Expect the unexpected
It was December in Manhattan: a truly magical time to be in New York – some might say the most magical time, especially for couples.
Yet, as I walked through Rockefeller Center with a special someone, romance was the furthest thing from my mind. Throngs of people pulsing through midtown hardly put me in the mood for love. You know what was more romantic? Brooklyn!
The surprisingly appealing stay in Brooklyn (see below) made me consider other unexpected romantic destinations. Sure, Paris, Rome and Hawaii are popular for a couple’s getaway, but true adventurers don’t want the predictable.
Here are 10 other options that have the potential to take your romance to the next level.
Sure, Brooklyn has its seedy sections like any city, but the recent evolution of the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood sets just the right tone for sweeping your sweetie off his or her feet.
Hop the A (or C) train to High Street and check into a room at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, an environmentally and socially responsible property where you’ll feel like you’ve escaped the chaos of New York. Sip champagne at the rooftop bar with unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline (or in colder months, take shelter at the Lounge, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows).
Steal a few kisses strolling along the tree-lined promenade in Brooklyn Bridge Park – once an industrial swath running along the edge of the East River, but now one of the most romantic spots in the borough. You can also take a spin on Jane’s Carousel or walk hand-in-hand across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Dine under the twinkling white lights on the patio of the venerable River Cafe with vistas of lower Manhattan, Freedom Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge, or for a more casual but iconic taste of Brooklyn, grab a coal-fired pie (pizza, that is) at Grimaldi's, a Brooklyn institution for more than 25 years.
The beaches of Bali are spectacular, but don’t rule out the cultural gem of Ubud, in central Bali, for an amorous adventure. Although a bit frantic at first glance, dig deeper and you’ll find love at the heart of the city and its people. It is, after all, where Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love in her autobiography Eat, Pray, Love – so why shouldn’t you?
For the ultimate couple hideaway, book one of the 25 luxurious villas perched over the tropical Valley of the Kings at the family-owned Viceroy Bali, only five minutes outside the city center. Each Balinese-styled villa includes all the modern western luxuries and private pool.
Days can be spent hiking the rice fields or perusing the endless galleries in town. For the ultimate bonding experience, trek the sacred Mount Batur (an active volcano) at sunrise or make reservations with Bali Swing to soar over the lush forests on a suspended wooden swing.
Let’s be honest – where there’s money, there’s luxury. And the tech-focused region of Northern California’s Silicon Valley has plenty of that. So, if you want a luxury escape, The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, about an hour west of San Jose, is a good place to drop some cash.
Hike the California Coastal Trail, lounge by the fire pit, or listen to the Scottish bagpiper serenade you at sunset along the rugged and rocky Pacific coastline. Further inland, opt for a stay at Rosewood CordeValle, a sweeping golf resort (and spa!) in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In Saratoga, Silicon Valley’s secret wine region, the Michelin-starred Plumed Horse restaurant will impress your beloved, especially if you book a table in the private Champagne Room where you can canoodle with your cutie without worrying about PDA.
This whimsical fairy tale town, not far from the border of Austria, is a UNESCO World Heritage site with an unforgettable castle built on the promontory alongside the Vltava River. Despite the (very) cold winter climate, the season is perhaps the best time to visit this Bohemian gem, when the cobblestone streets are quieter and the city’s beauty most pure.
Spend your days wandering through the castle and ascend to the top of the picturesque Gothic bell tower to steal a kiss and a few panoramic selfies. Discover the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, a museum dedicated to one-time resident and Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, protege of Gustav Klimt.
On warmer days, you can also rent a canoe to view Cesky Krumlov’s enchanting old-world charm from the water.
Whether in the dark coziness of winter, or in the summer of the midnight sun, exploring the ancient streets of Stockholm could be enough to make anyone fall in love. The city is a collection of islands and Gamla stan (the old town), with its maze of cobblestone streets, is by far the most romantic (albeit touristy).
Pamper yourselves with dinner at Le Rouge located at Brunnsgränd 2-4, an address associated with food for centuries. Originally a fish market hall during the Middle Ages, it then served as a potato storage house in the 18th century and wine house in the 19th century. Today it’s a red-draped, Moulin Rouge-inspired restaurant serving Swedish and international cuisine.
