LOVE IS IN THE AIR
You could stay in this Valentine's Day, but in a nation packed with romantic locations begging to be explored, why would you? Getting away from it all is 10 times better when you're doing it with that special someone, and you don't need to go far: There are places bound to impress across the U.S. Here are our favorites in every state.
ALABAMA: VULCAN PARK
Vulcan Park is the place to go for a bird's eye view of Birmingham, but the Vulcan statue that gives the park its name is pretty impressive in its own right: 56 feet tall and the world's largest made of cast iron. Still, you're here for the romance — there are plenty of quiet spots for a picnic — and couples can easily get hitched here on Valentine's Day.
ALASKA: MENDENHALL GLACIER
Mendenhall is one of Alaska's most accessible glaciers, just a short drive from the capital, Juneau. There are plenty of trails to explore, but the most romantic way to see the glacier is by getting out on it with a tour company. If conditions allow, you may even get a chance to see the glacier's otherworldly blue ice caves.
ARIZONA: YAKI POINT
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon's stunning beauty is an undeniable hit with tourists, making it hard to find a quieter spot to share a scenic view with your sweetie. One overlook worth trying is Yaki Point, along the canyon's less-traveled East Rim Drive. Anyone who wants to take in the beauty of the buttes and mesas here has to park and take a short hike or hop on a shuttle bus. The Grand Canyon is among America's most gorgeous spots for hiking.
ARKANSAS: THORNCROWN CHAPEL
Thorncrown Chapel has 425 windows and 6,000 feet of glass that let the surrounding Ozark wilderness take center stage. Its soaring beams and distinctive silhouette make it an especially popular and evocative spot for weddings, but the chapel is also open to visitors most days March through December.
CALIFORNIA: URBAN LIGHT, LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART
Leave behind the traffic on Wilshire Boulevard with a nighttime stroll through Urban Light, an installation at the front entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Made up of 202 vintage cast-iron street lamps, this free attraction was opened in 2008 and has become a favorite location for couples looking for unique spots for engagement or wedding photos.
COLORADO: RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATER
Taking in a concert always makes for a great date, but when you're surrounded by stunning red rock formations at one of the country's most iconic music venues, it makes your night out that much more dazzling. Naturally formed Red Rocks Amphitheater has hosted Sting, the Beatles, U2, and more top-drawer acts in an atmosphere unlike any other. Fancy a walk before your show? There are 738 scenic acres to explore.
CONNECTICUT: LOVER'S LEAP STATE PARK
What couple can resist a park named Lover's Leap? Take a hike through Connecticut's oak forests and drink in the views of the Lover's Leap gorge, steeped in Native American lore. Don't miss strolling across the postcard-perfect red iron bridge, built in 1895. It offers more gorgeous views of the Housatonic Valley.
DELAWARE: NEMOURS MANSION AND GARDENS
Built by Alfred DuPont, the French-style Nemours Mansion is an elegant place to spend a romantic afternoon. The high point might be a stroll down the mansion's "long walk" to an impressive reflecting pool with a 157-jet fountain framed by art nouveau sculptures. Of course, visitors also can't miss the Temple of Love, a classic temple with a statue of Diana the Huntress.
FLORIDA: LOVE TREES
St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, is romantic enough on its own — just walk around its gorgeous historic district any time of day. But you can do one better by hunting for the city's famous love trees — that is, two trees that have become intertwined through the years. Legend even has it that lovers who kiss beneath a love tree will be inseparable ever after.
GEORGIA: FORSYTH PARK
It's hard to find a spot in historic Savannah that doesn't pulse with romance, but 30-acre Forsyth Park with its massive oaks and dripping Spanish moss is a must for any getaway. Don't miss the park's iconic fountain, one of Savannah's most-photographed spots, erected in 1858. Other highlights include the Fragrant Garden, a delight for the nose as well as the eyes.
HAWAII: MAKENA COVE
Makena Beach State Park
A favorite for intimate sunset weddings, Makena Cove in Makena Beach State Park is also known as the "secret beach" because it's tucked away in a residential neighborhood. Enjoy the lava rocks, white sand, and turquoise water. It may sound exotic, but with proper planning, visiting Hawaii needn't be budget-breaking.
IDAHO: SHOSHONE FALLS
Can't resist the romance of an impressive waterfall view? There's no need to head to tourist-packed Niagara. Twin Falls' Shoshone Falls are even taller than their more famous counterpart back east. Venture along the Snake River Canyon Rim Trail for spectacular views or grab a kayak with your sweetie and paddle on the river below.
