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
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.