These small towns in the South may not be on your radar for 2018, but they should be. From scenic views to wine adventures to foodie finds to historic streets, there's something for everyone to enjoy in the South's picturesque small towns. Read on to discover nine can't-miss towns to cross off your travel list in 2018.
Check out Staunton, smack dab in the middle of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, for vibrant arts and music scenes. The town boasts the 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse – one of only two authentic Shakespeare theaters in the world. And even though Staunton is a small town, you'll discover a progressive, urban feel as you explore around town. Music festivals abound, including the Staunton Music Festival and the Red Wing Roots Music Festival. Plus, restaurants, craft breweries and local vineyards will keep your belly full and your taste buds tingling. Speaking of taste buds, Wright's Dairy-Rite is a famous diner where you can indulge in milkshakes, foot-long hot dogs and homemade onion rings. As for accommodations, the town's Blackburn Inn, a 49-room hotel built by a Thomas Jefferson protégé, will reopen this spring. If you're looking to brush up on history, check out the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum or the Frontier Culture Museum.
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia
While most of us think of Nashville when we think of country music, Bristol is actually country music's true birthplace. Bristol's location on the Tennessee-Virginia border seems appropriate for this trendsetting town. The town showcases its musical history at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Feel free to dance along the town's main street, known as State Street, which straddles the two states. Or if you're looking to get moving another way, Bristol Motor Speedway has great seats for everyone in the family and hosts two NASCAR events each year. Experience a drive-in movie at the Twin City Drive-in Theatre.
Georgetown is one of the state's fastest-growing cities, but it keeps its small-town feel with a Victorian-style downtown. The town prides itself as the possible home of bourbon, and though not all may agree with that claim, you can still enjoy that heritage by sampling locally crafted spirits. At Georgetown's Toyota manufacturing plant – the company's largest manufacturing facility – take a tram tour and see a car constructed from the ground up. If horses are your preferred form of transportation, you'll enjoy Old Friends Farm, a thoroughbred retirement facility that's home to 100 retired horse racing champions.
Deep Creek Lake, Maryland
Yes, Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and you can get your fill of fresh air any time of year when you visit Deep Creek Lake, Maryland's largest freshwater lake. Deep Creek Lake is located in rural, mountainous western Maryland, far from the bustling streets of the nation's capital and Baltimore. The biggest attraction is Wisp Ski Resort, Maryland's only four-season downhill ski resort. In addition to skiing, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to keep you busy, including snow tubing in the winter and kayaking, whitewater rafting and boating at other times of the year. Beautiful Muddy Creek Falls, located near Deep Creek Lake in Swallow Falls State Park, is the state's largest free-flowing waterfall. What's more, Spruce Forest Artisan Village and the Simon Pearce Factory Store and Glassblowing Workshop can give you a feel for local arts and craftsmanship.
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, the quaint town of Hendersonville prides itself on its art, boutique stores, antique shops and dozens of independently owned restaurants. The town's love of art is seen in the 20 or so bear statues painted by local artists. Plus, art is on full display in the spring and the Music on Main events that take place during the summer weekends. Over Labor Day weekend, check out the North Carolina Apple Festival, where you can sample different apple types and choose your favorite. In fact, Henderson County is the seventh-largest apple producer in the U.S. Meanwhile, movie buffs will want to visit the nearby DuPont State Recreational Forest, where scenes from "The Hunger Games" franchise were shot.
Beaufort, South Carolina
The second-oldest city in South Carolina, Beaufort offers Southern charm and scenic Atlantic Ocean views. The town also has a Civil War history and a historic downtown with waterfront restaurants. Get to know the area with one of several walking tours or on a horse and carriage ride. Keep your eyes on the water with a dolphin-watching cruise or by kayaking, or try out restaurants that are part of the new Lowcountry Oyster Trail, focused on sea-to-table oyster experiences in South Carolina. Then, check out the nearby Point South KOA, a campground in Yemasee, South Carolina, where wine tastings are held every night, featuring tastes from local wineries. Round out your visit to Beaufort by admiring the famous mansion in the backdrop of classic films, such as "The Big Chill" and "The Great Santini."
Located within driving distance from Tampa and Orlando, Lakeland is the ideal place to visit when you want to take a break from the Sunshine State's theme parks and beaches. Come to Lakeland to visit Florida Southern College, which has an extensive collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architectural attractions. Your architecture-fueled walking tour (with lots of great photo angles for your social media feed) will include a view of scenic Lake Hollingsworth. In fact, Lakeland is aptly named, with more than 30 named lakes. Lake Morton in the downtown area is most noteworthy for its swans. If you swing by Lakeland during the weekend, visit its farmers market, featuring local vendors helping to showcase Florida's agricultural bounty. Got little ones in tow? The Common Ground Playground is a great place to let out some pent-up energy. This play area is ideal for kids of all ages.
Though close to both Austin and San Antonio, Fredericksburg in western Texas retains a small-town feel. Fredericksburg, tucked in the Texas Hill Country, is also known for wine. In fact, there are more than 45 wineries in the Texas Hill Country. Fredericksburg is also famous for its German feel, thanks to the German pioneers who settled in the area about 160 years ago. You'll find that German heritage in the town's architecture, food options (brats, anyone?) and special annual events like Oktoberfest.
50 Top Romantic Destinations Around the World
Feel the love in these spark-kindling locales.
Whether you're organizing a far-flung honeymoon or a closer-to-home minibreak, planning the trip of a lifetime for two can feel overwhelming. Cozy up at an inviting ski lodge in the Swiss Alps or unwind in a thatched-roofed bungalow in the Maldives? Get your heart racing on an African safari or flee to Big Sur for stunning coastal scenery? Choosing the perfect locale can be tricky, but fret not – we're here to help. From secluded sands to rolling vineyards to striking deserts, these expert-approved destinations are bound to make you – and your better half – swoon.Amalfi Coast, Italy
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Idyllic seaside villages, captivating coastline vistas, iconic Greek temples and pristine gardens draw travelers to Amalfi's 34-mile spellbinding stretch in Italy's Campania region. After driving along hair-raising turns, you'll be rewarded with bewitching sights: Positano's pastel-hued buildings, traditional trattorias, chic hotels and ornate handmade ceramic tiles; Atrani's quaint piazzas and postcard-perfect cliff-side location; and Ravello's captivating gardens and sculptures in Villa Cimbrone. After taking in sky-high views from the lovely gardens of Ravello, explore more of the area and Capri by boat or unwind along one of the area's 100 sands, before settling into lavish accommodations such as Il San Pietro di Positano or Le Sirenuse.Railay Beach, Thailand
Railay Beach, Thailand
Thailand's lovely landscapes, from its pristine beaches to its urban metropolises to its verdant jungles to its staggered temples, are all postcard-worthy. For a trip to remember, head to Railay (also known as Railei) Beach, suggests Anne Howard, co-founder of the travel site HoneyTrek.com and co-author of the National Geographic book "Ultimate Journeys for Two." Only accessible by boat from Ao Nang in the country's Krabi Province, the area's spectacular limestone cliffs appeal to hardcore rock climbers in Tonsai, while relaxation-seekers can head to the western side of the island to enjoy snorkeling, swimming and unwinding on white-sand beaches or slipping away to post resorts in Hat Railay West and Hat Tham Phra Nang, Howard explains.Seville, Spain
Seville is a dream for architecture and culture lovers. Andalucía's crown jewel is equally photogenic as it is storied, with its violet jacarandas and orange tree-lined streets, ornate ceramic tiles and blend of Moorish, Jewish and Christian influences, from the Alcazar Palace to the Seville Cathedral. Up the romance factor with a captivating flamenco dance performance and leisurely alfresco meals – complete with sangria and toasted churros dipped in chocolate at a local tapas bar in Barrio Santa Cruz. Breaks from taking in the Andalusian capital's charms can be spent at the picturesque Plaza de España or stealing away to the lavish Hotel Alfonso XIII, an opulent hotel with contemporary Moorish fixtures and sweeping views.The Maldives
With its overwater bungalows, coral reef-ringed cerulean waters and palatial resorts – not to mention its remote location about 500 miles southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean – the Maldives is an easy vacation choice for romance-seekers. Splurge for a stay at an opulent retreat like Soneva Fushi or the One&Only Reethi Rah, where you can unwind and recharge in a high-end water villa outfitted with a wraparound hammock, before getting pampered with a massage, taking an art lesson or embarking on a diving expedition to nearby reefs. To up the romance factor, savor a candlelit beachside Middle Eastern-inspired meal paired with champagne at Fanditha.Big Sur, California
Big Sur, California
In Big Sur – the 90-mile picturesque stretch between Monterey Bay and San Simeon in central California – plunging coastlines and inspiring redwood groves are everyday vistas. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is especially cinematic, with is granite cliffs, cascading McWay Falls, towering trees and colorful wildflowers, affording plenty of idyllic vantage points for photo ops. To appreciate Big Sur's natural surroundings in all their glory, splurge for a stay at Post Ranch Inn, which offers cliff-side rooms with mesmerizing Pacific Ocean and mountain views, wood-burning fireplaces, outdoor hot tubs, private decks and activities geared toward romance- and nature-seekers, from stargazing expeditions to yoga classes to guided hikes.Lucerne, Switzerland
With the snow-covered Alps in the backdrop and spectacular countryside surroundings, Lucerne lures couples craving a postcard-worthy Swiss lakeside setting. But Lucerne wins over visitors with its subtler charms, from strolls across the wooden Chapel Bridge over the Reuss River to decadent Lindt chocolates, indulgent cheese and leisurely meals at Swiss haunts like the Wirtshaus Galliker, where you can sample staples like a rosti (a potato fritter). After exploring the city's charming squares and can't-miss restaurants, slip away to the nearby Hotel Villa Honegg or the Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne, which boasts a legacy dating back to 1873 and plenty of allures, from its nine-hole golf course to its 10,000-square-foot Alpine Spa.Santorini, Greece
