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8 distinctive, romantic Southern hotels

Set on 550 acres, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa drips with Southern charm and offers a spa, two golf courses, a beach, tennis courts, and more. | Photo courtesy Grand Hotel Set on 550 acres, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa drips with Southern charm and offers a spa, two golf courses, a beach, tennis courts, and more. | Photo courtesy Grand Hotel

If you long for some couple time, the South is filled with distinctive hotels that cater to romantics, including mountaintop hideaways, shoreside retreats, and urban escapes. Whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day or simply need to get away, these 8 destinations will deliver great opportunities to reignite your relationship.

1. The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel

Gulf Shores, Alabama

The Lodge at Gulf State Park’s inviting pool at night. | Photo courtesy The Lodge at Gulf State Park

The Lodge at Gulf State Park’s inviting pool at night. | Photo courtesy The Lodge at Gulf State Park

The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel, exudes a romantic vibe year-round but especially in winter, when cooler temperatures encourage snuggling. Snag a rocking chair on the deck and sip hot chocolate while taking in views of snow-white sand dunes and the Gulf of Mexico’s blue-green water.

The lobby’s wall of windows faces the beach, and a warm fireplace offers the perfect place for curling up together.

At barely 3 years old, the environmentally friendly accommodation offers 350 guest rooms and suites, many of which have a balcony. Covered terraces at the end of the hallways on floors 2 through 5 provide a shelter for reading a book while drinking in unobstructed water views.

The lodge is in the 6,150-acre Gulf State Park, so you don’t have to go far to embrace nature. You can bike or hike some 28 miles of trails and boardwalks. Fish off the 1,540-foot-long pier, and if you feel adventurous, rent a banana boat or go parasailing.

For a fun evening, head to the nearby Flora-Bama in Perdido Key, Florida, at the Alabama state line. Live music plays 365 days a year at this legendary bar. Watch a glorious sunset while indulging in a signature Bushwacker, dubbed an “adult milkshake” (be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol).

For a more elegant atmosphere, head to Voyagers at Perdido Beach Resort, where at the meal’s conclusion every table receives complimentary chocolate-covered strawberries.

Info: Rates start at $119. (251) 540-4000; lodgeatgulfstatepark.com.

2. Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa

Point Clear, Alabama

Nestled next to Alabama’s Mobile Bay, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa offers a cozy getaway for couples. | Photo courtesy Grand Hotel/Art Meripol

Nestled next to Alabama’s Mobile Bay, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa offers a cozy getaway for couples. | Photo courtesy Grand Hotel/Art Meripol

A cannon blasts every afternoon at the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa to honor its history and military veterans, but it’s just one of many things about this lodge on Mobile Bay that will grab your attention. Dating to 1847, the AAA Four Diamond resort underwent more than $32 million in renovations in recent years that enhanced the guest rooms, restaurants, pools, golf course, spa, and other areas.

Walk hand-in-hand through lush grounds with moss-draped oaks, blooming flowers, and ponds inhabited by ducks. Schedule a couple’s massage at the hotel’s spa or indulge in a golf package at the Lakewood Golf Club with 2 meticulously maintained courses. Other diversions include bicycling, tennis and other outdoor games, kayaking, and catch-and-release fishing from a pier. Once a month, the property hosts cooking demos and cocktail classes for a fee. And the hotel shuttle whisks guests to the quaint town of Fairhope. For something low-key, don’t miss Page and Palette—a family-run independent bookstore with a coffee shop that’s been around for more than 50 years.

Dine at the resort’s farm-to-table Southern Roots restaurant, where the Alabama-sourced menu changes seasonally. Finish the night with libations in the 1847 bar or take a moonlight stroll with your honey along the bay.

Info: Rates start at $319. (251) 928-9201; grand1847.com.

3. 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa provides panoramic views of the Ozark Mountains. | Photo courtesy 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa

The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa provides panoramic views of the Ozark Mountains. | Photo courtesy 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa

Sitting atop a crest of the Ozark Mountains with panoramic views, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa caters to couples. Whirlpool tubs and/or balconies can be found in some rooms, and all guests can savor the mountain views from the hotel’s fourth-floor veranda. With dark walnut walls, a soaring 18-foot ceiling, and shimmering chandeliers, the Crystal Dining Room serves Italian fare. During cold evenings, enjoy s’mores around the fire pit in the outdoor Frisco Sporting Club, which features live music on weekends from May through October.