During the day, traipse along the "Love Trail" on the island of Djurgarden (the trail was a wedding gift for Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel), then soak up the Swedish café culture with traditional pastries by the fire (or on the terrace) at Flickorna Helin & Voltaire.
And don’t miss a boat trip on the archipelago with nearly 30,000 islands and islets, each with its own character.
For an international escape that doesn’t require a jump over the pond, head south of the border to the tip of Baja California (yes, that’s in Mexico) and get an ocean-view room at the stunning Esperanza, an Auberge Resort.
Book an outdoor table on the rocky edge of the Sea of Cortez at the resort’s Cocina del Mar or let the staff customize a once-in-a-lifetime meal served at your private table on the beach. For a bite in San Jose del Cabo, check out La Revolucion, particularly well-known for their signature cocktails (think Mezcal).
Days in Cabo can be spent whale watching (January and March) and horseback riding – or even camel riding on the sandy beaches. There are a multitude of exceptional spas to enjoy, including Esperanza’s and the SE Spa by Grand Velas. And a sunset sail to the iconic El Arco is a must.
Few people know that the bones of St. Valentine are buried in Ireland, and the Emerald Isle is home to some of history’s great love stories. Whether roaming along the dramatic cliffs of the Wild Atlantic Way, indulging in cozy dinners, or listening to sappy ballads in an Irish pub, Ireland is sure to push any couple towards love.
Head directly to the small towns along Ireland’s western edge, like sleepy Connemara in the north. On the outskirts of town, you’ll find the breathtaking Kylemore Abbey, which financier Mitchell Henry built for his bride Margaret Vaughan in the late 1800s.
Or head south to Doolin in County Clare, with its brightly-colored buildings, where you can set off hand-in-hand along the stunning five-mile cliff walk to the Cliffs of Moher.
If city life is more your vibe, make a beeline for historic Galway. It was here that the traditional Irish wedding band, the Claddagh ring, originated. Book a room at the contemporary G Hotel and make a reservation for dinner at the critically-acclaimed Kai Cafe & Restaurant on Sea Road.
While winter sports may draw most visitors, the cowboy culture and laid-back lifestyle of intimate Jackson Hole keeps lovers and wanna-be lovers coming back to this mountain treasure. In winter, spend your days snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park, or in warmer months, paragliding over the Teton and Snake River Mountain Ranges.
Cuddle up next to the in-room fireplace at the rustic but luxurious Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole after your daily outings.
And book some time at the hotel’s spa for the Apres Ski or Apres Hike Rituals for couples. After sipping champagne together, your treatment will take place in the couple’s suite, next to a roaring fire.
For an island weekender in the west, a short 15-minute helicopter ride (or an hour by ferry) will get you to Santa Catalina Island, just 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.
The island is reminiscent of a seaside Mediterranean village and the historic, six-room Mt. Ada was once home to the Wrigley family, who owned most of the island for many years. It sits atop the island’s highest point, offering sweeping views of the island and the Pacific.
Book the Twilight at the Casino Tour, which allows you to explore the historic circular ballroom and theater built by Wrigley in 1929, once the destination of choice for Hollywood heavyweights.
You can also go zip lining or bond while pushing your limits at the new Catalina Island Adventure, which includes a ropes course and climbing wall. Or just chill out at the newly-established Harbor Sands Beach in Two Harbors.
Much to the chagrin of some, travelers are discovering Croatia’s beautiful Istrian Peninsula along the Adriatic coast. The region, like Italy’s Tuscany, is one of rolling hills that lead to magical coastal fishing villages, and it will make you feel like you're a million miles from home (unless you live in a magical coastal fishing village).
The seaside town of Rovinj, with its old houses and winding streets and alleys, will have you wondering if you’re actually falling in love in Italy, which is – in fact – just across the Adriatic Sea. Lounge seaside and dine on freshly-caught seafood or book a cycling tour to explore the area.
In Motovun, one of the more popular and gasp-worthy hill towns, you and your sweetie can indulge in truffles and wine tasting, or push your limits by paragliding over the dramatic landscapes of the region.