We found places perfect for sharing-just in time for Valentine's Day.
1. Naples, Florida
The perfect retreat for two would feature balmy SouthwestFlorida weather, spectacular sunsets, beaches of feather-soft whitesand, and warm waters ideal for swimming. It would allow a choiceof activities-filled beachfront resorts or intimate inns. It wouldprovide a sophisticated arts scene and secluded places to connectwith nature. It would gather galleries, shops, sidewalk cafés,wine bars, and jazz clubs together in a lively, easily walkabledowntown. Yes, this dreamy place really does exist; 800/688-3600 orparadisecoast.com.
2. New York, New York
Of course you must skate arm-in-arm at Rockefeller Center,snuggle under a blanket while riding in a horse-drawn carriagethrough Central Park, and gasp at the views from the 86th-floorobservatory of the Empire State Building. Clichés? Sure. Butthey'll still warm even the most jaded cynic's heart. So will thesight of lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade, the free tripacross New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry, and theoverlooks from high above the East River on the Roosevelt IslandTram. For a coastal interlude, try drinks at the 14th-floor,waterfront Rise bar in The Ritz-Carlton hotel at Battery Park;212/484-1200 or nycvisit.com.
Tropicality mixes with civilized formality (courtesy of 340years of British rule), giving this Caribbean island a delightfulsense of occasion. One dresses for dinner here. One pauses forafternoon tea. And Bajans (rhymes with Cajuns), though quitefriendly, wouldn't dream of intruding on visitors' privacy. Beachessuit every taste―wild Atlantic waves on the east coast,placid Caribbean ripples on the west, and everything in between onthe southern shore; 800/221-9831 or www.visitbarbados.org.
4. Sausalito, California
This compact, eccentric town just across the Golden GateBridge from San Francisco begs to be explored. Its twisty streetsharbor everything from art galleries to dive bars. Chic open-aircafés offer great food and better people-watching. BecauseSausalito clings to a hillside, almost any place in town deliversone of the most romantic sights in the world: the San Franciscoskyline; 415/331-7262 or sausalito.org.
5. Niagara Falls, Ontario
Why wintertime? Because spray from the falls coats rocks,trees, buildings, and the occasional slow-moving tourist with ice,turning the town into a glittering fantasyland. Why the Canadianand not the New York side? Because you get better views of thefalls and more lodging and dining choices. Why "ice wine" onrestaurant menus? Because this dessert wine, a specialty of theregion, practically explodes with flavor―be sure to sip, notgulp. Why Niagara Falls in the first place? Because its beautyreally will take your breath away; 800/263-2988 or tourismniagara.com.
6. Fairhope, Alabama
This charming village nestles on the eastern shore of MobileBay like an idealized, movie-set small town. Blossoms burst fromplanters and flower boxes along every block of the tree-shadeddowntown. Wrought-iron balconies lend a bit of New Orleansflavor―appropriate for a community that celebrates Mardi Graswith a half-dozen parades spread over more than two weeks. Couplescould spend days contentedly browsing the boutiques, art galleries,antiques shops, parks, and, most deliciously, the restaurants.Day's end brings a beautiful bonus: sunset over the bay;251/928-2136 or cofairhope.com.
7. Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach encapsulates everything that makes the PacificNorthwest such an enticing escape. Rugged mountains, 9 miles ofbeach, and the 235-foot offshore monolith known as Haystack Rockprovide awe-inspiring natural beauty. Lovers of the outdoors canhike the nearby state park forests or just fly kites on the shore.The town itself, with its wooden sidewalks and cedar-shingledbuildings, has become a haven for artists and craftspeople.Boutiques, bookstores, gourmet food shops, and some excellentrestaurants cater to those creative types and the visitors theyattract; 503/436-2623 or el.com/to/cannonbeach.
8. St. Michaels, Maryland
Some say that tourist hordes have ruined this quaint enclaveon Maryland's Eastern Shore. We disagree. Centuries of extractingsustenance and profit from the Chesapeake Bay have left ahardworking heritage that resists gentrification. After checkingout the chic shops and pricey antiques on Talbot Street, explorethe narrow side streets. Soak up the history. Enjoy theidiosyncratic jumble of architecture. The old-time watermen whoonce worked (and roistered) here might look askance at today's spasand posh lodgings. But they would certainly appreciate thestill-plentiful views of their beloved bay―and the crabcakes; 800/808-7622 or stmichaelsmd.org.
9. La Jolla, California
Even the name of this Mediterranean-feel beach town justnorth of San Diego promises romance. La Jolla (pronounced "laHOY-uh") in Spanish means "the jewel." This particular gem offersseveral glittering facets: exclusive shopping, lavish dining, lotsof arts and cultural attractions, and a sumptuous stretch of beach.The hilly terrain provides plenty of vantage points for enjoyingthe view. The water also invites surfing, swimming, or snorkelingto view the abundant marine life; 858/454-1444 or lajolla.com.
10. Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks offers the most elementally "out there"experience of any bridge-accessible U.S. destination. Standing on athin ribbon of sand, with the mainland out of sight over thewestern horizon and burly Atlantic Ocean waves thundering in fromthe east, you truly feel untethered from your everyday world. Suchtowns as Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills offer plentyof tourist pleasures. But it's also easy to sneak away and findyour own private stretch of beach, with vivid stars overhead,moonlight-silvered surf at your feet, the sea breeze tousling yourhair―and magic ready to happen; 877/629-4386 or outerbanks.org.
published January/February 2007