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While week-long or longer vacations might mean jetting off to Paris or the Caribbean, when you’ve only got a weekend available you’re probably going to want to stick closer to home. But no matter what type of escape you’re looking for, you’ve still got plenty of options from the California coast and the soaring Colorado Rockies to the picturesque shores of Maine. For an idyllic trip with the one you love, any of these romantic options are sure to fit the bill.
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One of the most romantic hideaways you’ll find in the entire country, Big Sur lies along the central California coast. This Mediterranean-like stretch is often referred to as the state’s own Italian Riviera and is home to multiple luxury properties and restaurants that sit right at the edge of dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific. You can visit a beach where a waterfall cascades down to the sand, another known for its jade, and one that has purple sands derived from the manganese garnet deposits in the surrounding cliffs. Contrasted with the brilliant aquamarine color of the the waves that gently lap it, it’s absolutely stunning.
The seaside village of Mendocino is known for its Victorian saltbox homes while fans of “Murder She Wrote” will recognize the 1888 residence that served as the home for sleuth Jessica Fletcher. Located about three hours north of San Francisco, it sits atop rugged cliffs and offers many walking trails that deliver dramatic ocean views. You can spend your days enjoying the postcard-perfect beaches, hiking through Redwood forests and wine tasting at multiple area wineries. There’s a beautiful botanical garden just north, with Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens spread across 47 oceanfront acres. Stroll the path that meanders through colorful flowers leading to a park bench where you can gaze out at the ocean together.
The charming town of Cannon Beach is a popular spot for honeymooners and all sorts of romance-seeking couples, located on the northern Oregon coast. Its main beach, also known as Cannon Beach, is often named among the country’s most beautiful. With awe-inspiring coastal mountain views and panoramic ocean views that include iconic Haystack Rock, this place is hard to beat. There are luxury oceanfront resorts with upscale amenities like fireplaces and spa tubs, plenty of restaurants for romantic meals, shops and art galleries to explore.
Mackinac Island is one of the best destinations for a romantic weekend getaway in the Midwest. This tranquil place is virtually car-free, with horse-drawn carriage rides providing an ideal way for couples to take in the scenery, including beautiful architecture downtown and old summer cottages around the island. Or, bring your bike and cycle along the coastline enjoying the gorgeous views. There are state parks for walks through the woods and plenty of culinary delights with casual bistros, fine-dining restaurants, and 13 different fudge shops right downtown where you can watch it being made and enjoy free samples too.
The eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is ideal for Denver-area residents who can reach the town in under two hours. Couples can look forward to strolling the downtown Riverwalk, hopping on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway for a spectacular view over it all, or golfing on a course where elk often roam. There are many different shopping and dining venues, including a fabulous restaurant with romantic piano music often hosted at the world-famous Stanley Hotel, the inspiration behind Stephen King’s “The Shining.” The national park offers more than 350 miles of trails for hiking with views of sparkling lakes, flower-filled meadows, towering snow-capped mountains, and abundant wildlife, including moose, mountain goats, and elk.
Amelia Island offers lots of opportunities for romance, including horseback rides along the sand at sunset. There are many other activities to enjoy as a couple, from golfing and cycling to exploring history. You might take a tour of the historic downtown area in Fernandina Beach by trolley and then check out the many art galleries and boutiques before enjoying a meal at one of the many local seafood eateries.
Bryson City, North Carolina
One of the gateway towns to the Great Smoky Mountains and one of North Carolina’s oldest settlements, Bryson City offers spectacular mountain scenery. You’ll have miles and miles of scenic trails for hiking within easy reach as well as opportunities for river rafting, with many local outfitters available for a rafting trip. You might ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad through the national park to enjoy the scenery at a slower pace and learn about about trains at the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum. There are many romantic cabin rentals in this area to base yourself, with amenities like fireplaces and hot tubs too.
Located in the heart of Maine’s coastal region, Camden is one of the prettiest towns in the area. The High Street Historic District features 19th-century homes, unique shops, trendy cafes, and fantastic restaurants. Plus you’ll enjoy awe-inspiring views of Penobscot Bay and the sailboats that glide in and out. There are also picturesque parks for romantic walks like Camden Hills State Park with trails lining its slopes, while the restored Camden Opera House hosts music, film and dance performances.
Nantucket is the name of the small island that sits about 30 miles from the coast of Cape Cod, as well as its main town. Easily reached via ferry, it’s home to picturesque lighthouses, gorgeous beaches, tranquil harbors, and grand mansions, some of which have been transformed into luxury vacation rentals. There are museums to explore and paths that branch off in every direction that are ideal for cycling or walking. If you like history, check out some of the 800 pre-Civil War houses in the historic district, which includes many lovely old captain’s homes.
Hudson is a riverfront city with a long history dating back to the 18th century as a trading port. Over the last three decades it was reinvented, becoming a cultural haven. There are not only hundreds of miles of epic hiking trails to explore throughout the Hudson Valley, but in town, you’ll find a booming dining scene that includes multiple award-nominated eateries. Don’t miss the unique cafe/motorcycle shop, Moto Coffee Machine where you can pick up an iced latte to fuel up for walking the 250-acre grounds at Olana State Historic Site. There are unique boutiques, art galleries, vintage shops, and many antique stores too.
Hood River is just a quick jaunt from Portland along the lush Columbia River Gorge. If you’re dreaming of a weekend getaway that includes lots of outdoor adventure, this is a great place to be. You can windsurf or kiteboard, with lessons available for either, and throughout the gorge you’ll find many scenic trails, some of which lead to cascading falls. At Hood River Lavender you can soak up incredible views of the endless purple flowers with a backdrop of both Mount Hood and Mount Adams, and pick up handcrafted lavender-focused items, with everything from bath and body products to culinary treats.
San Juan Island is easily reached by ferry or seaplane, with the ferry dock located in Friday Harbor, a charming town with gorgeous views and many outstanding restaurants serving farm- and sea-to-table dishes. The streets are also lined with museums, fun book stores, and many independent shops. This is also where many tours depart from, including kayaking trips and whale watching excursions that will bring you to see the region’s famous Southern Resident orcas and lots of other marine life. You’ll find romantic inns, B&Bs, and vacation rentals to complete your perfect stay too.
Sedona offers a serene desert oasis with fiery-red rock formations and forested mountains in the distance. Here you might start your morning with a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over it all and then hike one of the many trails that provide dazzling views of red rock country. There are Jeep tours and yoga adventures where you’ll walk to a perfect spot outdoors to practice your poses in one of the famous vortexes, swirling centers of energy known to be conducive for meditation, healing, and self-exploration. The artsy town itself is filled with an endless array of galleries, shops, and world-class eateries. After dark, the typically cloud-free skies are ideal for some romantic stargazing.
Lake Placid is famous for hosting two Winter Olympic Games, with all sorts of winter sports available from ice skating and skiing to bobsledding, luging, and ice climbing. But there’s something to enjoy in every season, like leaf-peeping, wine tasting, harvest festivals, hiking, and all sorts of activities on the water. Plus you’ll find multiple options for romantic resorts with special packages for couples that include candlelit dinners and lavish spa treatments, ideal for melting stress away together.
Savannah is a dream when it comes to an unforgettable couples’ escape that includes the best of Southern hospitality, parks with canopies of moss-draped trees, and pretty streets with historic mansions, some of which have been transformed into elegant B&Bs, inns, and vacation rental properties. Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides through the historic district, delving into the food scene on River Street, strolls through the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, and even glorious sunrises while walking on a Tybee Island beach.