Love Takes a Holiday
Each year, smack dab in the middle of February, obligation weighs heavily on the romantically entangled. Everyone knows they have to get their special someone a special something, but more often than not, inspiration gives way to the expected ease of chocolates, Hallmark greetings, and the occasional Tiffany box.
This year, break the mold and embrace the spirit behind Valentine's Day by planning a truly memorable traveling experience for you and your lover. Or better yet, don't let the calendar dictate when to fall into a romantic adventure. Get away whenever the spirit strikesor when an anniversary calls for extreme measures. And forget about Niagara Falls and that all-inclusive beach resort; make your next romantic escape as unique as your relationship. Our special picks are the best place to start.
Let Love Take You Higher:
Ballooning above Europe's Medieval History
As we know, falling in love is actually an elevating experience. Why not take that sensation to the next level by cruising over Central Europe's Burgenland (literally, "Land of Castles"). Indulge your passion for medieval lore from a bird's-eye view and set down right in front of Austria's Hohensalzburg Fortress. Or, should your thirsts run more literal than historical, tour Europe's most celebrated historical culinary accomplishmentits wine-making. Cruise over Italy's vineyards, touching solid ground long enough to load up with bottles, or sip champagne in France while floating over the place where the bubbly got its name.
Adrenalin Addicts Shift into Gear:
Set the Heart Racing
Ready for things to get a bit racy? Indulge your lover's need for speed by enrolling in a driving school. Get behind the wheel of a race car, guided through the turns by professional drivers; improve your street skills at Derek Bell's Porsche Precision Driving School; or hit California's Laguna Seca, Sears Point, or Willow Springs racetracks with world-renowned driver Skip Barber. Most programs include both classroom and on-the-track sessions, and vary from high-performance Formula-one and Euro-sports-car racing to simply polishing up on your urban driving skills. The experience will put your passions into overdrive.
Heat Up Your Love Life:
You and the Volcano
Leave the cardboard red hearts behind and get up close and personal with a real symbol of your love. Explore the world's volcanoes with your lover and let the steaming vents, slow-flowing lava, and billowing ash create a wonderfully surreal landscape for your erupting passions. Conquer new ground with your lover by trekking up Nicaragua's Malaya Volcano, find the fire in Hawaii's paradise by trekking through Kilauea's Volcanoes National Park, or put your passion to the test by exploring Costa Rica's active Arenal Volcano.
Drunk on Love:
Penetrate Portugal's Vineyards
Even though Portugal is the seventh-largest wine producer in the world, most vino-lovers aim for the more obvious targets: France's Loire Valley, Italy's lush hillsides, or the domestic charm of the Napa Valleyall the more reason you and your lover should forgo the obvious and explore Portugal's wine region. And leave the rental cars behind. Instead, cycle through the Minho region, sampling the vinho verde along the way, and stay overnight in the fabulous 19th-century manor homes and castles that line the quiet cobblestone streets.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication