‘Tis the season for romance.
Why wait for Valentine’s Day? There’s plenty of romance in December in cities across the country, made even more special with a dash of holiday magic. So snuggle up close with the one you love and experience the warmth of these most romantic Christmas towns.
Top Picks for You
New York City
WHERE: New York
New York City during the holidays is as iconic and romantic as they come—which is what we love about it. Skate side-by-side with your significant other at Wollman Rink with its fabulous city skyline; snuggle beneath a blanket on a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park; take a wintry stroll along Fifth Avenue’s dazzling window displays—the options are endless. Top it off with a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate—two straws, of course—at Serendipity 3, made famous in the 2001 romantic-comedy Serendipity. Then escape the bustle in an intimate hotel room, perhaps The Lowell Hotel on the Upper East Side, where the house interior designer will deck your room with an elegant Christmas tree and luxe holiday décor.
This French-flavored town exudes romance year-round, but in December the Big Easy dons lights, ribbons, and sparkles, making it even more dreamy. Enjoy an intimate gospel choir at St. Louis Cathedral; take a romantic stroll along Fulton Street, adorned in Christmas trees, fleur-de-lis ornaments (and mistletoe!); go candlelight caroling in Jackson Square; and warm up at a Christmas Eve bonfire along the Mississippi River, a centuries’-old holiday tradition. This is New Orleans, so you must feast—join in a Réveillon dinner at Tujague’s restaurant, a centuries-old Creole tradition that encompasses four decadent holiday courses. Then call it a day at the Roosevelt Hotel, glimmering with decked-out trees and twinkling white lights in your own personal paradise.
WHERE: New Mexico
Christmas cheer shimmers throughout this adobe town, where picturesque adobe-edged lanes, farolitos glimmering from rooftops and gates, and a wide-open, star-filled sky enchant. Couples can hike through stunning pinion-juniper woodlands (try the Tent Rocks trail), share artistic insights at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, unwind in the “repose pools” at Sunrise Springs and Oja Spa Resort, and watch the high-desert sunset at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado’s Terra Bar. Romantic, right? Yes, but the culminating moment comes on Christmas Eve when glowing farolitos—small paper lanterns—line El Farolito Walk on Canyon Road, enchanting the most jaded couples with an illuminated stroll, topped off with hot cider and Christmas carols. One of New Mexico’s most romantic hotels, La Fonda on the Plaza, has a special winter package for couples, including truffles, sparkling gruet wine, and a roaring fire that promises a top-off of Christmas-style romance.
You can’t help but be swept up by the romance of Old Town Alexandria’s twinkling-light, colonial-era streets, filled with street entertainers and joyful carolers. Catch the Scottish Christmas Walk, featuring men in kilts (and Scottie dogs!), take in a holiday performance at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, and skate hand-in-hand in the winter wonderland at Ice & Lights Winter Village. Better yet, since Alexandria once was the stomping grounds of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other patriots, take a stroll with Yuletide by Candlelight to admire historic houses decked out with colonial-style holiday decorations, downright dreamy by flickering light. After a cozy southern-style dinner-for-two at Jackson 20 restaurant, escape to Morrison House, offering a “deck the halls” package that includes a small decorated tree, stockings, and a bottle of Champagne waiting for your arrival.
INSIDER TIPMany of the holiday events, including the Scottish Christmas Walk, occurs on the first weekend of December.
You know you’ve hit upon a romantic Christmas city when its major sky-scraping hotel is lit in red and green. That’s Hotel LeVeque, the luxe art deco hotel in the heart of downtown, offering a holiday romance package that includes turndown service with romantic starlight splashed across your ceiling. During the day, shop hand-in-hand along the Made in Cbus Trail, with more than a dozen local makers offering exquisite artisan goods. Come evening, take in the dazzling lights of the Grand Illumination along the Scioto Mile; plus the Festival of Lights at Columbus Commons (with music and free hot chocolate offered on Fridays). A perfectly romantic day ends back at Hotel LeVeque with seasonal cocktails for two (and dinner, if you wish) at the Keep brasserie, done up in seductive, speakeasy-style.
WHERE: South Carolina
In this eternally romantic city, you have a list as long as Santa’s of couple-y things to do: strolling through two million glittering lights at James Island County Park; taking in a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol at the historic Dock Street Theatre; enjoying a starry-eyed evening on the water with the Keep the Light Shinin’ Holiday Dinner Cruise; and snuggling close on a horse-drawn carriage ride through cobbled streets. Combine your love of food and each other at one of the city’s many restaurants (because this is Charleston after all)—perhaps Peninsula Grill, tucked into a hidden garden courtyard. But sometimes all you want to do is kick back and relax. At the 1853 Mills House, among various other hotels offering festive hideaways, sip coffee amid Christmas trees, listening to soft jazz.
A day of skiing some of the nation’s best slopes earns you and your love an evening of idyllic relaxation: après-ski cocktails (Local has an outstanding seasonal menu); muscle-soothing Granite Hot Springs, reached via dog sled; or a one-horse-open-sleigh ride with Vintage Sleigh Rides, including dinner and sunset on the banks of the Snake River. If you have the energy, kick up your heels at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, with many seasonal concerts lined up for December. Whatever you do, be sure to stroll around the magical Town Square (or skate at the rink there), shimmering with white lights. Many resorts offer room-delivered Christmas frills: wreaths, spiked eggnog, fresh-from-the-oven cookies, and a roaring fire—the perfect way to toast your romantic holiday escape.
Few celebrate Christmas like the Germans, so imagine the synchronicity of Fredericksburg, with its German heritage and romantic historic streets. Skate around the ice rink at the foot of the 26-foot-tall Christmas Pyramid at Marktplatz; head out to the surrounding wineries for the “Christmas Wine Affair,” with 48 participating wineries showcasing Christmas carolers, festive decorations, and roaring fires; then hop aboard the Holiday Jolly Trolley Christmas Lights Tour for a spin around town to see the best lights. Pioneer Farm has a singing Christmas tree if you and your love are up for some good old-fashioned caroling. After an intimate meal at Otto’s, offering elevated German fare, retreat to one of the town’s Sunday houses—small historic houses that have been renovated to exquisite perfection. Weber House, part of the Hoffman Haus complex on East Creek Street, is especially enchanting with its exquisite soaking tub.
WHERE: Rhode Island
Add a dash of Gilded Age romance to your holiday in the harbor town of Newport. The Newport Mansions—built by the rich-and-famous at the turn-of-the-20th-century—offer Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions, including live music, refreshments, and the chance to stroll exquisitely decorated, softly lit rooms. Here, too, you can attend the Governor’s Ball, take a Holiday Lantern Tour of Newport’s old town, and stroll among twinkling lights along the harbor’s Victorian-age avenues. There’s no shortage of cozy eateries to share a table for two—try White Horse Tavern, America’s oldest tavern (1673), super comfy with a roaring fire, low beamed ceilings, and delish seasonal dishes on the menu. Then unwind in your très chic room and seductive ocean views at The Chanler at Cliff Walk, perfect for a romantic tryst.
It may be balmy, but Santa Barbara is not short on holiday cheer—especially for couples. Spend the day at festive wine-tasting rooms along El Paseo’s cobblestone pathways, collect sun rays on the beach, then head out for an evening of Christmas lights (perhaps the Annual Holiday Parade of Lights at the waterfront). The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, right on the beach, is a beautiful blend of old and new that goes all-out with holiday spirit. Ask for a ground-floor room with a sunny deck and spend your downtime sipping Christmassy cocktails. It’s certainly not the most traditional Christmas, but with 80-degree temps, does that really matter?