Everythingspa’s Blog

CNYSPAGIRL blogs about all things spa

The best reason to plan a girlfriend getaway? No reason at all! April 27, 2011

Turtle Landing Retreat

If your friendships have become virtual, it may be time to reconnect with your gal pals in-person. The girlfriend getaway: It’s synonymous with shopping, lounging in your pj’s, wine or cocktails, great food and maybe some time at the spa.  What you won’t find on a girlfriend getaway? Husbands, significant others and children.  A well-executed girlfriend getaway lets one recharge their batteries and return to the real world a better person. It might be a weekend long bachelorette party, reuniting the girls from college, or just work-weary moms needing a change in scenery. Or the best reason to plan a girlfriend getaway soon?  No reason at all.

Jamie Virkler, owner of Turtle Landing Retreat in Fulton, NY, recognizes that she herself is a better wife and mother after taking brief retreats with her girlfriends. This realization inspired her to open the retreat, a contemporary refuge surrounded by nature on the banks of the Oswego River, in October of 2010.  While the house was designed with scrapbooking groups in mind, you don’t have to be a crafter to enjoy all that Turtle Landing has to offer.  The retreat house, which sleeps 15 in super-fun themed rooms, is ideal for a girlfriend getaway and has garnered rave reviews from first-time and repeat guests. Rent the entire house for the weekend, including the fabulous outdoor spaces, and let Jamie take care of everything including the gourmet meals the retreat has become known for.

45 minutes southwest of Syracuse, the picturesque town of Skaneateles offers boutiques, gourmet and casual dining, and plenty of places for you and your girlfriends to call home for a night or two within every budget.  The cool, deep waters of Skaneateles Lake abound with water activities.  The Monet-inspired Mirbeau Inn & Spa, named to prominent award lists from top travel publications, has everything a girl could want for a getaway: a world-class spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, luxury accommodations, cooking classes, wine seminars, and unique dining experiences spread out over 12 acres. The newly created Life Enrichment Programs focus on health, wellness, spa, culinary and wine experiences.

Speaking of wine, a vino-tasting weekend in the Finger Lakes Region is the perfect setting to reconnect with friends.   For a hassle-free and safe approach, hire a tour company to take care of all the details.  Take a vineyard tour, taste some world-class wines at over 100 unique vineyards and be driven around the lakes in style.  At days end, hang your hat at one of the cozy bed and breakfasts or country inns.  La Tourelle Resort & Spa in Ithaca makes an excellent home base for your weekend in wine country, and they’ll customize a girlfriend getaway to your liking.

For a savvy planning guide, consider “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Girlfriend Getaways,” by Lisa Kasanicky. This seasoned travel and spa expert guides you to more than 70 destinations throughout the United States and Canada including where to stay, where to eat and what to do. Each chapter has a theme — shopping, adventure trips, volunteer vacations, cultural excursions and of course spas — so that you can skip right to the type of destination you want and start planning your getaway.

Here are seven steps to planning a great girlfriend’s weekend that will be relaxing, refreshing and fun:

Step 1 – Select a date.  This may be the toughest step of all with multiple friends who have many commitments.

Step 2 – Set a budget.

Step 3 – Where will you go? Location. Location. Location.

Step 4 – Select your activities.  Or plan to do absolutely nothing and don’t feel a bit guilty about it!

Step 5 – Make reservations: Transportation, accommodations, dining, spa treatments and activities.  If you’re more spontaneous, skip this step and let the wind take you!

Step 6 – Manage expectations and iron out final details.

Step 7 – Have a great time!


Turtle Landing Retreat: A respite for mind, body and spirit February 8, 2011

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I had the best intentions of taking a take a tour of Turtle Landing Retreat for months now, but it seems that snow, more snow and hectic schedules somehow thwarted every attempt.  But even before I visited, I’d already decided that I just HAD to host an event there and had most of it mapped out in my head.  I’d been dreaming up a Women’s Wellness Weekend – complete with morning yoga, massages, a healthy cooking demonstration and organic wine tasting – before I’d even laid eyes on the place, but it all came into clear focus as soon as I started my tour.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Turtle Landing Retreat is the inspiration and passionate creation of Jamie Virkler of Baldwinsville. It’s a contemporary refuge surrounded by nature on the banks of the Oswego River, just 25 minutes from Syracuse. Recognizing that she herself is a better wife and mother after taking brief retreats with her girlfriends, Jamie opened Turtle Landing in October of 2010 to rave reviews from first-time and repeat guests. I had the pleasure of joining an in-progress Creative Memories scrapbook retreat for a one-night stay to experience all that Turtle Landing has to offer, spend some time with friends, make some new ones and enjoy the fabulous meals that the retreat has become known for.  I’m not a scrapbooker, but it doesn’t matter at Turtle Landing Retreat.  If you’re a crafter of any sort, you’ll be in heaven here.  And even if crafting pursuits aren’t your cup of tea, there are many other reasons to book a weekend, week or any length stay at Turtle Landing:  Family reunions, girlfriend getaways, bachelorette party, birthday celebration, rehearsal dinner and holiday gatherings are all welcome here.  If you can conjure it up, Jamie and her crew might just be able to accommodate it.

Turtle Landing is a cross between a bed-and-breakfast and a vacation home rental. Your hosts, Jamie and her father Larry Tuttle, offer attentive but unobtrusive service. Unlike a traditional bed-and-breakfast where the owners are onsite at all times, they’ll stop by during your stay to prepare and serve dinner (and take care of the cleanup too!), but they’ll leave you to enjoy the home for the rest of your stay. Breakfast and lunch will be left behind for you to enjoy at your leisure on your own timetable.  You’ll be so comfortable; you’ll feel like you’re in your own home with a personal chef preparing meals for you.

