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Couples Getaways That Actually Rock

By Liza Weisstuch
January 30, 2019
The road to Caddilac Mountain, in Acadia National Park, Maine
Jon Bilous/Dreamstime
Couples are thinking way beyond Champagne and chocolates these days. If you're ready to celebrate your relationship with something a little more thrilling, there's no shortage of options offering adventure, challenges, culinary experiences and more for a getaway you'll never forget.

The traditional "romantic getaway" is a bore, and we're here to put it out of its misery. These days, when you and yours hit the road, chances are you're not that interested in chocolates on your pillow or a complimentary bottle of bubbly. Adventure, self-improvement, and bragging rights to friends are higher on both of your to-do lists. From driving a race car to sleeping in a tree, from dabbling in legal weed to learning actual survival skills, here are the trips every couples should take.

1. NASCAR Fantasies

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You can’t hurry love, they say, but adrenaline junkies already in love can experience speed in its own right at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia (atlantamotorspeedway.com), about 20 miles south of Atlanta. There’s a range of opportunities at this professional race track, from backseat ride-alongs with a pro in a NASCAR race car to doing a few high-velocity laps around the speedway on your own. Not to worry—plenty of instruction is provided. And the best part? Nobody has to fight about driving directions.

2. Treehouse Dreams

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The landscapes of Georgia's state parks will take your breath away, for sure, but there are few better views than the ones from above, like you'll get from a vantage point the treetops. Yes, up in the branches. At Georgia's 100-acre Panola Mountain (gastateparks.org/PanolaMountain/Excursions), you can lock on your harness, climb up a tree, and settle in for the night in incredibly unique, secluded boat-like quarters with the ZZZs in the Trees program. If an overnight at high altitude is too much, daylong tree climbing lessons will get you back on the ground faster than you ascended.

3. Toke Up and Chill

More and more states are passing laws to make marijuana legal, but few can compete with Colorado, an early adopter, when it comes to the variety of ways and places to go green. An influx of the cannabis curious has turned Denver's pot tourism is a budding industry, if you will. You can hire a livery service like THC Limo (greentripz.com) to get your trip started the moment you leave the airport or go high into the mountains with bud-friendly charter S.U.V.s (420friendlyskiresorttransportation.com). You and your honey can take part in stoner painting classes (puffpassandpaint.com). Chefs at select restaurants will prepare cannabis-centric multicourse meals, or you can hone your own cooking skills at Stir Cooking Schools, where instructors include graduates of the prestigious Johnson & Wales culinary school. Apps like Weedmaps (weedmaps.com) and Leafly (leafly.com) can help you navigate the city’s many dispensaries. But it’s the dizzying array of activities offered on My 420’s three-day tours (my420tours.com) that get the highest ratings. A “cannabis concierge” will custom design an agenda that can include everything from cannabis oil massages to dinners to visits to growing labs to make sure you go home mellow.

4. Learn How to Survive With Each Other

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For tens of thousands of years before it was a blockbuster television series (for tens of thousands of years before there were televisions, in fact) you had to be a survivor just to, well, survive. At Boulder Outdoor Survival School (boss-inc.com), you’ll get back to nature in gorgeous, remote southern Utah and learn how to make it work for you. BOSS’s website makes it explicitly clear that this is not a Rambo-style boot camp or a prepper’s course for the apocalypse, but nor is it for the faint of heart. Or the faint of will. You and yours will get schooled in the basics with living skills courses (7 or 14 days), which teach basic survival; a 14-day program called Desert Navigator that involves trekking with compasses and maps; and general field courses (7, 14, or 28 days) that set you free in nature without tents, sleeping bags, or technology. For the truly committed, there's the ultra-intense, 72-hour survival rescue course. Get through any of these together, and you know your relationship is ironclad.

5. Three-ring Circus for Beginners

There are plenty of reasons to plan a trip to Santa Fe—the weather in the wintertime, the vibrant modern-meets-folk-arts scene, the epic margaritas, the knockout landscape. And, lest we forget, the circus school. Seriously. Wise Fool (wisefoolnewmexico.org) offers a variety of classes, with lessons in everything from handstands to juggling to aerial skills (care to swing in a hoop, anyone?) to soaring on a trapeze. Classes, which run about 90 minutes, are available throughout the year on a drop-in basis and cost $12 to $15 per session. (Pro tip: There’s typically more space in daytime than nighttime classes.) Couples can also schedule private lessons. Gift certificates are available. Just make sure that if it inspires you to run away and join the circus, the decision is mutual.

