In the 16th season of "The Bachelor," one element of the pseudo-reality show managed to nearly upstage the cattiness, Courtney’s nastiness and even Ben Flajnik’s heinous haircut: the spectacular travel destinations.
From California wine country to the snow-covered Swiss Alps, this season put the world on center stage while demonstrating that, for all his style shortcomings, at least Bachelor Ben is as eager for adrenaline as he is for amor.
Of course, some excursions were specifically staged, and the average traveler can’t afford to jaunt from place to place via helicopter, which has become the show’s go-to transport. However, you can still follow in the footsteps of Flajnik and his harem of globetrotting hopefuls.
The show is sponsoring The Bachelor Ultimate Getaway Sweepstakes, featuring grand prize trips to featured destinations of Park City, Utah, Panama, Belize and Switzerland. Or you can go on your own – no roses necessary. Here, our (ahem) winning tips.
A few points to clear up about the group’s experiences here: No, you can’t normally ski down a steep street in Russian Hill (though it’s been done before). That was a publicity stunt, as was Flajnik and Emily’s adrenaline-pumping climb up the cables of the Bay Bridge (not, as some reports mistakenly said, the Golden Gate Bridge. Which the general public also isn’t allowed to climb.)
However, there are still plenty of ways to get your Bachelor fix in the City by the Bay. Start off at The Fairmont, the 541-room stunner atop Nob Hill, which the group used as home base during filming. The recently renovated hotel houses the Tonga Room, the historic and hopping tiki bar that first gained notoriety as a post-World War II stop for returning soldiers. Skip the touristy cable car ride in favor of ice cream at Swensen’s or a hand-crafted cocktail at the uber-cool speakeasy Bourbon & Branch, in the edgy Tenderloin area. (Yes, the bar does have a private dining room accessed through a bookshelf.)
And don’t feel bad if, like the initial unpicked hopefuls, you leave your heart in San Francisco, too.
Leave the whining to the dumped contestants; the real focus in Sonoma should most certainly be the wine itself. Flajnik’s winery, Envolve, which he runs with his two best friends, doesn’t have a tasting room open to the public (though that’s in the works, Flajnik said in a recent interview). However, the winery regularly hosts several events during which Bachelor Ben may make an appearance.
In addition, the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau launched a clever website outlining each Sonoma stop on the show, from the quaint toy store where Kacie B. picked up her baton to the elegant villa where the women stayed.
Watching Ben and redhead Jennifer’s drop into the serene water of Homestead Crater was almost worth listening to all the requisite relationship clichés that went with it. Their romance didn’t survive, but it was easy to fall in love with the bounty of Utah’s outdoor offerings, from horseback riding and fly fishing in the Wasatch Mountains to candlelit dinners in a yurt.
Serious Flajnik fans should consider the “Bachelor Bliss” packages at the Park City Waldorf Astoria, part of the sprawling Canyons Resort where the group stayed in Park City. These deals include a choice of the actual suite where Ben stayed or the ladies’ Presidential Suite, plus a host of other amorous amenities, including a rose petal turndown and a bath butler, starting at $669 per night (“Bachelor Romance” packages are cheaper.).
Whether skinny-dipping is part of the itinerary or not, any trip to this beautiful island, just a short flight from many U.S. cities, will promise lasting memories. A Bachelor-themed itinerary could include strolling through historic Old San Juan, taking in some beisbol at Roberto Clemente Stadium or bedding down at the beachfront W Retreat & Spa – Vieques, where the group stayed (and Ben and Courtney took their infamous evening swim sans suits).
Located on a pristine island about eight miles east of Puerto Rico, the swanky, 157-room W is also offering two Bachelor-themed packages, starting at $590/night with a three-night minimum.
Although the Puerto Rico footage showed ample bare skin, it left out one of the island’s most famous attractions: Vieques’ bioluminescent bay, whose ephemeral nighttime glow comes from phosphorescent organisms in the water. Rent a kayak or simply slip into the sea for a magical midnight (skinny?) dip.
Unfortunately, Ben and Co. demonstrated their share of travel don’t’s in this Central American paradise, the least of which was disrespecting an indigenous tribe in the rainforest with (guess whose?) boastful bare-breasted-ness. Regardless, Panama itself is a definite must-do for in-the-know travelers, recently being named by the New York Times as the top place to visit in 2012.
Follow in the show’s footsteps with a visit to the secluded and stunning San Blas Islands, where Ben and Kacie had a laughable survival-themed date; saucy salsa dancing a la Blakely in Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo district; or indulging in the over-the-top luxury of the 70-story Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, whose modern architecture resembles a sail.
Already a tourism hotspot in light of the end of the Maya long-count calendar this year, this welcoming Central American country was resplendent in the show, with majestic Maya temples and plenty of ocean-centric adventures. One highlight was Lamanai, the towering Maya temple in Northern Belize whose vertigo-inducing steps Ben and Courtney bravely climbed to the top.
(There are plenty of other ruins to choose from in Belize, however, including Xunantunich and the spectacular Actun Tunichil Muknal, a cave that houses the calcified skeleton of a young Mayan girl who was sacrificed.)
For those who prefer sand, sun and even sharks (no, we’re not talking about Courtney), a trip to the offshore island of Ambergris Caye is a good bet. From the featured properties of Victoria House or Coco Beach Resort (which is also offering a “The Bachelor Island Romance Package,”) it’s an easy boat ride to the aptly named Shark Ray Alley, where Rachel nearly had a panic attack swimming among friendly shark species and stingrays. Divers shouldn’t miss the world-famous Blue Hole, which Ben and Lindzi dropped into from (what else?) a helicopter.
Switzerland Tourism has wasted no time capitalizing on its exposure from the show, with Bachelor Ben’s floppy-haired mug smiling from the home page of the website. But even his middle part couldn’t detract from the stunning scenery, from breathtaking aerial shots in the Alps to quaint Swiss towns. (Plus, since the show is almost as famous for its cheesiness as Switzerland is for its actual cheese, the country makes a perfect choice for the final two episodes.)
While the final rose is still on the horizon, the Switzerland footage thus far has surely piqued many an adrenaline junkie’s interest in this European outdoor playground. Whether it’s rappelling down a 300-foot cliff (though, technically, Ben and Lindzi were really just lowered from a rope), a sky-high picnic on rocky peaks, there’s no shortage of enticements for Alpine adventure.
Or, for a more low-key offering, check out the quintessentially Swiss towns of Interlaken or Zermatt, whose plentiful shops and restaurants make for a peaceful day of shopping and strolling. (And if the urge somehow strikes to have lunch in the middle of a pasture, we beg you to refrain from playing a scintillating game of “Hey Cow!”.)