With its iconic blue-domed churches, whitewashed buildings and magnificent cliff-side vistas, it's no wonder Santorini draws tourists from across the globe. Here, you can stay in a cliff-side hotel in Oia (we're looking at you, Canaves Oia Santorini) and admire magical sunsets, marvel at beautiful Grecian buildings and enjoy tastings at top-notch wineries. For awe-inspiring views, walk from Fira to Oia on a challenging 6-mile trek and then cool off in lovely Amoudi Bay, which sits tucked amid imposing red cliffs and idyllic villas. Whether you want to lounge along multicolored beaches (like the Red Beach near ancient Akrotiri) or explore ancient ruins, there are plenty of amorous activities to be had.Seychelles
With its isolated shorelines, granite cliffs and warm, clear Indian Ocean waters, the Seychelles network of 115 isles off Africa's eastern coast draws visitors from around the world. A high-end honeymoon-worthy hot spot – and postnuptial retreat for Prince William and Kate Middleton – Seychelles offers powdery sands like Anse Source d'Argent and Anse Intendance, along with palatial resorts, like Villa 11 on the North Island and the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, where you can relax and recharge in a treehouse-style villa. Should you feel tempted to steal away from your luxurious surroundings, enjoy island hoping, lounging along ivory sands at Anse Lazio on Praslin Island or immersing yourself in nature at the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve.Sri Lanka
If you're planning a special occasion trip, such as a honeymoon or anniversary, "start thinking about Sri Lanka," says Lisa Gooder, executive director of Brides. Located off the east coast of the India, "the island has something for everyone: Buddhist temples and elephant sanctuaries, tea country, jungle safari camps and relaxed beach towns with chic resorts. It’s unexpected and amazing," she adds. Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury travel outfitter Black Tomato, also highlights Sri Lanka as a top destination. He points to the Wild Coast Tented Lodge, with its unique canvas suites outfitted with copper bathtubs, its viewing decks and its prime location amid sand dunes and the Indian Ocean as especially romantic.Miami
"Miami is always a romantic staple," Gooder says. "It's easy to get to, beautiful in the winter, and there are so many lodging options," she adds. In the Magic City, you can spend your days admiring the 1930s-style art deco architecture and lounging along South Beach's powdery sands, before getting your culture fix in Little Havana or the open-air Wynwood Walls street art installation. Best of all, you can cap off your days at a high-end hotel like the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, where you can indulge in soothing spa treatments like a coconut body scrub and massage, take morning yoga classes or embrace the great outdoors with some sailing, paddleboarding or other adventures.Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
"Savannah and Charleston also couldn't get more picturesque and romantic, especially if you’re not a beach person," Gooder says. Spanish-moss draped strolls, horse-drawn carriage rides, antebellum charm and a thriving culinary scene are a few draws for romantics. After springing for a memorable meal (try Husk and Hominy Grill), wander along King Street, explore the Battery or visit the Boone Hall Plantation (the iconic backdrop from "The Notebook"). Stay at Zero George Street, a cluster of residences and brick carriage houses-turned-guest rooms, where upon arrival you'll receive a glass of bubbly and an evening wine and cheese pairing, and you can unwind in one of the hotel's lovely courtyards.Rome
For an intellectually stimulating getaway, "Italy is always a great option," Gooder says. "Destination weddings in Italy are all the rage right now, and that means a built-in honeymoon. You have art, history, food and wine culture all at your fingertips," she explains. The Eternal City offers a cinematic backdrop with its instantly recognizable landmarks, from the Pantheon to the Colosseum to the Roman Forum to the Trevi Fountain. Bernini enthusiasts will also want to devote some time to exploring the Borghese Gallery to admire the master's sculptures, before delighting in staples (cacio e pepe, anyone?) at Piazza Navona. And of course, no Roman holiday is complete without snapping a few photos at the iconic Spanish Steps.Aspen, Colorado
(Adam Goldberg Photography/Getty Images)
If you're pining for a real-life winter wonderland, it doesn’t get much better than Aspen's snow-covered peaks, crackling fireplaces and glamorous accommodations. Aside from warming up with a cocktail after hitting the slopes, at The Little Nell, you can retreat to accommodations outfitted with gas fireplaces and soaking tubs, indulge in pampering treatments like deep-tissue massages and enjoy a lively après-ski scene at Ajax Tavern. When you need a break from shredding powder at top ski spots, enjoy gallery hopping, boutique strolling or savoring craft beer at Aspen Brewing Company. Best of all, if you plan a trip in the warmer months, you can enjoy other active outdoor pursuits, such as horseback riding or hiking to Maroon Bells.Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
