Our five favorite getaways to wow your significant other
February is here and few things are more satisfying than a roaring fire, (spiked) hot cocoa and your significant other snuggled up next to you. You know what sounds better? Doing all of the above somewhere other than your living room. There’s no time like the present to steal away from the hum-drum of everyday life with a little weekend escapade. We have hand-selected some of the best destinations within a two-hour drive that will satisfy any couple’s wish list.
Cozy inns? Check. Soothing spas? Check. Mouth-watering dining? Check. Smooth libations? Check. Pack a bag, gas up the car, and have your pick of these romantic winter staycations that just may require a three-day weekend.
This popular mountain region is not just for ski bunnies. There’s a reason it’s one of the top honeymoon destinations in the U.S. Couples have long traveled to the Poconos where the natural environment creates a feeling of intimacy—unplugging and connecting with nature and each other. Breathtaking scenery, winding rivers and picturesque hiking trails are just some of the attractions of the Poconos.
The region is also rife with history and culture, antique and brand-name shopping destinations; and features exceptional cuisine, remarkable resorts and quaint inns where no detail is overlooked.
Get a Room
Stress relief is the mantra at The Lodge at Woodloch (TheLodgeAtWoodloch.com). Located on 150 acres of pristine wooded land with a 15-acre lake, this all-inclusive retreat offers wellness treatments, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and more. Book the “Couples Retreat” package for $409 pp/night, which includes a $125 spa allowance pp/night, three gourmet meals each day of stay, a bottle of Prosecco and rose petal turndown. For a more down-to-earth experience, The Settlers Inn (TheSettlersInn.com), perched upon the Lackawaxen River, is an artfully designed inn with mission style furnishings and a AAA Four-Diamond farm-to-table restaurant. Settle next to the fireplace with a glass of wine from the inn’s award-winning wine list. The “Fireside Dining Duo” package includes a two-night stay, as well as breakfast and dinner for $573 to $769 on weekends.
Food for Thought
After check in, check out Liquid Martini Bar (LiquidMartiniBar.com) for a late-night cocktail and share-worthy tapas. Barley Creek Brewery (BarleyCreek.com) offers free tours and tastings Saturdays at 12:30, after which you can sit down for a quick bite off their beer friendly menu. Dine à deux at Louie’s Prime Steakhouse (LouiesPrime.com), a rustic, traditional NYC-style steakhouse with fireside views. For northern Italian cuisine, family- owned Peppe’s Bistro (PeppesBistro.com) features a romantic ambiance, brick-oven pizza and a wine list of 20 bottles under $35. After checking out, hit up the Sunday brunch buffet at Big A Grille House (BigAGrilleHouse.com) for Belgian waffles and $3 mimosas.
Book a Couples Swedish Massage at Deerfield Spa (DeerfieldSpa.com), a 2011 SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Award winner. Hit the wintery trails on horseback for guided tours at Deer Path Stable (DeerPathStable.com). Sip samples of vino at Cherry Valley Vineyards (CherryValleyVineyards.com) and grab a slice at the on-site pizzeria. Tap your feet to the jazz beats at Deer Head Inn (DeerHeadInn.com), where performers have been jamming for five decades.
Tour the grounds and mansion at the Grey Towers Historical Site (GreyTowers.org)—built in 1886 by the parents of two-time Pennsylvania Gov. Gifford Pinchot. The Dorflinger Wildlife Sanctuary (Dorflinger.org) is home to the Dorflinger Glass Museum and miles of well-maintained walking trails to clear the mind and refresh the soul.
Pack your shopping shoes for a trip to The Crossings Premium Outlets (PremiumOutlets.com) for bargain prices on luxury brands like DKNY, Coach and Lacoste. For unique shops and boutiques that truly represent the Poconos culture, go to Downtown Stroudsburg (Stroudsburg.net) for items from Africa, Latin America, Europe and Ireland.
