No matter where in the United States you live, there is almost certainly a place, maybe an hour or two out of town, where every young, optimistic couple goes on a clichéd romantic getaway. The trip typically happens early enough in the budding relationship that, at some point, one of you has to reenact every sitcom that’s ever aired and say something like, “You don’t think it’s too soon to be going away together, do you?”
These getaway spots—local icons in their own right—are all very different, depending on location, but share a few common traits: They’re almost always in some rural-ish setting, they're almost all full of darling little Airbnbs, and they almost all require a cutesy road trip (a vital component of the trip’s romance).
Since none of us can really go anywhere this Valentine’s Day, VICE asked people across the country where the hackneyed getaway spot is near their town. Maybe when *waves arms until I levitate* all this shit is over, you and your post-pandemmy partner can hit one of them up.
Austin, Texas: “Let’s go to the Hill Country!”
Rather than a particular town, the Texas Hill Country is a region of the state where the landscape is… hilly, and, as a consequence, very beautiful. Major cities like Austin and San Antonio border the region, which is mostly filled with limestone cliffs, a smattering of wineries, farms, small towns, and, these days, exceedingly charming Airbnbs.
“I think if you live in Central Texas, the Hill Country is an appealing romantic getaway because it feels a world away from Austin. I went on a romantic getaway to Bandera, Texas with a then-significant other and another couple in early November. The place was amazing—it was this guy's old family vacation home, full of midcentury tchotchkes and details (he was an antique dealer!) and not one but two smokers. All we did that weekend was drink Lone Star, smoke a whole-ass brisket, sit on the porch, and watch Nic Cage movies. It was paradise. Then, I got dumped a few weeks later, and the other girl who went on the trip did, too.”— Paula, 29
Arlington, Virginia: “We should stay at a Canal Trust lockhouse together sometime.”
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is a 184-mile stretch of the Potomac River that flows from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The stretch used to operate as a transportation route and the original lockhouses—where people who controlled the canal system once lived—are still there. Instead of functioning as housing, a nonprofit called the Canal Trust now rents the lockhouses out for people to stay in, and they’ve since become a very popular destination for cozy romantic getaways.
“I’m not an authority on canals, but I don’t know of any other canal in the U.S. where you can stay in a lockhouse. You can go birdwatching, pick wild pawpaws and persimmons that grow along the towpath, and enjoy the scenery along the Potomac River. When I hear a couple’s gone to the canal lockhouses together, I feel jealousy because they’ve stayed in a lockhouse, and I haven’t.” — Nanks, 58
Brooklyn, New York: “What are you doing next weekend? Wanna go to Beacon?”
Less than two hours north of New York City is a little artist town called Beacon, which is home to a lot of very quaint-looking old buildings, people who own cars, tchotchke stores, Brooklyn expats, and a museum that all residents of New York City are legally obligated to visit with a partner at least once. If New Yorkers don’t go to Beacon together, they definitely go “upstate”—basically, anywhere in the state that’s north of Westchester, depending on who you ask—together. “Going upstate” typically consists of staying in a very wealthy person’s Airbnb, buying overpriced groceries from a Harris Teeter, and pretending to be rich and rural for 48 hours.
“Couples here go either upstate, or, specifically, to Beacon. It’s rustic, quaint, and woodsy, but still artsy. The thing to do is go to Storm King (Instagram pics or it didn’t happen). When I hear a couple’s gone to Beacon/upstate, I wonder if they might be fixing or celebrating something in their relationship; it feels like some kind of Occasion to me. I know of at least one couple who broke up not long after a Beacon trip, and I was once supposed to go with a lover, but ended up breaking it off right before the trip and went alone.” — Tallie, 26
Los Angeles, California: “You down to go to Joshua Tree next weekend?”
For those willing to spend approximately eight hours trying to escape LA traffic, Joshua Tree is an appealing, nearby getaway spot because it possesses all the getaway-spot qualities: It’s pretty, it’s remote, and it’s full of mid-century Airbnbs in which to play house. It’s also—no offense to the cool trees—kind of boring to hang out there for more than two days, making it a perfect weekend trip for young and in-love LA couples.