ILLINOIS: NAVY PIER
>Iconic Navy Pier has all the makings of a truly great date destination: Great eats, classic amusement rides and games, movies and live shows, and great people-watching. Top it all off by sharing a quiet moment and drinking in the stunning views of Chicago's iconic skyline with a ride on the Centennial Wheel.
INDIANA: WEST BADEN SPRINGS HOTEL
The soaring domed atrium of the West Baden Springs Hotel is impressive indeed, and more so at night when it turns vivid colors thanks to a massive network of lights. Indulge in the Old World romance at this National Historic Landmark with afternoon tea, a couple's massage, or a carriage ride.
IOWA: ROSEMAN COVERED BRIDGE
This picturesque bridge has a starring role in the Clint Eastwood/Meryl Streep classic "The Bridges of Madison County," making it hard to argue with its romantic potential. Built in 1883, the bridge is still in its original Winterset location spanning the Middle River. It's open only to foot traffic, making it easy to steal a smooch here.
KANSAS: BOULEVARD DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Turn back the clock and indulge in a little bit of retro romance at the Boulevard Drive-In. From April to September, take that someone special to see a drive-in flick much like you would have in the 1950s. Don't miss the marquee, box office, and snack bar, which are all largely original. And don't worry about picture quality: This is the world's first 4K high-definition drive-in, which is something that other top drive-ins can't say.
KENTUCKY: NATURAL BRIDGE STATE PARK
The vistas at Natural Bridge State Park in eastern Kentucky are a show-stopper any time of year. Traipse across the famous sandstone Natural Bridge itself or take in the views from Lookout Point or the appropriately named Lover's Leap. Not a hiker? You can still get a taste of the park's beauty by ascending to the overlooks on a Sky Lift that's open April through October.
LOUISIANA: CAFÉ AMELIE
In New Orleans, there's no shortage of romance or fun and affordable things to enjoy. But if you want to share a quiet meal in a gorgeous courtyard with a private feel, head to Café Amelie in the French Quarter. The fountain, flowers, and brick buildings provide ambience in spades. Don't worry if you can't snag an outdoor table — the rustic, historic carriage-house interior is equally atmospheric.
MAINE: CADILLAC MOUNTAIN
Acadia National Park
How's this for romance: Head to the top of Acadia National Park's Cadillac Mountain from roughly October to March, and you can be among the first people in America to see the sun rise. The highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard, the mountain's summit is easy to reach via paved roads from charming Bar Harbor below. Not a morning person? Sunsets are equally breathtaking.
MARYLAND: CITY DOCK
The heart of charming Annapolis is City Dock. It's the perfect place to pause after meandering down Main Street, which is lined with galleries, shops and pubs. Gaze out at picturesque sailboat-filled Annapolis Harbor, dine at a waterfront restaurant, or get out on the water for a tour of the Chesapeake Bay.
MASSACHUSETTS: BOSTON PUBLIC GARDEN
By famous Boston Common, America's first public botanical garden is as flowery and gorgeous as ever. There are numerous statues and sculptures to spy on a summertime stroll, but the highlight for any couple has to be a ride on the iconic swan boats, which float effortlessly across the park's lagoon.
MICHIGAN: GRAND HOTEL
It's mandatory to slow down and savor the little things on Mackinac Island — after all, no cars are allowed. Explore on foot, bike or even horse to discover quaint shops, restaurants, and the island's famous fudge. For true romantic elegance, take a load off in one of the rocking chairs lining the Grand Hotel's porch, the world's longest, or splurge on dinner in the hotel's main dining room.
MINNESOTA: STONE ARCH BRIDGE
It's hard to beat the views from the arches of this car-free span over the Mississippi River, part of a larger heritage trail. Made of granite and limestone, it used to be a railroad bridge and now offers a gorgeous panorama of the Minneapolis skyline and St. Anthony Falls. It's also a very popular Twin Cities proposal spot.
MISSISSIPPI: MONMOUTH HISTORIC INN AND GARDENS
This antebellum mansion and its 26 acres of lovingly kept gardens and grounds are a time warp in the best way. A National Historic Landmark, Monmouth was built in 1818 and is now a popular spot for couples to wed. It's also just minutes from historic downtown Natchez and its carriage tours, galleries, antique shops, restaurants, and historic homes.
MISSOURI: HA HA TONKA CASTLE RUINS
Exploring Ha Ha Tonka might make you feel like you're in Europe instead of Missouri. These atmospheric castle-like mansion ruins sit on a bluff high above a far-flung arm of the Lake of the Ozarks. The dream of a wealthy businessman, the mansion was only completed in 1920, years after his death. It was destroyed by a fire in 1942.