Hop aboard a trolley from the hotel to explore Eureka Springs’ winding hillside streets filled with colorful Victorian homes, shops, art galleries, and restaurants. The downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Venture about 4 miles west of downtown to admire the soaring Thorncrown Chapel nestled in a woodland setting. The American Institute of Architects recognized the simple sanctuary with 425 windows as one of the top buildings of the 20th century.

If you’re thinking of getting married, there are few better places to tie the knot than Eureka Springs, which has been called the “Wedding Capital of the South.” The Crescent’s several venues include Glenwood Hollow, which is carved out of a limestone hillside where guests can exchange vows under a canopy of trees.

Info: Rates start at $149. (855) 725-5720; crescent-hotel.com.

4. Windsor Court Hotel

New Orleans, Louisiana

Guests enjoy live entertainment in the Windsor Court Hotel’s Polo Club Lounge. | Photo courtesy Windsor Court Hotel

Guests enjoy live entertainment in the Windsor Court Hotel’s Polo Club Lounge. | Photo courtesy Windsor Court Hotel

Dripping with chic amenities, the Windsor Court Hotel delivers impeccable service in luxurious surroundings a short walk from the French Quarter. A museum-quality art collection valued at more than $10 million sets an elegant tone at the posh AAA Four Diamond property.

Pamper yourself in oversized guest rooms with panoramic views of the city. Creature comforts include terry cloth robes, Frette linens, and nightly turndown service. Book a spa treatment or opt for a traditional afternoon high tea in Le Salon, available every Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by the soothing notes of a piano.

Enjoy live entertainment Thursday through Saturday evenings in the Polo Club Lounge, decorated with fine art and English polo decor. Kick off the weekend with a jazz brunch (available Saturdays and Sundays) at The Grill Room, the hotel’s signature restaurant.

While exploring New Orleans, one of the world’s most romantic places, you can ride a carriage through the French Quarter, partake in a cooking class, shop for antiques, or stroll through City Park—home to a botanical garden and an art museum.

Dinner is an event in New Orleans, where memorable options include Commander’s Palace and GW Fins. Afterward, stop by the revolving Carousel Bar & Lounge inside Hotel Monteleone for a cocktail and music.

Info: Rates start at $395. (800) 262-2662; windsorcourthotel.com.

5. Southern Hotel

Covington, Louisiana

Dating to 1907, the Southern Hotel’s luxurious guest rooms are decorated with chic appointments. | Photo by Constance Higley

Dating to 1907, the Southern Hotel’s luxurious guest rooms are decorated with chic appointments. | Photo by Constance Higley

About 40 miles north of New Orleans’ French Quarter across Lake Pontchartrain, Covington’s small-town charm, outdoor attractions, and chic Southern Hotel create a memorable escape. Originally built in 1907, the Southern is set among art galleries, restaurants, and shops, including the historic H.J. Smith & Sons General Store and Museum that dates to 1876.

The hotel’s Cypress Bar with postcard murals depicting Covington’s history serves an impressive list of cocktails, sometimes accompanied by live music. After a drink, enjoy a romantic dinner at Del Porto Ristorante, conveniently located across the street from the hotel, or at Lola, which is in a former train depot around the corner. End the evening under the moonlight in the hotel’s courtyard—it’s ideal for hand holding.

After a relaxing night’s rest, explore the area by bicycling along the 31-mile Tammany Trace or paddling Cane Bayou, where otters, alligators, and egrets reside.

Info: Rates start at $189. (844) 866-1907; southernhotel.com.

6. The Roost Boutique Hotel

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Accented by salvaged wood and comfortable furnishings, The Roost has been called one of Mississippi’s most beautiful hotels. | Photo courtesy Eisley and Oak

Accented by salvaged wood and comfortable furnishings, The Roost has been called one of Mississippi’s most beautiful hotels. | Photo courtesy Eisley and Oak

After The Roost opened in 2017, Architectural Digest called it the most beautiful hotel in Mississippi. And rightly so. Each of the guest rooms is uniquely curated with comfortable furnishings accented by salvaged wood. Shared porches invite guests to sit and enjoy the salt-air breezes. The speakeasy-style bar, The Wilbur, serves cocktails and light bites. Woo your sweetie by adding the “Will You Be Mine” amenity that’s offered at select times—decadent chocolates, fresh flowers, and a bottle of prosecco.

