America's Most Romantic Towns
The public relations exec recalls meeting her future husband after a free concert, a few cocktails, and some impromptu salsa dancing. “As he walked me back to my friend’s house later that night,” Holbrook beams, “I will never forget the fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky, and street lamps illuminating the charming Main Street. Aspen will always be one of my magical spots.”
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She’s not the only one who swoons over this A-list mountain town. Travel + Leisure’s fans and followers ranked Aspen among the best spots for romance in our inaugural America’s Favorite Towns survey; readers nominated favorites on social media via the hashtag #TLTowns and then ranked the resulting 744 picks in 55 categories.
To calculate the most romantic towns across America, we looked at the most lover-friendly categories: brunch spots, bakeries, farmers’ markets, wine scenes, and idyllic, picnic-friendly parks, as well as gay friendliness and, of course, romantic hotels. And in a bid to weed out noisy kids, we gave points to the least family-friendly of the lot.
Related: The 50 Best Romantic Getaways
When it comes to weather, it turns out being perpetually sunny is not the key to calling on Cupid: “Cozy cold weather is a must,” says Jason Mansour, an Air Force officer who is getting married in the sometimes-chilly Sonoma (No. 8 on our list) later this year. “It makes you want to get closer—if only to stay warm.”
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So whether you’re aiming to stoke the fires of a long-smoldering interest or spend some quality time bonding with your boo, read on to discover the best towns for romance. From Bend, OR, and its brew houses to the beaches of Beaufort, NC, love isn’t always in the eye of the beholder.
No. 1 St. Simons, GA
America’s top town for romance strikes the right balance between seclusion and accessibility. Located on one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, this southern-style beach town has both white sands and live oaks, and was a hit with readers in romance-friendly categories such as picnicking and charming cafés. You can rent bicycles, browse antique shops, and check out another undeniable marker of romantic destinations: the local lighthouse. Stay at the 34-room St. Simon’s Inn, and you’ll get a clear view of the 19th-century landmark. goldenisles.com
No. 2 Beaufort, NC
As one of the oldest towns in North Carolina—it dates back to 1709—this Inner Banks village has a boardwalk, stately old homes that have turned into B&Bs (such as the Ann Street Inn, built in 1832), and an A-list pirate past (Blackbeard hung out here). Readers gave it high marks for civility, though: its hotels and inns ranked in the top 10 for romance, and the no-longer-rogueish locals impressed readers for being quite good-looking.
No. 3 Amelia Island, FL
You can’t get more picture-perfect romantic than a horseback ride on the beach, and Amelia Island State Park is one of the few spots in the country where you can still saddle up on the sand. Readers loved this barrier-island town most for its parks and its quaint historic inns—such as the Fairbanks House, a Victorian-era home filled with fireplaces, four-poster beds, and claw-foot tubs. Amelia Island also ranked in the top 10 for being welcoming to gay travelers.
No. 4 Sag Harbor, NY
This branch of the Hamptons has long inspired good name-dropping: it attracts plenty of celebs and, more than a hundred years ago, even merited a mention in Moby Dick. On Saturdays from May through October, you can scan the crowds for familiar faces and pick up a local wine and other picnic provisions at the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market in front of the Breakwater Yacht Club. Readers also ranked Sag Harbor high for romantic hotels, such as The American Hotel, which dates back to 1846. sagharborchamber.com
No. 5 San Luis Obispo, CA
With mild year-round weather, fewer crowds, and affordable prices (at least compared to L.A. and San Francisco), this central-coast college town embodies California mellow, making for easy romance. It also offers easy access to great wine country (think Sideways), laid-back Pismo Beach, and the grandeur of Hearst Castle. Readers ranked it at the top of the survey for its coffee—like the fair-trade, organic brews served at local favorite Blackhorse Espresso and Bakery.
No. 6 Aspen, CO
The A-list ski town has no shortage of plush hotels primed for romance—such as The Little Nell or the St. Regis—or sips to get you there: the Rocky Mountain state’s legendary craft beer scene helped rank this tony mountain town at the top of the survey for its local brews (such as Aspen Brewing’s pale ale called This Season’s Blonde). For a romantic dinner you can’t beat Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, with big views—from 10,700 feet—of the Maroon Bells and European-style classics such as fondue and veal schnitzel. Readers also applauded Aspen for its variety of events, from the X Games to the high-minded Aspen Ideas Festival.
