When the words “bridal shower” come up, many women think of time spent at a friend’s house for a subdued affair full of pastel mints and doilies, or time spent uncomfortably opening gifts of risqué lingerie in front of the bride’s soon-to-be grandmother-in-law. But you don’t have to have the stereotypical shower in a private residence. More and more brides are seeking out unexpected places, which can make for a unique, more personalized experience for not just the bride, but her guests as well. Use your imagination and it’s easy to find locations that combine a little bit of fun, history and culture depending on your proclivities. We’ve rounded up a few creative ideas for a fun New Orleans shower.

“There is nothing more unique for a bridal shower, especially with out-of-town guests, than a day excursion on the Mississippi River,” says Adrienne Thomas, a spokesperson with the Steamboat Natchez (400 N. Peters St., Suite 203, 800-365-2628,shttp://steamboatnatchez.com).

The Magnolia Suite offers your group a private room, and can be decorated with a theme for the day. A full-catered menu is offered, with local favorites such as shrimp and grits, French bread pain perdu, and house cured bourbon bacon, all prepared by Chef Joey Labella. Give guests the full brunch experience by offering bloody marys and mimosas via the steamboat’s bar option. Cakes and flower arrangements can be made to suit the bride’s tastes as well.

After enjoying lunch on the river, guests are able to relax on the three decks of the authentic steamboat, or enjoy a guided boat tour with one of the Natchez’s knowledgeable tour guides. “We have even offered a brief visit by our trumpet player to share with guests the stories of Jazz on the River, our chef to stop in to talk about a particular Louisiana dish and how to prepare it as a newlywed, or even a trivia search of the boat with a prize for one of the guests,” Thomas says.

For those looking to include women and men at their bridal shower, Rock ’n’ Bowl (3000 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-1700, rocknbowl.com) provides an energetic, casual setting for knocking down pins, all within a modern yet retro-inspired facility. “They choose the rock & bowl as the theme. It’s a whole fun night for them,” explains Event Coordinator Genese Moore. “We do an incredible amount of couples showers.” With three bowling packages to choose from, it takes the pressure off getting lost in the details of creating a custom package. “The packages include everything. It’s a one stop shop.” Packages range from $20 to $30 per guest, and include 2 ½ hours of bowling, shoe rental, mixed drinks, beer, wine and a variety of foods, depending on the package you choose. Options range from red beans and rice and crawfish etouffee to fried seafood platters and finger foods.

“We have two rooms that are available for guests to rent in addition to the bowling,” Moore adds. The rooms offer privacy and a quiet space for opening gifts, giving a toast or just enjoying catching up with family and friends. Moore suggests having your party between 7 and 9:30 p.m. and staying for the live music afterwards. Musical guests at Rock ‘n’ Bowl have included notable names in the New Orleans music scene such as Amanda Shaw, Bag of Donuts, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue and the Honey Island Swamp Band, to name a few.

Lush gardens, historical anecdotes and educational yet entertaining classes can give an unexpected twist to traditional bridal shower activities. Long Vue House and Gardens (7 Bamboo Road, 488-5488, longuevue.com) isn’t normally thought of as a go-to bridal shower location, but the historic home can be a great spot to host an intimate, upscale yet casual fete. “We have a couple of different historic sites for teas and luncheons,” says Director of Development Jen Gick. Guests can take a tour of the home and surrounding gardens, participate in a gardening workshop, or receive hands on tutorials about concocting exquisite flower arrangements from one of the master gardeners. The Long Vue staff can assist with catering and flowers or you can take care of arrangements yourself.

“The thing that makes us unique for a shower is that you are surrounded by beautiful grounds and a historical home,” Gick says. For a real garden party feel, the Whim House, adjacent to the Yellow Garden, can accommodate 25 people. If you’re looking to host a larger group, the Playhouse can accommodate 60 people, seated.  “We have done showers in the garden dependent on the weather,” Gick says. “Brides do the bridal portrait, and then want to do their showers there.”

Super ShowersWhile most people think of House of Blues New Orleans (225 Decatur St., 310-4999, houseofblues.com/venues/clubvenues/neworleans) solely as a music venue, a new room called Big Mama's Lounge is a unique space, large enough to host up to 50 bridal shower attendees. “Newly renovated, but still unique in its flair, Big Mama's is the ultimate spot for smaller-sized private events. The custom built-in bar not only serves drinks, but serves as true piece of artwork,” says Special Events Sales Manager Chloe Tassin. The room is funky and fun, with handmade, one-of-a-kind furniture, lighting fixtures and a small stage. Tassin recommends booking 30 to 45 days in advance for more pricing flexibility.

For a post shower party, get the girls together for some glamorous vintage fun. Catch local darlings Bust Out Burlesque perform their sultry acts after the shower, or come back at a later date for the bachelorette party. Either way, it’s a sexy, entertaining way to end the night, and groups of 20 or more get $5 off a ticket.

Give out of town guests a literal taste of the Big Easy with a satiating shower at the New Orleans School of Cooking (524 St. Louis St., 800-237-4841, neworleansschoolofcooking.com). “The demonstration cooking classes are when the chef is cooking in front of the guests who are seated and observing,” says Alison Blondeau, the director of sales. “Then all of the food that is demonstrated is served to the guests as a meal.  A hands-on class is when the guests are actually doing the cooking with the aid of a chef and then eating what they’ve created.”

Bridal shower cooking demonstration packages encompass a three-hour event, with half of it dedicated to the cooking demonstration, with lunch or dinner to follow. This leaves plenty of time for guests to mingle and for the bride to open her gifts. There’s also a self-serve bar throughout the evening, featuring both red and white wine and soft drinks, and guests can take home recipes of the menus you’ve selected beforehand. Two menu packages are available at $46 or $54 per person. Menu One includes delectable choices such as shrimp bisque and baked chicken with demi glace. Some of Menu Two’s offerings are corn and crab bisque, chicken creole, and dessert courses are offered for both packages. Bar upgrades are also available, as well as a bartender for an additional $150 per bar.

If your guests would prefer a more interactive approach to learning, there is also a hands-on package. Classes are available seven days a week at anytime, and are three hours long. Prices start at $125 per person and do require a minimum of eight people per class, though the school can accommodate up to 120 guests. Choose four items to prepare out of the schools’ extensive list, and guests will get a New Orleans School of Cooking apron, and enjoy red and white wine, Abita beer and root beer, iced tea, and coffee. Choose an appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert then sit down, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor while catching up with friends.