Cynical Cupid says: chocolate melts and flowers die, so why not spend those hard earned dollars on something that will last forever this Valentine's Day — like sweet memories from an affordable Valentine's Day weekend getaway. I know, I know, it's winter, it's cold, and when we think February vacation most of us naturally entertain thoughts of white sand beaches and poolside Mai Tais. But honestly, what 20 or 30-something working to build her professional empire can afford the time or money it takes to spend a week in Saint Croix? Not I, said the writer with student loan debt.
That's why I've compiled a list of my favorite affordable and very road trip-able North American cities for my fellow love stricken wanderlusters out there. Whether big time or small scale, each city is accompanied by affordable accommodations, including everything from historical inns to hip, centrally located Airbnbs. And please believe me when I say there'll be no time to nap through the cold knowing each of these North Americana gems boasts wintery couple-friendly activities galore, from ice skating to hiking to cooking classes, sugar shacks, and art walks. Because let's be honest, nothing says "I love you" or "I can willingly tolerate you every second of every day for 72 hours straight" quite like a Valentine's weekend road trip. Safe and affordable travels, lovebirds!
1. New Paltz, New York
Nestled in the Hudson Valley, just 90 miles outside of New York City, New Paltz is home to a charming community of artists, writers, and actors who all share a deep love for the great outdoors.
Where to stay: Snuggle up in the Love Shack for $75 a night.
What to do: Whether the two of you are into ice skating, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, or sipping hot chocolate next to a wood-burning fireplace — they're all available for the taking at Mohonk Mountain House.
2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Where better to celebrate love than in the City of Brotherly Love — where history buffs, artists, and foodies congregate to explore the first-rate galleries, museums, landmarks, and cuisines the city has to offer.
Where to stay: Just steps away from Elfreth's Alley, the oldest residential street in the U.S. (circa 1702), you can find an affordable space in the heart of hip, historical Center City on Airbnb for $89 a night.
What to do: Walk hand in hand as the two of you gaze at more than 227,000 paintings, prints, and drawings in the world-class Philadelphia Museum of Art. Annoy your Instagram followers with some lovey dovey selfies in Philly's iconic LOVE Park, then head on over to the Mütter Museum to remind yourselves exactly what happens after "death do you part."
Where to eat: Indulge in fine Belgian beers, mussels, and pomme frites under the campy red lights of Monk's Cafe. Experience the hustle and bustle of 30 plus vendors in Reading Terminal Market. Get playfully tipsy on sangria and mojitos at Alma de Cuba.
3. Portland, Maine
Portland, Oregon is great and all, but it doesn't hold a candle to Portland, Maine, IMHO. Sure, it may be freezing in February, but that just means cheaper airfare and Amtrak tickets. And with the most restaurants per capita of any U.S. city, you can be sure to find a few dozen communal fireplaces to warm those hands before binging on Maine lobster.
Where to stay: Experience Portland's historic Western Prom and choose from a handful of uniquely decorated rooms in the artsy Pomegranate Inn. Private rooms equipped with fireplaces start at $150 a night.
Where to eat: Portland is the land of the affordable aphrodisiac. Share an abundance of oysters at J's Oyster, take advantage of Boda's late night happy hour, or gorge on a plethora of shellfish at Portland Lobster Company.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
There are three rules in New Orleans: eat, drink, and be merry. I need not say more.
Where to stay: Get to know NOLA locals at Gentry House Bed & Breakfast. Cozy, private rooms start at $135 a night.
What to do: Relax with soothing jazz at NOLA's iconic Preservation Hall in the historic French Quarter. If you want to venture outside the Quarter, but not too far, get your local jazz fix at The Spotted Cat. Head on over to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum for a healthy dose of voodoo, and a viewing of the real love potion number nine.
Where to eat: Fill up on gumbo, étouffée, and jambalaya 'til your heart's content at Acme Oyster House. Share Vietnamese fare and potent libations at Lost Love Lounge, then soak up all that booze in the a.m. with a beignet or three at Cafe du Monde.
5. New York, New York
Subway fare: $2.75. Two happy hour pints of Sixpoint Sweet Action: $12. Stealing a moonlit kiss under the Washington Square Arch as 16-year-old street buskers serenade you with Pachelbel's Canon in the distance: Priceless.
Where to stay: Save your dollars and go shabby chic in this sweet Brooklyn apartment for $80 a night, thanks to Airbnb.
What to do: Learn all about Linda Lovelace and dolphin blowhole intercourse at the Museum of Sex, then strip down together in lower Manhattan's Russian Bath House. Making pre-Valentine's Day plans? Reserve tickets for The Moth's annual "Love Hurts" live storytelling event.
Where to eat: Hooboy, no need to limit yourselves in the city of ethnic culinary delights. Reserve a table for two, and indulge in Venezuelan treasures at Caracas Arepa Bar, share some Thai house specialties at Pok Pok NY, go all Lady and the Tramp with your handmade pasta at Frankie's Spuntino, or split a gigantic slice of classic New York cheesecake at Junior's.
6. Columbus, Ohio
Columbus may not be the first city that springs to mind when you think "romantic weekend getaway" but hear me out on this one. The Midwest's best kept secret houses dozens of intimate art galleries, craft beer bars, indoor farmers' markets, artisanal eateries, and vintage shops. And the absolute best part? You won't have to fight hordes of tourists upon entry.
Where to stay: Located in the heart of German Village, the German Village Guest House strikes the perfect balance of hip and historic. Rooms start at $175 a night and include breakfast and several amenities.
What to do: Learn from renowned chefs and use fresh, local ingredients while taking cooking classes at North Market. Gaze at the various mini-murals, like the one pictured above, as you stroll arm in arm through the Short North arts district. Catch a show at Newport Music Hall — the oldest running venue in Columbus.
Where to eat: Choose from more than 20 different types of grilled cheese at Melt, wash it all down with one of 150 craft beers at Bodega, and then bask in the artisanal glory that is Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, sampling unique flavors like toasted brioche, whiskey pecan, and wildberry lavender.
7. Montréal, Canada
Montréal may not be the warmest of February climates, but where else in North America can you seduce your sweetheart in the quintessential language of love? Besides, haven't we already established the fact that cold winter nights only serve as the perfect excuse for some serious fireside PDA? Oui mon amour, je suis très frois... **bats eyelashes**
Where to stay: Treat yo'self to one of five unique rooms overlooking Montréal's picturesque Park Mont Royal at Casa Bianca Bed & Breakfast. Rooms start at $149 a night and include 20th century claw-foot tubs.
What to do: Stroll through Montréal's historic Mile End, exploring exotic eateries and vintage shops together. Wander through Atwater Market, sampling gourmet cheeses, moose pâtés, and maple syrups. Take your sweetie to an authentic Montréal sugar shack, where you can tap, freeze, and taste Canada's tastiest maple.