Bed-and-breakfasts are starting to man up, doing away with the lace bedspreads and trading high tea for brewskies.
In Pittsburgh, the Mansion at Maple Heights, owned by a former Pittsburgh Steeler, Chukky Okobi, offered a $995 two-night Gridiron Getaway this football season that included two tickets to a Steelers game, a ride to and from Heinz Field and Saturday college football viewings in the B&B's theater room with 119-inch HDTV and surround sound.
Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast in Dellroy, Ohio, where rooms are outfitted in antique furnishings, recently started offering a Guys Getaway package that includes $10 coupons for a nearby clay pigeon shooting range, boat rentals and dinner at a local restaurant. And the six-room Forty Putney Road in Brattleboro, Vt., has its own pub on the premises.
The latter seemed to appeal to Travis Kline, a builder from Schuylerville, N.Y., who recently returned to Forty Putney Road for a romantic getaway with his girlfriend, after an earlier visit convinced him it was a different kind of B&B. "The frilly oversized Victorian bed-and-breakfast run by an elderly empty nester couple does not appeal to me," he said in an e-mail message. (Forty Putney Road is run by a young couple who describe themselves on the B&B's Web site as "beer geeks.")
The focus on men is partly an outgrowth of a larger movement in the bed-and-breakfast industry to shake certain stereotypes. "Innkeepers are dispelling the myths that B&Bs are all doilies and Teddy bears and lace," said Mary White, chief executive of BnBFinder.com, whether it be by marketing to business travelers with amenities like free Wi-Fi, to gay travelers with online photos of same-sex couples at the inn, to luxury travelers with high-thread count sheets or to macho guys with testosterone-packed activities.
But it's also a way to tap into a long-ignored segment of the B&B market. The "feminine and frou frou" labels that bed-and-breakfasts have collected tend to turn men off, said Nina Laramore, publicist for the Camellia Inn in Healdsburg, Calif., which started offering a Men Only Package about a year and half ago. "I've heard men say, 'Oh, gosh, I thought I would be a traditional bull in the china shop, knocking into knickknacks," she added.
While the inn is fairly traditional with floral bedspreads and a pink exterior, it isn't crowded with tchotchkes, she said. All rooms have Wi-Fi and some have iPod docking stations. With the package, which starts at $229 a night on weekends, guys can have an outdoor barbecue arranged by the inn, a fly-fishing trip, golf outing, hot rod tour with a former NASCAR driver or wine tours by bike, car, jeep or fire truck.
The effort seems to be working. Since the Camellia Inn started offering the package, its male guest population has grown by about 15 percent, partly from guys booking the package as a group, said Laramore. Even if they don't decide to book this specific package, she added, its existence helps potential male clients feel they could be comfortable staying at the inn.
That's not to say that these B&Bs don't want women. Some are trying to appeal to both sexes by offering daily activities they can enjoy together or individually, reconnecting at the inn at the end of the day. The Maple Leaf Inn in Waterloo, Ind., a four-room B&B in which one room has Mission-style furniture and posters of antique cars on the walls, has begun offering a car-themed getaway with tickets to nearby car museums to appeal to its male guests. But its "Tee (Tea) for Two (or Four)" package is aimed at couples.
"Guys ... you're off for a day of golf (that's the tee part of the package)," states the inn's Web site. "Gals, spend time at the outlet mall, antiquing, visiting a gourmet chocolatier, getting a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure ... the choice is yours."
Others are attempting to expand upon the success of those all-girl getaways, which practically every hotel or B&B now has, with offers tailored to the opposite sex. Meadowlake Ranch in Sand Springs, Okla., is playing up its dude ranch side and trying to tap into a man's inner child with cowboys-and-Indians overtones.
From $299 a person for two nights in a teepee, guys can work on the ranch, "city slickers" style, learning how to rope a calf, build fences, throw a tomahawk, shoot a bow or ride a horse. After stew by the fire, they can retire to a log cabin or a teepee. "Often the guys are former college buddies, co-workers or military who have been scattered to the winds and this is their way of regrouping to renew old ties," said Meadowlake Ranch's owner, Tom Warren, who recently booked a group of four men for a return trip.
Sure, some of these man-oriented marketing moves are just as cliched as the stereotypes they seek to dismiss. And there are plenty of women who are just as turned off by dolls and doilies and who would prefer a good pint of beer to a cup of tea. But innkeepers say their efforts help men feel more welcome.
"There are guys that book and say, 'Anything but flowers,"' said David Drees, the innkeeper at Kingsley House Bed and Breakfast in Saugatuck, Mich., adding that the B&B has redone some of its rooms to make them feel less feminine. In addition, it is offering a "Brew Your Own" program, popular with men, that for an extra $295 lets guests choose from more than 70 recipes to create the beer of their choice at a nearby brewing company.
Meanwhile, Drees said the B&B has also changed its breakfast routine, offering a buffet and table-for-two option, so guests can sit by themselves if they so choose, rather than at the communal table. "Not to be sexist," he said, "but I think women like the idea of sitting at breakfast and talking more than men do."
Giving guests their space seems to be key when it comes to courting men. That's one of the reasons Kline, the builder from Schuylerville, N.Y., said he decided to book that return trip to Forty Putney Road. "They provide the comfort and ease that you expect of a well-run bed and breakfast," Kline wrote in an e-mail message. But, he added, the owners "know how involved (or uninvolved) they should be in your stay."
Sure, there are guys out there - somewhere - who adore B&Bs. But many men say it's just not for them. "It's a woman's thing, you know?" said Wayne Loney, a retired Kalamazoo public safety officer.
Yet when he read about the beer-brewing package offered by another Saugatuck B&B, Sherwood Forest Bed and Breakfast, he decided to book a surprise trip for his wife's birthday. "She looked at me like I literally had a third eye in the middle of my forehead," said Loney, who usually leaves reservations up to her. Since he likes beer and she likes B&Bs, he said, it was a "total win situation."