“It’s not uncommon for people to do a hike out there, or a day trip, even. My best friend is actually about to go with a girl he’s never met before… The city is smoggy and there’s bullshit here, so if you’re looking for a reprieve, it’s the nearby desert. I also think part of the appeal is really good marketing—like Coachella did a great job at convincing everyone that Joshua Tree is a good weekend spot; it’s beautiful and it’s so close. My partner and I went on a road trip to Joshua Tree very early on in our relationship. I know this sounds super ‘California,’ but I feel like you learn a lot about a person from the way they look at a tree. One thing I learned about my partner on our trip is that she knows plants and animals like I know Pokémon, and I know all the Pokémon. And she learned that I’m definitely a glamper, not a camper. And this is cheesy, but it is nice, when you’re dating somebody new, to go and look at the stars.” — Xavier, 31
Minneapolis, Minnesota: “We should take a trip up north together.”
From Minneapolis, which is already freezing, going “up north” (anywhere north of St. Cloud), where it’s more freezing, is the thing to do for a little weekend getaway. Going up north typically consists of hitting up a state park, wearing flannels and Love Your Melon beanies, taking influencer-esque pics in front of natural wonders, and, of course, brewery-hopping.
“If you’re from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, ‘up north’ often means your (or your parents’) cabin. People generally go anywhere around Duluth or northern Minnesota, like by Lake Superior. It’s cozy, cabin vibes. Like The Revenant without the scary bear scene. Pre-pandemic, I was a frequent up north traveler! I have close friends up there, I’ve visited and camped with family, and I’ve done the whole couples’ trip up there in the winter (driving up there in the winter can be stressful and dangerous, and, speaking from experience, can lead to a breakup).
When I hear a couple has gone up north, I think one of three things: They’re a new couple just testing out a short trip together, an influencer couple who wants to take pretty pictures (see: Tettegouche), or simply a couple that wants to get away and enjoy nature a little bit. For new couples, it’s a low-stakes vacation—you can test how you travel together without the risk of being too far and ending up trapped and miserable. It’s much easier to test the waters with a two-hour drive than it is flying somewhere.” — Mamie, 27
Nashville, Tennessee: “You know what sounds great? A little weekend trip to Chattanooga.”
Just about two hours away from Nashville is Chattanooga, a slightly smaller city on the Tennessee-Georgia border. According to Tenneseeans, Chattanooga has it all: outdoorsy stuff just outside the city limits, a big aquarium, and loads of venues where local and touring acts play away from the Nashville fray.
“Chattanooga is very naturally pretty and a little slower-paced than Nashville, so it’s usually a place to recharge the batteries and reconnect a bit. It’s just far enough away to get the experience of a road trip without having to be stuck in the car all day. When we go, we wander around some hiking trails on the way into the city, and since my boyfriend was an Eagle Scout, I love to ask him what kind of trees or bugs we’re looking at. One Saturday, when we were both still in school, we sat in a coffee shop overlooking the river, doing homework and sharing snacks before walking across the pedestrian bridge and wandering around. We didn’t want to spend too much money and ended up really enjoying it.
A lot of couples go in the early days of the relationship, and it kind of acts as a catalyst for a deeper connection—at least, in my experience. If you’re going together, it’s usually a pretty good sign you’re in it for the long haul. It’s essentially a relationship marker. Definitely a nice excuse to break through the friend zone because it’s not too far, there’s a common interest, and you’re guaranteed to have a little alone time. Chattanooga has this little magic when you visit that encourages you to find rest in the people you’re with.” — Katie, 22
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “We should go to Nemacolin for the weekend.”
If you watch The Bachelor, you’ve seen basically all of Nemacolin. The show’s current season was entirely filmed at the Pennsylvania resort last fall, in order to make sure everyone on set was negative for COVID-19 and could quarantine. (It also made an appearance in season three of Real Housewives of Potomac.) But apparently real people—not just reality TV casts and crews—seek a li'l romance at Nemacolin, too. The resort is essentially in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, off of a highway near the border with West Virginia and Maryland. So if you’re going to Nemacolin, you’re likely staying at the resort and not going anywhere else, just like the current cast of The Bachelor.