On Feb. 16 & 17, don’t miss Winterfest in Jim Thorpe (JimThorpe.org) for ice-carving demonstrations, concerts and carriage rides; consult the concerts and events calendar for Penn’s Peak (PennsPeak.com), the Poconos premier entertainment venue before your trip.
The Jersey Shore
Is there a more romantic soundtrack than the sound of waves crashing along the shore while watching the sun rise? Even in the winter months, the appeal of the sand and ocean draws us in. From the fresh seafood and quaint bed & breakfasts to wildlife reserves and historical landmarks, the Shore has plenty to offer. Couples can’t resist the Victorian charm of historic Cape May or the small-town feel of Avalon, and in the off season it will feel like you have everything to yourselves.
Get a Room
Travel back to a simpler time at Cape May’s The Queen Victoria (QueenVictoria.com) where guests stay in impeccably restored 1880’s rooms, complete with picturesque porches, period antiques and comfortable parlors where afternoon tea is served fireside. Choose from 35 rooms and suites, many with a whirlpool tub, ranging from $130-$390 a night. Built in 1840, Wilbraham Mansion (WilbrahamMansion.com) is one of the oldest properties in Cape May. The Victorian B&B offers spa services, champagne and cheese for the room and an indoor heated pool. New suites with two-person Jacuzzis and a fireplace range from $170-$290 per night. If Cape May isn’t your thing, the Golden Inn Hotel & Resort (GoldenInn.com) in Avalon is a barrier island oasis complete with an on-site restaurant and wood-burning fireplace. Call now for the “Romantic Island Escape” package that includes a four-course dinner for two, overnight accommodations and breakfast the next morning for $129 per couple.
Food for Thought
If you decide to dine close to your hotel in Cape May, you can’t miss the farm-to-table menu and artisanal cocktails at The Ebbitt Room (VirginiaHotel.com). Enjoy live piano music Saturday nights and don’t pass up the sticky toffee pudding for dessert. For the gourmand, The Washington Inn (Washington-Inn.com) specializes in gracious dining in a plantation-era home. If you want to hit the road to explore, Margate’s Sofia (SofiaOfMargate.com) offers eclectic, Mediterranean fare. Dine by an inviting fireplace while admiring the stunning décor of mixed stone and original iron work. While in Margate, grab a photo opp with Lucy the Elephant. In Avalon, The Sea Grill (SeaGrillRestaurant.com) is one of the few open in the off season. The hip and funky atmosphere—as well as the daily specials—makes this a popular destination even in the off-season.
Voted one of South Jersey Magazine’s Best of the Shore 2012, Avalon’s Fusion Salon and Day Spa (FusionSalonAvalon.com) is a luxurious 1,800-square-foot, two-story spa offering custom packages that will relax and transform you from head-to-toe. Or choose the cabana atmosphere of Sea Spa at Congress Hall (CongressHall.com) and wander into a time gone by where the only focus is you. You’ll finish up just in time for a tour and tasting at Cape May Winery (CapeMayWinery.com). Four vineyards encompass more than 150 acres of land, producing more than two-dozen varieties of grape, making for a selection pleasing to any palate.
Cape May’s only Victorian house museum is the Emlen Physick Estate (CapeMayMac.org). The 18-room mansion is administered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, offering entertaining and educational guided tours of the estate year-round. After your tour, hop on the Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour that picks up nearby and hear about the town’s paranormal “tourists.” For the nature-lovers, Stone Harbor’s Wetlands Institute (WetlandsInstitute.org) offers gardens, a salt marsh trail, terrapin station and observation tower where—on a clear day—you can see from Sea Isle City to Wildwood.
Cape May’s Washington Street Mall (WashingtonStreetMall.com) is one of the busiest areas of town. Bundle up for an outdoor stroll down the mall, comprised of small, independent shops, many of which are multi-generational and family-owned. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Jagielky's Home Made Candies (Jagielkys.com), located in Ventnor and Margate. Devoted fans have been coming in for the delicious chocolates—made with secret recipes—for 37 years.
