Project Description

Livability mentions Atticus Hotel

January 23, 2019


These 10 honeymoon destinations are worth swooning over — no passport required.

If you’re planning a honeymoon, there’s no need to book an expensive post-nuptial vacation overseas. You can stay close to home, with several romantic retreats here in the United States eager to host your honeymoon, offering experiences surprisingly similar to tropical paradises and European adventures — for a much, much lower price.

Whether your love language is a vineyard with a view, a cozy cabin or a private beach, we’re playing matchmaker to set you up with some small to mid-sized cities throughout the United States that will give you the unforgettable, romantic experience you’ve always dreamed of.

These 10 honeymoon destinations are worth swooning over — no passport required.

10 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
Santa Fe, NM
Population: 83,008

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: With art galleries galore, adobe architecture, a designated Margarita Trail and stunning views showing off the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe has helped earn New Mexico its “Land of Enchantment” nickname.

Go Here Instead Of: Japan. This southwestern gem certainly preserves and celebrates Hispanic culture. But there’s also a can’t-miss spa reminiscent of Japanese onsens.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $119

Where to Stay: Book an adobe casita at La Posada de Santa Fe. This resort is set on six beautifully landscaped acres just steps from Santa Fe’s beautiful and bustling historic Plaza. Make sure to mention you’re there on your honeymoon: Newlyweds are treated to flowers, chocolate-dipped strawberries and champagne.

What to Pack: Out-of-town visitors are often surprised that it does indeed snow in Santa Fe. (You can even go skiing!) Be sure to pack plenty of warm-weather accessories if you’re traveling in the winter.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Take a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, which are taught by some of Santa Fe’s special chefs. If you’re feeling spicy, opt for a chile workshop.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Set aside an afternoon for Ten Thousand Waves, which is inspired by Japanese mountain hot springs. To really get this right, book a private tub and spa treatments.

Sweet Spot: Sip chocolate elixirs and sample chili chocolates at the adorable Kakawa Chocolate House.

Population: 6,493

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Named for the 11 lakes that spread like fingers across this region, the Finger Lakes region is a romantic retreat with wineries specializing in rieslings, plus boutique hotels and plenty of scenic spots for outdoor adventure.

Go Here Instead Of: Iceland. The Finger Lakes region has dramatic waterfalls of its own; 40 in fact!

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $109

Where to Stay: Live out your own fairytale at Belhurst, which has three properties, including Chambers in the Castle. The 1800s stone castle overlooks Seneca Lake and rooms are decorated with antique furnishings and artwork, and feature soaking tubs, fireplaces and lake views.

What to Pack: It can get chilly in the winter, with temps ranging from 25 to 30 degrees. Bring waterproof boots and cold-weather accessories for winter months, layers in the spring and fall and cool, relaxed clothing for the summer. Of course don’t forget your swimsuit in the warm months to take a dip in the famed lakes or wade near waterfalls.

Romantic Date Night Spot: F.L.X. is an intimate spot for dinner, with only 14 seats in the restaurant and a menu based on seasonality. Reservations open up a month in advance.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Head to the opera or catch a theatrical performance at the Smith Center for the Arts.

Sweet Spot: Ever heard of grape pie? If not, give it a try at Cindy’s in Naples, NY. Or, indulge on a “sweet treats”trail.

8 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
Beaufort, NC
Population: 4,153

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: You’ll feel like you’re starring in your own romance novel on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. Take a Nicholas Sparks-inspired tour in southeastern North Carolina, exploring the historic towns, quiet beaches, tidal rivers and scenic marshes.

Go Here Instead Of: A European river cruise. You’ll have variety, as the region has 85 miles of North Carolina coastline, with nine distinct regions.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $150

Where to Stay: The Pecan Tree Inn in Beaufort exudes southern charm with wrap-around porches, a flower and herb garden and guest room suites with in-room Jacuzzis.

