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Romantic Getaways in South Haven Apr 20

 

My wife and I can always find romance by the water. Since we live in Michigan now, we are quite far from the ocean. Luckily, Lake Michigan isn’t too far away and one of our favorite towns along Lake Michigan is South Haven.

The beach in South Haven is a great place to share a romantic moment and a great place to relax. Many people are surprised by the beach and size of Lake Michigan. The sand on the beaches along Lake Michigan is beautiful in appearance, is soft to the touch, and is really nice to walk on. The lake water is definitely colder than the Atlantic or Pacific water but it is quite clear for the most part. It can be amazing to stand on the beach and look out into the horizon because you cannot see land anywhere you look and you start to get a feel for the size of Lake Michigan. Sometimes, if the weather is right, you can get waves that are high enough to make you think you are sitting oceanside. It is really peaceful to sit and read a book or people watch while looking over the lake. If you are looking for romance, it is really nice to take a walk through the beautiful sand holding the hand of your sweetheart.

The beach in South Haven is close to downtown and is split into two parts. We prefer the North beach because it is larger and a little quieter. There is a concession stand with snack food and hot dogs and also restrooms within walking distance. My wife always finds lighthouses to be very romantic because they are kind of a window to the past. You can see South Haven’s lighthouse while you sit on the beach which just adds to the scenery. Also, there is a pretty good sized marina with a channel separating the two beaches so you can also watch the boats leave for the lake.

If you are a couple that finds romance on the water, then South Haven marina is the starting point for a variety of cruises of Lake Michigan. The South Haven marina is also the home of the Michigan Maritime Museum for people who enjoy history.

The town in South Haven is a great one for walking around in. There are a lot of little shops and boutiques that are fun to walk in and offering anything from home décor to clothing to antiques. There are also a variety of pretty good restaurants to visit. Our favorite is Clementine’s which has great food and service in a nice atmosphere. We really like the atmosphere in the bar area and we really enjoy the onion rings for an appetizer. They have a lot of variety in their menu and have daily specials. The downside is that they don’t take reservations so it can take a long time to sit down and eat. The good thing is that you can put your name in and if the wait is long, you can walk round the shops and boutiques surrounding the restaurant.

If you want a break from the beach, you can take a walk along the scenic Kal Haven Trail or visit Van Buren State Park. There are several golf courses in the area including HawksHead Links which has been rated 4-1/2 stars by Golf Digest and even includes an Inn to stay at on the Golf Course. Speaking of places to stay, South Haven has a great deal of Bed & Breakfasts and Vacation Rentals many of which are within walking distance of town or the beach.

If you find sitting and walking on the beach with your special someone and are in the Midwest, you should consider South Haven as a place to stop. You can enjoy beautiful sand, scenic views of the lighthouse and Lake Michigan, and an enjoyable town to walk around in when you aren’t sitting on the beach.

Romantic Getaways in San Diego – Animal Parks Mar 16

My wife and I find romance in many different places. There is a lot to be said for going away to someplace very private and intimate but we also find that places that make you feel young can also be romantic. It is a lot of fun to walk around with your sweetheart and hold hands and experience again the things that you enjoyed when you were young. One of the places that we truly enjoy going to experience this “return to our youth” are zoos or animal parks and we tend to look for those any place that we visit. There probably is no place in the United States that has the quality and variety of animal parks as the San Diego area.

The most well known of the animal parks in the San Diego Area is probably the San Diego Zoo. It has been at the forefront of the zoo experience and breeding capabilities for almost 100 years. There are over 4000 animals at the zoo and the habitats housing these wondrous animals contribute to a very engaging experience. The zoo was the first to use barless, moated enclosures that allow you to view these animals in environments closer to their natural environment. There are animals of all kinds from all over the world including some very rare species. Most people have their favorite animals and you can be assured that your favorite is here somewhere and you will probably find some new interesting ones along the way.