If you prefer a taste of the city, Philadelphia has all of the charm, history and—most importantly —walkability of Paris. The heart of the city is a mix of colonial and modern America. One block can make you feel like you’re back in time, then you turn a corner and you’re in an urban mecca. Couples who want to be seen at trendy hot spots—or not seen at hidden gems—will fall head over heels for what the City of Brotherly Love has to offer.
Get a Room
For a view overlooking Liberty Bell Center, stay at Hotel Monaco (Monaco-Philadelphia.com) in the city’s historic district. Guests enjoy a daily hosted wine hour with two-for-one cocktails and can take advantage of in-room spa treatments. Rates range from $215-$470 a night. Or choose a National Historic Landmark near Washington Square Park. Built in 1787, the Morris House Hotel (MorrisHouseHotel.com) has a complimentary European-style continental breakfast, afternoon tea, Philly fair trade coffee and a Revolutionary-era lounge for $149-$316 per night. If swanky is your middle name, then AKA Rittenhouse (StayAKA.com), the majestic 12-story building on the bustling corner of 18th and Walnut streets, is just for you. The historic façade has been preserved while the inside has been stylishly transformed into a contemporary oasis. Rates range from $195-$475 per night.
Food for Thought
It seems like the rest of the country is waking up to the abundant and taste bud friendly choices of Philly’s food scene. Carnivorous couples shouldn’t miss luxurious boutique steakhouse Barclay Prime (Barclay-Prime.com), located on the first floor of the historic Barclay Building. For high-end cocktails and small plates, hit up another Stephen Starr-owned establishment, Ranstead Room, a cool speakeasy retreat. Amada (AmadaRestaurant.com) is Iron Chef Jose Garces’ first, and best, restaurant in the city. For something out of the ordinary, Zahav (Zahav- Restaurant.com) offers a modern Israeli menu and a design that echoes courtyards of Israel. And no trip to Philadelphia is complete without a stop at Reading Terminal Market (ReadingTerminalMarket.org), where you can feast your eyes and mouths on some of the city’s freshest creations. While there, take your sweetie on the chocolate tour.
Hold hands—and hang onto each other for dear life—while ice skating at Blue Cross River Rink. At the very least, you’ll get a nice cup of hot chocolate out of it. And afterward, you can make an appointment to work on your sore spots at Rescue Rittenhouse Spa (RescueRittenhouseSpa.com) with the Two-by-Two massage. For a private tour of the city’s historic areas, ease into a horse drawn carriage ride (PhillyTour.com) and let the clop-clop of the horse’s feet on the cobblestone streets carry you back in time. People watch at Loews SoleFood Lounge (LoewsHotels.com) while sipping signature cocktails and lounging in cozy leather chairs. Nothing de-stresses like a good laugh, and Helium Comedy Club (HeliumComedy.com) is a great place to see local and nationally acclaimed comedians.
Proclaim your love for each other at the Whispering Benches in Fairmount Park. One of you can whisper sweet nothings into the curve of the Smith Memorial Arch while the other sits on the other side of the bench to hear the message. To see other people’s proclamations of love, take a guided Love Letter Train Tour (MuralArts.org) to see murals around the city that are love letters between a male and female artist. Experience the enchantment of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PhillyMagicGardens.org), a massive outdoor mosaic sculpture garden that spans a half a block on South Street. To fill your culture quota, the Barnes Foundation (BarnesFoundation.org) is a can’t-miss educational art and horticultural institute with paintings by Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse and more.
Manhattanites’ biggest bargain secret is the Old City boutiques (OldCityDistrict.org), where the clothes are just as hip for a fraction of the price you’d pay in the Big Apple. On Walnut Street, you’ll find luxury haunts like Barney’s Co-Op, Tiffany &. Co. and Burberry, along with Philly favorites like Urban Outfitters, Joan Shepp and Knit Wit.
