For some, romance is a lace canopy bed in a fire-lit, rustic inn; for others, it's a whirlwind day traversing a new city together, followed by four-star dining and canoodling at a legendary jazz club. Whichever setting is ideal for you, taking a weekend (preferably a long one) getaway is a great way to rekindle and reignite a romance. Here are four shamelessly romantic spots to sweep yourself—and your sweetie—off your feet.
City Getaway: Philadelphia
The Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia believes in beginning things with a flourish: Weekend guests are greeted at the front desk with champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and handmade cookies. Manager David Benton says that he wants his guests to understand that when they arrive at Rittenhouse, whatever whim they may have during their stay can be indulged.
The staff is trained to let no occasion escape their notice: If you are celebrating your anniversary, there is a cake; an engagement begets a bottle of champagne. Engagements, reunions of long lost friends, and milestone birthday celebrations have all been performed at the hotel.
Room amenities include 310-thread-count linen sheets covering king-sized beds, fuzzy slippers and robes, marble tubs, walk-in showers warmed by heat lamps, Aveda toiletries, silky-smooth area rugs imported from Portugal, and three telephones.
Post a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, and housekeeping will slide a card under telling you they're ready to turn down the room whenever you are. Turndown includes chocolates on your pillow, a breakfast menu, classical music playing on the radio, and warm robes displayed on the bed.
If you can manage to pull yourself away from this Eden, you'll find that Philadelphia has lots to offer. Spend your first day in the City of Brotherly Love at the spectacular "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibit at The Franklin Institute Science Museum (222 N. 20th Street, 215-448-1200). Tip: order tickets well in advance; the show just opened on February 3.
Philly's Old City (Front Street to 5th Street and Chestnut to Vine streets) is an amalgamation of all things artsy. There are galleries, fine food, designer and funky vintage boutiques in rehabbed 17th, 18th, and 19th century rowhouses and warehouse and factory spaces. Many of the pubs and churches along Front Street date back to colonial times.
Pop into Fork (306 Market Street, 215-625-9425), a fabulous New American bistro where you can share spoonfuls of their delectable soups (chicken, white bean, and wild mushroom bisque) then split a selection of tapas: Vietnamese shrimp ceviche, Mexican albondigas, crispy fish chips, and marinated olives. The area's home furnishing stores are to die for. Stop by Flotsam & Jetsam (149 N. 3rd Street, 215-351-9914) for some of the best lighting south of the Bowery.
Before dinner, have the concierge arrange a couple's massage at the heavenly Adolf Biecker Spa, on-premise in the hotel (or, perhaps, ask to take the massage in your room). It's also a good time to ask the concierge to arrange your transportation to tonight's dinner, located across town, just below the Philadelphia Museum Of Art.
In the short five months since its opening, 29 lovestruck gentlemen have proposed to the women of their dreams at The Water Works Restaurant and Lounge (640 Water Works Drive, 215-236-9000), a new venue deemed by many as the most romantic dining spot in Philadelphia. "[Proposing men] always ask for Table 42 in The Breezeway," says manager Vera Masi. The nook-in-demand is a cozy booth lit by candles and overlooking the Schuylkill River and Boathouse Row. "They always do it at dinner time, and always during the dessert." The perfect Valentine's Day meal? Vanilla lobster, with the signature Water Wheel of chocolates for dessert. After dinner, catch a taxi to Zanzibar Blue (200 S. Broad Street, 215-732-5200), Philly's best jazz club.
Don't miss the Sunday Brunch at Lacroix, Rittenhouse's on-premise restaurant: unlimited caviar (four types), plump shucked oysters, duck, Beef Wellington, and 75 other dishes. For the entrée portion, guests may be served tableside, or go into the kitchen and plan their meal with the chef. For dessert, there are chocolate fountain centerpieces with fruit and pretzels for dipping and liquid-nitrogen-frozen meringues of foamed coconut milk.
The Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, 215-546-9000, http://www.rittenhousehotel.com. Indulge Package: Deluxe room, hotel parking and tax, brunch for two, two spa treatments, one night, begins at $750.