No. 7 Burlington, VT
Rudyard Kipling supposedly once said that Lake Champlain—the centerpiece of America’s best college town—was the sweetest place in the world to watch a sunset. Readers, meanwhile, loved Burlington for other romantically oriented times of day, such as cocktail hour (it ranked in the top 10 for cool bars), brunch, and the all-important dessert. One sip of Lake Champlain Chocolates’ decadent hot cocoas is all it takes to see why the town also scored highly for cafés and ranks among the top 10 for winter wonderland holiday-season visits.
No. 8 Sonoma, CA
The surrounding wine country makes this bucolic town a no-brainer for romance—with the added couples-friendly enticements of dreamy hotels (such as the rambling Spanish Mission–style Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa) and a noted lack of kids. The foodie factor runs high, too, thanks to renowned restaurants (such as French-country The Girl & the Fig) and top-notch farmers’ markets, like the Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers’ Market on Fridays. Readers also voted Sonoma into the top 10 for having quirky locals, a plus on any memorable weekend getaway.
No. 9 Portsmouth, NH
Good wine was a major indicator of romance in the readers’ survey, but this historic waterfront town woos lovers who love craft beer. The town was once the biggest beer producer in America, and is now home to charming breweries such as Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose. Even if winters get chilly, readers didn’t care, giving it high marks for snuggle-ready weather. A great indoor date spot: The Music Hall, a refurbished 1878 theater that presents classic movies and live, unplugged music. goportsmouthnh.com
No. 10 Traverse City, MI
This town on the northeastern side of Lake Michigan may be sweet, but not cloyingly so: after all, it boasts of being the tart cherry capital of the world. Readers found the most romance in outdoorsy endeavors, such as hiking at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or embarking on a fall color drive. For an extra shot of romance, stay at Chateau Chantal. This small, European-style inn offers its own wines, big breakfasts, and water views and was founded by a former priest and nun who later fell in love.
No. 11 Winter Park, FL
Despite its proximity to Orlando, tree-lined Winter Park—and its top-five-ranked main street, Park Avenue—scored pretty well with readers for not having too many tykes running around (presumably they’re all safely tucked away at the theme parks). This historic Florida town also scored in the top 10 for bakeries and ice cream parlors. To see why, head to Lu Lu’s Ice Cream Shop and share a scoop of lemon pie or splurge with your sweetie on a sundae. Near to the Amtrak station, Croissant Gourmet’s contribution to the Cronut oeuvre is the Gourssant.
No. 12 Provincetown, MA
The locals in this gay-friendly vacation town—with its abundance of B&Bs and salty seaside charm—impressed readers for being physically fit, and for speaking with Bahston-influenced accents. Keep pace with couply activities like pedaling the Province Lands Bicycle Trail, which has sweeping views of Cape Cod Bay. The city also landed in the top 10 for its memorable souvenirs, like a book of poetry from Provincetown Bookshop or Cabot’s Candy fudge, and No. 6 for vacation homes. P-town love transcends a mere seasonal fling.
No. 13 Annapolis, MD
This Chesapeake Bay getaway offers plenty of idyllic waterfront views, best enjoyed over a romantic dinner. At Cantler’s Riverside Inn, one of America’s best seafood restaurants, grab a table on the screened-in porch and break into a pile of tasty local blue crabs. The Maryland capital also ranked well for its wines, like the locally sourced varietals from Thanksgiving Farm Winery, located just outside town. Perhaps to minimize crowds, the readers’ favorite time to visit here is spring.