Walnut Street Theater, America’s oldest theater, is showing Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband through March 3. Beats, Brews & BBQ will be held at World Café Live on Feb. 23; there will be 30 local and regional breweries and savory pairings for $45 per ticket.
This is a situation of “you can’t have one without the other.” Although New Hope is in Pennsylvania and Lambertville is in New Jersey, these towns’ close proximity to each other makes it easy for visitors to enjoy two locales for the price of one. Both are popular among the B&B crowds, and art lovers love to come here for unique antiques, delicious food and an ample amount of history. These two towns know how to cater to romance and couples will find it hard to resist their charm.
Get a Room
One of the most popular places to stay is the Inn at Lambertville Station (LambertvilleStation.com) where every one of its 45 restyled rooms has a river view—and its proximity to historic attractions and entertainment doesn’t hurt either. Book a weekend getaway package for $150-$330 per night. Warm up at one of the highest-rated B&Bs in Pennsylvania, the Inn at Bowman’s Hill (TheInnAtBowmansHill.com) in New Hope. Enjoy the open hearth log fire in the common room or relax in bed beside your own gas fireplace. Rates range from $395-$580 per night. Get in touch with the countryside at Chimney Hill Estate Inn (ChimneyHillInn.com) in Lambertville. This stone home was built in 1820 and is surrounded by eight acres of fields and gardens, and even has an on-site alpaca and llama farm. Rates range from $149-$450 and include homemade breakfast served fireside.
Food for Thought
Even if you’re not staying at the inn, Lambertville Station Restaurant (located in a restored 19th century train station) has been a landmark for more than 25 years, and wild game is prominently featured on its menu from January through March. For what is described as a “Manhattan-meets-Lambertville” vibe, get a table at Deanna’s Restaurant & Bar (DeannasRestaurant.com) and savor simple sauces and homemade pasta. To get a taste of Southern hospitality—and cooking—you’ll love Marsha Brown Creole Kitchen (MarshaBrownRestaurant.com). Fittingly located inside of an old church, this fine dining venue offers authentic flavors of the Bayou where you’d least expect it.
Make time for the Couple’s Retreat package at Zanya Spa Salon (Zanya-SpaSalon.com) in Lambertville for a Swedish massage, customized facials and spa pedicures. Between New Hope and Peddler’s Village you’ll come across New Hope Winery (NewHope Winery.com). Showcasing a large selection of Pennsylvania wines, accessories and gourmet food, the winery welcomes individuals and groups for tastings and live music on Saturdays. For a spot that only the locals know about, ask how to get to The Boat House in Lambertville. This hidden gem is the perfect place for pre- or post-dinner drinks and has a strict “no cell phone conversations” policy.
In Lambertville, the Hunterdon Art Museum (HunterdonArtMuseum.org) presents changing exhibitions of contemporary art and design in a 19th-century stone mill that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Cross the river to Doylestown for the James A. Michener Museum (MichenerMuseum.org). Located in a former prison, the Michener has become an arts destination, with three more museums—Fonthill, Mercer and Moravian—nearby.
A short drive from New Hope is Peddler’s Village (PeddlersVillage.com), where shoppers can find comfort foods, trendy fashions and local artisans. Foodies will be in heaven at New Hope’s Olive-n-Grape (OliveNGrape.com), where you have your pick of gourmet olive oils, vinegars, sea salts and pastas. Get lost in the shelves of Farley’s Book Shop (Farleys-BookShop.com), a small independent bookshop on the main street of New Hope.
New Jersey Wine Trails
Why take the long flight to Napa when you can enjoy all the fruits of New Jersey’s wine harvest right now? Gloucester, Salem and Atlantic counties are home to various award-winning wineries that are putting New Jersey on the varietal world map. This getaway, while not for the teetotaler couple, can be customized depending on which vineyards you want to visit and will likely put you in the comfort of other oenophile couples.