What to Pack: Beach-casual rules the fashion scene here. If you’re coming in warmer months, bring your flip-flops and bathing suits.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Get a taste of local fare at Aqua in historic Beaufort, with dishes featuring fresh-caught grouper, regional cheeses and local, sun-ripened tomatoes.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Head to New Bern, which plays a role in three Sparks novels “A Bend in the Road,” “The Wedding” and “The Notebook.” You can take a self-guided “Walk to Remember” walking tour, guiding you through 15 landmarks central to Sparks’ books.

Sweet Spot: Pick up a deep dish pecan pie at Beaufort Grocery Co.

7 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
San Luis Obispo, CA
Population: 46,337

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Find your “happy ever after” on a honeymoon to San Luis Obispo (or SLO) along the Central Coast in California. With vineyards, beaches along the Pacific coast, mountains, and fairytale-like forests, SLO Cal has garnered a reputation for being the happiest place in America. (Sorry, Disney!) This lesser-known region is between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and has far fewer crowds and enjoys a slower pace (and less expensive hotels!).

Go Here Instead Of: Portugal. Trade the salt cod and sardines for oysters along Morro Bay. (Hey, they’re said to be an aphrodisiac after all!).

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $139

Where to Stay: If you and your loved one appreciate a little quirk, a stay at the Madonna Inn is in order. Each of the hotel’s 110 rooms are uniquely decorated and unabashedly over-the-top. The “Love Nest” room has bright pink carpet and a staircase that leads to a private viewing tower.

What to Pack: As you can guess, SLO Cal is laid-back. Pack some boots and jeans as a fun way to explore the vineyards is via horseback and you can do so with Central Coast Trail Rides through the vineyards at Cass.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Enjoy a dinner at Novo in San Luis Obispo, and to really get this right request a creekside table.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Take a romantic walk on the beach at Moonstone Beach in Cambria and search for gemstones along the way to create your own piece of jewelry. Or, relax in a private hot spring along the hillside in Avila Beach at Sycamore Hot Springs.

Sweet Spot: The pink champagne cake at Madonna Inn is famous for a reason.

6 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
Vail, CO
Population: 5,321

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Just two hours west of Denver, Vail is a luxe mountain escape where honeymooners can have fun year-round. The ski slopes are the siren that lure you west in the winter. But hiking, ziplining and other fun adventures can round out an itinerary come warmer months.

Go Here Instead Of: The Alps. Many of the buildings in Vail Village were built in the early 1960s, giving a nod to European alpine architecture. Heated cobblestone streets and snow-capped mountains complete the scene.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $429 (although you can find considerably lower prices during the off season!)

Where to Stay: Hotel Talisa is a luxury resort with mountainside rooms, a champagne vending machine in the lobby, a steamy, heated pool with panoramic views and a spa where you and your loved one can round out your Colorado getaway with CBD massages.

What to Pack: Sunscreen! And lots of it. Even in the winter months, you’re at a high altitude and close to the sun. If you spend a lot of time on the slopes, you’ll blend in with the locals who have ski goggle tan lines.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Make a reservation in nearby Beaver Creek at Mirabelle, a cozy and upscale French restaurant with an impressive wine list that is set in a historic home.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Skiing is the main attraction in the winter. For summer honeymooners, though, push your adrenaline into overdrive at Epic Discovery, a mountain-top adventure park where you can zipline, do a ropes course or zip down the mountain in a roller coaster.

Sweet Spot: Roast s’mores over outdoor fire pits at Larkspur Events & Dining. The marshmallows here are house-made.

5 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
Lake Forest, IL
Population: 18,951

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Along the shore of Lake Michigan, Lake Forest is a romantic retreat in the Midwest. You can hop on a train and reach the big city amenities in Chicago in under an hour, but there’s plenty of restaurants and shops to explore in Lake Forest as well.

