No matter what you and your significant other think is the perfect vacation, the immense variety of the United States offers a spot for you to relax, recharge and enjoy each other's company. There's no one "best" vacation to fit all preferences, but whether you want to lie on a beach, cuddle in a mountain cabin, enjoy the great outdoors or stroll through a city to a gourmet restaurant, the two of you can make memories to last a lifetime by exploring all that America has to offer.
If a romantic getaway means strolling on a beach with palm trees waving in the warm breezes, the Florida Keys offer all that and more. For the ultimate in secluded luxury, visit the resort at Little Palm Island (littlepalmisland.com), where you can dine privately on the beach and return to find your bungalow prepared with candlelight, rose petals, champagne and strawberries. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the cobblestone streets of historic Charleston, South Carolina. Look out over the harbor while staying at the HarbourView Inn (harbourviewcharleston.com), one of Conde Nast's Gold List Award hotels; book a room with a working fireplace and venture forth to visit nearby antique shops. A romance package welcomes you with a dozen roses and offers turn-down service with rose petals and sparkling wine, as well as continental breakfast delivered to your room.
Slow down the pace and focus on each other during a six- to 14-day Mississippi River cruise. The American Queen (americanqueensteamboatcompany.com) travels from Minneapolis to New Orleans, visiting such ports as St. Louis and Hannibal, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and Vicksburg, Mississippi. The steamboat features Victorian decor; relax in your stateroom and on your private balcony, or enjoy nightly dancing, music, gourmet dining, lectures from an historian, shore excursions or spa treatments. Get away from it all in Tennessee and enjoy stunning views of the Smoky Mountains while staying in a luxurious log cabin (resortsandlodges.com) with a fireplace, hot tub and rocking chairs on the porch. In the Pigeon Forge and Gaitlinburg area, you'll be near the Dollywood theme park and plenty of dinner theater and music shows, as well as such outdoor attractions as hiking, ziplining and white-water rafting.
High in the Rocky Mountains, Aspen, Colorado, offers winter sports such as skiing, snowmobiling and snowboarding, as well as cool, comfortable summer weather and an upscale, artsy town. The Sky Hotel (theskyhotel.com) features king suites with gas fireplaces and jetted tubs; guests can use the 24-hour fitness center or book a spa treatment and then head for the evening wine hour and Chef Shawn Lawrence's take on local ingredients for dinner at the 39 Degrees Lounge. The Resort at Paws Up (pawsup.com) in Greenough, Montana, is a luxury resort on a working cattle ranch. The two of you can stay at a private home or in a camping tent -- with an en-suite bathroom and a camping butler. Take a private horseback or a horse-drawn wagon ride, indulge in a couple's massage or enjoy fire and fondue for two, as well as wine tastings and chef's demonstrations.
The desert southwest offers stunning sunsets to wind down your day; consider one of Concierge.com's World's Sexiest Resorts, the Hotel Valley Ho (hotelvalleyho1-px.trvlclick.com) in Scottsdale, Arizona, with its midcentury decor. Soak in a tub for two, schedule a spa treatment, reserve a private poolside cabana and have chocolate-dipped strawberries or handcrafted truffles delivered to your room. Hawaii abounds in lush resorts where couples can relax; Travel and Leisure's website lists the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay (fourseasons.com/manelebay) as one of the United States' 10 Most Romantic Hotels. Take surfing or hula lessons, play golf or tennis, scuba dive or snorkel, renew your vows or create your own signature perfume before retreating to your private terrace for a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean.
Napa Valley in northern California is one of the most popular romantic destinations in the United States, with rolling hills of lush vineyards. Take a wine tour, see the countryside by bicycle or horseback, or ride in a hot-air balloon for an unforgettable experience. The Knot website notes that the best weather is from August to November. Stay at the luxurious Auberge de Soleil (aubergedusoleil.com), as famous for its restaurant, overseen by Chef Robert Curry, as for the French-inspired inn. A completely different experience awaits lovers in Alaska, where the "New York Times" notes that you can enjoy the luxury of solitude by renting one of the state parks' public-use cabins (http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins). Some cabins are on lakes or saltwater beaches -- go fishing for the ultimate in fresh dinner -- and most are accessible only by plane, boat or hiking trail. You'll be roughing it while taking in majestic scenery, such as glaciers and waterfalls, as well as possibly sighting bear, seals, bald eagles and other wildlife. This far away from it all, you may be able to hear nothing but each other's heartbeats.