Country Getaway: Lansdowne, Virginia
Just under 30 miles outside of Washington D.C.'s tumultuous Capital Beltway is an agrarian oasis that provides a respite for the overwrought commuter crowd. Lansdowne Resort is a mammoth full-service property, but don't let its scope intimidate you: Being grandiose as a hotel means that you have everything you need to pamper guests in case of, say, a paralyzing snowstorm.
Despite its epic proportions, inside Lansdowne's grand front doors is an intimate lobby with a stone fireplace and plenty of private nooks off of the open spaces. The lobby is especially tranquil in February.
If you take advantage of Lansdowne's Romance Package, you'll earn oodles of frills. It includes the room, a platter of antipasto appetizers and a bottle of red or white wine delivered to your room upon check-in, vouchers for two 50-minute spa treatments, chocolate and strawberries by your turned-down bed on Saturday evening, breakfast each morning in the restaurant or in your room, a jar of Spa Minérale bath salts, and late check-out.
How those perks translate into reality is even more impressive: When you step into your room, you'll find that robes have been laid out on the bed. And there's a bottle of rich Cabernet from Sycamore Lane in Napa Valley and a beautiful antipasto platter featuring imported cheeses and prosciutto, capicola, and crudités.
Try dinner on your first night at The Crooked Billet. It's located in the gorgeous new clubhouse and surrounded by Lansdowne's golf course. It's a lively spot with eclectic upscale pub fare (on cold nights, begin with the house lobster bisque).
When you awake on Saturday, order up late breakfast in bed. Arise and ask the concierge for driving directions to nearby Tarara Winery (13648 Tarara Lane, 703-771-7100). On Saturdays, they have live blues and jazz bands and a roaring fire in their tasting room.
Try to be back by 1 p.m., because the resort's Executive Chef and Sommelier host a Saturday-only gourmet food and fine wine demonstration. That will tide you over until your 4 p.m. spa appointment; meet up in the co-ed relaxation lounge, complete with plush sofas and soothing music. The resort's chef has developed a line of flavored waters to complement the soothing hot teas served at the lounge.
Hopefully, all this relaxing has helped you work up an appetite. Head to The Lansdowne Grille, the resort's main dining facility, and a longtime Wine Spectator Award of Excellence recipient. The menu leans toward fine meats and seafood; the candlelit tables set a perfect mood. And when you return to your room, you'll find chocolate-covered strawberries and a freshly turned-down bed.
In the morning, it can be difficult to decide whether to try the lap pool and workout room, or go for the Champagne Brunch. Our recommendation: Sleep on it.
Lansdowne Resort, 44050 Woodridge Parkway, Lansdowne, Virginia, 877-509-8400, http://www.lansdowneresort.com. Romance Package includes all aforementioned amenities for two nights for $320 per couple.
City Getaway: Alexandria, Virginia
In Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, there stands a majestic hotel that is often mistaken for a restored Federal mansion. Upon registering at Morrison House, you are escorted to your room by a butler, where champagne, strawberries, and dipping chocolate await you. The four-poster bed is swathed in Frette linens. A copy of the Mount Vernon Love Story is propped against your pillow. There is an Italian marble bath stocked with Gilchrist and Soames toiletries and Frette towels. Relax, and take off your shoes. Leave them outside your door and they'll receive a complimentary shining overnight.
If you've arrived by 6 p.m., join Hotel Manager James Adamson in the parlor for a wine reception, where he presents the new international house wine of the month.
In the morning, go to la Madeleine on King Street for its great breakfast, and central location. The layout of Old Town is perfect for meandering. Antique shops, galleries, cafes, and boutiques beckon, alongside historic landmarks and museums. Don't miss the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a warehouse of over 80 retail working artists' studios.
For lunch try the ultra-retro-cool Majestic Café (911 King Street, 703-837-9117), which has taken American comfort food and added modern tweaks and upgrades (both spoonbread and frittata adorn the menu). Next, indulge each other at Sugar House Day Spa & Salon (111 N. Alfred Street, 703-549-9940), housed in what was once the residence portion of a sugar refinery complex. Try the yummy one-hour Sugar House Scrub; an invigorating exfoliation with sugar crystals and essential oils, followed by a vichy shower (spray jet shower massage). You can follow it up by taking a pat-down with chamomile oil. You'll feel euphoric, silky smooth, and smell like a confection shop. (Tip: Definitely schedule treatments in advance.)
