Romance is everywhere if you you know where to look for it: Nebraska has towns called Cupid and Valentine. Illinois has Fidelity and Louisiana has Eros. There are towns called Darling in Mississippi, Lovely in Kentucky, Venus in Florida, and both Colorado and Idaho boast towns called Sugar City. While the following 18 small towns may not have an obvious name, (and as Romeo's Juliet once asked, "What's in a name?") they take romance seriously.
Cupid had better bundle up for Valentine's Day in this mountain town. The picturesque gateway to Glacier National Park is so romantic that ABC's long-running series The Bachelor filmed an episode here. Linger outside with a horse-drawn sleigh ride or an afternoon on the ski slopes but in the evening, the lively downtown can warm you up with live music or theater, craft beer, or a locally sourced steak.
The quiet winter months are an ideal time to visit Provincetown. B&Bs abound in Cape Cod's northernmost city, but few are as distinctive or thoughtfully designed as local favorite Eben House. The former home of storied mariner captain Eben Snow, the inn's main brick structure is one of only three of its kind in Provincetown still standing from the late 18th century. Breakfast is considerably more delicious than typical sailors' fare and changes with the seasons; hearty winter dishes include Chai Baked Oatmeal and Spiced Apple Chicken Sausage Frittata. Spend your days strolling the empty beaches or visiting local galleries and shops.
The beauty of Berlin, a small town on the eastern shore of Maryland, has not been lost on Hollywood: Two romantic films, Runaway Bride and Tuck Everlasting were filmed here. Making your own cinematic magic here is easy. A window shopping stroll along Main Street — two- and three-story brick buildings house upscale boutiques, bakeries, cafes, and antique shops — will transport you to a time before chain stores and malls. Enjoy an off-season walk with your sweetheart along the shoreline in nearby Assateague, where wild ponies (looking adorably pudgy in their winter coats) calmly roam the dunes.
Dolly Parton, who wrote and crooned I Will Always Love You, clearly knows a bit about romance. In Dolly's bustling Smoky Mountains enclave, Valentine's Day can be celebrated at the Titanic Museum with Sweetheart Month (buy your sweetheart a necklace modeled on Rose's Heart of the Ocean), or with an adventure of your own, like a hot pursuit through the local ropes course followed by a cozy evening by the fire in a secluded cabin.
No Miami glitz here, Amelia Island is a kinder, gentler Florida with grand dame Victorian mansions, 13 miles of lovely beaches, horse-drawn carriage rides and a sense of old-fashioned courtly romance. It wasn't always so wholesome, though — Amelia Island was such a haven for pirates that at two points during the 19th century, they claimed the island as their own, flying the skull-and-crossbones flag over the objections of the local Spanish territorial government.
Not content to heap all the fun Valentine's Day bounty on the 14th, this coastal burg in southern Maine keeps the heat on all February long with a series of events called Paint the Town Red. Local restaurants serve "red plate specials;" shops in town hold "red tag specials;" there are red-wine tastings, sleigh rides, Latin dance parties, poetry readings — all of which illustrate how Kennebunkport dares to call itself New England's Most Romantic Town.
The heart-shaped box of chocolates is a Valentine's Day standard, right? Hershey, where all those Kisses originate, is the place to sweet-talk your honey all month long, when the town holds Chocolate-Covered February, a series of dinners, tastings, and 'labs' where participating scientists design their own sweet pleasures.
Enjoy the decadent sensation of soaking in the warm springs waters of Berkeley Springs, a natural spa that's been around so long that George Washington bathed here. Couples can a Roman bath, a 4-foot deep tiled tub in a private bathing chamber at Berkeley Springs State Park's lovely 1815 bathhouse.
Paris, France is synonymous with romance. Distant cousin Paris, Texas captures a little of the magic of the City of Lights with its 60-foot Eiffel Tower (the real thing is 984 feet tall, for comparison) topped with a red cowboy hat, lending Gustave Eiffel's original design an oil derrick edge. This east Texas town offers lovebirds terrific vintage shopping, and, to really get the heart thumping, a six-mile bike and hike path, the Trail de Paris.
With winery visits, antique shopping, and romantic strolls along the Ohio River, this Midwestern town makes Valentine's Day relaxed and easy. The walkable downtown is a veritable showcase of 133 buildings listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, so the hilly streets are packed with architectural interest and charm to spare.