MONTANA: LAKE MCDONALD
Glacier National Park
Gaze across Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald with your sweetie for an almost impossibly picturesque vista. In warmer months, the area is perfect for a short hike, or you can relax with a scenic cruise or paddle boat. In the evening, head to Swiss chalet-style Lake McDonald Lodge for loads of rustic romance.
NEBRASKA: SUNKEN GARDENS
Small but mighty, Lincoln's Sunken Gardens reinvent themselves year after year according to a new theme (in 2017, it was "Purple Reign," followed by "Sun Salutations"). A gorgeous pavilion provides a spot for quiet reflection or a dazzling garden wedding. Other highlights include a waterfall, lily ponds, a white-bloom Healing Garden, and plenty of lawn space for a picnic.
NEVADA: BELLAGIO HOTEL
Take a moment to pause at the Bellagio for a sumptuous break from Las Vegas' garish neon lights. There's a choreographed show from the resort's famous fountains every 15 to 30 minutes most afternoons and evenings — it makes for a dazzling scene for a proposal. Inside, the hotel's conservatory and botanical garden is also worth a look. They're among the many free and cheap things to do in Sin City.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: ICE CASTLE
What could be more magical than a winter walk through an ice castle? Made of ice walls 10 feet thick, Lincoln's ice castle is even more beautiful at night, when colorful LED lights make it look like something out of a fairy tale. Turn up the heat by going on a Friday or Saturday night, when the ice castle hosts a fire performance. Go while winter is still frigid, as this is a weather-dependent attraction.
NEW JERSEY: DUKE FARMS
Stretching well over 2,000 acres and encompassing more than nine man-made lakes, Duke Farms opened to the public in 2012 and has plenty of room for couples to steal some quiet moments. Don't miss the Orchid Range, a glass conservatory that features a wide variety of tropical and subtropical orchid species, and the statue-lined stone ruins of the hay barn.
NEW MEXICO: SANDIA PEAK TRAMWAY
A breathtaking ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway takes 15 minutes and spans 2.7 miles of desert canyons and mountains. You'll be whisked to an observation deck atop 10,378-foot Sandia Peak for stunning views of the Rio Grande Valley. Go at sunset for the most dramatic landscapes. Temperatures will drop as you ascend, so there's plenty of justification for cuddling at the top.
NEW YORK: FORT TRYON PARK
New York City
Sure, Central Park is full of romance, but it's also full of tourists. To steal some more private moments with your one and only, head to Fort Tryon Park in far Upper Manhattan. Perched above the Hudson River, the park offers gorgeous views and abundant flowers throughout the year. It's also where you'll find the Met Cloisters, home of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval collection, with its elegant stone arches and leafy courtyard.
NORTH CAROLINA: BILTMORE ESTATE GARDENS
Asheville's opulent, immaculate gardens of the Biltmore Estate, the nation's largest privately owned residence, are an amazing place for a romantic walk, a proposal, or a swoon-worthy wedding. Highlights include an azalea garden, classical Italian garden, formal walled garden, glass-roofed conservatory, and a rose garden with more than 250 varieties of blooms.
NORTH DAKOTA: MAAH DAAH HEY TRAIL
There's no better place for couples to experience the wind-swept beauty of North Dakota than the 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail. It's open to biking, hiking, horseback riding and other non-motorized uses, and connects the two main areas of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If you're truly outdoorsy, you can camp along at one of nine campgrounds along the trail.
OHIO: SCHILLER PARK
Schiller Park is the beating heart of Columbus' historic German Village neighborhood, where gas lamps, quaint shops, and brick sidewalks make anyone feel like they stepped back in time. Lush gardens, sculptures, and a glistening pond make a stroll in the park a great way to cap off an evening at one of the neighborhood's intimate restaurants.
OKLAHOMA: NATURAL FALLS STATE PARK
This 77-foot waterfall near the Arkansas in Oklahoma's small slice of the Ozarks has a fairy-tale-like quality, cascading into a well-hidden pool. Some of the 1974 classic "Where the Red Fern Grows" was filmed here in Colcord. There are two observation platforms for the falls and more hiking trails for couples who want to spend an afternoon in the woods.
OREGON: PORTLAND JAPANESE GARDEN
One of the best botanical gardens in the country, this lush Portland attraction is the closest you'll get to a traditional Japanese garden without flying to Tokyo, and it's perfect for a romantic, contemplative stroll any time of year. Highlights include the iconic Moon Bridge, gorgeous Heavenly Falls, an authentic tea house, and views of Mount Hood on clear days.
PENNSYLVANIA: SMITH MEMORIAL ARCH
This elegant pair of arches in massive, lush Fairmount Park has a quirky secret. The stone seats at the base of each pillar in this lofty Civil War monument are known as "whispering benches." Despite the great distance (and path) between them, your sweetheart can whisper sweet nothings into the curved wall of one bench, and you'll hear them sitting on the other bench.
