December Romantic Travel Guide
|WINTER WONDERLAND: Hand-in-hand in Central Park's skating rink (Corbis)|
Christmas Eve on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, NM
As dusk approaches, bundle up against the inevitable chill and meander down one of the country's finest art gallery streets. Christmas Eve on Canyon Road is magical. Piñon and cedar bonfires line the ancient road; galleries give out hot cider and cookies; revelers erupt in spontaneous rounds of caroling; hundreds of thousands of tiny candles placed in paper bags (farolitos) line walkways and rooftops. Let the magic begin.
Ice Skating in New York City
Few wintertime activities are as quintessentially urban as ice skating in Manhattan. The glitzy rink at Rockefeller Center, with the famously lit tree, has drawn folks since the mid-1930s. But the Wollman Memorial Park at Central Park and 63rd Street may be the city's loveliest. It's surrounded by fine architecture, rocky outcroppings, and lots of weeping willows. Glide side-by-side with a partner or celebrate your singleness. Whichever it is, feel free. No one is watching. This is New York.
Go ahead: Get lost. You won't be the first person to do so since the city's founding in the early 400s. Wander deeper and deeper away from Piazza San Marcodown narrow alleyways, over one bridge and then another and another. You can't go too wrong strolling along Venetian canals at Christmastime with a new (or old) love. Skip a touristy gondola ride and hop a vaporetti (a water bus) with the locals. After all, Venetians know a thing or two about passion; they live in the world's most romantic city.
Islanders heartily welcome romantic souls during wintertime as this rarified island reverts to its traditional roots for this month-long celebration. Santa and Mrs. Claus disembark from a boat; a town crier announces their arrival as they swap the sleigh for a horse-drawn carriage; and Victorian carolers line gas lantern streets. Inns keep their hearths burning, restaurants warm appetites with haute cuisine, and pubs ply guests with hot toddies. And all is right with the world for a moment.
In Jackson, the snow-covered Teton Mountains are one grand breath awayas are majestic herds of elk (from mid-December through March). Upwards of 5,000 winter in the nearby National Elk Refuge, along with the country's largest herd of protected bison. Bundle up and take a horse-drawn sleigh to meet them on their terms. Then snuggle up in the first-rate Rusty Parrot Lodge (888.739.1749; www.rustyparrot.com), a timber and stone lodge with oh-so-Western rooms. Dine on classic but contemporary cuisine and soak in the spa. Vow to return.
Decadent Dining in Honolulu, HI
Whether it's a beachside breakfast at the Hau Tree Lanai (808.921.7066; kaimana.com/dining.htm) on glorious San Souci Beach at the quiet end of Waikiki, or dinner at the truly incomparable Chef Mavro (808.944.4714; www.chefmavro.com), where Hawaiian regional cuisine is prepared with a distinctly Provencal flavor, dining out on Oahu is an event. At the former, do not miss poi pancakes or waffles; they are without parallel. At the latter, order the nightly special and save room for the malasadas, a filled fried dough pastry popular in Hawaii.
Dinner at Cap Est in Martinique, French West Indies
This volcanic island, a bastion of French-Creole cooking, is still relatively off the beaten Caribbean tourist path. But for those in the know, dinner at Cap Est at the Hotel Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa (+05.96.596.54.8080; www.capest.com) is worth the flight alone. Contemporary fusion cuisine surpasses all high expectations. While you're here, enjoy great beaches, fine snorkeling, splendid hiking, and of coursea favoritesimply doing nothing against a backdrop of crystal clear, turquoise waters.
Saint Lucia, West Indies
This tropical dreamland transports guests back to Eden. No question. With the help of lushly spiked mountains and expansive ocean vistas, modern stresses melt. To fully imbibe, stay at Ladera (866.290.0978; www.ladera.com) and understand why this may very well be the best hotel in the Caribbean. Convincing you of this fact comes in the form of afternoon tea at the infinity pool, cocktails at the open-air bar, a Dream Pillow Service to ensure you get a perfect night's sleep, and local epicurean delicacies. Guestrooms feature an open wall (with a bed draped in netting) and a plunge or swimming pool. Take your next holiday on Cloud Nine and redefine Utopia.
Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic
You'll find a bit of something for everyone at the 7,000-acre Casa De Campo, from golfers and sports fanatics to families and romantics. Why include it in a romance column then? Because everyone's definition of what's romantic is different. You can even bring the kids along, drop them (occasionally) at the superb kid's programs, and take a minute for "the couple." Likewise, send your partner off to play and indulge in a little time for yourself.
Big Sur, CA
I can't help myself: Big Sur is the most beautiful place in North America. There. I said it. Even in rainy December, there are few cozier places to cuddle up with your lover than practically anywhere here. Since the journey is part of the romance, though, you'll likely draw your partner close to you long before nightfall. Stop at a grove of redwoods and savor its pheromones. Stroll Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in late afternoon mist. Watch gray whales breach offshore and elephant seals resting onshore. It won't be your last visit.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication