Photo by iStock. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel.
By Kristin Hunt
At a certain point in every relationship, dollar pizza date nights just don’t cut it anymore. You’ve got to step up your game, and what better way to do that than get the hell out of town? Weekend trips are great, but they can also be a hassle to plan. So to save you the pain of poring over Fodor’s and Expedia, we picked out a romantic rendezvous point in every state in America. We favored smaller towns and quiet lakes/mountains/beaches to make it seem more like a “getaway,” and tried to steer clear of experiences that hinged too heavily on one really kick-ass resort. (Though we certainly dug into some hotel recs.) Enjoy your stay, and be sure to tip your B&B hosts well:
The Orange Beach area of ‘Bama had activities for you and your your frat bros (Hangout Fest! Pristine beaches ripe for dumping your cooler of cheap lager!), but it also boasts plenty to do now that you’re an adult and attempting to impress someone not wearing an airbrushed tank. You can ride the Ferris wheel on The Wharf, go mini-golfing on Adventure Island, take a glass-blowing class at the arts center, or, you know, lie on the beach. But anytime you have the opportunity to eat and drink on a boat while watching dolphins, you should always take it. So make that a priority.
Photo: Flickr/Image Editor
While reenacting your favorite scenes from Balto is romantic in its own way, a couples retreat in AK isn’t complete without some Northern Lights action. Your best bet is to head to Fairbanks. Make sure to book a place with aurora wake-up calls (many of them do this) and then decide whether you want to embark on a lights-themed van tour or dogsled adventure for the day. Keep in mind that the latter will fulfill those Balto fantasies.
You’re going to Sedona to marvel at all the majestic red rocks, but it’s your call whether you do this via pink Jeep tour or hot-air balloon. (But trust us: unless your date has Barbie Dream Car fantasies, there’s really only one option here.) When you decide you need a break from staring at nature, head to one of the city’s 20 art galleries to take in the fine Southwestern paintings and ceramics. Then head back outside to hike, kayak, ride ATVs, or maybe just drink wine in the fresh AZ air.
The very phrase “Victorian mountain village” should sell you on this AR escape, but in case you need more convincing, here it goes: Eureka Springs has outdoorsy activities (canoes, scooter tours, big cat refuges, etc.). Eureka Springs has small-town charm (chocolate shops, kaleidoscope-kite stores, dinner trolleys, etc.). But most important, it has mountain opera, which everyone knows is the best kind.
Napa Valley is the expected choice here, but you can mix it up by pretending to be Batman and enjoying your California wines in a legit cave. While there are many excellent, echo-y options out there, most of them are reserved for private parties (read: crazy expensive to book). But at Jarvis Estate, it’s part of the tour! After you’ve finished your subterranean wining, there’s plenty of excellent food, shopping, and river sports in Napa to fill the rest of your vacation. Also, lots more wine.
You’re probably thinking this should be a ski resort town, but why limit yourself to the slopes? At Estes Park, active couples can go whitewater rafting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, climbing, zip-lining, and ropes-coursing all in one weekend. Once they finally wear themselves out, there are spas or booze centers (wineries, breweries, and distilleries!) where they can unwind. Or just recharge before hitting salsa night at Kelli’s Lounge, which seems like the only thing to do after enjoying a booze center.
Photo: Flickr/Joan Sol
After getting hitched, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall famously retreated to the seaside town of Mystic. Because you also want a town that is small, pretty, and full of coastal photo ops should the admiring paparazzi, who we are sure constantly totally follow you, want a picture of you with a good backdrop, you should head here, too. The main attraction in town is the Mystic Seaport, where you can see old restored ships and a tiny recreated 19th-century village. (You better believe they have a printing press.) There’s also an aquarium, planetarium, and dining options outside that one famous pizza place. And if you’re all about authenticity, you gotta book a stay at Bogie and Bacall’s actual hotel, The Inn at Mystic.
Montchanin (Brandywine Valley)
Montchanin is where the very lovely Inn at Montchanin Village is based, but you’re not going there to explore that town specifically (it’s an unincorporated community, anyway). You’re going there to drop your bags, maybe do a quick spin around the hotel gardens, and head out to the larger Brandywine Valley area. While you won’t be inundated with an incredibly boozy concoction everywhere you go, the region, which encompasses swaths of Delaware and Pennsylvania, does have several gorgeous manors and gardens there, including the Nemours Mansion and Winterthur, built by the Du Pont family. You can check out those, plus the Delaware Art Museum and, like, so many parks. But if your partner has a home shopping addiction, beware: the QVC studios are just over the state line.