6. Carnivores' Delight

Lots of foodies head to California for the wine, but those looking beyond the glass can test their mettle with farm life in Siskiyou, a tranquil county in the state’s northernmost region. Schedule a summertime escape at Belcampo Farms, where the three-day Meat Camp (belcampo.com/meatcamp) each June delivers a thorough education on grilling, butchery, and knife skills. But it’s not entirely rugged. You’ll retire to luxury tents to reboot for the next day. For even more committed aspiring butchers, old-world traditions and sustainable agriculture are the foundation of Camp Charcuterie (campcharcuterie.com), a seven-day full-immersion experience in France where you'll learn farmstead charcuterie production, hands-on butchery, food-safety measures, and more from a roster of top-notch chefs and butchers. Those that can’t get up and disappear to the French countryside can learn at the workshops and classes offered at different culinary schools and markets around the U.S. The Chopping Block (thechoppingblock.com/butchery-boot-camp), which has two locations in Chicago, holds day-long bootcamps that teach basic techniques like cutting, trimming, de-boning, and more, then wrap up with a meal participants cook themselves. Fleishers Craft Butchers (shop.fleishers.com) has a busy calendar of intensive classes—both hands-on and demo-based—in New York City and Connecticut.

7. Drink Up American History

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Each year, hundreds of thousands of whiskey-lovers flock to Kentucky to indulge in the embarrassment of riches that is America’s bourbon heritage. While there is an official Bourbon Trail of distilleries as well as an Urban Bourbon Trail that guides you through Louisville’s various whiskey bars, you’re left on your own to explore. For a full guided experience, Louisville-based Mint Julep Tours (mintjuleptours.com) offers more than just distillery visits, though each stop at one of the historic bourbon maker includes a tasting and even, if you're lucky, a chance to pull whiskey straight from the barrel, all of which makes the tour a worthwhile decision. You can customize your day to include particular distilleries as well as a visit to a local cooperage to watch barrels get raised and charred or a mixology class. They’ll take you from stop to stop (typically three to four in a day) in a posh SUV.

8. Take a Very Modern Look at an Ancient Roman City

Pompeii, the ancient Roman city in southern Italy that was nearly wiped out by a volcano eruption in 79 AD, is a sweeping archaeological site regarded as one of the greatest snapshots of ancient life, what with it essentially frozen in time in the moment it was buried under ash. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it sees about 2.5 million visitors each year. Few, however, experience it in action, getting an intimate view of how it likely functioned thousands of years ago, the way you can with Flashback Journey to Pompeii (journeytopompeiitours.com). Snap on a 3D virtual reality headset and you’ll be whisked back to the center of a bustling metropolis. You can join a small group or opt for a private tour. And with Pompeii situated near Naples and surrounded by small villas, there’s no reason not to plan a romantic Italian getaway while you’re at it.

