Romance is closer to home than you might imagine. You don’t need to charter a private plane or hike the Himalayas to have an out-of-the-ordinary travel experience. So get the cans ready to tie to the back of the car and check out love shacks in your own backyard.
For southern charm: Charleston Place, Charleston, South Carolina. The Charleston Place hotel, a luxury landmark in the center of Charleston’s old town, may feel jarringly ornate, but rooms are plush and quiet, the pool has a retractable roof, you can pad down the hall in your robe to the spa, and the restaurant is truly romantic. Surface for air long enough to try the Southern-fusion cuisine at one of the restaurants along Broad Street. 442 rooms, 2 restaurants, bar, pool, spa.
For tropical breezes: The Moorings, Islamorada, Florida Keys. Key West usually gets all the hype in these parts, but hours before you hit Margaritaville on U.S. 1 you’ll arrive at the Keys best-kept secret, civilized Islamorada. Here you’ll find discreet Moorings Village, a series of private bungalows painted in delicious sherbet hues fronting the clean, private beach and warm Atlantic waters. Although the cottages include full kitchens, make sure to try the two excellent dining options directly across U.S. 1. 18 cottages.
For French finesse: Ritz-Carlton, Montréal. Just across the Canadian border, an easy drive from a good portion of the Northeast, is Parisian doppelganger Montréal. How Francophile is it? Fine French dining? Check. Basilica Notre Dame? Check. Croissants and cafe lait on almost every corner? Check. High price tags and long plane trip. Umm, well, no. The Canadian dollar is still valued at less than the U.S. dollar, so everything you buy comes at a discount. Take this bargain opportunity to check into the Ritz-Carlton, a stately dowager with a refined grace and Old World feel highlighted with crystal chandeliers, faded marbles, and ornate woodwork. Splurge for a fireplace suite if you’re traveling in the winter. Hibernate in front of the fire, or venture just two blocks away to see the French impressionists at the grand Musée des Beaux-Arts. 229 rooms, restaurant, bar.
For a unique beach retreat: Casa del Mar, Santa Monica, California. In the roaring 1920s, Casa del Mar was a decadent beach club dripping with fabulousness. A $50 million facelift in the late 1990s preserved its Art Deco elegance and grand public spaces while adding modern comforts. The highlight of the bright and airy guestrooms are the enormous windows that make the most of the expansive ocean views. The hotel is on the south end of Santa Monica, only a short bike ride from artsy Venice Beach. All the highlights of Santa Monica are within walking distance, including the pier with its iconic Ferris wheel and the great shopping and restaurants around Third Street Promenade. 129 rooms, restaurant, pool, spa.
For ski bunnies: Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, Utah. “The Greatest Snow on Earth” is the tag line on Utah’s license plates; find out for yourself if it’s true at the Alpine-style Stein Eriksen Lodge, a short 40-minute drive from Salt Lake City. Ski in/ski out privileges at pristine Deer Valley Resort are one of the great perks of staying here during snow season. 175 rooms, restaurant, lounge, pool, spa.
For dining and wining: Hotel Healdsburg, Healdsburg, California. In the heart of California wine country is this sleek modern hotel. What differentiates this small inn from myriad others in the area isn’t just the cool design and easy access to local wineries, but the fine restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen, helmed by celebrated Aureole chef Charlie Palmer. You can dine in one of the area’s best restaurants, sample fine wines, and then simply walk up to your room. On weekends, there’s also live jazz in the lounge. Other sybaritic pleasures include a spa with a couple’s room for massages and soaking aux deux, and guestrooms with six-foot-deep soaking tubs and private balconies. 55 rooms, restaurant, bar, pool, spa.
For real white-glove elegance: The Wheatleigh, Lenox, Massachussets.
A luxurious country manor built in grand Italianate style, the Wheatleigh prides itself on perfect service, understated elegance, exquisite food, and total relaxation. The town of Lenox is the perfect Berkshires hideaway in the rolling green hills, and come summer it’s an arts epicenter when Tanglewood Music Center kicks into gear. Concerts on the great Tanglewood lawn are a huge draw for music lovers; however, you may be loath to leave your lovely lodgings to hear one. The understated elegance and quiet luxury here offer a complete escape from worldly tensions; you’ll probably want to spend your time walking around the manicured grounds, lingering over the gourmet meals in the handsome dining room, or simply curling up on one of the superbly snug sofas. 19 rooms, restaurant, pool, tennis court.