During my stay, the other guests endlessly praised their surroundings and unanimously agreed that Turtle Landing is the only place to scrapbook. Creative Memories Consultant Anna Maria Lankes, who was one of the hosts of the weekend scrapbooking retreat, says:  “It’s conveniently located in a relaxed, cozy atmosphere. It’s like you’re in your own house, but not.  You don’t have the cooking, cleaning or laundry to do.”  In fact, everything can be done for you.  You simply have to show up.  Your reservation can include exclusive use of the house plus meals, or you’re free to bring your own supplies and cook up a storm in the well-supplied gourmet kitchen.

There are five unique and creatively themed bedrooms at Turtle Landing. Thirteen twin beds are spread out among four bedrooms and one queen-sized bed is situated in a main floor bedroom with ensuite bath.  I spent the night in the fun Wild, Wild West room that sleeps 5.  It’s a huge room with a dormitory-style yet fun, festive and colorful feel to it.  It’s right next to the Life’s a Beach room that sleeps two and just down the hall from the Groovy Girls room that also sleeps two.  But the coolest bedroom in the whole house is the main floor Pussy Cat Doll’s room that sleeps four with a huge master bathroom, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower.  In total, the house has 3 ½ baths – an essential that you’ll appreciate when the house is at capacity with fifteen guests.

Turtle Landing Retreat


What strikes me most about Turtle Landing is that Jamie has thought of virtually everything.  There are baskets of rolled towels thoughtfully placed in each bedroom, throw blankets waiting fireside to cozy up on the leather sofa, and a well-stocked supply of snacks, drinks and basic food items in the kitchen and in the lower level multi-use room.  Flashlights are strategically placed in the bedrooms drawers, nightlights cast a soft glow in the hallways, and an Internet equipped computer and office space– all the amenities of a high quality hotel but with all the comforts of a luxury home.

Turtle Landing Retreat is a dream come true for scrapbookers and crafters who’ve formerly retreated at institutional style hotels and conference centers that lack charm and ambience.  Since the owner is a Creative Memories Consultant herself, the space was designed with scrapbooking in mind:  Six-foot long tables, great lighting, comfortable ergonomic chairs and room for 20.   The space is a well-outfitted venue for a productive executive retreat or business meeting too. A small refrigerator, microwave (popcorn too), Wi-Fi access and a separate entrance complete the space.

Relax outdoors at Turtle Landing Retreat

I’m sitting in the dining nook watching the Tuttle/Virkler clan working their magic together in the kitchen.  The crew operates like a well-oiled machine to get dinner on the table for the guests each night of their stay, if that’s your chosen preference. It’s a family affair:  Jamie’s in charge of the concept, the creativity, some of the baking and the bookings, just to name a few of her duties.  Larry handles the bulk of the meal prep – he’s a barbecue champ!  For nine-year old Megan Virkler, getting the chance to work closely with her mom and grandfather is the best part of serving guests at Turtle Landing.  She takes drink orders, sets and clears the table and stocks the fridge with the professionalism of someone many years her senior.  She happily dons an apron, nametag and logo shirt on weekends and pitches right in alongside her family.  She loves her grandfathers cooking (and for the record, so did we!) and thinks his tri-tip beef is his best recipe.  Her favorite bedroom is the beach-themed room because it reminds her of summer.

A typical Friday night dinner at Turtle Landing is homemade pizza and grilled wings.  Saturday breakfast is fresh-baked muffins, quick breads and fruit salad.  Lunch seems to miraculously appear and it might include a hearty soup from scratch, fresh bread and brownies or gourmet sandwiches and salads.  Sunday brunch might include a variety of quiche and fruit salad, plus all the leftovers from the weekend.  But the crowning gastronomic glory was dinner on Saturday night.  We feasted on a smoky pork loin stuffed with apple and cranberry bread stuffing, rosemary smashed potatoes and a lemon and tarragon vegetable medley, all lovingly prepared for us by Larry.  Not that we had room for dessert, but who can resist berry cheesecake to round out a meal?  Guests are welcome to bring their own wine or other adult beverages to enjoy with dinner and during their stay.  I coincidentally brought a bottle of Cranberry Frost from Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery that was a sensational match for Larry’s pork loin.


But back to my Women’s Wellness Weekend concept.  The riverside outdoor gazebo just begs to host a massage therapist and a very content client.  If nature doesn’t provide a cooling breeze, the gazebo’s ceiling fan will.  If an outdoor massage doesn’t appeal to you, Turtle Landing has an answer to that too.   The enormous first-floor master bathroom is large enough to accommodate a massage table and it’s so convenient to hop off the table and step right into the shower, if that’s your desire.

I had to promise Jamie that I’d come back once the snow melts to enjoy the four outside spaces to relax. There is a screened in gazebo on the river with cozy chairs and couches (the same gazebo that is just begging for a massage therapist to occupy the space). The wrap-around front porch has rocking chairs and a view of the river and boats passing by. The back deck and patio are is ideal for lounging, meetings or meals.

As you can see, I’ve already got my own event at Turtle Landing in the works.  What are you going to plan at Turtle Landing?  It was definitely worth the wait!

If you go:

Turtle Landing Retreat

130 Millard Bassett Road

Fulton, NY  13069



Turtle Landing Retreat - Safari Room