Looking to escape the everyday grind with a picture-perfect getaway for two? Look no further.
From mountains to beaches, big cities to small towns, sprawling national parks to epic West Coast drives, these eight destinations all over the USA will help you escape from it all. And maybe kindle a little romance, as well.
1. Williamsburg, New York City
Best for gourmet couples
When it comes to quality dining options, you’re spoiled for choice all over New York City. Yet North Brooklyn boasts a particular embarrassment of riches – and by basing yourself in Williamsburg, you’ll be at the center of the action. The James Beard Award semifinalists for 2023 are a good place to start.
Whether you’re after a fun date over cha siu “McRibs” and “MSG martinis” or a morning-after brunch of salted-egg-custard french toast, Cantonese-American Bonnie’s is a hot ticket (reservations open 13 days in advance, and you’ll need one). In South Williamsburg, upscale Aldamaserves elevated takes on the street foods of central Mexico, while over by the BQE, Llama Inn’s dimly lit dining room sets the scene for romance over beautifully rendered Peruvian fare.
On the northern edge of the neighborhood, KRU does modern twists on Thai classics in industrial-chic, apothecary-esque environs. And for a casual bite, Taqueria Ramírez slings meaty Mexico City–style tacos from a subway-tiled storefront in Greenpoint. Come prepared to queue up for your tripa, campechano, longaniza, suadero and al pastor on weekends.
2. Key Biscayne, Florida
Best for sun-seeking couples
Less than 10 miles from downtown via the Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne isn’t technically part of Miami. Yet it’s close and continuous enough with the city that it could be an outer neighborhood – if there weren’t such a vibe shift, that is. From skyscrapers and scene-y clubs to quiet white-sand beaches, bike-friendly streets and water sports galore, this barrier island promises to transport you and your loved one far from the urban clamor.
Between its 19th-century lighthouse – the oldest standing structure in all of Florida – and its 1.25-mile natural beach, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is a must-visit. Couples can recharge together under an umbrella, or paddle a kayak for two on the ocean waves. If you’re arriving by sea, head straight for Boater’s Grill, where you can dock at No Name Harbor and tuck into bacalao fritters and fresh-caught snapper.
The Rusty Pelican is another local institution, one that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Reserve a table for brunch or time it to sunset to make the most of the magnificent waterfront location on Rickenbacker Marina.
3. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Best for outdoorsy couples
From spring wildflowers and all sorts of animals to stunning sunsets and epic stargazing, the two distinct desert ecosystems of Joshua Tree National Park present myriad opportunities for open-air amor. If you prefer to stroll hand in hand, there are short walks and nature trails, with more-strenuous treks – plus biking, backpacking and rock-climbing – if you’d rather work up a sweat. (However you get out and about, pack more water than you’ll think you’ll need.)
There are campgrounds on-site – but renting romantic accommodations nearby takes things up a notch. Barely 10 miles from the park gate, Cascade Trails Mustang Sanctuary offers five glamping tents alongside equine experiences, such as sunset trail excursions and private stargazing rides (bookable even if you’re not staying overnight).
Take a dip in the heated pool, then cozy up in a sleek Airstream trailer at AutoCamp Joshua Tree, or hit the mineral spa and pool at the adults-only, 420-friendly, clothing-optional Mi Kasa Hot Springs. Celebrating something special? Peruse Plum Guide’s listings for the perfect, private modern abode.
4. Aspen, Colorado
Best for high-rolling couples
Perhaps the most expensive ski town in the US, ritzy Aspen is a legendary celebrity hangout, particularly during the peak winter months, when the perfect powder, jaw-dropping real estate and impeccable dining options draw a steady crowd of A-listers. That said, it’s not all snow days: with biking, hiking and cultural events during the other months the year, it’s a four-season destination. Though it’s possible to do a weekend here on a budget, this is a great place to go all out.
If you’re that other kind of high-rolling couple, there’s plenty for you as well. Like the rest of Colorado, Aspen has a selection of recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries; Dalwhinnie is worth a stop for the eye candy alone. A tasteful boutique with a cowboy–cousin–of–Ralph Lauren aesthetic, it caters to the VIP market, juxtaposing pre-roll joints, jars of flower and luxe accessories with clothing, jewelry and home goods worth tens of thousands. (As you’d expect, prices are higher than at your average dispensary.)