Hot chilis have long been considered an aphrodisiac so where better to ignite some fiery passion than at the home of America's most famous hot sauce, Tabasco? In February, the focus in New Iberia, Louisiana, is mostly on Mardi Gras, but come February 14, the spotlight turns to love. Visitors can take a Tabasco factory tour in nearby Avery Island and visit the gardens on the grounds (keep an eye out for alligators!), then stock up on the hot stuff at the Tabasco Country Store. Top it off with a little antebellum romance by touring the gracious plantation house Shadows-on-the-Teche.
Forget any associations you may have with Snooki and the Jersey Shore cast, this charming Victorian town will win you over to the quiet life at the southern tip of these barrier islands. Cape May takes Valentine's Day seriously: Local hotels, restaurants and shops conspire to offer breakfasts in bed, wine tastings, handmade chocolate treats and more. The celebrations extend a few days beyond the holiday, too, in case you want to linger longer in the bliss.
Big Sur may be right up the rugged Pacific coast from this seaside village but you won't trip over a Silicon Valley mogul meditating here. Real people live here, along with a lot of sea otters, tidepools on Moonstone Beach and whales visible offshore. But the real Valentine's Day draw is up on the hill: Hearst Castle, the magnificent American palace, fit for a king and queen.
The unusual depth of the Finger Lakes keeps the winter temperatures of the upstate New York region relatively mild (relatively means you'll still have to dress warmly!), so not only can you frolic outside in February, you can enjoy good local wines, too. Charming historic Seneca Falls is widely believed to have inspired Bedford Falls, the town in the classic film It's a Wonderful Life, so for fans of George and Mary's enduring romance, this town's a perfect Valentine's Day destination.
If you reach back past its gimmicky name, you may discover the secret to T or C (as the locals call it): This artsy small town used to go by the name of Hot Springs. These days you can soak with your sweetie in natural hot springs at any of ten different bathhouses in town, from rustic-chic riverside pools to more private in-room soaking tubs. When you're all relaxed, hit the walkable downtown for gallery browsing and catch a movie at the neon-dreamy El Cortez Movie Theater or head to the desert to tour Sir Richard Branson's nearby Spaceport America.
A waterfall is a pretty good metaphor for falling in love. You know, a long dramatic cascade of wild frothing water dropping finally into a deep, welcoming pool. Spectacular Snoqualmie Falls (which played a starring role on the seminal TV series Twin Peaks) does that metaphor one better: the falls are thought by local indigenous tribes to have been the sacred site of the creation of man and woman. Consider that possibility as you snuggle fireside at the Salish Lodge, balanced right at the edge of the falls or in the treetops at nearby Treehouse Point.
If your romantic compass veers toward the Wild West — with its desert landscapes, wild animals, and plain-spoken folks — Bisbee, a former copper mining town in southern Arizona, may be just the place for your Valentine's Day getaway. Saloons may have been replaced by brewpubs serving craft beers and small-batch bourbons, and the storefronts in the cowboy-Victorian streets now house art galleries, cafes, and shops, but Bisbee still holds a rugged air of Western romance. Take the ghost tour and join the annual chocolate tasting, but make time for a walk in the red-gold desert hills before sunset.
Each February, this former mill town (in the midst of a downtown revival) holds a Cupid Contest to honor the citizen who has shown the most love to the community. Sweet as Valentine's Day candy, right? Romantic Willimantic isn't done with the civic love — the town also holds an annual Chocolate Festival on the weekend of Valentine's Day that culminates in an evening cabaret of love songs.
The Garden State isn't exactly known for romance, but this small-town stunner on the Delaware River has all the trappings of a great couple's getaway. The cute downtown is chockablock with art galleries, antique shops, and coffee shops on the ground floors of restored Federal-style townhouses. If treasure-hunting at the Golden Nugget flea market isn't your style, maybe an easy bike ride along the riverside path would hit Cupid's mark
Purpose-built for happiness by town planners, sleepy Ajo is laid out with wide streets and a spacious town plaza surrounded by whitewashed Spanish colonial revival buildings and churches... and one stoplight. Don't come expecting a buzzy scene: this small town in the Sonoran Desert is mainly known as the gateway to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a pristine desert preserve, and hotspot for birders and nature-lovers who think hiking is a romantic activity.