For an adventurous, eco-minded retreat, consider Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, with its tropical rainforest, untouched sands and rich biodiversity. Check into Lapa Rios Lodge, a 1,000-acre reserve with enchanting coastal views. During your stay, you can listen for howler monkeys, join naturalist-led treks to Corcovado National Park – a haven for jaguars, pumas and scarlet macaws – and take a yoga class. Plus, cap off your days with indulgent spa treatments and catching up on R&R in a thatched-roof bungalow. If you're craving more romance, the property offers special experiences geared toward couples, from private candlelit meals to private boat rides to couples massages in a hut peering over the Pacific.Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park, South Africa
An African safari is "something everyone should have at least once," Howard says, describing the experience as eye-opening. Kruger National Park is easily approachable, she adds. If you're looking to splurge, there are a variety of luxury lodges worth considering, from Royal Malewane to Singita Lebombo and Sweni lodges, which offer contemporary accommodations and guided excursions, including game drives, stargazing and safari walks. During your stay, keep your eyes peeled for the Big Five: leopards, lions, rhinos, hippos and elephants. Make Johannesburg, located approximately 260 miles southwest of Kruger National Park, your home base.Nicaragua
If you're clamoring for an active vacation, "you can’t go wrong with an adventure in Nicaragua," Gooder says. "It's such a buzzed-about place right now, and couples can surf, hike, do yoga and more," she adds. At Mukul, Auberge Resorts Collection in Guacalito de la Isla, Nicaragua, for example, you can savor alfresco meals paired with striking vistas overlooking the Pacific. Spring for a beach villa, and you can have access to a private plunge pool, a wraparound deck, a soaking tub and easy access to Playa Manzanillo's frothy surf. You can join beachside yoga classes, try your hand at surfing at Manzanillo Point or partake in stand-up paddleboarding or snorkeling.Hvar, Croatia
For a wallet-friendly (and bucket list-worthy) international romantic escape, set your sights on Croatia. You might instantly think of Dubrovnik, with its coastal scenery and Old Town backdrop for King's Landing in the HBO hit series "Game of Thrones." But for an outside-the-box getaway, consider the Dalmatian coast, which offers plenty of striking Gothic architecture, storied fortresses (don't miss the photogenic St. Nikola), serene beaches and a wide range of accommodations, from low-key villas to high-end hotels, such as the Palace Hvar and Adriana Hvar. "Hvar, Croatia, an amazing destination couples should consider if they're looking for something unique. It's a slightly more affordable trip to Europe," Gooder says.Northern India
If you and your better half are looking to reach nirvana, there's no better place to find your bliss than northern India. Marchant highlights Ananda, in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, as especially romance kindling. The former home of the Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal, the 100-acre property boasts spectacular vistas of the neighboring villages and the Ganges River, along with superlative amenities and services, including yoga pavilions, a 24,000-square-foot spa and guided meditation sessions. During your visit, you can enjoy wildlife-viewing in Rajaji National Park, hiking on an expert-led mountain trek and indulging in rejuvenating ayurvedic spa treatments, like Chakra Shuddhi (a practice to purify the body's energy, or chakra system).San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel's colonial charm, romantic baroque architecture and charming cobblestone streets offer an ideal setting for a dreamy escape. Wander the streets to soak in the 16th-century walkways, admire the legendary Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel's graceful spires and delight in leisurely meals at Quince or Moxi Restaurant, a celebrated venue dishing out inventive twists on Mexican staples, such as enchiladas potosinas and ceviche with pickled vegetables. For a stay to remember, retreat to the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende. There you can take part in an array of activities from wine tastings to art workshops, and retreat to opulent hacienda-style accommodations with balconies, soaking tubs and fireplaces.Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
The Vineyard's storybook cottages, secluded sands, salty sea air and an unpretentious attitude draw laid-back couples craving a relaxed romantic escape. Admire the Victorian buildings of Oak Bluffs, the centuries-old mansions of whaling captains of Edgartown, the tucked-away coastlines of Chilmark and the dramatic clay cliffs of Aquinnah. For a memorable meal, pick up fresh oysters and lobster rolls at the Menemsha Fish Market and then catch a spectacular sunset at Moshup Beach. As for accommodations, couples have their pick from charming bed-and-breakfasts and inns (check out the Beach Plum Inn and the Charlotte Inn) to high-end hotels like the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is as storied as it is beautiful, with its ornate temples, wooden teahouses and shrines and iconic gardens blanketed in pink cherry blossom petals in spring. With its well-preserved Buddhist sites and Shintō shrines and rich heritage as Japan's former capital, the city offers a mix of old and new allures, from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to the bustling Nishiki Market. Explore the Fushimi Inari Shrine, a torii-lined temple along Mount Inari with a heritage that dates back to the 8th century. Then make your way to Gion, which houses willow-flanked roads and storied teahouses. Looking for more romance? Check into the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, which offers an ideal perch framed by the Higashiyama mountain range.Jamaica