Go Here Instead Of: England. Guests at the The Deer Path Inn, an idyllic English manor house, are treated like royalty. Thoughtful English traditions and touches are woven throughout, including high-tea traditions in a glass-enclosed courtyard, Wellington boots near the entrance, and warm lighting that sets a relaxed, cozy tone.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $319

Where to Stay: The Deer Path Inn, which has a crackling fireplace, intimate dinners at the inn’s private wine cellars, and bathtubs that fill from the ceilings. The hotel loans out complimentary bikes to explore the shores of Lake Michigan or the nearby Market Square.

What to Pack: Bring a backpack for a day trip into Chicago.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Menus at The Gallery are based on the artwork that’s on display. As exhibits rotate every two months or so, the chef comes up with new culinary interpretations.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Take the train into Chicago and enjoy a romance-filled itinerary. How’s a carriage tour along Michigan Avenue sound? Make a stop in Andy’s Jazz Club or ride the ferris wheel on Navy Pier.

Sweet Spot: Continue this English theme with toffee from Sweet’s, a local chocolate shop.

4 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
Scottsdale, AZ
Population: 227,471

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Scottsdale is a public arts mecca, and one of its most famous pieces is Robert Indiana’s LOVE Sculpture, a cherry red pop art piece that places the “L” “O” over “V” “E.” (Fun fact: To make the sign more public-facing, the city recently used a crane to move the sculpture. The inside joke around town was that “LOVE” was in the air.) Beyond the obvious photo opp with the sculpture, this desert oasis is home to more than 50 resort and day spas, has a 2.5-hour long Chocolate Tour, and the stargazing is stellar.

Go Here Instead Of: Paris. The art scene is spectacular, and strolling through Main Street Galleries (which showcase the art of more than 1,000 artists) under the twinkling stars rivals the romantic atmosphere of the City of Light.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $168

Where to Stay: Nestled on the north slope of its namesake, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain has luxe mountainside casitas and an infinity-edge pool. Beyoncé and Jay-Z honeymooned here. Enough said.

What to Pack: Bring a light jacket for cooler seasons because temps in the desert can dip at night, and some fancy duds to hit the town in the evenings.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Honeymooners at FnB can enjoy an Arizona wine experience with Pavle Milic, part-owner of the intimate, downtown restaurant. Chef Charleen Badman, a James Beard award semifinalist, is well-known for crafting elevated veggie dishes.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Take a sunrise or sunset hot air balloon ride above the Sonoran desert with Hot Air Expeditions or Rainbow Ryders, ending in a celebratory champagne toast.

Sweet Spot: For the most Instagrammable and decadent dessert in the desert, stop in at ZuZu inside Hotel Valley Ho. The Showstopper Shake is a massive, $16 milkshake topped with baked goods and whipped cream. The theme changes monthly, but, to give you a taste, a recent unicorn theme featured a mixed berry milkshake with a funfetti cupcake, rainbow sprinkles, birthday cake frosting, marshmallows, cotton candy and a white-chocolate dipped waffle cone.

3 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
McMinnville, OR
Population: 33,185

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Two words: Pinot Noir. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a wine region bidding for honeymooners’ attention. It’s a leading producer of pinot noir, with more than 700 lush vineyards rolling through the region and 500 wineries. Honeymooners will experience a two-for-one here: idyllic countryside with farms as well as city culture throughout the Pacific Northwest valley.

Go Here Instead Of: Burgundy. Rivers and mountains in Oregon’s Willamette Valley mimic the geography in northern Europe, and over the past five decades, winemakers here have put the region on the map as a serious, but unpretentious, pinot noir region.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $111

Where to Stay: Fireplaces with handcrafted mantles as well as artwork from locals star in the rooms at Atticus Hotel in McMinnville, which is an ideal base camp for any wine tasting adventures.

What to Pack: The region is laid-back. Pack some athletic gear in case you’re up for bicycling through the ridiculously gorgeous rolling hills.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Bistro Maison in McMinnville gives a regional spin to classic French dishes with menu items like mussels sourced from Totten Island, Washington and a white truffle fondue made with White Tillamook Cheddar and Oregon truffle oil.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Wine-tasting of course! Several wine-touring companies will familiarize you with the region, but a fun new way to visit tasting rooms is with NW Wine Shuttle, which is a hop-on, hop-off shuttle that stops at 11 wineries that are each spaced about five minutes apart.