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Inspiration

All Aboard! There's Excellent Wine To Try on These Trains

“All aboard!” These words are music to the ears of anyone who appreciates the romantic nostalgia of a train excursion. And who wouldn’t? No other mode of transportation allows you to experience the varied landscapes of a country so intimately. Now imagine this journey with a glass of wine in hand, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres or a multi-course meal, and you have a recipe for a delicious adventure. Plus, it’s a responsible way to imbibe since you don’t have to worry about driving around wine country. From the California coast to the Deep South, through Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley and up to Canada, each of these trains not only offers stunning scenery, but an unparalleled wine-tasting experience. 1. Napa Valley Wine Train: California (Napa Valley Wine Train) This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Napa Valley’s finest luxury train. With its polished reputation and carefully curated menus, it’s no wonder that Napa Valley Wine Train is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Step back in time as you board the retro coaches that were once used on the Northern Pacific Railway, and prepare to drink and dine in splendor with a variety of different tours, from an Italian-themed Legacy tour that includes a visit to Robert Mondavi winery to an Estate tour that focuses on French winemaking traditions. Tours generally run between three to six hours, and each option includes a multiple-course lunch or dinner along with a tasting at one or more wineries. From $150 for the gourmet express lunch train; winetrain.com. 2. Wine on the Rails: Tennessee A collaboration between local music-festival producer Muddy Roots Music and the Tennessee Central Railway Museum, this is a wine train ride that won’t easily be forgotten—thought the details may be fuzzy, depending on how many glasses you've had, that is. As you depart Nashville, sit back and enjoy a tasting on this 1950s passenger train while live music accompanies your voyage. Spontaneous dancing has been known to erupt in the aisles, and as you reach your destination the revelry continues with a tasting at the Del Monaco Winery in the tiny town of Baxter. (Population: 1,200ish.) Passengers are encouraged to dress in vintage attire, making the experience all the more unique. From $60, which includes a commemorative wine glass and other goodies; wineontherails.com. 3. Grape Escape Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: Ohio This wine train takes you through the beautiful Cuyahoga National Park between Cleveland and Akron, delivering spectacular scenery along the way, from forests to rolling hills and the winding Cuyahoga River. Each Saturday, two-hour excursions offer tastings of five different wines paired with light appetizers. Themed tours take place on select Saturdays, during which you can sample wines from Africa or South America, or stick a little closer to home with some of Ohio’s best wines on a Buckeye State of Wine tour. For beer-drinkers, there’s also an Ales on Rails journey. From $60; cvsr.com/take-the-train/grape-escape-ales-on-rails. 4. Cross-Canada VIA Rail: various routes across the country The VIA Rail, the only passenger train that travels the length of Canada year-round, is often referred to as Canada’s best window, and it is easy to see why, as breathtaking views are easily the main attraction on every route. A Sleeper Plus ticket allows you to enjoy complimentary tastings of Canadian beer and wine as well as musical acts and special cultural presentations. For those with more of a champagne budget, a Prestige Class ticket also includes a personal concierge who will ensure that your journey is beyond memorable. From $479 for a Sleeper Plus ticket on the Winnipeg-Edmonton route, with other routes available; viarail.ca. 5. New Hope and Ivyland Railroad Grapevine Express: Pennsylvania Late summer and early fall are ideal times to enjoy a leaf-peeping foliage tour, and luckily, the Grapevine Express operates from August through the end of October. As you board this vintage diesel locomotive and make your way to the first class parlor car, you’ll be offered a glass of wine and a spread of gourmet cheeses, fruit, and artisan crackers. The hour-long nonstop round-trip excursion begins about 40 miles outside of Philadelphia and travels through the historic Bucks County woods. The adventure is both educational and entertaining, and you'll learn about the history of the area through on-board narration. From $75, which includes two glasses of wine and a souvenir wine glass; newhoperailroad.com/grapevineexpress. 6. San Diego Winery Train Tour: California Take in the magnificent scenery of the California coast from the comfort of your seat as you travel to several urban wineries and wine bars in San Diego. The green and eco-friendly train runs along the city’s coastal route, following the same path as the local commuter train, and makes four stops for a total of 15 tastings. The trip lasts approximately five hours and includes a light Italian lunch as well as a behind-the-scenes view of the wine-making process and a presentation on wine appreciation, sometimes from one of the winemakers themselves. You'll also have an opportunity to soak up some culture on a guided, historic walk to each winery. There's a beer train trolley tour as well, which stops at four local breweries. From $98, plus the cost of the train ticket; sandiegobeerwinespiritstours.com. 7. Royal Gorge Route Railroad Wine Dinners: Colorado This leisurely three-hour ride on Colorado’s scenic steamliner route takes guests on an epic adventure along the mighty Arkansas River deep within the granite cliffs of the Royal Gorge. A selection of themed wine dinners is offered throughout the year, each featuring meticulously chosen entrees paired with award-winning wines. And this is serious business—every year the team scouts the best wines across the United States and the world, selecting those that best complement their style of Colorado cuisine. From $199, which includes the five-course dinner with wine pairings; royalgorgeroute.com/dining/wine-dinner. 8. The Winery Train: New Jersey Journey along the Delaware River to one of New Jersey’s smallest wineries: the charming Villa Milagro Vineyards. Once there, you’ll enjoy a tour with hors d’oeuvres and tastings, but you’ll also likely be distracted by the panoramic views. On the train ride back, you’ll have the option of stopping at the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine to relax in the grove and enjoy a picnic, so you might want to pick up a bottle or two while you're at the winery. Trains operate from May through October and they run every 90 minutes, so you can stay as long as you like and get on board a later train.All-inclusive tours from $35; 877trainride.com/winery.htm.

