Ah, romance is in the air. With Valentine’s Day just a week away, you can almost smell the roses and hear the champagne corks pop. If you have already planned that romantic getaway, congratulations, you just might keep your Valentine for another year.
If you haven’t, good luck. There’s always next Valentine’s Day ... or better yet, the rest of the year to escape to one of these Southern idylls.
▪ Keswick Hall, Charlottesville, Va.: Have you ever dreamed of being Lord and Lady of your own manor, of wandering through the rooms, admiring the antiques and luxe furnishings and knowing that you don’t have to clean them; of enjoying the finest of food and knowing that you don’t have to cook it?
If so, this 48-room Italianate mansion hotel makes for the best kind of grand getaway.
Good Morning, America once called Keswick Hall one of the most romantic hideaways in the United States, and it qualifies based on its setting alone — 600 acres nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by the beauty of Virginia’s hunt and wine country.
It’s just 10 miles from Charlottesville and historic landmarks such as Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn/Highland plantations, and the University of Virginia, with its Jefferson-designed classic architecture. It’s also in close proximity to some 25 wineries, breweries and cideries, ensuring you won’t have trouble quenching your thirst.
Even with all these temptations, many guests prefer to loll about in lethargic luxury — relaxing with a book before the fire or enjoying afternoon tea in the drawing room, or in summer, lazing by the infinity pool or teeing off on the Pete Dye-designed championship golf course.
If you’re here on Valentine’s Day, you can enjoy a sparkling Virginia wine upon arrival and then dine in intimate splendor in Fossett’s Restaurant. And don’t forget — for as long as you’re here, you are Lord and Lady of the Manor.
(700 Club Drive, Charlottesville, Va.; Keswick.com.)
▪ Belmond Charleston Place, Charleston S.C.: Charleston, with its magnolia-scented air, wrought iron balconies and rainbow-sherbet bungalows is one of the country’s most romantic cities, and as such, deserves an equally romantic hotel. Fortunately, it has one.
From the moment you arrive at Charleston Place’s Italian marble lobby with its 12-foot crystal chandelier and sweeping staircase that Scarlett O’Hara would be proud to sashay down, you’ll fall in love.
You’ll fall in love with its ideal location in the heart of the historic district; its salt-water pool with a retractable glass roof; its full service spa and upscale shopping arcade, but most of all, you’ll fall in love with a hotel that mirrors the genteel elegance of its city.
This Valentine’s Day, the “Empty Nester” package is designed for couples whose children are out of the house, leaving them time for romance. The package includes one night in a Premier room, sparkling wine upon arrival, dinner in the award-winning Charleston Grill, and continental breakfast in the Palmetto Café, which channels one of the city’s famed courtyard gardens. Providing the romance will be up to you.
(Owned by Belmond, formerly Orient-Express, 205 Meeting Street; Belmond.com/charlestonplace.)
▪ The WaterColor Inn, Florida Panhandle: If your love is expecting a diamond this Valentine’s Day, give her four. The WaterColor Inn, a 60-room David Rockwell-designed boutique hotel, is one of only two Northwest Florida properties to earn Four Diamonds from AAA.
Situated on 500 acres of sugar-white Gulf Coast beach, the hotel offers a sense of serenity, with each room boasting a private balcony perfect for watching sunrises and sunsets or stealing a moonlight kiss. But you don’t even have to go outside to revel in your Gulf view. You can see the same sparkling water from your bathroom’s walk-in shower which has its own window.
At WaterColor, couples will find plenty to do together. The hotel’s Signature Romance Experience offers the requisite champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, as well as a 50-minute Swedish massage at the InnSpa and an intimate dinner in the visually stunning award-winning Fish Out of Water Restaurant (be sure to order the famed Apalachicola oysters — you know what they say about oysters.)
For romantic options offered year-round, ask the hotel staff to arrange a boat ride on Western Lake, the largest of north Florida’s rare coastal dune lakes, or to pack a gourmet lunch basket from the WaterColor Market for a picnic on nearby Grayton Beach.
(34 Goldenrod Circle, Santa Rosa Beach; Watercolorresort.com.
▪ The Gastonian Inn, Savannah, Ga.: Conde Nast Traveler magazine has called it one of the 50 best B&Bs in the world — that’s right, the world. For those looking for romance on an intimate scale, this 17-room inn in Savannah’s historic district is just the ticket.
Comprised of two 1868 Italianate mansions, along with a formal English knot garden, The Gastonian is a step back in time to when stylish ladies gathered in the parlor for afternoon tea, and gentlemen drank their brandy and smoked their cigars on the second floor veranda.
Just a few blocks from Forsyth Park, the hotel epitomizes the ambiance and charm of Savannah. No cubistic design or minimalist furnishings here; instead, period antique furnishings adorn the front parlor and dining room, as well as the guest rooms in the main house and carriage house off the secluded courtyard.
Rooms are painted in subtle shades of blue and light gold, made even more ethereal by the Savannah sun pouring in from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Every room has a working fireplace and some have four-poster beds, while bathroom décor ranges from antique claw foot tubs to two-person Jacuzzis.
Bountiful Southern breakfasts are served in a cozy nook overlooking the back garden or on silver trays in your room, while each evening a complimentary selection of hors d’oeuvres and wines, coffee, dessert and cordials are served in the Double Parlor.
This Valentine’s Day, go for the Full Romantic Turndown Service, where the staff places chilled champagne and strawberries on the bed, or if you really love her, make it a Luxury Romantic Turndown Service, where in addition to the champagne and strawberries, they’ll strew rose petals across the sheets.
220 East Gaston Street; Gastonian.com.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at email@example.com.