Sweet Spot: Serendipity Ice Cream exudes some vintage charm, selling scoops as well as banana splits, shakes and sundaes. We also love the shop because it employs and trains adults with disabilities.

2 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
Providence , RI
Population: 178,680

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Rhode Island’s capital city is a charmer, with a dreamy WaterFire Festival that makes many summer nights (and some winter ones, too) feel magical. Fires crackle on the rivers that wind and converge through downtown, casting a glow prettier than any Instagram filter while opera music can be heard playing. The “Starry Night” exhibit where blue lanterns hang from trees is a popular engagement spot; but for honeymooners, go ahead and treat it like mistletoe. Rounding out the Providence experience is a phenomenal dining scene, plus art galleries and self-guided walking tours through the city’s eclectic mix of neighborhoods.

Go Here Instead Of: Italy. You’ll find authentic Italian food on Federal Hill, and gondoliers will serenade you with Italian love sonnets.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $183

Where to Stay: The Dean Hotel is a hip hotel with a karaoke bar on property that takes inspiration from Japanese “karaoke boxes” and an intimate cocktail bar. Be sure to note that you’re there on your honeymoon as some rooms are outfitted with bunk beds. (Oh, and, psst … this hotel was a strip club in its past life).

What to Pack: Pack your cold-weather accessories if you’re coming in a cold month; February is the snowiest. Layers are great for spring and fall. You might want to avoid striped shirts in the summer or risk being mistaken for a gondolier.

Romantic Date Night Spot: If pizza is your love language, head to Figidini. Wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas are made in an open kitchen, and the restaurant sources ingredients locally and from Italy.

Can’t-Miss Experience: Take a ride on an authentic Venetian gondola in the heart of downtown. Book a trip with La Gondola, and you and your date will be treated to Italian love songs and wine biscuits. (You can bring a bottle of wine, as well.)

Sweet Spot: Pastiche is a cozy, Euro-style cafe where you can order cake by the slice.

1 – 2019 10 Best Affordable Honeymoon Spots in the US
Sarasota, FL
Population: 53,583

Why You Should Honeymoon Here: Beach towns are known for their sunsets. But Sarasota’s sunset view is so spectacular, it’s worth syncing your schedule up with as the dusk sky swirls like cotton candy, casting an amethyst glow. On Siesta Key, there’s even a Sunday night drum circle to celebrate the sunset. By day, honeymooners can enjoy sugary white sand beaches. By night, there’s an arts and culture scene to sample, with ballets, a Circus Arts Conservatory featuring world-class performers, Broadway shows, jazz concerts and theatrical performances.

Go Here Instead Of: The Mediterranean. You can even get your paella and sangria fix at Columbia Restaurant.

Average Nightly Hotel Price: $162

Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota is perched on the bay, has a storied rose garden on site and an exclusive beach club with a tiki bar. Couples massages here come with a soak in a tub with rose petals.

What to Pack: Anything Lilly Pulitzer-esque. (Think: punchy, bold floral prints and resort wear). The fashion — and way of life — here is far more laid-back than Miami.

Romantic Date Night Spot: Indigenous, a cozy restaurant housed inside a restored home, with a focus on sustainable and seasonal seafood. Request a table on the front porch or in the wine cottage.

Can’t-Miss Experience: A trip to The Ringling, a 66-acre bay-front property that houses European art, a secret garden, an elegant 1920s Ca’d’Zan mansion that John and Mable Ringling entertained in and, for fun, the Circus Museum, where you can safely walk a wire or try squeezing into a clown car.

Sweet Spot: The dessert menus at Jack Dusty inside the Ritz-Carlton are delivered like a message in the bottle. You can’t go wrong here as the hotel’s executive pastry chef Lyndsy McDonald won Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship.

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