What once started out as a breeding facility for the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park (about 34 miles North of San Diego outside of Escondido) is favored by some people over the Zoo. There are over 3500 animals and 430 species in the park. The interesting thing about this park is its openness. Animals run together in large areas and it is common to see giraffes interacting with zebras and antelopes (don’t worry, they don’t mix “meat-eaters” with “plant eaters” here) much as they would in Africa. There is an open-air tram ride called “Journey to Africa” which brings you a little closer to the animals. If you want to spend a little more, you can take the “Savanna Safari” to take you even closer and to some places the tram doesn’t cover. If you want to get really close, you can go on a Photo Caravan to visit parts of the park that no one else gets to see but you need reservations. There are also several self-guided walking tours in the park that lets you visit various animals in interesting habitats.

For those of you that love marine life, San Diego has a Sea World. The highlight of Sea World is its shows. The have a show featuring Shamu, the Killer Whale, which is enlightening and inspiring. They also have a nighttime version with lights and rock music called Shamu Rocks. My wife and I enjoy the Clyde & Seamore’s Risky Rescue show which features sea lions and otters which is really funny. There is also a Dolphin Discovery show for those of you who love dolphins.   Additionally, there are exhibits featuring beluga whales, polar bears, penguins, sharks, and manatees which allow you to learn about these animals while you watch them up close. There are new shows and exhibits being added all the time so check your program or the website when you go. For those of you who enjoy amusement parks, you can take a break from the animal watching and take your sweetheart on a rollercoaster, down a lazy river, or in a simulated helicopter ride.

You may be wondering how being in a crowded zoo could be romantic but you can always create your own intimate space wherever you are. I really enjoy “sneaking up” on my sweetheart while she is watching the animals. I come up behind her, put my arms around her, and whisper “I love you” in her ear and give her a kiss on the cheek. She usually returns the favor with a quick kiss. We tend to do this all day and take turns “sneaking up” on one another. At the end of the day, we usually will talk about the enjoyment we had watching the animals and the kids in the parks, but we also talk about who had the best sneaky kiss of the day. Although you may not think of it at first, I encourage you to think of the San Diego Animal Parks or your local zoo for your next romantic getaway.

Romantic Getaways in Everglades National Park Mar 02

My wife and I have always enjoyed traveling to National Parks for vacations. We find that being so close to nature can be very romantic. There is nothing quite like taking in a scenic view together and just being in the moment. The first National Park that we ever vacationed to together was the Everglades National Park and it still brings wonderful memories to us today.

The Everglades National Park has two main entrances, one close to Naples and the other closer to Miami. We visited the eastern portion of the park that was closer to Miami and that will be the basis for this blog. If you are interested in other portions of the park, you will want to visit the Everglades National Park website. The best time of year to visit is from November to April to avoid the mosquitoes that overwhelm the park in Summer.

To get to the eastern portion of the park, you can fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale. You will travel to Homestead or Florida City which is just outside the park entrance. There are many mom & pop and chain hotels in these two cities if you are interested in staying close to but not inside the park.

Once you enter the park, we would suggest that you visit the Royal Palm visitor center. At the Royal Palm, you can access the Anhinga Trail boardwalk which is a must to get a good feeling for one of the types of ecosystems in the Everglades. You will also be very likely to see many different types of wildlife including birds as well as alligators congregating in watering holes along the boardwalk. Adjacent to the boardwalk, is the Gumbo Limbo trail which allows you to experience a stroll through a hardwood hammock.

The main park road from the park entrance to the Flamingo Visitor Center travels through eight distinct ecosystems. Some of the highlights of the drive include a dwarf cypress forest and multiple ponds filled with wading birds. There are multiple trails and boardwalks which allow you to visit these areas of the park where you can get out of the car and maybe share a romantic view in a secluded area with that special someone.

We stayed at the campground near the Flamingo Visitor Center which many campsites have views of the bay. My wife and I still fondly remember our campsite where we were able to setup a couple of chairs and watch the sunrise over the bay. After the sun came up, we then enjoyed eating breakfast while watching the many birds flying over the water. There are many hiking and nature trails for you and your sweetheart to find some scenic views and some quiet, romantic moments. At the end of the day, we enjoyed going for a moonlit walk along the bay and then enjoyed cuddling next to each other in our sleeping bags while looking up at the starry sky.