Within walking distance of the hotel, beach sunsets and Oceans Springs’ eclectic downtown will charm couples looking for a laid-back escape. Wander in and out of the shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants.

Don’t miss the Walter Anderson Museum of Art or Shearwater Pottery, founded by Walter’s brother, Peter. Block prints by Walter hang on the walls at The Roost, where all of the rooms are named after his prints.

For the ultimate in relaxation, book a massage at the spa and salon at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in nearby Biloxi. Dine at the French-inspired Maison de Lu in Ocean Springs and sip a French 75 margarita in the outdoor courtyard. For a memorable beachfront view, choose The Chimneys Restaurant in Gulfport.

Info: Rates start at $149. (228) 285-7989; roostoceansprings.com.

7. The Hermitage Hotel

Nashville, Tennessee

Many original Italian and French Renaissance architectural features shine at The Hermitage Hotel, a AAA Four Diamond property. | Photo courtesy The Hermitage Hotel

Many original Italian and French Renaissance architectural features shine at The Hermitage Hotel, a AAA Four Diamond property. | Photo courtesy The Hermitage Hotel

Set in the heart of downtown Nashville, the historic Hermitage Hotel originally opened in 1910. Despite updates since then, the Beaux Arts-style structure maintains many of its original Italian and French Renaissance architectural features.

An icon of luxury, the AAA Four Diamond property boasts lavish amenities, with the average room measuring 500 square feet. Bathrooms feature a separate shower and a deep soaking tub; a television is embedded within the vanity mirror; and an on-call Bath Concierge can draw a bath, set relaxing music, and provide bath salts and bubbles. You can splurge on the rose petal turndown service and use the Pillow Concierge to ensure a comfy repose.

Make reservations for dinner at the hotel’s newly opened Drusie & Darr, a partnership with Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

From tapping your toes at honky-tonks to strolling beside the Parthenon at Centennial Park, Nashville brims with fun and romantic attractions. You can while away hours at beautiful Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, a 55-acre botanic garden, arboretum, and museum about 8.5 miles southwest of downtown.

And before you depart Nashville, stop by Tempered Fine Chocolates for a truffle as a reminder of the sweet time you spent on your getaway.

Info: Rates start at $340. (888) 888-9414; thehermitagehotel.com.

8. Hotel ICON, Autograph Collection

Houston, Texas

Formerly a bank building, Houston’s boutique Hotel ICON boasts marble bathrooms, vintage archways, and 30-foot columns in the lobby. | Photo courtesy Autograph Collection Hotels

Formerly a bank building, Houston’s boutique Hotel ICON boasts marble bathrooms, vintage archways, and 30-foot columns in the lobby. | Photo courtesy Autograph Collection Hotels

Authentic Texas charm mixes with upscale conveniences in the heart of Houston at the 135-room boutique Hotel ICON, Autograph Collection, which oozes with remarkable design elements. Formerly the 1912 Neo-classical Union National Bank building, this AAA Four Diamond property’s reception area was fashioned from teller stations. The lobby’s 30-foot columns complement the lively circular bar. High ceilings, vintage archways, rain showers, and marble bathrooms highlight large guest rooms.

With a METRORail stop just a few steps away, you can easily access Houston’s cultural scene. The 17-block downtown Theater District is home to resident performance groups—ballet, symphony, and opera. The city’s park-like Museum District boasts 19 institutions that include the Houston Museum of African American Culture, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Nature enthusiasts can rent bikes, kayaks, or canoes at the 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park.

Hungry from exploring? Hotel Icon’s Line & Lariat restaurant serves mouthwatering meals inspired by the region. Or have an intimate dinner at Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse in the nearby Montrose neighborhood. Swanky black and gold décor is punctuated with red leather booths while Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs play softly in the background.

Make your getaway even more romantic with the hotel’s “Kiss and Tell” package that includes a dozen long-stemmed roses, a bottle of champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries. You’ll even have a late checkout to extend your romantic getaway a little bit longer.

Info: Rates from $149. (281) 326-9038; hotelicon.com.

Married for more than 40 years, Barbara and Jim Twardowski are contributors from Mandeville, Louisiana.

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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