No. 14 Franklin, TN
Billed as “14 miles and 100 years” from Nashville, quaint Franklin has town-square charm with its red-brick-paved roads and reborn institutions such as Gray’s on Main, a former drugstore that now offers entertainment and upscale comfort food (lobster mac, steak ’n’ biscuits). High marks go for quality couple time spent outdoors, like at Arrington Vineyards, where you can buy a well-stocked picnic basket, spread out on the grounds, and enjoy free live music in the evenings. visitfranklin.com
No. 15 Fairhope, AL
Five rivers converge at this scenic Gulf Coast town, which boasts plenty of Civil War history (even the nearby Marriott was the site of a Confederate hospital). Fairhope also has its own small French Quarter, which is home to a dozen little shops and a selfie-ready photo op: the largest crape myrtle tree in the South, called the Alabama Champion Tree. The town also made the top 10 for town pride—always a good sign for sharing in the love. downtownfairhope.com
No. 16 Skaneateles, NY
This waterfront village (pronounced “skin-ee-at-luss”) in the Finger Lakes region was founded in 1833 and has enough quaint old homes to land near the top of the B&B category. Aunt Louise’s Lake House, for instance, dates back to the 1840s, while the Sherwood Inn is a former stagecoach stop with fireplaces in the rooms. The town also ranked No. 4 for summer visits—prime time for midnight skinny dips and couple cruises in Skaneateles Lake. iloveny.com
No. 17 Bar Harbor, ME
The scenery in Acadia National Park—granite cliffs, pine trees, and lots of moose—no doubt inspired readers to rank Bar Harbor well for its green spaces (and top 10 in eco-friendliness, too). Its charming main street vibe isn’t too shabby either. Couples who tend to avoid the close confines of B&Bs are well served by the Tudor-style Harborside Hotel (open May through October), which has a spa, pool, and privacy-friendly boathouse suites overlooking Frenchman Bay. visitmaine.com
No. 18 Bend, OR
This Oregon ski town offers a casual alternative to a romantic wine country getaway: the Bend Ale Trail, which leads you to 11 craft breweries, such as the famed Deschutes, and a branch of McMenamins at the Old St. Francis School, a 1936 Catholic schoolhouse turned inn. Bend also won the survey for burgers, and locals swear by the classic versions at Pilot Butte Drive-In. (Go ahead, get two straws for that milkshake.) visitbend.com
No. 19 Door County, WI
With five state parks, 11 lighthouses, and daily, lovely sunsets over Sturgeon Bay, this 75-mile peninsula on Lake Michigan has all-season scenery, making for a perfect weekend getaway for two. Winter offers good cross-country skiing, and summer means kayaking or bicycling. The area earned its solid ranking for romantic inns with places like the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, which has fireplaces and candlelit dinners, and is renowned for its cherry-stuffed French toast and fall-color leaf peeping. doorcounty.com
No. 20 Brunswick, GA
Established by the British in 1771, this romantic coastal spot is one of the few American towns that kept its colonial street names—a nod to longevity any couple can appreciate. Aside from quirky appeal to history buffs, Brunswick was ranked highly for its festivals, such as autumn’s Brunswick Rockin’ Stewbilee, where competitors cook up tomatoey pots of stew. Come December, a plethora of twinkly lights is a seasonal enchantment (even on the water, during the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights). goldenisles.com
No. 21 Harbor Springs, MI
This charming town on Lake Michigan’s scenic Little Traverse Bay has lured tourists—and lovers—for more than a hundred years. Good for four-seasons adventures as well as for the arts, Harbor Springs seemingly has it all, including great parks and picnic spots. Visiting lovebirds should not miss the Tunnel of Trees drive, a nearby part of the M-119 highway, famous for its natural beauty. Stay at The Bartley House, which has mountain views and the Midwest’s largest hot tub. harborspringschamber.com
No. 22 Stowe, VT
Some people want their romantic surroundings sleek, modern, and streamlined. They should probably look elsewhere. Stowe’s charm offensive is of a quieter ilk—more Gary Cooper in a wool flannel shirt than Sinatra in a tuxedo—especially in winter. Get the blood pumping with a few ski turns down Mount Mansfield or a sleigh ride through the snowy woods. Less outdoorsy types may prefer a picturesque drive through tidy, quaint towns before finishing off with a locally sourced dinner at Solstice, one of America’s most romantic restaurants. Come bedtime there’s nowhere to be but Stowe Mountain Lodge: fireplaces in every bedroom make for perfectly cozy New England romance.
No. 23 Telluride, CO
Only one road into Telluride is open year-round, which begins to give you a sense of how wonderfully isolated this southwestern Colorado town is—perfect for a romantic rendezvous. Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, the former silver-mining camp still retains a historic feel, with colorful Victorian homes and a charming Western downtown. Winter or summer, complete the experience by hopping on the gondola and looking out over Telluride’s incredibly scenic canyon.
No. 24 Ithaca, NY
You don’t have to be an Ivy Leaguer to see why one of America’s most beautiful college campuses anchors one of the country’s most romantic towns. Its inhabitants may be quirky (No. 3 on our survey) and love their wine (No. 4; check out the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail), but this central New York town’s prime appeal is its scenery: more than 100 gorges and waterfalls, running quick in spring and speckled by a blaze of leaves in fall. Students of the heart should stop for a kiss alongside Cascadilla Gorge’s eight waterfalls, dropping more than 400 feet from Cornell’s campus to downtown’s Ithaca Commons. visitithaca.com
No. 25 Montauk, NY
At the eastern tip of Long Island, NY, Montauk is a more relaxed version of the Hamptons and the perfect spot for long-walks-on-the-beach-type romance (it’s also where Kate Winslet’s and Jim Carrey’s characters fell in love in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Climb the 137 steps to the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse to watch the sunset behind the Atlantic Ocean, and then retreat to the Montauk Yacht Club, an 80-year-old hotel that underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2009.