While most elevators serve as mundane mechanical boxes that transport passengers from point A to point B, some hotels are turning them into attractions in their own right. From futuristic, rocket-ship pods that look like they belong on a film set to tricked-out, amusement park-worthy rides that bolt up inside an aquarium, we rounded up some of the world’s coolest hotel elevators that make for an entertaining 15 seconds.
Marriott Marquis New York
Stepping inside the space-age elevator at this Times Square hotel is the closest you’ll get to time traveling to the future — or at the very least starring in an episode of The Jetsons. The glass-enclosed, neon-glowing pod launches from the hotel’s atrium lobby and zips up 49 floors at 1,000 feet per minute. The journey to the top brings great views of the expansive lobby, but watching the futuristic car rise and fall from the ground floor is just as mesmerizing.
The Morgan, Dublin
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre might be one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the world, but this mural of the iconic character mooning visitors at The Morgan hotel might just be the cheekiest. Inspired by Banksy’s graffiti design, this creatively naughty painting will have guests giggling (and doing a double take) every time they retire to their rooms.
Pera Palace Hotel, Jumeirah, Istanbul
From the Belle Epoque décor to the sedan chair that once transported guests from the Orient Express stop at Sirkeci Train Station, everything about this 121-year-old luxury hotel harkens back to its glory days. The historic touches even extend to the hotel’s elevator, which just so happens to be the OG electric elevator in Turkey. The cast iron and wood contraption still shuttles guests from the lobby to their rooms and suites, many of which are named after famous former guests, including Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway and Greta Garbo.
Borghese Palace Art Hotel, Florence
Gone are the days of awkwardly standing still and staring at the button panel as the floors ding by. When guests board the elevator at this upscale Florentine hotel, they’ll be embarking on an exciting ride. Surrounded by a winding set of steel stairs, the circular glass enclosure offers 360-degree views, including some of the outdoors, as it ascends.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Berlin
At 82 feet tall, the AquaDom in Berlin’s Radisson Blu Hotel is the largest cylindrical aquarium in the world. But its size isn’t the only way it takes things to new heights (or rather, depths). Guests can get a unique interior panorama of the underwater lair thanks to a transparent built-in elevator that leisurely runs up the center of the tank. Ooh and ahh over nearly one hundred different fish species that swim in more than one million liters of water.
Hotel Palomar Philadelphia
For many of the aforementioned elevators, the highlight of their ride is the fancy façade, which often allows passengers to peep outdoors. For the elevator pod at Hotel Palomar in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, though, it’s what’s on the inside (hint: a sense of humor) that counts. Once the doors open, quirky mustached portraits keep guests company as they ascend to and descend from their stylish rooms, which are outfitted in 1960s-inspired furniture.
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego
The elevator at the historic, red-roofed Hotel del Coronado in San Diego is as much about function as it is about form. Take a moment to admire the ornate design adorning the exterior of the elevator, which also happens to be the original from when the hotel first swung its doors open in 1888. Formerly powered by steam hydraulics, the now electric-powered elevator goes by the name of Otis No. 61. Step inside and let the elevator operator take you on a trip to yesteryear.
Luxor Las Vegas
The elevator inside Sin City’s pyramid-shaped Luxor hotel might not be the flashiest or fastest of the bunch, but it still stands out. The car, which is outfitted in hieroglyphics, careens up 30 floors at a 39-degree angle, offering passengers a unique vantage point of the hotel’s atrium. Tip: Hop aboard after dark when the lights and decor of the ancient Egyptian-themed lobby dazzle below.