Dec. 23, 2013 at 1:13 PM ET
“When we venture out to the wide, open plains and drive up the mountains, it feels like we’re the only ones there,” says Dan Warner, reflecting on the appeal of Jackson, Wyo. The L.A.-based COO of Atlas Digital production company and his wife vacationed there winters ago and will return this season for a romantic, kid-free getaway.
Blame it on the cold weather or all that holiday cheer, but there’s something about winter that gives us the itch to escape with that special someone. Yet with many traveling this time of year, the challenge can be finding a place to steal away from the crowds. Thankfully, we turned up plentiful options for secluded and romantic winter getaways like Jackson.
Of course, romance doesn’t require chilly weather to get the sparks flying. Biking along the shores of Amelia Island, Fla., might be more your speed, or wine tasting in picturesque Texas Hill Country. And you can indulge urban holiday fantasies by stealing a kiss on the Brooklyn Bridge and holing up at New York’s NoMad Hotel, where rooms come with claw-foot tubs.
Whatever your ideal setting, read on to find the perfect romantic winter destination for you two.
This spiritual desert oasis looks especially alluring in winter, when the rusty-red mountaintops are dusted white. With mild days and the crowds thinned out, solitude-seeking couples have Sedona’s spectacular hiking trails practically to themselves. Meandering drives through majestic canyons, sunrise hot-air balloon rides, and New Agey spa treatments all heighten the romance factor.
Where to Stay: Canyon Villa, an 11-room B&B just outside town, with a mellow vibe and red rock views. It’s a short walk to the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte trails. canyonvilla.com
Outdoorsy types seeking refuge from icy-cold weather are attracted to Kauai’s 80-degree days and dramatic landscapes. The fleeting mountain rain feeds abundant waterfalls and lush rainforests that are yours to hike and explore. Find your own secluded spot on one of 60-plus beaches, or head to the calm South Shores for snorkeling, surfing, and scuba diving. At sunset, set sail and watch the migrating whales put on a show.
Where to Stay: Fronting the shores of Poipu Beach, 121-room Koa Kea Resort sets the mood with private lanais, ocean views, marble-accented bathrooms with dual showerheads, and a deep blue outdoor pool — serenely sans kids.
Texas Hill Country, Texas
Although it’s just west of Austin, Texas Hill Country feels worlds away, with its cypress-fringed rivers, limestone canyons, and two-lane country roads. Hit the road, with stops at area wineries, and make your way to Fredericksburg, which comes alive for the holidays. Expect an authentic 26-foot German Christmas Pyramid, festive shops, an outdoor skating rink, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Where to Stay:Blair House Inn, a country-chic B&B located in Wimberley, near the heart of Texas wine country. Most rooms have fireplaces, jetted soaking tubs, private decks with sunset-facing views, and nightly turndown of wine and dessert. Couples can take cooking classes on Texas barbecue and Hill Country cuisine from the inn’s executive chef.
With open roads, small towns, and classic red barns, the Berkshires deliver all the dreamlike wintry romance of New England, as immortalized by singer James Taylor. Couples can find alone time as they snowshoe and cross-country through mountain trails, explore Norman Rockwell–esque Stockbridge, and enjoy candlelit dinners at inviting lodges like The Old Inn on the Green.
Where to Stay: Set on 117 acres, the Blantyre Hotel has a 110-foot Norway spruce Christmas tree in its foyer, four-poster beds, and crackling fireplaces for cuddling. Sleigh rides, an on-site ice-skating rink, and winter picnics with homemade hot chocolate seal the deal.
Charleston knows how to charm visitors, and with buzzed-about restaurants like Husk and boundary-pushing art, there’s more to love than ever. Start getting acquainted on a horse-drawn carriage ride past stately 19th-century mansions. Then amble the Battery before finding a secluded picnic spot at White Point Garden or a swinging bench overlooking the harbor at Waterfront Park.
Where to Stay: Decked out in Victorian holiday finery, the 21-room Wentworth Mansion will leave house-made chocolate truffles on your pillow. For a romantic dinner, savor Lowcountry cooking at Circa 1886 within a 125-year-old carriage house — it’s one of America’s most romantic restaurants.
New York City
The sexy backdrop for dozens of romantic holiday flicks, New York City’s appeal never gets old — especially when the flurries start. Pairs can ice skate in Central Park, mitten-in-mitten, and roast s’mores over a tabletop fire pit at bar DTUT. Brave the crowds on a Fifth Avenue stroll past window displays and Rockefeller Center’s twinkling tree. Or walk the Brooklyn Bridge, take a spin on vintage Jane’s Carousel, and explore the Dumbo neighborhood’s cobblestoned streets.
Where to Stay: The NoMad Hotel enchants with Parisian-inspired furnishings, claw-foot tubs, and intimate dining beside an antique marble hearth in the Fireplace Room.
Palm Springs, Calif.
This laid-back SoCal playground wins over couples with its promise of palm trees and clear desert skies. But there’s more to do than poolside lounging: head to the picturesque Indian Canyons to climb, bike, or horseback ride past waterfalls, streams, giant rock formations, and more than 150 miles of trails. Make a picnic beneath a canopy of palms. Or wander the bistros, art galleries, and shops of Palm Canyon Drive housed in Spanish and Midcentury Modern buildings.
Where to Stay: There are no phones or TVs at the Mediterranean-influenced Korakia Pensione, so there’s ample time to tune in to each other. The steamy, zero-edge pool is studded with fire pits and lanterns, and the hotel shows classic movies under the stars.
It’s no wonder city-dwellers have a love affair with this authentic western town. Surrounded by the majestic Grand Tetons, Jackson offers all kinds of snow-filled activities and awesome wildlife viewing. You can ski the powdery peaks; dogsled to Granite Hot Springs followed by a dip in the steamy baths; sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge; or cruise Yellowstone on a snowmobile and feel like you’re the only two in this 2 million-acre park.
Where to Stay: Book a room with park views and a wood-burning fireplace at the Rusty Parrot Lodge, where hot, spiced apple cider and warm cookies—and a couples’ massage at Body Sage spa—await after a day’s adventures.
Depoe Bay, Ore.
Waves pound against Depoe Bay’s rugged shores spouting 60-foot geysers—and attracting couples who seek the thrill of storm watching from a cozy distance. Inviting inns, taverns, and restaurants dot the banks of this quaint fishing village. When you’re ready to brave the outdoors, head to Depoe View Park, a 50-foot basalt bluff where you can hike the boulders and watch frolicking whales and bald eagles pass by.
Where to Stay: At the Whale Cove Inn, you’ll have front-row views to nature’s spectacle. Rooms have panoramic ocean views, with outdoor Jacuzzis on private decks. Reserve a table at the hotel’s Restaurant Beck for locally foraged cuisine and sea vistas.
Lower Waterford, Vt.
Winter scenes of Lower Waterford are truly picture-perfect, having graced Christmas cards and won Kodak Image of the Year back in 1959. Not much has changed since. Show up in town, and you’ll find a white-steepled church, snow-patched wooded trails, and a holiday-clad Main Street. Snowshoe along the Connecticut River, explore pine-laden White Mountain National Forest, or ski the 100-mile scenic Kingdom Trails. It won’t be long before local craft brewers, cheese makers, and maple syrup sugarhouses beckon you indoors.
Where to Stay: Rabbit Hill Inn, a 200-year-old restored residence and tavern in the shadow of the White Mountains. It has the classic romantic trappings: canopy beds, fireplaces, private porches, and candlelit breakfasts.
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