Heart Stops: Nontraditional Travels for Celebrating Love

Couples Travel, Featured, Love on the Road — By on February 20, 2012 at 6:00 am

By Michele Herrmann
Special to The Lost Girls

During this month of looove, traveling couples probably would rather spend their time and wallet on romantic experiences than heart-shaped boxes of candy or big bouquets. Since love can extend beyond borders, here are some places and activities that provide different types of couples with unique ways to celebrate their love.

For the Adventurous

Visit an ice hotel. Located 10 minutes from downtown Quebec City, Canada, the Hotel de Glace is made entirely out of ice and snow. Hotel de Glace contains 36 rooms and theme suites, an ice bar, sugar shack, and a giant ice slide. Can’t warm up to the idea of spending an evening on ice? Take a tour of the hotel during the day, or head over in the evening for a cool night out at the Ice Bar. At the bar, order up a tall cocktail served cold in an ice-sculpted glass. No need for drinks on the rocks here.

Ride in a hot air balloon. Rising to the title of “Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World,” Albuquerque, N.M., is place where couples can pop the question in the sky. During the weekend just before Valentine’s Day, Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association lifts off the “Friends & Lovers Balloon Rally,” an annual gathering that has been happening since 1976. More than 130 hot air balloons are launched each morning of the rally around 7 a.m.  Bring your sweetheart to watch the action from the ground below.

Mosey on to a dude ranch. The legacy of the American West still has a foothold in modern culture, making dude ranches a hands-on way of experiencing what pioneers and cowboys faced. A good source for finding a ranch is the Dude Ranchers Association, which provides details on more than 100 of the top ranches in the U.S. and Canada. These days, ranches bring the past alive while offering today’s modern amenities. Couples can ride trails and learn traditional cowboy tasks together, then snuggle around a campfire at night.

For True Romantics

Explore a medieval castle. King Henry VIII knew about marriage—six times. Now go visit one of his former homes. Ruthin Castle, also in North Wales near Chester, holds tales of royal romance in an area set among ancient woodland that tells the history and culture of medieval Britain. Tour and stays at the castle revive the days of yore with tales involving gallant knights, princes, and princesses. Along with Henry, three of his wives—Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard—have personal ties to Ruthin Castle. These women were descendants of Ida de Grey, a noblewoman who lived at the castle some years before.

Pay homage to a patron saint. St. Valentine may be associated with a holiday that carries his name, but this achievement doesn’t mean he’s the sole world authority on love. St. Dwynwen, the Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers, celebrates her feast day on January 25, and couples can visit all year round: Some lovers continue to make a pilgrimage to Llanddwyn, Welsh for “the church of St. Dwynwen,” located off the coast of Anglesey, also in North Wales. The region is also home to the modern lovers Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka, Prince William and Kate Middleton).

For Those Who Enjoy the Outdoors

Explore an area of contrasts. Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula offers an eclectic earthy mix of hands-on activities for couples: kayaking, visiting waterfalls, and camping on the beach. Activities are available year-round. During this time of year, add guided snowshoe hikes and cross country skiing in Olympic National Park and spectacular Pacific storm watching along Kalaloch beaches.

Pedal or hike around Asheville. Hikers and cyclists should consider making the route to Asheville, N.C., based in the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains. When hiking, the biggest challenge is how to choose a trail from literally thousands in the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Hikers will face the fun challenge of choosing the right trail from many options found online. Or go south of Asheville for a jaunt along the Blue Ridge Parkway. If bikes are your preferred method of travel, pedal along 40 miles of single-track trails at Tsali Recreation Area. Cyclists can venture along the shores of Fontana Lake (Olympic riders train here as well) to points such as Windy Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bent Creek also lends itself to rough terrains and off-the-beaten pathways.

Enjoy an ecosystem. Nestled on the Sea of Cortez, La Paz, capital of the State of Baja California Sur,  boasts a beautiful and diverse marine ecosystem, whale watching, stand-up paddle boarding, diving, snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. La Paz was recently featured on LiveStrong.com as the hottest new backpacking destination: the Pichilingue Peninsula, with trails that run near and along many of the region’s beaches, and the Laguna Mountains, trails that lead to hot springs, canyons, 5,000 foot views and waterfalls with natural swimming pools, are the two most popular routes.

For Foodies

Dine inside a lighthouse. The Lighthouse Preservation Society turns the tables on the top level of Newburyport Lighthouse, transforming it into a restaurant setting for private dining. This Massachusetts lighthouse overlooks the Merrimack River as it enters the ocean, on the Massachusetts’ North Shore. Not only will couples enjoy a gourmet meal at sea but also give back. This set-up is a fundraiser; reservations must be arranged in advance. The dinners are supplied to the lighthouse, using a private waiter or waitress, who caters the food from a choice of five of Newburyport’s best restaurants.

Eat locally in Puerto Rico. Many food-savvy experiences are found in Puerto Rico. Bacardi offers a free tour of its Casa Bacardi distillery, where couples can learn about the history of rum production. Many paradores, locally-owned and operated boutique hotels, offer mesones gastronómicos, restaurants serving the best local dishes at reasonable prices. For something no-frills, couples should take a taxi and have a lunch picnic at Piñones, a strip of beach just outside of San Juan lined with road- and beach-side eateries. Couples can bring a large towel or blanket, purchase local favorites such as bacalaítos (codfrittes) and alcapurrías (plantain and yautía root fritters), and cozy up on the beach to eat.

Take a cooking class together. Enhance your cooking capabilities by learning how to make iconic dishes. Those who enjoy New Orleans’ originals like jambalaya, gumbo, or Bananas Foster can sign up for lessons at Crescent City Cooks, a café/cooking school in the Riverwalk Marketplace. If time permits, wander through the Southern Food & Beverage Museum before or after the class, also located in the same area.

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Michele Herrmann is a regular contributor to The Lost Girls. In her spare time, she likes to go hiking and enjoys festivals and general exploring. Follow her on Twitter at @micheleherrmann or her blog, Beyondthe203, on WordPress.

 

Photo credits: ©www.morimotophotography.com, Three Bars Cattle and Guest Ranch or Rancho de los Caballeros, Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau. 

 

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