Florida may be worse than New Jersey, but it does have amazing beaches. And if you’re in the Sunshine State with a boy/lady friend, you might as well find one where you’re allowed to ride horses! Amelia Island itself is pretty quiet, so you’ll get a more intimate experience than you would in Key West or Miami Beach. Plus it’s named after a princess, so you know it’s fancy. There’s requisite scuba and parasailing action, but also a PARTY BOUNCE PLAY full of inflatable slides and bounce houses. It’s technically for children, though they might be open to letting a nice-looking adult couple in.
OK, we know Savannah isn’t some tucked-away little town – it’s one of the largest cities in the state. But we’re willing to bend the rules a little here because it’s so ridiculously pretty. A stroll through Forsyth Park (with its trademark fountain) is a must. So is browsing the vendors (and ships) along River St. You can see a lot of the historic district through a trolley tour, which is always fun. But if you’re the type of couple that watches Poltergeist on Valentine’s Day, you can opt for a ghost tour instead. Just be sure to wear your most romantic all-black outfits.
Photo: Flickr/Kanaka Menehune
Look, you just can’t lose with Hawaii. You could seek out the dumpiest motel and eat exclusively McDonald’s, and your special friend would still be impressed. Not that you should do that. (Please don’t do that.) But if we had to choose a particular island for your retreat, it would have to be Kauai. Why? Lumahai Beach, Hanalei Valley, and Waimea Canyon. Google them. Book your trip. Done.
Whether you’re looking to escape in June or January, McCall can cater to your vacation needs. In the winter, the resort town offers snowshoeing, snow tubing, and skiing off Brundage Mountain. (Also, hot springs in a ghost town. Seductive!) In the summer, you can use Payette Lake for all sorts of water sports. A Loch Ness-type figure named Sharlie is rumored to hang around, so if you wanna really make an impression and score a private patch of the lake, just shout his name.
Yes, Galena has wine tours. Yes, Galena has carriage rides. Yes, Galena has antique stores. Yes, Galena has a 2,050-foot alpine slide. But it also has the Ulysses S. Grant Home, and nothing’s quite as sexy as dead presidents named Ulysses.
Wabash is home to many parks and an apple orchard, so you’ll have no shortage of romantic strolling options, and the shops range from thrift stores to doughnut hubs, so all interests are accounted for. Most importantly, there’s the 13-24 Drive In, so you can snuggle up under the stars to, uh, The Transporter Refueled.
Photo: Flickr/Denise Krebs
Decorah gets name-dropped a lot in reference to The Hotel Winneshiek, a pretty hotel boasting a tap room, “opera house,” and at least two fancy stone pillars. Obviously, you should stay there, but don’t spend all weekend cooped up in the place. Get out to Malanaphy Springs and Phelps Park for your nature fix. Head to the speedway on Saturday, if you’re into fast cars. Or go to the Wayside Skating Rink, if you’re into slower-paced races.
Get excited, Dwight D. Eisenhower fanatics, ’cause Abilene is the proud site of his presidential library, museum, and boyhood home!! For those who don’t like (or are merely ambivalent about) Ike, you’ll still be pleased with the town’s dinner trains and trolleys, as well as the Seelye Mansion and Brown Park Waterfall. If you aren’t opposed to cowboy kitsch, there are staged gunfights and can-can dances at the Alamo Saloon in “old town.” (Attention ghost hunters: it’s also supposedly haunted.) Finally, pro tip: book the Victorian Inn. Jay and Adrian will take care of you.
Brownsville (Mammoth Cave National Park)
At 400 miles, Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. That’s the kind of natural wonder that merits a weekend adventure, although you shouldn’t sleep in the actual cave – that’s creepy! (And, we’d imagine, illegal.) Book a spot in nearby Brownsville instead. There’s a B&B with a covered porch, where you can watch hummingbirds as you sip your coffee. And if you get all caved out, Brownsville is a 20-minute drive from Nolin Lake.
Photo: Flickr/Kent Kanouse
Nothing reignites a fiery romance quite like hot sauce (and the ensuing indigestion), so get yourself to Avery Island, home of Tabasco. After you’ve finished up your pancakes at a B&B in New Iberia (the isle doesn’t have hotels), your first priority is Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre collection of azaleas, camellias, an old Buddha statue, and the rogue croc or deer. If you’re a bird-watching couple (reign it in, you party animals!), there’s a separate tour of “Bird City” as well. After you’ve taken in all the pretty flowers, it’s time to tour the hella-romantic Tabasco factory. The hot sauce company has an additional restaurant and Cajun-inspired “food tour” on Avery Island, just in case your date isn’t impressed with bottling operations.