A quick escape from the East Coast, Jamaica offers an enticing tropical getaway for winter-weary jetsetters. Lounge along ivory sands in Negril, climb to Dunn's River Falls and Park in Ocho Rios or perfect your swing on flowing fairways like the White Witch Golf Course in Montego Bay. Craving more relaxation? Check into the Jamaica Inn, a beautiful resort in Ocho Rios with cottages overlooking the ocean and special amenities well-suited for couples (picture: moonlit massages, candlelit dinners along the beach and a chilled bottle of champagne upon arrival). Should you peel yourself away from your accommodations, you can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking and sailing, among other pursuits.Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como, Italy
Bougainvillea-draped villas, historic hotels and alpine scenery set the stage for a memorable romantic retreat. For a modern hideaway, check into Il Sereno, which boasts rooms appointed with rain showers, soaking tubs and sweeping lake views, or visit the lovely Grand Hotel Tremezzo, a classic property with a history that dates back to 1910 and plenty of romantic diversions, from lake excursions to guided villa tours to painting and photography classes. After getting settled, take a ferry to nearby Bellagio to meander along the promenade, marvel at the storied villas and check out stylish shops and restaurants. To avoid thick tourist crowds, visit in the off-season, in early spring or fall.Peru
If you're looking to take your love to new heights, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu's iconic "lost city of the Incas" offers the trip of a lifetime. Make Cusco your launching pad to acclimate to the high 11,000-foot elevation before exploring the storied temples and gardens of Machu Picchu. Then splurge for a stay at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, tucked in the Peruvian Andes near the town of Aguas Calientes, where you can recharge in a whitewashed casita, admire more than 200 species of birds and orchids in the surrounding misty forest and enjoy downtime with tea and leisurely meals.Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Thrill-seeking couples craving a heart-pounding adventure will be hard-pressed to find an adrenaline-pumping destination that rivals Queenstown. Here, you can tackle glistening slopes in winter (head to Coronet Peak or the Remarkables), and in summer try your hand at paragliding, bungee jumping, mountain biking and skydiving. And after an exhilarating day outdoors, you can enjoy leisurely wine tasting in nearby Central Otago or take a soothing soak at the Onsen Hot Pools. Cap off your days in luxurious digs at the nearby Matakauri Lodge, which sits along Lake Wakatipu and offers well-appointed mountain- and lake-facing rooms and romantic extras like hot stone massages and mud treatments.Monte Carlo, Monaco
Monte Carlo, Monaco
It doesn't get much more glamorous than Monte Carlo, with its captivating coastal scenery, sun-kissed beaches and glitzy yachts bobbing in the harbor. The fairy tale destination isn't only known for its star-studded visitors – it served as the backdrop for Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco's wedding – it's also home to posh hotels like Hotel Hermitage, which boasts an ornate glass structure architected by the Gustave Eiffel, and the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which features its own three Michelin-starred restaurant. Apart from champagne-sipping and beachside-strolling, you and your better half can test your luck at the Monte Carlo Casino, which you might recognize from the James Bond classic "Goldeneye."British Columbia
"We fell in love with British Columbia," Howard says. While couples typically flock for Vancouver and Whistler, she highlights northern British Columbia as especially memorable, with the chance to explore the Great Bear Rainforest and spectacular scenery along the Inside Passage. In the rainforest, you can catch sight of incredible grizzlies, not to mention glacier-capped peaks and wild coastlines. If you're looking to up your glamping game, consider slipping away to the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in Tofino, where you can sleep in white canvas luxury tents, recharge in a sauna, enjoy full-body massages and yoga classes and enjoy wildlife-watching by day and stargazing at night.Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Untouched barrier reefs, crystal-clear waters and stilted overwater bungalows make French Polynesia an obvious choice for couples. Snorkel in the Bora Bora Lagoonarium and look out for colorful coral reefs and stingrays. Lounge along powdery sands and swim in cerulean waters at Matira Beach, or enjoy an active off-the-beaten-track four-wheel drive excursion to enjoy safari-style treks across the area's lovely landscapes. After exploring can't-miss sights, continue finding your bliss at a secluded thatched-roofed bungalow at the St. Regis Bora Bora or the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, where you can swim in your private plunge pool, marvel at Mount Otemanu or get pampered with Balinese-inspired spa treatments.Sintra, Portugal