Before heading back to the hotel, there is one essential but somewhat naughty detour: Romance For The Senses (1102 King Street, 703-549-1102), an exquisite lingerie shop. The store's selection is fabulous, and the staff discreetly intuitive about helping you find the right little something to make you feel pampered and beautiful.
The most romantic spot for dinner is just around the corner at Geranio Restaurant (722 King Street, 703-548-0088). If you're into foie gras, you'll love the warm salad of duck confit, foie gras, and caramelized pears with frisse and sherry vinegar. Call well in advance and ask for a table by the fireplace.
By then, things will be jumping in the lobby of Morrison House. They have a piano bar in the restaurant where the locals (and guests) come for sing-alongs to show tunes and popular hits from recent decades.
Back in your room, the bed's been turned down with robes nearby, breakfast menus propped against the pillows, on the nightstand are chocolate and a poem on parchment paper, and there's a bucket of ice. Sleep in tomorrow, and have breakfast brought to your room whenever you're ready.
Morrison House Hotel, 116 S. Alfred Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 703-838-8000, http://www.morrisonhouse.com. The Love Story—Romance Package: $289/$309 per couple, per night.
Country Getaway: Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Just a half mile off the highway bordering Delaware and Pennsylvania, gentle curving tree lined paths bring you to a hilltop, and a 19th century mansion called Hamanassett.
While parking the car, horses from the house's meadow rush to the fence and snort for your attention. You learn later that proprietor Ashley Mon prepares special apple muffins for guests to feed to them.
Mon, a native of Georgia and educated in England, has decorated the house with the finest antiques and period fabrics of both cultures. After a warm welcome and a tour of the house, Mon shows you to your room. Perhaps you'll take, as we did, the Windsor Room. Inside is a magnificent, 10-foot-high, antique rosewood half tester queen bed from a Louisiana plantation. It has been triple-sheeted in pressed-English linens, covered with a duvet-shad down comforter, and topped with a period-print spread. There is a private bath with a shower, soaking tub, and fleece bathrobes. Before she quietly shuts the door, Mon invites you down for a light supper. You dock your iPod (the rooms are also WiFi and cable equipped) and flip on Ottmar Liebert.
In the morning breakfast is served in a candlelit dining room on antique china. This morning, Mon has cooked up mixed fruit compote, raspberry croissant French toast, and bacon. After breakfast, Mon hands you a passport to area wineries and a map of the area.
The Brandywine Valley is great for short jaunts, so you can get a lot done in a single day.
First see the collection of three generations of the Wyeth family's art at Brandywine River Museum (U.S. Route 1, Chadds Ford, PA, 610-388-2700). The artwork is in a restored mill overlooking the river. Close by is Longwood Gardens (1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA, 610-388-1000) on the grounds of the former du Pont family estate. During the winter months it offers miles of lovely hothouse flora in the conservatory and outdoor activities like ice skating performances. Then, head over to Pace One Restaurant (341 Thornton Road, Thornton, PA, 610-459-3702) for a light lunch. Be sure to try the squash apple bisque with your entrée. After lunch move on to the Chaddsford Winery (632 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA, 610-388-6221), which produces some of the region's most celebrated wines. Tour the cellars and taste different vintages. Pick out a bottle of red and a bottle of white for purchase, because tonight's restaurant is BYO. Also Chaddsford is hosting a special wine and chocolates tasting on weekend afternoons in February, by reservation.
Dinner tonight is at Gilmore's (133 E. Gay Street, West Chester, PA, 610-431-2800). Proprietor-Chef Peter Gilmore was chef de cuisine for 22 years at Philly's celebrated Le Bec Fin before he opened his own cozy progressive French restaurant here in the countryside. The setting is an intimate 18th century townhouse with two candlelit dining rooms. Order the butter poached lobster tail, served on creamed leeks and polenta with zinfandel sauce, and for dessert, share the warm liquid center chocolate soufflé.
Back at Hamanassett, stop and have a port or sherry in front of the roaring fire in the grand living room. Go on, snuggle up: There'll be plenty of time to talk on the way home.
Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast, Chadds Ford, PA; 610-459-3000, http://www.hamanassett.com. January through March Two-Night Weekend Special, including light breakfast both mornings and a wine passport or a $50 voucher for Simon Pearce restaurant, begins at $150 per night per couple.