At Kennebunkport, it’s not a question of whether you’re getting on a boat. It’s what type. There are whale-watching boats, schooners, even “scenic lobster cruises.” As far as landside activities go, you obviously have beaches and a lighthouse (off Cape Porpoise) at your disposal. But the place also boasts romantic fine-dining options like The White Barn Inn and a “tree spa” that’s literally in the treetops.
Ocean City is crowded and full of spring breakers, so assuming shotgunning college kids aren’t what sets the mood, head to one of the Chesapeake Bay’s tiny islands instead. While they all have their merits, only Smith Island has the state’s official, multi-layer dessert: Smith Island Cake. (They really thought hard on that name.) Stuff it, and so many crab cakes, into your face while staring lovingly into your partner’s eyes. Then rent some bikes or kayaks and lap the island. Don’t be alarmed by the locals’ weird accents – the place is so remote, they still have traces of English affectation.
You like lighthouses? Nantucket has three. You like beaches? Nantucket has 10. You like whales? Well, you might have mixed feelings about the Whaling Museum, but it’s there! There are also tons of shops and restaurants to hit during your preppy, picturesque New England weekend, so don’t waste too much time posing for profile pictures on Brant Point.
There’s a horse-drawn carriage in the place’s logo, so you’d be stupid not to take one through the tiny, frozen-in-time island. But that’s not all there is to do. You can kayak or parasail. You can reserve spots on a “sip ‘n sail” tour (sophisticated booze cruise!). You can stuff your face with free samples of the island’s famous fudge. And if you’re a big fan of cheesy Christopher Reeve movies, you can stay at the gorgeous Grand Hotel, where they filmed Somewhere in Time.
Lutsen (North Shore)
The North Shore is a section of the Lake Superior coastline with all sorts of frameable scenery. If it’s the summer, you can canoe or hit up a picnic site. If it’s the winter, you can snowshoe or skate. And while you have many lodging options, you should probably go with the beloved Lutsen Resort, which boasts the Wine Spectator-approved Lakeside Dining Room.
Natchez is located right on the riverbank, so you have all kinds of maritime activity options on the Mississippi River. On land, there are blues concerts happening basically every night, and gorgeous antebellum homes you can actually stay in. Don’t forget the distilleryand the winery. Or the carriage tours of historic Downtown.
This lovely Ozark town boasts everything from scenic railway tours to butterfly palaces. The shopping and restaurant hub is at Branson Landing, which has a $7.5 million fountain production featuring fire cannons and 120-foot geysers. Think the Bellagio meets… the Ozarks. It might sound terrifying, but it’s amazing.
Biking and hiking are big in the city of Whitefish, as is skiing. (Bonus: when the chairlifts aren’t being use to transport skiers, they’re summertime “gondola rides.”) The Whitefish Mountain Resort also has an “aerial adventure park,” which is basically an obstacle course… in the trees. Another aerial option is a hot-air balloon ride courtesy of 2 Fly Us. As for indoor extracurriculars, consider a massage at one of the city’s spas or grab a pint at Great Northern Brewery.
No, we didn’t just pick it because it has romance right in the name. (Although it doesn’t hurt.) Valentine is a prime location to check out the state’s sandhills, and it’s also got the Niobrara River in the mix. Take on the Civilian Conservation Corps Nature Trail, which ends at an old fire tower. At the top is an observation deck with great views of the prairie. If plains aren’t your scene, trek over to Smith Falls State Park to see the highest waterfall in Nebraska. As for lodging, you have plenty of resorts, B&Bs, lodges, and even elk ranchesto choose from.
A couple’s trip to Nevada necessitates a redirect from the Strip and the, uh, stripping, to the state’s other wonders at Lake Tahoe. It’s huge, surrounded by trees and snowbanks, looks damn fine during a sunset, and considered by some (OK, USA Today) to be the best lake in America. The snowboarding and skiing is pretty famous at this point, but the place has just about every outdoor activity imaginable. Since it’s a resort town, there are also plenty of nice hotels, restaurants, and boutiques. And this is still Nevada, so there are places to play blackjack, if you’re so inclined.
“The Snowmobiling Capital of New England” is a very specific nickname, but those winter speedsters aren’t the only thing Pittsburg has going for it. Lake Francis State Park is a pretty big draw, although if you don’t like that lake, the town has five others (and almost all of them are named after Connecticut). Be sure to seek out Garfield Falls, and the steak at the Rainbow Grille. Before you leave, also be sure to congratulate the town on having one less letter than that Pennsylvania town. We assume it’s saved so much money on tourism brochures over the years.