RHODE ISLAND: CLIFF WALK
Beloved by locals and visitors alike and designated a National Recreation Trail, the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk offers sweeping views of the sea and Newport's most opulent Gilded Age mansions. You'll spot The Breakers, summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt, as well as Rosecliff Mansion, where parts of the 1974 adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" were filmed. For a romantic overnight stay, splurge on the Chanler at Cliff Walk, named the "Most Romantic Hotel in America" by Conde Nast Traveler readers.
SOUTH CAROLINA: ANGEL OAK TREE
At 400 to 500 years old, the Angel Oak Tree and its massive, gnarled branches create an otherworldly aura that oozes romance. Near the equally evocative city of Charleston, this southern live oak has been through hurricanes, floods, and more — the perfect metaphor for any relationship that has stood the test of time.
SOUTH DAKOTA: FALLS PARK
This 123-acre park is an easy walk from downtown Sioux Falls has plenty to inspire couples. There are several permanent sculptures, the ruins of an old mill, and of course the dazzling falls themselves. Don't stay away in the winter — spying the falls when they're frozen and covered in dripping icicles is even more magical, and there are hundreds of thousands of holiday LED lights from mid-November through early January.
TENNESSEE: CADES COVE
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This gorgeous valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can draw a crowd, but it's big enough for couples to steal some private moments. Highlights include rustic churches, a working gristmill, log cabins, and ample chances to spot deer, coyotes, turkeys, and even black bears. It's also the starting point for the 5-mile round-trip hike to picturesque Abrams Falls.
TEXAS: MARRIAGE ISLAND
This little heart-shaped bit of land in the San Antonio River, right in the middle of the city's famous River Walk, is pretty enough without any superstitions. But apparently legend has it that couples who marry on this tree-shaded man-made island have a much lower rate of divorce than is typical.
UTAH: LA CAILLE
To call La Caille a restaurant is an understatement: It's on 20 acres of beautiful grounds near Sandy's Little Cottonwood Canyon that just beg for an after-dinner stroll. The restaurant even has its own vineyard. The building itself also smacks of romance, with its shingled turret, creeping ivy, and heaps of colorful flowers. Unsurprisingly, it's a favorite wedding spot, too.
VERMONT: HILDENE ESTATE
This stately Georgian Revival summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln boasts formal gardens, a rustic carriage barn, 12 miles of walking trails, a one-room schoolhouse and even a small observatory. Though it should go without saying, the estate is at its most breathtaking in the fall, during Vermont's dazzling leaf-peeping season.
It doesn't get any better than the LOVEwork sculpture on the public beach in Cape Charles for couples who want a sweet spot for pictures. Adding interest is that the sculpture is made with materials that are meaningful to the community: sea glass and seashells for the "L," a tractor tire for the "O," kayaks for the "V" and crab pots for the "E."
WASHINGTON: KERRY PARK
Kerry Park, a small public park on Queen Anne Hill, offers a postcard-perfect view of Seattle's romantic skyline and one of the most beautiful vistas in the world. Drink in the twinkling city lights, iconic Space Needle, gorgeous Puget Sound, and (on a clear day) snow-capped Mount Rainier in the distance. Go at sunset for particularly breathtaking light, and linger to see the city light up.
WEST VIRGINIA: THE GREENBRIER
White Sulphur Springs
Simultaneously elegant and over the top, "America's Resort" oozes romance at every turn. The historic white-columned Springhouse is the perfect spot to steal a kiss while strolling the immaculate grounds, and couples can enjoy classic activities such as carriage rides and massages. Looking for a spectacular spot to get hitched? There's even a 500-seat chapel.
WISCONSIN: BOYNTON CHAPEL
Built in the style of a 12th century Stavkirke, or Norwegian stave church, this diminutive wooden chapel is an evocative spot for lovers and tourists of all kinds. Inside are 41 hand-painted frescoes, while outside the woods stretch for 425 acres toward Lake Michigan. The Baileys Harbor chapel frequently hosts small weddings, and there are twice-weekly tours in the summer.
WYOMING: GRANITE HOT SPRINGS
Tucked away in the Bridger-Teton National Forest is Granite Hot Springs, a thermal pool that's open for a long, lovely soak whatever the season. Couples can earn their relaxation time by hiking, snowshoeing, or even whitewater rafting in the surrounding area. Winter might be your best bet for privacy, as the road leading to the springs can only be traversed via snowmobile, dogsled, ski, or fat-tire bikes.