Valentine’s Day isn’t like Christmas. The usual preparation for this day doesn’t stray far from a well-timed phone call to a preferable restaurant, an order of flowers, a movie and a bottle of wine. It’s the kind of day you forget happens, until it happens. Most years, the generic obligation of it sucks all the feeling out – but let’s pretend that there could be more, for a second. Let’s take out the protocol and truly believe that perhaps there should be a day to pay our respects to romance. Let that day be a recognition that in every other day in our monotonous lives, there is one partner by our side, and, hell, let’s take that one arbitrarily assigned day and honor just how great this person and how genuinely cool it is to look into their eyes and find that unique and familiar comfort. So let’s give it more than a day. Let’s give it a weekend. Let’s remove ourselves from monotonous everyday life for just that weekend. Here are the best places to get away for the Valentine’s holiday.
The ideal Southern getaway lies in the historic streets of friendly downtown Savannah. The always mild-to-hot weather and charming antebellum architecture, green parks bursting with oak and Spanish moss, scattered public squares, local art galleries and independent boutiques add to the perfectly romantic atmosphere. With no shortage of homey Southern-style bed and breakfasts (check out the historic Azalea Inn, a gorgeous white colonial building decked out with a hidden garden pool) and festive attractions such as riverboat cruises, trolley tours, house museums (see Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home!), there’s always something to do in Savannah. Even the pristine coastline and surrounding parks provide ample opportunities to reconnect with nature. For a romantic meal, don’t settle for less than The Olde Pink House, a popular restaurant serving new southern cuisine out of Savannah’s only 18th-century mansion.
Lively and filled with the sweet sounds of classic Dixieland jazz, New Orleans is a place that the genteel southern belle and gent go to get a little tousled up. Their Créole culinary style is internationally renowned and entirely their own, the music is swingin’, the architecture diverse with styles from French and Spanish colonial to Victorian, and through it all, the party is always hopping. Visitors are recommended to plant themselves directly in the thick of it – the French Quarter, the oldest area in the city, is lined with historic restaurants, music clubs, museums, bars and boutiques. Stroll the New Orleans Jazz Park on N. Peters Street on a weekend and see if a band is playing, or for a more festive approach, bring a plastic bottle of bourbon and head on over to the historic Preservation Hall to hear real Dixieland Jazz played by musicians that actually remember the old days. Visitors who want a taste of upscale New Orleans should think about venturing outside of the French Quarter over to the Garden District for a meal at the 134-year-old Commander’s Palace, recent winner of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award and whose chef Tory McPhail picked up the 2013 James Beard Award for "Best Chef in the South."
Lovers of long walks, mild Californian climate, a bustling nightlife and curious oddities really love San Francisco. Once upon a time, there was gold in them hills, but even centuries later, people from all over are drawn to the still-Golden City to bathe in the brilliant sunshine, stroll around the public parks, indulge in their diverse restaurants and generally chill out. In the ‘60s, San Francisco was a hub of alternative culture and lost souls, but over the past half century, the city has combined its bohemian history and Gen X-led economical empowerment and twisted it into a truly world-class city for everyone else. There are cool neighborhood bruncheries, top shelf fine-dining restaurants, and lively theater and music performances and festivals almost every day of the year. Couples looking for a truly special night are encouraged to go to a restaurant that is very used to accommodating special nights – Restaurant Gary Danko, the home of the eponymous James Beard award winner for "Best Chef in California," serves classical French cuisine punched up with Mediterranean and regional American influences. If you must have caviar anywhere, have it at Gary Danko. Spending money on dinner won’t seem like a splurge if visitors spend the next day taking advantage of all the free activities San Francisco has to offer, like a day at Crissy Field, a sprawling nature conservatory replete with beaches, trails and the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the city.
Between laid-back beaches and a hopping nightlife, Miami is bursting with all kinds of art – the perfect solution to chasing away those winter blues and having a truly memorable V-Day. It pretty much has everything: culture, sunny and diverse neighborhoods, perfect weather, great restaurants both local and celebrity, wild bars, cool bars, local bars, ethnic bars, exotic wildlife, sumptuous hotels, and miles upon miles and more miles of scenic coastline. Miami is massive, and if you play it right, luxurious beyond belief. The Viceroy Miami in the Financial District isn’t just a hotel; it’s a Ridley Scott movie set filled with glass and color with art deco touches. Look up and see where the balconies graze the clouds, look down and find a clear turquoise infinity pool that stretches over 300 feet. Look out: a city by the water, with a picture perfect view of the Bay and the Miami River. The glamor continues its parade to the SoHo Beach House in Miami Beach, where lies the Miami outpost of Cecconi’s, a Venetian al fresco eatery decked out in palm trees wrapped in twinkly lights and lounge chairs. Dinners are divinely crafted classic Italian fare – veal ossobuco, prosciutto pizzas, Venetian-dressed carpaccio and beachy bellinis made with fine prosecco. Looking for luxury? Go to Miami, baby.
In a city with everything, travelers can live it up or they can live it down. A single day of walking is a date, depending on where the walk leads – around the trails and skating rink in Central Park or along the beautiful industrial complexes of Bushwick, Brooklyn, it’s all a beautiful meander. Food is everywhere, at any price point, and while visitors may have to splurge on accommodations, it’s a helluva worthy splurge. The Library Hotel, for example, might be the most unique hotel in the city, as well as the most conveniently situated. Located at the corner of Madison Ave. and 41st St., guests of the hotel are a block to Grand Central, a block to the New York Public LIbrary and Bryant Park, and one block to the shops on Fifth Ave. The complex itself is a gorgeous Stephen B. Jacobs designed brick building that bases its interior layout on the Dewey Decimal System – each floor represents a category of the System, including Social Sciences, Literature, Languages, History, Technology, Philosophy, etc., and the room types correspond with the Dewey Decimal numbers, for example, 800.001 is an eighth floor Deluxe room that is themed after Erotic Literature (that’s the one any V-day vacationer is going to want to inhabit during their stay in New York). Each room is decorated around the books of that theme, and the hotel has a collection of 6,000 books in total. The point is, people who get hot from literature are going to go wild in these rooms, and afterwards they can grab a nightcap on the rooftop patio at Bookmarks Lounge.