Get a Room
For a centrally located stay, The Candle House Inn of South Harrison (TheCandleHouseInn.com) is a comfortable, modern farmhouse on a 34-acre farm in Mullica Hill. Fields are frequented by deer, turkey, red-tailed hawks and more. Guests receive a full hot breakfast with farm fresh eggs for $135 per night. The Inn on Holly (TheInnOnHolly.com) in Pitman is a Victorian B&B with wraparound porch and claw foot bathtubs. Room prices range from $129 to $159 on the weekend. For the Atlantic County wine trail preference, The Inn at Sugar Hill (InnAtSugarHill.com) in Mays Landing has five antique-filled overnight rooms with private baths, fireplaces and river views. Ask about the “Innkeeper’s Rendezvous Package,” which includes an open-ended three-course candlelit dinner on the night of your arrival. Rates from $99-$200.
Food for Thought
Bring a bottle from one of your vineyard visits to Blueplate (BlueplateNJ.com) an upscale-casual 75-seat BYO restaurant in Mullica Hill. Wine goes well with Italian cuisine, and the relaxing atmosphere of Botto’s Italian Line (Bottos.com) in Swedesboro won’t disappoint. Explore the photos and memorabilia around the dining room while feasting on continental cuisine. Los Amigos (LosAmigosRest.com) can be found in either West Berlin or Atlantic City. The creative and complex fare, as well as Southwestern inspired items like the Chile bronzed salmon, will bring out your wild side. For a little bit of the big city in a small town, the Salem City Café (SalemCityCafe.com) brings contemporary dining and nightlife to a historically important area.
Unwind (& Uncork)
On the Gloucester-Salem Wine Trail: Recently named “Winery of the Year” by the Garden State Wine Growers Association, Heritage Vineyard (HeritageWineNJ.com) has been cementing its reputation as a benchmark producer in the state’s largest wine growing region. This is a must for a guided tour and complimentary tastings. Family-owned Wagonhouse Winery (WagonhouseWinery.com) offers two distinct lines of wine and Saturday tastings for $5. For your final stop, get to Auburn Road Vineyards (AuburnRoadVineyards.com) for an on-premise wine bar featuring small appetizer plates. Tours and tastings are $15 and require reservations. Atlantic County:?One of the larger and more well-known names in the region is Renault Winery (RenaultWinery.com). For $2, take a 40-minute tour followed by a tasting for $3, and keep the souvenir etched stem glass. Wine is an art form at Plagido’s Winery (PlagidosWinery.com) in Hammonton, evident in one of its special gift offerings—chocolate dipped wine bottles. Stop in on Feb. 9-10 for the Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend. For $10, guests can partake in light fare, tastings, desserts and take home a souvenir glass. Set upon 150 acres of farm land, Bellview Winery (BellviewWinery.com) has a bottle for every taste and is also participating in Wine & Chocolate weekend on Feb. 9-10 and again Feb. 16-17. If you need someone else to do the driving, Arrive in Style Limo offers group or private wine tour options.
Gaze into space without catching cold at Rowan University’s Edelman Planetarium (Rowan.edu). Adults can catch star and laser shows for $5 on Saturday evenings. After opening so many wine bottles, peek into the world of glass art at the Cumberland County Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center (WheatonArts.org). Walk through the studio and see artists at work and tour the Museum of American Glass’ notable collection. Stroll around Atlantic County’s Smithville (SmithvilleNJ.com) as you enjoy the views, cafes and shops where you’ll find a one-of-a-kind gift for that special someone.
For hard-to-find books, furniture and dolls, the Main Street Mullica Hill antique shops (AntiquesEverywhere.com) will satisfy any treasure finder’s appetite. If you like vintage shops and a charming vibe, Downtown Hammonton (DowntownHammonton.com) is just the fit. n
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 11 (February, 2013).
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