Iconic for its lovely hills and picturesque castles – including the crown jewel, the Palácio Nacional de Pena – this village perched about 20 miles northwest of Lisbon lures travelers with its enchanting setting, fanciful palaces and dramatic blending of architectural styles, Howard says. In Sintra, "romance is in the air," she adds. Howard advises staying at least two nights in Sintra to take in the landscapes British poet Lord Byron once called a "glorious Eden." When you're not touring opulent estates and beautiful gardens (don't miss the Quinta da Regaleira) or checking out the area's impressive mix of Manueline and Islamic styles, slip away to a palatial retreat like the Hotel Tivoli Palácio de Seteais.Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
For a taste of Paris – complete with fresh-baked croissants, cobblestone streets and storied 17th-century architecture – skip the trans-Atlantic flight and make your way to Quebec City. Stroll through Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with can't-miss attractions such as the Notre-Dame Basilica and the Quartier Petit-Champlain, before making your way to the Place-Royal for a warm cup of coffee. Then retire to the stylish Auberge Saint-Antoine, a boutique hotel with rustic yet luxurious suites with wood flooring, Bose stereo systems, soaking tubs and, in some rooms, terraces with sweeping city vistas. Craving more romance? Delight in an upscale meal at the award-winning restaurant at Le Saint-Amour, renowned for its duck fois gras signature dishes.St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida
From charming cobblestone streets filled with Spanish colonial architecture and moss-blanketed oaks to captivating coastal views, St. Augustine appeals to history-loving couples searching for a mix of storied sites and small-town charm. Pop into boutiques, cafés and galleries along St. George Street, sunbathe along St. Augustine Beach and visit must-see historical treasures such as the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Then check into lovely accommodations, like the Casa Monica Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection, to imbibe in a cocktail at the Cobalt Lounge and indulge in signature deep-tissue massages and replenishing body treatments, before retreating to well-appointed rooms with four-poster beds and Bose sound systems.Aix-en-Provence, France
For the couple searching to delight in simple pleasures – a leisurely afternoon lunch, touring lovely vineyards and nearby lavender fields and admiring the backdrops that inspired the master Cézanne's paintings – Aix-en-Provence is an idyllic Provençal escape. Explore the southern French city's charms as you wander hand in hand along the Cours Mirabeau, pop into the bustling Le Grand Marche market and marvel at the works of van Dyck, Cézanne and Puget at Musée Granet. When you need a break, relax at Villa Gallici, a tucked-away 18th-century chateau flanked by cypress trees that boasts a well-stocked wine cellar with top-tier Burgundy and Bordeaux varieties.Fiji
A far-flung trip to Fiji is a dream for adventurers, nature lovers and couples alike looking to get off the grid. At the private Wadigi Island Resort, you can retreat to one of the villa's three lavish suites outfitted with king-sized beds, spacious bath tubs and fresh fruit replenished daily. Once you're feeling recharged, enjoy scuba diving near Taveuni, snorkeling with manta rays in the Yasawa Islands or touring the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. Other top enticements for planning a luxurious jaunt to Fiji include admiring magnificent marine life in Beqa Lagoon, surfing, snorkeling or sunbathing along the Natadola Beach on Viti Levu and checking out the eye-catching 20th-century Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple in Nadi, Viti Levu.Kauai, Hawaii
Spellbinding sunsets, postcard-perfect coastlines, laid-back surfer towns and fewer tourist crowds than neighboring Hawaiian isles make Kauai an ideal choice for outdoorsy types looking to embrace the Aloha spirit. Retreat to Hanalei on the North Shore to discover tucked-away beaches, indulge in delectable tacos and bowls at food trucks and shop at bohemian boutiques. Then get your heart racing with a hike along the Kalalau Trail to take in views of the Na Pali Coast's inspiring green cliffs. Afterward, enjoy a picnic on Hanakapi'ai Beach or slip away to high-end accommodations like the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa or the St. Regis Princeville Resort, where you can get pampered with couples massages and decadent body wraps.Belize
"Belize has really come up as an under-the-radar romantic destination," Gooder says. "It’s easy to get to, still fairly inexpensive, undiscovered and there are very luxurious resorts. Plus, it’s a paradise for divers," she explains. Marvel at unspoiled coral and marine life along the Belize barrier reef, snorkel with stingrays at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, admire keel-billed toucans and pumas at the Belize Zoo or check out Mayan archaeological splendors like Lamanai and Altun Ha. When you need a break from all the activity, check into lavish accommodations like the Naïa Resort and Spa in Placencia, a 200-acre reserve, where you can enjoy plenty of seclusion and decadent treatments like salt-stone massages and coconut-infused sugar body scrubs.Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine
Maine is chock-full with classic New England scenes – colorful lobster shacks, lovely lighthouses and awe-inspiring loops at Acadia National Park. And Bar Harbor is no exception. When you're not getting your heart racing together on challenging trails or carriage roads at Acadia or driving along Park Loop Road's 27-mile scenic stretch weaving past popular attractions such as Otter Cliff and Sand Beach, unwind at a charming bed-and-breakfast like the Stone Throw Cottage Inn or the Yellow House Bed and Breakfast. Or consider bedding down at the historic Bar Harbor Inn, with its lovely perch on Frenchman Bay, impeccable gardens and top-notch spa with treatments such as Swedish and hot-stone massages and detoxifying body wraps.Paris
For amours craving a world-class art and architecture, enchanting views and a certain je ne sais quoi, the City of Love has it all. "You also can’t say culture and not think of Paris, this city is bursting with culture – incredible museums, architecture, cuisine and romance," Gooder says. By day, you can marvel at the city's neoclassical architecture and world-renowned art at the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay or savor a picnic at the Eiffel Tower. And after dark, you and your better half can enjoy leisurely strolls along the Seine or the striking Pont Alexandre III, with its ambient gaslamp-lit streets and twinkling lights, which provided the cinematic backdrop for the 2011 film "Midnight in Paris."Napa Valley, California
Napa Valley, California
It's not hard to find a reason to plan a grape escape in Northern California's wine country. With a mix of Michelin-starred restaurants, top-tier hotels and sublime vineyards, Napa offers an easy escape – no passport required. Crank up the romance factor at Auberge du Soleil, which offers wood-burning fireplaces, vineyard vistas and a spa with treatments such as Himalayan salt stone massages. Plus, check out a couples retreat package like the Fireside Lovers Retreat, complete with a private soaking pool, wine and desert and head-to-toe massage. After getting pampered, oenophiles can enjoy leisurely tastings at one of the area's more than 500 wineries.Buenos Aires
Romance is in the air in Buenos Aires. The Belle Époche buildings, wide boulevards and stylish neighborhoods give it a mix of old-world splendor and cosmopolitan charm. Catching street-side tango sessions, visiting prized sites like the Colón Theater and checking out underrated gems like Palermo Woods Rose Garden Walk are must-dos. But don't forget to take breaks from exploring the city's vibrant art-driven districts to savor a cafecito (espresso) and chocolate-dipped churros at a café, or save time for boutique-shopping and operat-watching. After painting the town, retreat to a lovely, modern retreat like Alvear Art hotel, which boasts a swimming pool, striking city views and impressive contemporary art collections.Atacama Desert, Chile
Atacama Desert, Chile
"We adore the Atacama Desert," Howard says, citing the area's surreal desert landscapes – dotted with rolling dunes and salt lakes – and extraordinary stargazing opportunities as top draws for planning a trip. Thrill-seekers can enjoy hiking and horseback riding, plus nearby towns and villages are lively, she adds. At Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, a boutique hotel in San Pedro de Atacama, you can arrange for expert-led excursions to nearby rock formations, salt flats and geysers. Meanwhile, adventure travel outfitter Explore Atacama in the Andes Highlands, offers guided horseback riding, hiking and cycling expeditions, along with access to the property's observatory – a major selling point for astronomy lovers.Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara, California
A quick 90-mile drive from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara offers a convenient weekend getaway for couples in search of a sunny locale with pleasant temperatures, sophisticated restaurants, high-end hotels and mix of striking coastlines and architectural gems. "If you're on the West Coast, a drive up the [Pacific Coast Highway] is amazing; you can make a several-day trip out of it and stop everywhere from Santa Barbara to Big Sur," Gooder says. After gallery hopping and boutique strolling along State Street or lounging along Butterfly Beach's sun-kissed sands, check into one of the area's beautiful hotels such as San Ysidro Ranch or the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.Savannah, Georgia
For a dose of Southern charm, look no further than Savannah, with is moss-covered parks, antebellum architecture and enchanting city squares filled with azaleas, oak trees and inviting benches. Delight in indulgent staples like buttery biscuits, saltwater taffies and sweet tea. Or check out cutting-edge restaurants like The Collins Quarter, where you can order everything from brioche French toast to ahi poke tacos to homemade buttermilk biscuits. Brush up on history with a romantic stroll through Forsyth Park, before nabbing a few souvenirs at City Market, grabbing a cocktail at The Wyld Dock Bar or settling into high-end accommodations at the Mansion on Forsyth Park.Sedona, Arizona
It's no secret that Sedona, with its famous crimson rock formations, top-notch spas and spellbinding desert scenery is a dream for wellness-seekers. Explore one of the area's hundreds of hiking trails or soak in your surroundings on a jeep tour before checking out the Verde Valley Wine Trail or the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village for handmade jewelry and Southwestern-inspired wares. After getting your adventure fix, check into Mii Amo, a boutique hideaway near the Coconino National Forest that offers easy access to Sedona's wild trails and indulgent spa experiences (think: prickly pear butter wraps and shiatsu massages), plus a changing rotation of workshops and classes, from watercolor lessons to meditation lectures.St. Vincent and the Grenadines