One of the highlights of our trip to the Everglades was a guided sunset cruise that we took from the Flamingo area. The sunset views over the bay were beautiful and we really enjoyed seeing all of the varied species of birds while learning a little about the wildlife and ecosystems found in the Everglades. It was very peaceful, romantic, and relaxing and is something that we would highly recommend doing.

The other highlight of our trip was when we rented a canoe in Flamingo. I had canoed several times before but my wife had never been in one. They gave us a quick instruction and we pushed off in the canoe. We passed alligators, birds, fish, and turtles along the way. We traveled under mangrove trees and saw various ecosystems during our trip. We were alone most of the time and just found ourselves enjoying the sounds and sights that nature provided us.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Everglades and hope that some of you couples who find being at one with nature romantic, consider traveling to the Everglades National Park.

Romantic Getaways in the Mid Hudson Valley Nov 15
Within easy travel from the big city hubbub of New York City is the Mid Hudson Valley in New York State. When you arrive, you won’t believe you are still in New York. There are beautiful mountain and river views, great restaurants, historical sites to tour, wineries, and did I mention great restaurants?
To get to the Mid-Hudson Valley you can take the commuter train or Amtrak from NYC to get to Beacon, Poughkeepsie, or Rhinebeck. The train ride takes about two hours and travels along the Hudson River. The further away you get from the city, the more scenic the Hudson gets as you begin to pass riverside mansions, mountains, and you can even get a view of West Point along the way. It is about two hours by car from any of the NYC area airports as well. For assistance in planing your travel to the Mid Hudson Valley, you can click on the link below.
You will notice the beautiful natural scenery when you arrive at the Mid Hudson Valley (especially after spending some time in NYC). The Catskill Mountains can be seen along the west side of the Hudson River and they provide opportunities for hiking and sightseeing and skiing in the winter. Some beautiful parks for hiking, biking, and having an afternoon picnic are Lake Mohonk and Lake Minnewaska in the New Paltz area.
Hyde Park is home to the Culinary Institute of America which has trained the world’s greatest chefs for years. One of the great things about the Mid Hudson Valley is that many of these great chefs stay in the area and open up restaurants. There are romantic restaurants for all tastes. The Culinary Institute has 4 restaurants with Italian, French, and Regional cuisine and the Apple Pie Bakery (a great coffee shop/bakery) but make sure to make reservations in advance.
For history buffs, visits to the Franklin D Roosevelt Home or the Vanderbilt and Staatsburgh Mansion in Hyde Park are both educational and have beautiful grounds for scenic walks and picnicking. If you are in the area around Christmas be sure and check to see if any of these mansions offer Candlelight Christmas tours as these mansions are beautifully decorated and the candlelight definitely sets a romantic mood.
There are some great wineries throughout the valley as well which offer tours, wine tastings, and some have restaurants. One of our favorites is the Cascade Mountain winery in Amenia which has a really nice restaurant (see above) and a variety of wines with interesting names. A good website with a list of 21 wineries with brief descriptions of their offerings is found at A Visitor’s Guide to Wineries in the Hudson Valley.
The Mid Hudson Valley has a lot to offer a couple looking for a romantic getaway. The food, history, and scenery all contribute to its appeal. One final note, there is probably no more beautiful time to visit the Mid Hudson Valley than in the fall. The colors of the leaves are breathtaking and rival the colors seen in Vermont and New Hampshire!
If you can’t make it to the Culinary Institute, there are great restaurants throughout the valley for a romantic dinner and night out. Here are some of the real romantic ones for you to try.
Beautiful “Gone With the Wind” style mansion built in 1900 with Hudson River views as well as romantic gardens for strolling hand in hand. French inspired American 4 star cuisine served by candlelight with fireplaces lit in colder weather. Rooms are also available; most with king-size beds, many with canopies and fireplaces, and all complete with country gourmet breakfast incuded.

Pricey, but well worth it for those special occasions. (And weddings there are fabulous!)

