Cupid may be working overtime this Valentine's Day, but planning a romantic getaway with your sweetie can be relatively stress-free. Just in time for love's most famous day, we've scouted several romantic destinations -- all less than three hours from Baltimore.
You may fall in love in more ways than one while strolling through this historic Eastern Shore town melding old-fashioned and contemporary charm. Established in 1710 by Quakers, Easton is quaint (population 13,000) and picturesque, its downtown a study in Colonial, Victorian and Gothic Revival architecture, tree-lined streets and gardens, cute boutiques, galleries, gourmet restaurants and antiques shops.
Where to stay
The Tidewater Inn (101 Dover St., 410-822-1300): A traditional 1940s landmark -- from Old Glory flying out front to the wallpaper and floral decor in its 100 rooms. At its restaurant, Tidewater Grill, chef Raymond has prepared Eastern Shore crab cakes, oyster stew and snapper soup for 40 years.
Inn at Easton (28 S. Harrison St., 410-822-4910): The Chinese red foyer and aubergine parlor are among the hip touches inside this 18th-century Federal mansion owned by husband/wife team Andrew and Liz Evans. Andrew (a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America) runs the on-site European-style restaurant.
Where to eat
Mason's (22 S. Harrison St., 410-822-3204): Art lines the walls of this colorful restaurant with fare such as house-made chili and organic salmon; the adjoining gourmet/gift shop sells handmade chocolates, local wines and other treats.
Chez La Fitte (13 S. Washington St., 410-770-8868): A French salon where quiche and coq au vin can be enjoyed amid live music.
Legal Spirits (42 E. Dover St., 410-820-0765): Possibly the best cream of crab soup this side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Pick up lingerie at Gigi's (410-820-5270); handcrafted hearts by artist Carol Keen at Gourmet Gallery (410-763-7077); designer baubles at Westphal Jewelers (410-822-7774); flowers at Murdoch's (410- 822-2778); women's handbags/apparel at Andrea's Papillon (410-820-4925); scented candles at American Pennyroyal (800-400-8403) and fine art at Troika Gallery (410-770-9190).
Other sites: The 1920s restored art deco Avalon Theatre (40 E. Dover St., 410-822-7299) presents performance by former Manhattan Transfer singer Laurel Masse on Feb. 11.
Nature provides a perfect backdrop to fan the flames of amour in Albemarle County, Va., surrounding pretty and urbane Charlottesville. With a pedigree dating to the 1700s, Virginia's famous hunt country boasts miles of countryside, rolling hills and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take in the area's many wineries, historic homes, cultural and educational attractions, fine dining and more.
Where to stay
Keswick Hall at Monticello (701 Club Drive, 800-274-5391): Intimate grandeur best describes this 1912 mansion hotel on a 600-acre estate. Surrounded by mountains, horse farms and gardens, Keswick celebrates the country-squire lifestyle. A gourmet restaurant, Fossett's, and new wine-tasting room (serving some 500 varietals of local/international wines) complete the sumptuous comfort.
Where to eat
Barboursville Vineyards (Winery Road, 540-832-3824): Tuscany meets Virginia: sip the Pinot Grigio, learn the finer points of winemaking during tours, and feast on world-class Italian cuisine at Palladio Restaurant.
Kluge Estate (100 Grand Cru Drive, 434-984-4855): Visit this delightful winery, vineyard and gourmet farm shop in a cozy, woodsy setting for vino, fresh baked goods, artisan cheeses and more.
Fleurie (108 Third St. N.E.; 434-971-7800): This intimate French bistro is worth visiting for its fare and its ambiance.
Splendora's Gelato (317 E. Main St., 434-296-8555): The decor is high octane, the treats sweet.
Give a gift with international flair from Read &Co. (434-244-9876); light a fire with candles from Glo (434-295-7432); jot a love letter on stationery from rockpaperscissors (434-979-6366); find artsy clothing at Vivian's (434-977-8908); funky knick-knacks at Cha-Cha's (434-293-8553); unique art at Sage Moon (434-977-9997) and a book (love poems?) at Oakley's Gently Used Books (434-977-3313).
Other sites: Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello (434-984-9822), and his bastion of higher learning, University of Virginia (434-924-0311), founded in 1819.
Politics aside, the nation's capital can be a very romantic destination. Besides monuments, historic churches, museums and urban parks, there's abundant culture, varied culinary choices, eclectic shopping and wonderful spots to explore with your honey.
Where to stay
The Willard InterContinental (1401 Pennsylvania Ave., 202-628-9100) has welcomed American presidents, heads of state and such heroes as Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow through Monday, it becomes a lover's lane complete with red carpet, strolling violinists and roses. Sample the "Romantic Parisian" menu (lobster, madeleines, champagne) in The Willard Room restaurant.
Where to eat
Ceiba (701 14th St., N.W., 202-393-3983): This Latin American hotspot, whose name pays tribute to an umbrella-shaped tree found in the tropics, always sizzles. Couples can share the Toasted Passion Fruit Pound Cake with Mexican Chocolate Fudge Sauce and Coconut Ice Cream.
Zaytinya (701 Ninth St., N.W., 202-638-0800): Airy, chic and trendy, with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delectables. Try the olive oil ice cream.
Poste (555 Eighth St. N.W., 202-783-6060): Inside a historic tariff building, this modern brasserie is known for its American fare.
B. Smith's (50 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., 202-289-6188): Creole, Cajun and tasty soul food in an elegant upscale setting. Live music on weekends.
Hit neighborhoods such as Georgetown, Adams Morgan and U Street for unique boutiques. For fabulous indoor shopping, visit historic Union Station (202-289-1908), where you will find more than 100 shops and eating places.
Other sites: Smithsonian Institution, Washington National Cathedral, Washington Monument.