebrates your wedding or makes a nice gift for guests or wedding party members. www.bostonwinery.net, 617-265-9463

Pampering-prone bride If your getaway checklist includes a picturesque town, spa treatments, shopping, and dining out, there are plenty of New England destinations ready to cater to you. Located on Lake Winnipesaukee, The Inns and Spa at Mill Falls in Meredith, N.H., is one option. The area boasts four inns, seven restaurants, 15 shops, and one full-service spa tucked into the village. You can park your car at any inn and be within walking distance of it all.

“There’s lots to do, if you want to do something,’’ said marketing director Michelle Brown. “If you don’t want to do anything at all, it’s a great place for relaxing and going to the spa or catching a quiet moment at one of the inns.’’

The spa offers the traditional services: massages, facials, body treatments, manicures, pedicures. Since it’s not large (four treatment rooms, plus two manicure and two pedicure stations), this getaway works best with smaller groups. Rooms at the inns fall into a wide price range (November-April $109-$439, May-October $119-$449). Seasonal activities include horse-drawn wagon rides, bonfires, and ice skating. In warmer months, there are sunset cruises, kayaking, and sailing lessons. www.millfalls.com, 800-622-6455

Budget-conscious bride The search for the perfect man may be over, but the hunt can continue. Follow the clues in Watson Adventures Scavenger Hunts through Boston museums or city streets, rediscovering famous works of art or local neighborhoods as you go. Public hunt locations include Downtown Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, New England Aquarium, Cambridge, and Salem.

“Boston is one of my favorite hunting cities because there’s so much great history there with the Freedom Trail,’’ said hunt producer Rachel Duncan. “The MFA is fantastic and the Museum of Science is top of the line. There are so many great places to explore.’’

Generally, the public hunts take 2 1/2 hours from gathering and instruction to final clue solving. In Cambridge, a clue might ask: “Find a jungle dweller with an interest in everything.’’ That would be Curious George who has a children’s store in Harvard Square.

Public hunts cost under $40 per person. The ideal group is four to six people. (Larger groups are divided up.) Duncan said she sees a lot of women who choose scavenger hunts for a girls’ night out and a lot of wedding-related groups. The favorite hunt for a group of girlfriends? “The Naked at the Art Museum,’’ which takes place at the MFA. www.watsonadventures.com, call OvationTix 866-811-4111 to purchase tickets by phone

Artistic, creative bride Traveling along Congress Street in Portland, Maine, you are never far from an art museum, art gallery, antiques shop, or performing arts venue. It’s why the street forms the core of Portland’s Arts District.

Spend a day at a museum or two like the Portland Museum of Art or the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art. Spend a few days and see more, including a performance at the renovated Merrill Auditorium or recently reopened State Theatre. Peruse or purchase a work at the roughly 15 galleries in the area, showcasing everything from jewelry to sculpture.

“There’s such diversity here from the art to dance to stage theater to music, contemporary and classical,’’ said Janis Beitzer, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District. “We have so much night life that sometimes people don’t expect for such a small city.’’

On the visual side, you can see pieces by Matisse, Monet, Renoir, and Picasso — big-city art without the big-city hassle. Upcoming events at the State Theatre run the gamut from a screening of “Casablanca’’ followed by the Portland Jazz Orchestra playing 1940s big band standards to a DJ/remixer who performs under the name “Girl Talk.’’ Whatever a bride’s preference, she won’t be fighting large crowds. Portland’s live performance venues tend to be more intimate.

The Arts District is conveniently located within walking distance of downtown accommodations and dining. No bride-to-be should face logistical hassles on a getaway. www.portlandmaine.com, call 207-772-6828 for information

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com.