<Mohonk Mountain House – 1000 Mountain Restaurant Road, New Paltz, NY

This is an incredible place; a National Historic Landmark property high on a mountain top, it looks like a Victorian castle built around a crystal-clear lake. There are 2,200 wooded acres for hiking as well as tiny rustic gazebos tucked here and there all around the property that just invite a stop to admire the view (and perhaps steal a kiss?) as well as gardens and places to picnic (picnic lunches are available for purchase). Lunch is a buffet, but dinner is a four-course meal served in the main dining room with huge windows for diners to enjoy those spectacular views. Rooms are available in several price ranges, filled with antiques and lake, garden or mountain views, many with balconies and fireplaces. For overnight guests, there is horseback riding, carriage rides, boating, even a spa with massages and yoga available. Expensive, but a one-of-a-kind experience that would be a dream honeymoon place.

Terrapin – 6426 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck, NY

Terrapin is a wonderful place to have dinner following an afternoon strolling around the beautiful old village of Rhinebeck, with it’s tiny shops and fascinating homes on the side streets. Located in a renovated 1825 former church building, it has an informal bistro for a light meal or tapas, as well as a lovely formal restaurant. Cozy banquette seating around the sides provides several intimate corners just made for lovers, and the food is exceptional. Called New American Cuisine, it blends classical French with influencesof Asia, Italy and the American Southwest. Prices are reasonable for the high quality of food and service offered.

Les Baux – 152 Church Street, Millbrook, NY

A charming little cafe with authentic French food (the owner/chef is from France). Les Baux would be a wonderful place to stop and relax after a day in the country. Millbrook is a town for strolling in and out of antique shops, or perhaps a drive through the surrounding countryside, filled with beautiful estates and farms. The French onion soup well deserves the Best of the Hudson Valley award it recently won, incredibly rich and satisfying. Steak frites are especially delicious, tender steak and piles of fries done just right. Tables are close together, but small enough that whispering or sharing sweet desserts can still encourage romance.

Le Petit Bistro – 8 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, NY

A small, intimate restaurant with pine walls, fresh flowers and candlelight on the main street of the village. Cuisine is French with Mediterranean influences. The lighting is especially flattering, and the service is friendly and helpful. Food is always fresh and interesting, the wine list is excellent, and there is a cozy little bar that makes any wait for a table a pleasure.

Cascade Mountain Winery – Flint Hill Road, Amenia, NY

A fantastic drive through farm country on winding roads brings you to a tiny European style chalet offering wine tastings as well as tapas style restaurant food in a charming atmosphere. Open for tastings every day, the restaurant is open only on week ends. The wine is amazingly good for such a small operation, having won many awards over the years., and the food matches well. Hard to find, perhaps, but a hidden jewel at the end of a really beautiful drive, especially in Fall foliage season or Spring, when many of the farms in the surrounding countryside may have lambs, calves and colts frolicking in the fields.

Charlotte’s – Route 44, Millbrook, NY

Another destination that will bring you through beautiful country roads, Charlotte’s is a magnificent old building with views of rolling soft green hills and horse farms. In summer, a patio makes al fresco dining a true delight, and in cooler weather the four fireplaces inside with candlelight and fresh flowers provide a cozy ambiance. Coming into the dining room from a cold winter’s night and feeling the warmth of the fireplace and the glow of the candles is incredible. The menu changes with the seasons, with emphasis on fresh local produce and game.

Depuy Canal House – High Falls, NY

In a building built in 1797 to be used as an inn for travelers on the now defunct canal, dinner there feels a bit like dining in a charming museum. Open only Friday through Sunday, filled with antiques and lit mainly with candles, the various small rooms with their fireplaces are fascinating to walk through. Once you’re seated, be prepared to be amazed at the menu; ala carte or as a five-course meal, the food is unlike any you will have seen before. Called New American Cuisine, it is not at all what you might expect from the surroundings – the Carrot Pasta rolled with ricotta cheese served on tomato sauce is just one example. Between courses, diners are encouraged to wander upstairs to a small balcony where you can look down into the kitchen. If there isn’t a crowd, the servers try to seat people as far apart as possible, so you may even find yourselves all alone in one of the smaller rooms – how romantic is that? All this ambiance doesn’t come cheap, but as a special occasion place, it’s one of the best. There are also rooms available in another building, light-filled, decorated nicely with antiques and quite reasonably priced.