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
An underrated gem in the Caribbean, St. Vincent's cluster of 32 isles entices visitors with its secluded thatched-roof accommodations, unspoiled coral reefs, breezy palms and powdery sands. If you're looking for a digital detox in a tropical destination, St. Vincent's remote location offers an ideal setting. "Petit St. Vincent is a small island near Barbados with 22 cottages you can stay at with no Wi-Fi, no phones and incredible service. It’s the perfect way to disconnect and unwind," Gooder says. It's hard to imagine a dreamier setting, with Petit St. Vincent's Balinese-inspired treatments at the Hillside spa, secluded white-sand beaches and alfresco meals amid swaying palms at the Beach Restaurant. Plus, the property offers plenty of activities, from water sports to diving expeditions.Morocco
"We're seeing Morocco trending as a romantic travel destination right now," Gooder says. "It has such a rich culture, diverse landscape, incredible food and will look amazing in your Instagrams – camel ride anyone?" she adds. Across Marrakech, you can take in vibrant souks, desert scenery, striking architecture and enchanting alleyways brimming with spices and silks in the Medina. When you need a break from the city's bustling streets, step inside La Mamounia, to admire the hotel's ornate textiles, opulent rugs and palm-fringed gardens. Other must-do experiences include relaxing in the Majorelle Garden in New Town and visiting the instantly recognizable Djemaa el Fna Moorish mosque.St. Lucia
Gazing over St. Lucia's majestic Pitons Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, Jade Mountain and its sister hotel, Anse Chastanet Resort, offer sublime vistas. The rooms – dubbed as "sanctuaries" – boast only three walls to allot for spectacular sea and mountain views, along with private plunge pools, 15-foot ceilings and versatile activities and packages geared toward couples, from snorkeling and scuba diving expeditions to coastal kayaking to sunset cruises on a private yacht. If you're craving more active, adrenaline-pumping adventures, climb Mount Soufrière, head up the epic Pitons or hike through the 44-acre Pigeon Island National Park. When you're ready to recharge, enjoy sunbathing along Reduit Beach or savor a cocktail and admire the graceful sailboats at Marigot Bay.Maui, Hawaii
Windswept palms, multicolored beaches, cascading waterfalls and spellbinding cliffs – Maui enchants visitors with its natural scenery. When you're not soaking in your surroundings on the legendary Road to Hana, skimming the waves at Hookipa Beach or getting your adrenaline-pumping as you traipse the dormant Haleakala volcano, you can get rejuvenated with decadent meals and spa treatments at the Hotel Wailea. The high-end property is practically tailor-made for couples, with its deep soaking tubs for two, private lanais, in-suite massages and prepared picnics along Wailea Beach. For more off-the-beaten-track adventurous pursuits, explore rugged black sands and tucked-away cliff-side caves in Waianapanapa State Park or take a leisurely stroll and pack a picnic in Banyan Tree Park.Woodstock, Vermont
If your idea of the perfect romantic escape includes plenty of storybook New England charm, set your sights on the lovely village of Woodstock. Here you and your better half can stroll hand in hand past beautiful covered bridges, admire Victorian-era buildings and lovely steepled churches and warm up by roaring fireplaces with a hot cocoa at the Woodstock Inn & Resort. Aside from offering high-end accommodations with wood-burning fireplaces, Woodstock also entices visitors with its lovely Green Mountains and countryside landscapes, along with its art galleries, antique shops, boutiques and access to snow-capped slopes in nearby Killington. Cap off your trip by stocking up on maple syrup from Sugarbush Farm or FH Gillingham & Sons country store.Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
"South Africa has everything: wine country, beaches, epic photo opportunities and safari," Gooder says. Howard also highlights South Africa as a "phenomenal romantic destination," highlighting Cape Town's dramatic city coastlines, dynamic art scene and easy access to awe-inspiring landscapes as well worth the pilgrimage. Howard recommends basing yourself in Cape Town, and carving out time to see African penguins on Boulders Beach, driving to the breathtaking Cape of Good Hope and taking breaks from climbing Table Mountain and sunbathing at Clifton Beach to enjoy wine in nearby Stellenbosch. Best of all, you can enjoy a mix of history, culture and nature all in a weeklong trip, she adds.Cotswolds, England
For a dose of English countryside charm, embrace the bucolic landscapes, medieval villages and enchanting cottages of the Cotswolds. Most visitors set their sights on popular Chipping Norton and Chipping Campden, but the tucked-away No. 38 The Park, situated in Cheltenham in a Georgian townhouse, offers a calm oasis with its freestanding bathtubs, laid-back dining at the adjacent No. 131 and easy access to Suffolk and Montpellier. Another traditional yet luxurious retreat is the Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, which boasts well-appointed rooms, activities such as cycling and horseback riding and a variety of dining options, from the rustic Main Barn, with a log fire and plush couches, to the Pen Yen, a Japanese grill.Read More
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