All right, get out all your jokes about “romantic New Jersey” now. You can also go ahead and mock us for picking a Jersey Shore destination if you like, but there’s a world of difference between Seaside Heights and Cape May. First off, you won’t bump into Snooki here. Second, the place has its own winery and brewery. (A brewery, we might add, with a pretty excellent sampler deal.) Third, it’s got museums and even a theater to pair with the requisite beach activities, like parasailing, Jet Skiing, and general boating. Fourth, there’s a downright impressive amount of B&Bs, meaning you won’t have to pony up for a beach house rental. Fifth, we mentioned no Snookis, right?
Don’t let the crazy-high elevation (8,600 feet) scare you away from this pretty N.M. village. Tourists routinely praise the rail trails, which afford great views of all the lush scenery and old railroads. Couples with matching goggles can shred Ski Palace. And while golf might not be the most obvious couples activity, the course at The Lodge is too good to pass up.
Skaneateles (Finger Lakes)
The Finger Lakes are your go-to New York destination in this arena, but there are 11 of them, and they all span different towns. So we’re picking Skaneateles, because it’s the hardest to spell. Its two wineries, art gallery, lake cruises, and neighboring strawberry fields (not the psychedelic kind) also helped.
Duck (Outer Banks)
When you’re discussing a chain of barrier islands in the Atlantic, “secluded” becomes pretty relative, but Duck has managed to stay (relatively) under the radar, meaning you’ll find it slightly more private than the rest of the Outer Banks. Unless you’re renting a house, you have just two hotel options: Sanderling Resort or the Advice 5¢ B&B. Don’t worry, they’re both great. This is a tiny town, so you’re mainly going to take advantage of the quieter beaches and boardwalk, but make a point to swing by Duck Donuts on at least one of your mornings.
We’re obviously sending you to the Badlands – ignore the name, they’re pretty! – but specifically to historic Medora. The place is home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and you know if it’s got Teddy’s name on it, it’s a natural beaut. You can buy carriage ride tickets at the mini golf place, or stagecoach ride tickets at the Chateau de Mores Interpretive Center, if you still haven’t gotten over your Oregon Trail obsession. For dinner, head to Theodore’s Dining Room, unless you’re ready for the wacky marvel that is Pitchfork Fondue.
Logan (Hocking Hills)
The Hocking Hills region has heaps of natural wonders – it’s just a matter of how much you wanna hike. The state park offers six major trails that take you to Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs, Conkle’s Hollow, Old Man’s Cave, or Rock House. They’re all spectacular, but if you want easy access to the scene above (that’s Cedar Falls), your best bet is to book a spot at The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. It’s pet-friendly! And it has mud wraps, which are totally sexy if you like looking like a swamp monster temporarily.
Broken Bow has hills (the Kiamichi Mountains) and water (Broken Bow Lake) to suit all your scenic needs. History nerds will no doubt love the Gardner Mansion & Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Native American artifacts. After a long day of canoeing and history lessons, you can unwind at Girls Gone Wine, which is not nearly as trashy as the name would suggest.
You might recognize Cannon Beach through Haystack Rock, a puffin hotspot that rises 235 feet out of the water. You can walk right up to it during low tide to gawk at all the sea life surrounding it. But if large ocean rocks aren’t your thing, the city has several other beach options at Ecola State Park, Hug Point, and Arcadia Beach. The non-sandy part of town offers constant arts festivals, glassblowing galleries, creperies, and a distillery. Put them all together and you have one wild Saturday afternoon.
Anywhere in the Poconos is an ideal PA getaway, but if you’re planning a couples vacation, you should probably go with the town that’s often compared to Switzerland. Jim Thorpe boasts easy access to ski slopes and stables for horseback riding – and it’s right by Pocono Mountain Paintball, too! (You laugh, but it worked for Heath Ledger.) The town itself is full of pretty Victorian homes, including one you can actually tour: the Asa Packer Mansion.
Photo: Flickr/garden beth
Newport is so money, and it absolutely knows it. The town is home to so many Gilded Age manors, there’s a separate “mansions” page on its tourism site. Once you’ve gawked at enough chandeliers (and tour guides in absurd, old-timey hats), book a massage at one of the town’s several spas or head to the Newport Vineyards tasting room.
You’re going to Landrum to stare at the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s much easier to do that at The Red Horse Inn, a popular anniversary and honeymoon destination. (You can even get your own cottage!) Landrum is also home to Campbell’s Covered Bridge, the state’s only remaining covered bridge. It’s a prime location for pictures and maybe a picnic. But if you’d rather not pack a basket, there’s always SC barbecue.
