Forget the Flowers: How to Create a Truly Memorable Valentine’s Day
It happens every year. Valentine's Day approaches, and our inboxes are flooded with e-mails promoting spa packages, romantic B&Bs, and flower delivery services. It makes this Valentine's Day feel a lot like last year's. And the year before that. And the year before that.
On this day that celebrates love, we're made to believe that romance means pampering ourselves, when it really should be about forging a stronger connection with our partner. So this Valentine's, why not deepen your relationship with your most-loved one during a weekend getaway? Now, I'm not talking about a getaway that involves lounging around a suite all weekend, but an active getaway that will help you build strong memories that you'll look back on for years to come.
Though it's too late to plan weeklong adventure overseas, it isn't too late to organize an active, fun weekend in an exciting spot in your corner of the country. Here are some ideas for a unique and memorable Valentine's.
New York City
NYC is far less crowded in late winter than it is the rest of the year, which means that you and your partner can bask in the city lights while also enjoying a little romantic solitude.
Kick off your Valentine's Day by grabbing a coffee or hot chocolate and setting off for a long walk; try the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for the views, or the High Line for the art installations and people watching. Visit the tropical pavilion at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden to warm up beneath the banana trees and palms, and then take a carriage ride through Central Park to the Trump Wollman ice rink, where you can lace up a pair of skates and take a few laps beneath the twinkling lights of the Upper East Side. Finish off the day with dinner or a drink at the Top of the Rock, a restaurant on the observation deck of Rockefeller Center with unbeatable views of the snowy city.
If you see snow as more beautiful than bothersome, you'll enjoy plenty of the fluffy stuff in and around Bangor. Spend the morning snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the Bangor City Forest, and then visit the nearby Hermon Mountain ski area for snow tubing down the park's 600 feet of chutes. Next morning, head out of town for the rugged coastline of Acadia National Park—some of the park's most scenic drives are still open in winter, giving you the chance to cruise past lighthouses, rocky heads, and remote islands, and get out of the car and stroll to unforgettable photo-ops.
With its moss-draped oaks, stately squares, and balmy breezes, Savannah is a city for lovers. But don't experience it through the windows of a B&B—get out and enjoy all it has to offer.
Kick off your day with a boat tour in the wetlands outside of Savannah, and see if you can spot the area's resident dolphins and eagles. After lunch, stroll through the city center and stop at the Savannah Bee Company for a honey tasting—a unique twist on traditional Valentine's Day sweets. And in the evening, try your hand at Southern cooking at the 700 Kitchen Cooking School. By learning recipes together, you can bring your memories of Savannah back home through your dinner table.
Though usually viewed as a city for singles, Miami's tropical charm will capture the hearts of couples, too.
In the morning, take a guided walking tour through the historic Art Deco district, and then visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, with its Spanish-style mansion surrounded by lush grounds. In the late afternoon, splash out by chartering a boat to one of the uninhabited islands just off the coast, and enjoy a private swim away from the crowds. The next day, take a rental car down to Bahia Honda, a stunning island in the Florida Keys with one of the best beaches in the nation. Hike, swim, and have a simple picnic dinner in the evening—in surroundings like this, you won't regret passing up the typical 5-course Valentine's meal in favor of packed sandwiches!
Midwest & West
Those who brave the Windy City in February are richly rewarded by a metropolis that doesn't let winter slow it down. Wake up with coffee and world-class art at the Art Institute of Chicago, and then walk a few blocks north to Millennium Park, a lively downtown gathering spot with fascinating art installations, sculptures, architecture, and—best of all—a huge ice rink. (Don't know how to skate? Arrive an hour before the rink opens for free lessons.) And for an entirely unexpected evening activity that's sure to get you both laughing, visit the Putting Edge glow-in-the-dark mini golf course, a bizarre wonderland of themed courses with fantastical neon backdrops and matching music.
There's so much more to Napa Valley than a cruising down Highway 29 in a convertible. To really experience this spectacular beauty spot, you'll have to get far off the paved roads. Get your blood flowing in the morning with a quick hike in Skyline Wilderness Park or Westwood Hills Park, and then visit Bothe-Napa Valley State Park to admire the coastal redwoods or rent a kayak to drift down the Napa River.
Oh, and let's not forget about the wine. Winter in Napa has been dubbed "Cabernet Season" after the wine that pairs best with cold nights. So in the evening, be sure to pick up a bottle or two to keep cozy at night—at this time of year, you'll have plenty of opportunities to choose your favorite, as tastings at the top wineries are easier to get in to.
Downtown Santa Fe is spectacular for walking. It's small and compact, and packs in so many historical sites, art galleries, and cafes that it rivals cities of much greater size. Spend the morning with your mate wandering the downtown without a map; take turns choosing cobblestone streets to explore or artisan bakeries to visit. When you've had your fill of civilization, strike out for the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just outside of town. Once there, you can hike to a lookout with views over Santa Fe or take a beginner's skiing lesson.
After such an active day, you'll probably be craving a little Valentine's-style pampering after all. If this is the case, swing by Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese-style bathhouse, on your way back to the city. Soothe your muscles and warm yourself up in a beautiful outdoor tub—you and your partner surely deserve it!