Eight standout Southern accommodations for the season of love
February 1, 2023
photo: Courtesy of the Tides Inn
While a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers are Valentine’s Day standards, your inner Cupid could take it a step further with a romantic getaway. The South may not have a City of Lights (all due respect to Paris, Texas), but we more than make up for it with intimate, picturesque retreats from Virginia to Texas. Set your heart to racing at these dreamy destinations.
This Chesapeake Bay boutique hotel sits on Virginia’s Northern Neck in the charming town of Irving. With a landscaped lawn that looks out onto the Rappahannock River, the Tides gives guests every opportunity to take advantage of the water. For one, couples can sign up for an oyster ecology and tasting class. As the property’s in-house ecologist explains why different oysters have different tastes based on where they are grown in the Bay, guests sample the aphrodisiacs while sipping champagne. Later, they can explore area waterways by kayak, sailing charter, or sunset cruise.
Highlands, North Carolina
Escaping to the Blue Ridge Mountains is always a good idea, but if you want to up the luxury, head to the Old Edwards Inn & Spa in Highlands, North Carolina. Located in the middle of the scenic small downtown filled with boutiques and fine dining options, the chalet offers the best of town and country. Hike the stunning hillsides during the day or go ice skating at the nearby Town of Highlands Ice Rink (open through March 5), then enjoy an indulgent massage in the afternoon from the property’s award-winning spa.
Few hotels are as storied as Washington’s Willard, a D.C. institution. Just steps from the White House, the Beaux Arts building has been welcoming VIPs and politicians since 1816. It also claims to be the birthplace of the Mint Julep, which you should try in the hotel’s Round Robin Bar. On a rainy winter night in the capital, there’s no better place to whisper state secrets to your sweetheart.
St. Augustine, Florida
If you want a hearty helping of history on your romantic Florida getaway, make a beeline for St. Augustine’s Casa Monica. On New Year’s Day 1888, the storied space unlocked its doors. Its grand Moorish Revival–meets–Spanish Baroque design in the center of the country’s oldest continuously occupied city has been wowing visitors ever since. Get a taste of the city’s Gilded Age glory with a weekend escape that can include an intimate on-site magic show in the lambrequin-arched and gold-leaf adorned Cobalt Lounge. For more of the fun, check out the Magic Hideaway, where master illusionist Bill Abbott performs everything from old school sleight of hand to mind-reading tricks.
Looking to add a little yeehaw to your love life? Pack your Stetsons and say hey dude to Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa. Offering all the classic activities associated with ranch life—horseback riding, roping, branding (ahem, souvenir coasters, not cows)—the Graham, Texas, outpost lets guests live out their cowboy dreams while offering every conceivable creature comfort, including an onsite steakhouse to indulge in hand-cut Mesquite grilled ribeyes, stone fireplaces in every guest room, and plenty of wide open spaces in which to take a sunset horse ride and roast s’mores by the campfire.
Warm Springs, Virginia
Rest and relaxation are paramount to a great romantic getaway. Optimize your self-care in a place that’s been rejuvenating Southerners since 1766. The Omni Homestead was built in this area because of its natural mineral waters, which bubble up at a steady ninety-seven degrees year-round. Take a dip in the hotel’s Octagon Pool, or soak in the recently restored Warm Springs Pools. “1925 happened to be the era we had the most information from, so the architects took the pools back to how they looked in that year,” Lynn Swann, the Homestead’s director of marketing and communication, explains. However, the historic bath houses have been soothing weary travelers since the eighteenth century, when Thomas Jefferson frequently took to their waters.
Mobile Bay, Alabama
Is your love deserving of a twenty-one-gun salute? Alabama’s Grand Hotel, which played a pivotal role as a military hospital during the Civil War and as a training site during World War II, hosts a daily procession and fires a cannon on the edge of Mobile Bay to honor its military legacy. Have tea for two in its Grand Hall post-firing. Or hit the golf course or one of the three pools before tucking in for dinner at one of the property’s nine restaurants.
Prince Charmings, take note: One might think a fairytale getaway requires a flight overseas, but not so in, go figure, Versailles, Kentucky. Here you’ll find an honest to Pete castle set on 110 acres. Sweep your partner off their feet at this four-steepled estate in the heart of horse country. Construction on the site, previously known as Castle Post, Martin Castle, and the Versailles Castle, began in 1969 after Rex Martin and his wife, Caroline Bogaert Martin, were inspired during a trip abroad. Under new ownership for the past five years, the Kentucky Castle has been transformed into a luxury inn with an on-site restaurant and spa.