Locust Tree Inn – 215 Hugeuenot Street, New Paltz, NY

Located next to the fairway of a golf course, this is a Dutch colonial home built in 1759. There are three indoor dining rooms, including a tap room with a great bar, as well as patio dining in summer with breathtaking views of the Shawangunk Mountain range. Each of the rooms has a wood-burning fireplace decorated with comfortable antiques, and the over-all feeling is of a stylish, yet friendly European country house. Northern European cuisine with French, Northern Italian, Austrian and German influences with emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.

Le Chambord – 2737 Route 52, Hopewell Junction, NY

A real “occasion place” located in an 1863 Georgian style mansion that will have you feeling like Scarlett and Rhett as you stroll around the ten acre property. Expect four-star dining along with impeccable formal service, exquisite French nouvelle-classical food and a wine celler that is unequalled in the area. The artwork is worth noting, as the owner is a renowned collector. A cozy bar in the basement is a charming way to begin a romantic evening, and rooms are also available, each uniquely decorated with antiques and including a sumtuous continental breakfast.

Plumbush Inn – Route 9D, Cold Spring, NY

A historic 1867 gentleman’s farmhouse in historic Cold Spring (a wonderful place to shop for antiques before dinner). Rustic American cuisine is served in dining rooms complete with woodburning fireplaces or on a charming verandah overlooking perriennel gardens in nice weather. Rooms are well appointed and spacious with comfortable brass beds and include a continental breakfast delivered to your room in the morning – what luxury!

Shadows on the Hudson – 176 Rinaldi Drive, Poughkeepsie, NY

Perched on a cliff forty feet above the Hudson River, Shadows offers five different dining areas to choose from. Pass by the huge bar and opt for one of the quiet side dining rooms, either the casual and warm Sunset Room (word has it this has been the setting for many proposals) or if you like ultra-modern, choose the Winter Room, all white leather, lucite and silver, with a unique fireplace set high in the wall. In nice weather, of course, the terrace provides incredible views of the river, especially if you’re in time for a sunset. Start off with one of their award-winning cocktails and if the weather’s fine, possibly end the evening with an after-dinner drink at the Terrace Bar with its view of the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Ship Lantern Inn – 1725 Route 9W, Milton, NY

In a building dating back to Revolutionary War times, with rather old-fashioned nautical decor, enjoy being thoroughly pampered. Servers wearing tuxedos treat everyone like a VIP, with never a hint of rushing you through excellent cocktails, fresh shellfish from their raw bar, all the way through to coffee and marvelous desserts. Dinner here is an event, with tableside preparation of Caesar salads, Chateaubriand for two, and Bananas Foster – when was the last time you had an expert cooking at your table just for you? A great place to take someone you want to impress, but not overly expensive considering the quality of food and service.

Stissing House – 7801 South Main Street, Pine Plains, NY

Built as an inn in 1782, both Washington and Lafayette dined here. Renovated several years ago, but with an eye to keeping the ancient feel of the place, it boasts a large dining room with low beams, long bar and a wood-burning oven turning out awesome appetizer pizza. The remaining spaces are a charming rabbit warren of small rooms that give more intimacy to those diners wanting a quiet evening, one is so tiny there is only one table – how would that be for a proposal spot? The food is French-American, with those pizzas definitely worth a try for a pre-dinner nosh.

Old Drover’s InnDover Plains, NY

Built in 1750 as a place for drover’s to stop on their way to market with their cattle, the inn now boasts high-quality cuisine in several charming dining rooms complete with fireplaces. It also operates as a B&B, with exquisite rooms, all king-sized beds, most brass or canopied. Breakfast is fabulous, you won’t need to eat again until dinner! Expensive, but worth it for a special treat or occasion.

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