“Going to Nemacolin is classy, elegant, treat yo’self vibes.” — Philip
Seattle, Washington: “I can’t believe you’ve never been to Leavenworth.”
A little more than two hours—the well-established weekend getaway drive time—from Seattle is Leavenworth, a small town that was built to look like it’s actually in Germany, and not the Pacific Northwest. Think of it as a little theme park (except people live here, and it’s a city) with a bonkers Christmas lights situation, tons of kitschy German breweries, and architecture straight out of Bavaria.
“Leavenworth (not to be confused with the prison) is this little Bavarian Christmas-themed town with lots of hiking, climbing, whitewater kayaking, etc. I often went up and camped and waited around for guys I was dating to get off the advanced kayaking runs. We drank plenty of good German beer. The coffee shop was always fun in the morning, full of early morning outdoor people getting ready to charge.” — Rose, 30
Wales, Massachusetts: “Let’s get a place in the Berkshires next weekend.”
The Northeast is full of mountain ranges and highland areas with charming towns, in which couples on romantic getaways can expect to run into loads of other couples on similar romantic getaways. One popular destination is the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. The highland region is filled with tiny towns made up mostly of people who left their respective Tri-state cities behind for a quieter life. It’s also filled with charming Airbnbs and weirdly good museums, like MASS MoCA in North Adams, making the Berkshires the platonic ideal for fall time getaways: pretty leaves to look at, a couple pieces of art to see, a few ski resort, and that’s about it.
“For the Lenox/Lee/Stockbridge area in general, people flock there to see the fall foliage, since it’s in the Berkshires and can be quite beautiful at that time of year. In the summer, the main draw is concerts on the lawn at Tanglewood. But I would say that if you are going with someone new, visit Kripalu, which could be a relationship-altering event. They are very serious about their yoga there. If you’re really into yoga and medication but your partner isn’t, it’s sort of like getting tossed into the deep end of a pool. They are maybe not going to like you so much by the end of your stay.” — Hugh, 57
San Francisco, California: “Do you wanna go out to Napa with me?”
The Napa Valley—or just “Napa,” for short—is the setting of Thomas Hayden Church’s mid-life crisis in Sideways, and also a very beautiful region with a shit ton of wineries, all of which make for idyllic little getaways.
“Napa’s vibe is lots of sun, wine, cuisine, antiques, and beauty. It’s gorgeous, but pricey.” — Craig*
Santa Fe, New Mexico: “We should get out to Taos soon.”
A city in the middle of nowhere, in a state filled with cities in the middle of nowhere, Taos is special because it’s smaller than Santa Fe and Phoenix, and has direct access to a lot of skiing and scenic mountains in the winter.
“Taos is super chill, quaint, and has beautiful scenery.” — Adrian*
Wooster, Ohio: “You know what we should do? Go to Put-in-Bay Island together.”
According to the official website for Put-in-Bay, the island is often referred to as “the Key West of the Nnorth.” This may be true, but only if your idea of an island includes a piece of land in frigid Lake Erie.
“Going to Put-in-Bay together is definitely very middle-class, Midwest vibes, but for Northeast Ohio, this is definitely a place some people go to do weekend trips in the spring/summer. There are a lot of restaurants and bars, a "beach" on the lake, and a little winery for couples. It's cute, and the novelty of riding around on a golf cart is fun.” — Trey*
Tri-state area: “We should take a trip out to the Poconos.”
Yet another of the little mountain ranges in the Northeast/along the East Coast, the Poconos does come with a certain… corny/sexy panache, perhaps because it contains very many hotels that were built in the 70s and 80s and seemingly never renovated.
“The reputation of going to the Poconos together is that it’s full of sex palace resorts with champagne glass hot tubs and round beds.” — Donovan*
*Name has been changed.
Do you have a local getaway spot in mind that you’d like to see added to this list? Send some info about it to the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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