Spearfish (Spearfish Canyon)
It’s not often that South Dakota beats Arizona at things, but one part of the Black Hills has AZ beat. Spearfish Canyon is actually older than the Grand Canyon, and most important, less populated with screaming children. The 1,000-foot walls are much narrower, though, so keep that in mind as you wind your way through the rocks, trees, and creek. Make sure to hit Roughlock Falls, a beautiful waterfall featured in (ugh) Dances with Wolves. And do all the outdoorsy extracurriculars (climbing, fishing, biking, etc.) your nature-loving heart desires.
According to intel from the Association for Wedding Professionals International, Gatlinburg is the third-most popular wedding destination in the world, so this town knows a thing or two about romance. The Smoky Mountains setting allows for hiking, horseback riding, and skiing (Ober Gatlinburg is the only slope in the state). And the fact that it’s in Tennessee means you can drink moonshine at several distilleries. (Don’t worry, it’s also got wineries and breweries.)
Corpus Christi (Padre Island National Seashore)
Quick note: we’re not talking about South Padre Island, where you’re more likely to find frat bros “surreptitiously” stashing a beer bong than romance. We’re talking about the Padre Island National Seashore, a much calmer stretch of beach with the NPS stamp of approval. You might spy some newborn turtles (like this guy) crawling out to the ocean, but if you miss the baby animals march, there’s still windsurfing, kayaking, and sunbathing to keep you occupied. And you don’t even have to book a hotel in the next town over – the campgrounds are open year-round.
Those Mormons might not know how to party, but they do know how to run a ski resort. The secret on Park City got out a long time ago, but as long as you avoid the Sundance stampede, you can have a relaxing retreat. There are two major ski resorts: Deer Valley and the U.S.’s new largest ski bonanza, Park City Mountain Resort, which just this year connected Park City Mountain and The Canyons. All have their charms, and all have other snow options (like sleigh rides and snow tubing) if you need a break from carving up the slopes. Also, you can sign up for tours of the city’s food scene or a wine class from the pros. Do that.
This village is one of five in the town of Hartford, Vt. While your weekend might take you into West Hartford or all the way over to White River Junction, you should focus on Quechee for three reasons. One: Quechee State Park, which has the state’s largest gorge. Two: The Quechee Ski Hill, which is run by The Quechee Club. And three: the Simon Pearce Restaurant, a locally sourced eatery located on an old mill. It looks like it was painted in a goddamn fairytale – and not one of the grisly Grimm’s ones.
There aren’t even 1,000 residents in Middleburg, but somehow, there are five wineries. If you love a good horse show, Fox Chase Farm is kinda famous for those. You can then follow up your classy equestrian event with an art gallery (Middleburg has several). And don’t you dare Airbnb this situation, because the local hotels are firing on all cylinders.
Photo: Flickr/Maureen Murphy
San Juan Island
The “San Juan Islands” consist of 172 islands, but only four have ferry service. One of them is the titular San Juan Island, which has (get your pencils ready) biking, hiking, whale-watching, plane tours, a vineyard, antique shops, a lavender farm, and an alpaca farm. It’s also very picturesque, but if your partner isn’t sold on the promise of alpacas, you might want to reconsider your relationship.
Downtown Lewisburg is home to all sorts of cute restaurants, antique stores, and art galleries. It’s also got Carnegie Hall, which might not be the most famous Carnegie Hall, but does boast an impressive array of concerts and symphonies. The charming town has more than enough to fill a weekend, but if you feel like trekking into nature, hit up the Lost World Caverns. Then go back inside to the adjacent dinosaur museum.
The city of Chetek has six lakes to its name, so you’ll have no shortage of waterskiing venues. (Just don’t try to compete with the Hydroflites.) There’s also mini-golf and bowling to complement all your water sports. You could stay at the Chetek River Campgrounds, but honestly, that’s downright stupid when you’ve got Canoe Bay. The adults-only resort is a hotspot for anniversaries and even proposals, and frequently shows up on lists of the most romantic hotels in the country.
There’s a reason Jackson/Jackson Hole comes up so much when you’re talking Wyoming: it’s kind of the place to be. You can see a lot of the gorgeous sights (Grand Teton National Park, Snake River Valley, etc.) via an aerial tram that runs from Teton Village to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. And thrill-seeking couples will be stoked to learn about the paragliding flights from the tram’s peak – it’s the largest vertical drop in the U.S. The National Elk Refuge and Laurance Rockefeller Preserve are musts. As for shows, you can watch real cowboys compete at the Jackson Hole Rodeo or some fake cowboys sing “Bless Yore Beautiful Hide” at The Jackson Hole Playhouse.