Adventure and Romance! Our Ten Fave Romantic Spots in the U.S.

[Posted February 14, 2018]

Hey gang! Happy Valentine’s Day!

So in honor of the occasion this year, we thought we’d take a few minutes to go back through our memories and our photos and pick out the ten places we think are among the most romantic spots we’ve been here in the U.S. And here’s what we’ve come up with!

Now – and this is important – our idea of “romantic” isn’t necessarily what comes to mind for most people. So definitely keep that in mind. For most folks it seems the word romantic immediately brings to mind thoughts of roses and chocolates and sappy cards and expensive candlelit dinners. Right? And we get it. That’s the very essence of romance in its traditional sense we suppose, and that’s certainly all well and good if you’re into that sort of thing. But honestly, that just ain’t us. Not by a long shot.

Our idea of romance, especially as it applies to romantic places and romantic things to do, is all about finding and sharing something remarkable together. Simple as that. But not at a dinner table in some hush-hush, high-fallutin’, dimly-lit fancy restaurant stuck over a hundred dollar plate of pan-seared duck liver foie gras, or freshly shaved perigord truffles, or whatever the hell any of that is. But out there. Somewhere. Doing something together. Experiencing something together. And making awesome memories together. And we can say wholeheartedly that that simple way of thinkin’, as much as anything, has absolutely helped strengthen our relationship and brought all kinds of depth and meaning and value to our lives, and certainly our marriage. Good stuff.

So the criteria for this list is pretty simple: we just came up with a list of places that came to mind when we asked ourselves: where did we have just a really cool experience together? What are the places that really stick out? And we wanted to keep it here within the United States, because these are all very cool experiences that we hope you guys will really, realistically, be able to get out an do and see for yourselves. (Maybe we’ll come up with a worldwide list at some point, too. If y’all would be interested.) And some of ’em, we’ll grant you, might sound a little, well, different. Maybe a little off-the-beaten-track. But you know what? That’s exactly the sort of thing we’re in to. So, yeah. Giddyup.

Here we go then! Our ten favorite “romantic” places in the United States, in no particular order. Hope y’all enjoy! And definitely let us know what y’all think!

 

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas


This is without a doubt one of our favorite places not only in the U.S., but anywhere in the world. And the fact that it’s right here in the Texas Panhandle – right in our own backyard – makes it even more so. If you didn’t know, Palo Duro Canyon (in the heart of the Texas Panhandle, just southeast of Amarillo) is the second largest canyon in the United States, behind of course the Grand Canyon. And it is truly a sight to behold. Even to us locals who have been going down into the canyon since we were tiny little kiddos, a day or a weekend in Palo Duro Canyon is still such a very special treat. And we’re pretty dang proud to have it here!

What to do in Palo Duro Canyon? The canyon’s a perfect place for an ideal day trip. There’s tons of hiking, biking, birdwatching, wildlife, and tons of beautiful little picnic spots. Or it’s just a great place to go and do absolutely nothing, except just chill out and relax and soak up the peaceful viibe of one of the most beautiful places in America. But we’d really recommend camping a night or two! You’ve got all there is do to and see in the daytime, plus an absolutely mind-blowing view of that great big star-filled Texas sky at night. Heck yeah, man.

 

Dauphin Island, Alabama

Okay. We know what you’re thinking. Where the hell is Dauphin Island, Alabama? Well honestly we’d be thinkin’ the same thing, if we hadn’t just accidentally stumbled across this little gem of a place on a road trip across the south a few years back. From Mobile, it’s just a straight shot to the south. And once you’re there it’s almost like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. They call this little island the “Sunset Capital of Alabama,” and for very good reason! But believe us there’s plenty to see, do and taste on this island before the sun goes down. The beaches are absolutely freaking beautiful. The food is amazing. The people are super cool. And best of all – at least when we were there – it seemed like there was barely another soul around. So the vibe is super laid-back. Love this little place! Can’t wait to go back.

What to do in Dauphin Island? Enjoy a friend bologna sandwich and a cold beer while relaxing on an empty stretch of pristine beach. Explore historic Fort Gaines, which stood guard over Mobile Bay during the Civil War. Walk the trails and watch for wildlife in the beautiful Audubon Bird Sanctuary. And enjoy an amazing sunset, amazing fresh seafood, and amazing company at JT’s Sunset Grill. And save us a bite, would ya?

 

Yachats, Oregon

Yep. Just like Dauphin Island, we just stumbled across this little place by pure accident a few years back. And we’re so glad we did! We actually had no intention of stopping and staying any amount of time here, but once we got into town we fell in love. And we absolutely had to stay a couple of nights. The town itself is just super charming and laid-back, and in fact is often referred to as the “gem of the Oregon Coast.” And it’s the coastal scenery in this little place that just swept us off our feet. It may not be as dramatic as a lot of other places you’ll see up and down the coast, but although it’s a bit more subtle it’s every bit as spectacular. And the fact you can enjoy it all without feeling overwhelmed by throngs of tourists? Big, big bonus in our book!

What to do in Yachats? We stayed a couple of nights at the Yachats Inn right on the coast, and quite honestly our favorite thing to do was to just sit on a park bench by the shore and soak it all in. We even spotted whales swimming past just a little ways off shore! Enjoy some amazing fresh seafood at the Luna Sea Fish House. Drive up and down the coast a little ways to see spectacular scenery and some drop-dead gorgeous lighthouses. And thank us later. 🙂

 

Banner Elk, North Carolina

Again – and there certainly seems to be a theme developing here – Banner Elk is one of those little places we’re so happy to have just somehow come across. Having said that, this little mountain village is pretty popular and from what we understand can get pretty crowded at times. But this was our first-ever trip into the mountains of North Carolina, and we knew jack squat about this place before we rolled into town. First off, the mountains in this part of North Carolina are just absolutely beautiful. And so are the many awesome little communities you’ll find in and among them, like Banner Elk, Boone, Blowing Rock and tiny little Valle Crucis. To be real honest, once we got to town we actually didn’t do all that much, in spite of the fact there’s all kinds of cool stuff to do and see ’round here. But it was sure hard leaving the little cabin we rented for the night, where we just relaxed, read books, and enjoyed being disconnected for a while. Pure mountain bliss.

What to do in Banner Elk? Well, like we said there’s LOTS. More than we can list, even. But we loved our visit to the little Mast General Store in Valle Crucis. Dusty spent an amazing day fly fishing with Foscoe Fishing Company out of Boone (while Nik relaxed in a claw-foot tub the whole day). And we loved just driving up and down the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, takin’ in the scenery and listening to some old-timey bluegrass on the radio. So yeah, a low-key visit for sure. But we just loved every minute.

 

Belfast, Maine

So the coastal areas of Maine are dotted with all kinds of groovy little towns, villages and places to stop and visit. Trouble is, the word’s definitely out about ’em. We’ve only been up that way a couple of times, both during those beautiful summer months in Maine, and found the area to be just chock-freaking full of people. And cars. And hubbub. And all that kind of hassle. But you can’t not go visit this part of the world just because it gets a little crowded. There’s a reason it’s so popular of course – lots of reasons, actually – including the fact that this beautiful little part of the world has a charm and a vibe and feeling that makes it all so wonderfully unique. So! The trick is to find a way to explore it all, without feeling absolutely overwhelmed by all the people. And the answer to that, is Belfast. Without a doubt. Sure, it’s a super convenient (and less crowded) place from which you can strike out and explore the entire area, but Belfast itself is a super charming, picturesque little seaside village that’s an awesome little destination all its own. We wrote a blog about our first visit there a few years back, and we still long for the days we spent there.

What to do in Belfast? Stroll up and down Main Street and check out its many awesome little shops and cafes, including the oldest shoe store in America, Colburn Shoe Store. Grab a cold beer and get to know the locals down at Rollie’s. Enjoy some amazing, fresh, bona-fide Maine lobster at Young’s Lobster Pound. And enjoy the peace and serenity of a walk along Belfast Harbor.

 

Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Yep. Sure sounds like an interesting place for a romantic getaway, doesn’t it? But if you can take the time to get up there, Devil’s Tower is one of the absolute coolest places you will ever visit in your lifetime. Yes, it’s the very same Devil’s Tower made famous by the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but for hundreds of years before Steven Spielberg’s aliens arrived there, it’s been a very special place in Native American lore and legend. And for good reason. The magnificent natural tower rises some 13-hundred feet above the rolling Wyoming plains and it is a truly spectacular sight. And the stars at night out here? Holy moly, man! We camped under the tower a few summers ago, and believe it or not happened to catch our first (and only) ever glimpse of the northern lights, dancing in the night sky above the tower! Absolutely one of the most incredible things we’ve ever seen! Beyond all that – and because it’s just so far out in the middle of nowhere – it’s an amazing place to go and just disconnect from the world.

What to do at Devil’s Tower? Camp out. Seriously. If you’re gonna go all the way out there, plan on spending at least a night if not two or three or four. Some of the best camping we’ve ever done. Hike the Tower Trail, which circles 1.3 miles around the base of the tower. And yes, people do actually climb the Tower, much to the chagrin of the Native American folks who consider it a sacred place. But whatever you do, just find a way to go. At least once. Amazing, amazing place.

 

Bardstown, Kentucky

So those of y’all who have been with us for several years might remember we visited little Bardstown, Kentucky a while back as a part of a coast-to-cast road rally put on by USA Today,Rand McNally and the Travel Channel. And we were so absolutely smitten with this little town we proudly awarded Bardstown the honor of being “the Most Beautiful Small Town in America.” And we’re still absolutely confident we were right on the money. Bardstown itself is just the coolest little spot. It’s got a beautiful, classic, historic downtown. It’s full of lots of fine down-home spots to eat, and lots and lots of fine down-home folks. Plus it’s right in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country! And the rivers, rolling hills, forests and “knobs” in this part of the world just make the whole area so, so pretty. We love Kentucky in general, and we really, really love Bardstown.

What to do Bardstown? Visit at least one of the many amazing distilleries in the area. Enjoy a romantic, scenic ride on the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. Visit My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Stroll around downtown. And definitely spend some time gettin’ to know the folks.

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is absolutely one of those places that we take for granted. Which totally sucks. But that’s a fact. We say that, because Santa Fe is just a few hours drive from our little home in the Texas Panhandle but we still rarely make it over that way. And that’s a great  big shame. Because every time we visit Santa Fe (and the area that surrounds it) we just fall in love with it all over again. Sure, it can be a little hoity-toity and pretentious and certainly pretty expensive. But for those of us who shun that upper-crust way of livin’, Santa Fe can still be a very cool, very reasonable and very romantic place to visit. No matter what tax bracket you fall in, there’s no denying city itself is truly one of a kind, with a certain kind of enchanting New Mexico vibe that is distinctly Santa Fe. And the history of this place is absolutely fascinating! But here’s the thing: when we do go, we rarely actually spend much time in the city. Instead, we like to camp up in the mountains and just drive down into town whenever we feel like it. Which for us, is absolutely the way to go. The Santa Fe National Forest and the Pecos Wilderness east of town offer some of the best camping, hiking, fishing and scenic views anywhere. And from your campsite you can not only get into town easily, but you can explore all the terrific little towns and beautiful sights and wonderful activities that the heart of New Mexico has to offer.

What to do in Santa Fe? So much. Well, there’s the camping and outdoor stuff we just mentioned. A visit to Santa Fe’s beautiful and historic plaza is an absolute must. Marvel at the “miraculous staircase” in Loretto Chapel. And have a blast wandering through one of our favorite little thrift shops anywhere, called Double Take. Start there, and see where the adventure takes you!

 

Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park, California

Okay. So we just noticed that lots of these places on the list involve camping. Which we suppose is no surprise. It’s one of our favorite things to do, and in fact can be a fantastic romantic experience! And of all the places we’ve camped across this great country, there’s one out on the west coast that’s mighty tough to beat. Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park is situated in the heart of Big Sur country, right on California’s famed Pacific Coast Highway. But be careful driving by, because if you blink you might miss it! Apart from a day use area, there are only TWO campsites available in the park, both located on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. And we got very, very, very lucky a couple of years ago when we just rolled into the park without a reservation and had both campsites entirely to ourselves. We spent two glorious days relaxing, hiking, gazing up in awe at the 300-foot tall redwood trees above us, and whale watching from our perch there above the ocean. (Amazing!) But the crown jewel of Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park is without question magnificent McWay Falls, which cascade 80 feet from the rocky cliffs onto the tiny, pristine little sandy beach below. And as the sun goes down over the Pacific, the whole place just glows the way you’d imagine heaven probably glows. Sigh.

What to do at Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park? Well, that’s pretty much it. But good grief y’all it’s such a cool little place. Try to grab one of those campsites there one day. And enjoy the trees, the coast, the whales, the waterfall. And we’re told there’s excellent scuba diving nearby too. Yeah. Gonna have to go back for that.

 

Luckenbach, Texas

Okay, so this list, like we said, wasn’t meant to be in any particular order. But it’s real hard for us to say that Luckenbach, Texas, isn’t one of our most very favoritist places on our earth. Yes, that very same Luckenbach, made famous by the legend himself, mister Waylon Jennings. And like a lot of the places on this list, it’s tiny, it’s a little out of the way, and it’s an absolutely awesome place to take your date for a romantic, bonafide, Texas-style date night. But be warned: when you roll into town, don’t expect to see… well.. a town. Because there really isn’t one. Luckenbach itself consists of a general store, a dance hall, and that’s pretty much about it. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in Texas-sized history, charm, and of course, music. The dance hall’s hoppin’ every weekend with some of the finest Texas country music anywhere. (If you catch Texas legends Asleep at the Wheel there some night you’ll be in for a mighty big treat.) But it really doesn’t matter what day, or what time of day you visit, there’s good music playin’ just about all the time in Luckenbach, whether it’s coming from a live band on the outdoor stage, or just a simple circle of insanely talented musicians sittin’ on tree stumps and pickin’ on guitars outside the bar. Plus they’ve got cold, cold beer, good food and friendly folks. Giddyup.

What to do in Luckenbach? Do some two-stepping to some Texas country in the dance hall. Sit out on the picnic tables under those beautiful oak trees and down a few cold ones. (Don’t get shit on by the chickens LOL!) Try your hand at a game of washer-pitchin’ out back. And just soak it all in and thank the good Lord you’re in Texas. Heck yeah man. That’s what we’re talkin’ about.

So what do you think? Ever been to any of these spots? Or do you know of some cool little spots we need to visit for next year’s list? Holler at us in the comments down below. And Happy Valentine’s Day y’all!

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