5. Rogers Park, Chicago
Best for culture-oriented couples
Hyde Park and Bucktown-Wicker Park are well known for their architectural bona fides and trendy, art-inspired style. But to mingle with a young crowd of diverse creatives, the Far North Side community of Rogers Park is the place. With 60-plus languages spoken and too many cuisines to count – from Caribbean to Mexican to Ethiopian to Japanese – this is the Chicago neighborhood that, based on recent census data, “most closely matches the racial and ethnic breakdown of the entire city,” per the Chicago Sun-Times.
During the day, check out the Mile of Murals on Glenwood Ave, wander through the galleries and studios of the Glenwood Arts District and stop by the Leather Archives & Museum for a peek at the history and culture of leather, kink, fetish and BDSM.
By night, catch original works at the Factory Theater, world music and magicians at Rhapsody and stories from underrepresented communities – expressed via stage combat! – at Babes With Blades. Then grab a nightcap at the romantic Le Piano, an intimate bar and performance space anchored by – yes – a grand piano.
6. Big Sur, California
Best for couples who love the open road
One of the country’s most celebrated road trips, Big Sur’s wild stretch of Hwy 1 matches unparalleled vistas with hidden beaches and hiking opportunities, bubbling hot springs and excellent dining options. Which makes it ideal for a couple looking to hit the road and reconnect with nature, without going totally rustic.
Besides, the drive is better as a duo: if you take turns, you’ll both have a chance to look out the window, and to get behind the wheel. (Just be sure to check your route before you set out, as rockslides, flooding, wildfires and auto accidents can all trigger closures.)
Start north of Big Sur at Carmel-by-the-Sea, and give yourself time to explore: the 1 sq-mile village is renowned for its artistic charm, from its galleries and shopping to its 18th-century mission. On your way south, stop at Point Lobos State Park to watch the sea lions cavorting on the coast, then pause near the highly Instagrammable Bixby Bridge to snap a pic or two.
Stretch your legs at a state park (Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Andrew Moleraare popular detours), grab a drink and gawk at the views at Nepenthe (or downstairs, at the more casual Café Kevah) and spring for prix-fixe lunch or dinner at Post Ranch Inn’s clifftop Sierra Mar, a glass-walled jewel box of a dining room with breathtaking views and modern harvest-inspired fare.
7. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Best for LGBTIQ+ couples
One of the most welcoming destinations in Puerto Rico – and the entire Caribbean – for LGBTIQ+ travelers, San Juan is a warm-weather retreat with gay-friendly neighborhoods, accommodations, nightlife and restaurants, one easily reached from the East Coast of the US. To keep things lively, a Queer Filmfest takes place in May, as well as an epic Pride celebration in June.
You and your partner can hit one of two unofficial gay beaches, then prepare for a big night out at one of the capital’s fun LGBTIQ+ bars, whether you’re catching a drag show at Kweens Klub or Zal Si Puedes, dancing up a storm at La Placita, downing cheap, strong drinks at Tía Maria’s Liquor Store or making new friends at La Sombrilla Rosa.
Looking to treat yourselves to a nice meal? Order broiled lobster and booze-filled coconut drinks at the gay-owned Ostra Cosa, or head to Jose Santaella’s gay-friendly namesake for beautiful contemporary Puerto Rican fare in an equally beautifully designed space.
As for accommodations, Coqui del Mar is an adults-only, gay-owned guesthouse in Ocean Park, with a clothing-optional pool and first-floor studios complete with two-person walk-in showers. You can also join group excursions to the rainforest and the beach. The all-vegetarian, gay-owned boutique Dreamcatcher is also in Ocean Park, while the adults-only Condado Ocean Club faces the sea in – you guessed it – Condado.
8. Washington, Virginia
Best for history buffs
About a 90-minute drive west of DC in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, the country’s original Washington sits in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Expect a quaint small town with world-famous accommodations.
Relais & Châteaux’s Inn at Little Washington is home to the only three-Michelin-star restaurant in the metro area. Since it’s beloved for its tasting menus, you just might spot members of the other Washington’s elite at the next table over. (You may also recall its unique approach to filling the dining room post-lockdown).
Luckily, the establishment is well located to work off all that rich food. Sip a glass of locally made wine at Gadino Cellars or Little Washington Winery, duck in and out of the village’s shops and galleries, or head underground to check out the biggest caverns in the eastern US. You can also do some paddling on the Shenandoah River, motor south to spectacular Skyline Drive and hit the rest of nearby Shenandoah National Park for adventures both on foot and two wheels.