- T. Wayne Waters For the AJC
The South is romance, isn't it? Its undeniable charm, its insouciance overlaying a compelling passion. Almost anywhere you go in the South, you'll find romantic vibes emanating from all around. All you have to do is relax a minute and feel them. But there are certain places that unquestionably vibrate more alluringly than most. Here are five of the most romantic cities in the Deep South.
If you can't feel the romance of Savannah then your heart's just not in it. The city virtually drips with romance, from its moss-draped live oak trees and the dramatic statuary of its downtown squares to the ornamental grandeur of its historic architecture and the many lovely spots for an exquisite romantic dinner or agreeable cocktail.
Savannah has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to romantic lodgings. Two that will wrap you in the history and romance of the city are The Mansion on Forsyth Park and The Gastonian, both located in Savannah's downtown historic district and right across the street from Savannah's largest and glorious Forsyth Park, complete with a magnificent fountain featuring mythical sea creatures. The Gastonian consists of two luxury Regency Italianate-style mansions built in 1868. The Mansion on Forsyth Park is a luxury 125-room Victorian Romanesque hotel in a mansion filled with onyx and Verona marble.
For a delicious romantic dinner in exceptional surroundings, try The Olde Pink House in an 18th century stucco mansion painted a vibrant pink, or Elizabeth's on 37th, an elegant mansion dating to the early 1900s. A carriage ride around the park or into the heart of the city is just the thing for an after-dinner jaunt. Carriage Tours of Savannah will give you a very pleasant ride.
Asheville's nature is very different from Savannah's but plenty romantic nonetheless. There is something inherently beautiful in a dramatic mountain landscape, and this is a city surrounded by appealing peaks. Add to that, Asheville's funky downtown, exceptional opportunities for a romantic dinner in one of the city's many exquisite restaurants, and the great lodging options and you have the makings for a truly romantic setting all the way around.
Where to stay? There are plenty of good options but two that might serve are The Lofts at 16 Church, stylish comfortable digs with exposed brick walls and original hardwood floors, and Posh Boutique Hotel, with its eight elegant condos featuring gas fireplaces and glass showers, just two miles from downtown in the historic Biltmore Village district near the magnificent Biltmore Estate.
For a truly romantic dinner and dessert, head to the heart of downtown at Pack Square. Rhubarb's rustic chic atmosphere and mouth-watering farm-to-table is exquisite, as is Posana, with its local, seasonable and sustainable cuisine and signature cocktails in the bar area. Both offer yummy desserts but right beside both is the French Broad Chocolate Lounge & Boutique. Slow dance some of the calories off at Tressa's Downtown Jazz & Blues, the hippest club in town.
Charleston's romantic landscape is very similar to that of Savannah, of course, yet uniquely its own. There is the ornate historic architecture, the parks, the cobblestone streets. But Charleston has its own special character. The Battery and White Point Gardens are must-sees. Located in the heart of Charleston's historic district, the Battery offers a great view of Charleston Harbor, where the Ashley and Cooper rivers empty into the Atlantic. White Point Garden is a public park located at the tip of the peninsula within the Battery area.
Like Savannah, Charleston has numerous historic inns that make great romantic lodging. Planter's Inn, an elegant building dating from 1844 in the city's historic district just a half-mile from the Waterfront Park is a can't miss. Nor is a carriage ride with Palmetto Carriage Works, Charleston's oldest carriage company, to give "The Holy City" a good look over.
Greenville may not be foremost in many people's mind as one of the most romantic cities in the South but it should. The rolling hills and lush greenery of its surrounding landscape, while not nearly as dramatic as say, Asheville's, do elicit a measurable frisson of excitement. The modestly sized city's downtown is just such an appealing well-designed cluster of hotels, restaurants, shops, art galleries, with the Reedy River and Falls Park on the Reedy running through it, it's hard not to fall in love with the city -- and perhaps with that special person you're with.
The Westin Poinsett Greenville Hotel is set in the midst of all this downtown Greenville splendor, which helps its romantic trappings, and is convenient to Rick Erwin’s West End Grill, a local favorite steakhouse that serves up delicious aged, premium cuts of beef, seafood and more. But for a truly unique and very special lodging option, check out Red Horse Inn, about 25 miles north of Greenville in Landrum. Here you'll find higher peaks in the beautiful countryside, the very special ambiance of the inn, and the exceptionally romantic rooms together create a scenario absolutely perfect for romance! Red Horse Inn has six rooms in the inn and six cottages.
When you have the beach and the surf washing in with its soothing rhythm and the sight of a sunset on the far flat horizon, romance is easy. This small island in the very northeast coastal corner of Florida offers all that, of course, but also lodging, spas, marshes and more.
The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort sits on 1,350 acres at the tip of Amelia Island and has exceptional waterfront rooms, ocean-front villas, fine dining, a world-class spa, a gorgeous deck over the marsh, kayak and bike rentals, and any number of other pleasing features. If you're downtown, David's Restaurant & Lounge offers a nice fine dining option, specializing in steak and seafood and a first-class wine selection.