Inspiration

Bargain Europe: Where to Go in 2019

Yes, you can have a first-rate vacation on the Continent by looking beyond the tried-and-true (and crowded and pricey) European capitals. Here, five of our favorite cities where your dollar will go farther thanks to shockingly low hotel rates, and your Instagram will be the envy of everybody back home. 1. Prague, Czech Republic Prague is sometimes referred to as the most beautiful city in Europe thanks to such eye-popping architectural must-sees as the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and historic Old Town Square. The city has seen an uptick in tourism over the past few years thanks in part to comfortable lodging that starts at under $100/night and culinary delights that include a variety of cheeses, dumplings, tripe soup, and cold foamy Pilsners. 2. Athens, Greece The dollar goes farther in the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and, well, Western civilization in general. You’ll be awed by ancient wonders like the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike at the Acropolis (best viewed in the afternoon and early evening thanks to the setting sun and nighttime illuminations). You may also be awed by the reasonable hotel rates, with excellent rooms available in the $80 to $100/night range. But this city isn’t all classical antiquity: Save time for trips to the local taverna for small plates, fresh seafood, and dolmades, plus the popularly potent local liqueur, ouzo. 3. Porto, Portugal Porto is one of Europe’s “second cities” that offer huge savings. The second largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, Porto is located in the Douro River region, known for fantastic wines, including, of course, rich, red Port. But there’s much more to Porto than wine. Here, you’ll savor fun public markets like Mercado do Bolhao, contemporary art galleries along Rua Miguel Bombarda, and playful architecture such as Casa da Musica concert hall, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Hit the Ribeira neighborhood for buzzing cafes and bars, and then navigate the city’s old winding streets in search of the sculpture of Henry the Navigator by the harbor. Reliable lodging in Porto starts in the $80 to $100/night range. 4. Lodz, Poland Our colleagues at Budget Travel’s parent company, Lonely Planet, chose Lodz, Poland, as one of 2019’s top value destinations, rocketing the third-largest city in Poland from, “Where?” to “Wow!” for a lot of travelers. The revitalization of industrial spaces has transformed former factories and other buildings into a hot destination for shopping, culture, and entertainment, including a new planetarium, science and technology center, and the MS2 Museum of Art. You’ll find comfortable hotels for well under $100/night. 5. Budapest, Hungary With views of the legendary Danube River from hotels that start at around $100/night to some of Europe’s tastiest street food, including langos, essentially fried bread topped with sour cream, cheese, and garlic (we know, right?). The Great Market Hall should be a first stop for foodies, but don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Castle Hill including the Royal Palace (dating back to the 13th century and now the home of the Hungarian National Gallery), and gorgeous Matthias Church. You should book a sightseeing cruise on the Danube, and prepare to snap unforgettable images of the city’s majestic Chain Bridge.

Inspiration

5 Ways to Be a Better Traveler in 2019

The tumbleweeds of wrapping paper have blown away, everyone's back at work, and the watercooler chatter no longer revolves around shopping nightmares or New Year’s resolutions. But the latter is still on your mind. Or it should be, at least. According to a University of Scranton study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only about 8 percent follow through on them. In addition to broadening your outlook, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and meeting new people, travel presents an opportunity to make an impact, if only for a moment. We rounded up a few ways you can resolve to be a better jet-setter, and here's the best part: By working towards these resolutions, you'll have to force yourself to travel more. Tough job, right? 1. Get Off the Beaten Path When visiting a new city, your itinerary can be so much more than the familiar landmarks and museums. While we’re not encouraging you to skip out on the iconic sites, we are lobbying for you to set aside time for a city’s many nooks and alleys and far-flung neighborhoods. That’s often where you’ll find the lesser-known gems and personalities that give the city its energy. One of the best ways to explore is to find walking tours that cover the sites you’ve never heard of. Many of them are designed by locals with specific interests, so it’s easy to find a themed excursion. Plus, hanging out with locals is the ultimate way to get an insider’s recommendations. Take, for instance, “Wildman” Steve Brill (wildmanstevebrill.com), who leads tours in the five boroughs pointing out edible plants, nuts, and the like, while Queens Food Tours (queensfoodtours.com) introduces you to the culinary treasures in New York’s most diverse borough. In Chicago, Chicago Pedway Tours (chicagopedwaytours.com) leads you through the series of little-known indoor passageways that wind through the city, an especially great option during Illinois’s extreme winters. The closely knit local restaurant world is the theme of Juneau Food Tours (juneaufoodtours.com), and Portland, Oregon’s renowned coffee and beer scenes are the focus of Third Wave Coffee Tours (thirdwavecoffeetours.com) and Beerquest Walking Tours (beerquestwalkingtours.com), respectively. Lace up! 2. Stay Fit on the Go (Progressman/Dreamstime) It's happened to the best of us: You wonder if the sneakers and workout clothes that you've packed are laughing at you as they languish in your suitcase. When you're on the road, it’s easy to make excuses for abandoning your plans to hit the hotel gym or pool. It is vacation, after all. But the excellent thing about working out when you travel is that not only is it a chance to break out of your routine—and your comfort zone—and try something new, it’s an opportunity for a full-on local experience. Biking is a common choice and easy to find in many cities, but you might also consider finding running club or boating house, both ways to immerse yourself in your surrounds and get your heartbeat up while you’re at it. Jaz Graham, fitness entrepreneur and group instructor in New York City, suggests trying an activity you’re not accustomed to, just to switch things up. Many spinning and yoga studios, boxing gyms, and rock-climbing facilities offer drop-in classes. Just be sure to do your research before you go so you can make any necessary reservations. 3. Keep It Local (Littleny/Dreamstime) It seems obvious enough: If you’re visiting a city, you’ll be pouring money into the local economy, right? Yes and no. Thanks to a phenomenon referred to in industry jargon as “economic leakage,” tourism dollars that are spent on businesses with international headquarters or global parent companies are ultimately funneled out of the city. But the solution is easy: Seek out independent hotels, locally owned businesses, and restaurants that source ingredients from nearby suppliers. Shop at stores and markets that showcase locally made products. Food festivals, food halls, and food trucks are all excellent ways to maximize your access to local chefs and entrepreneurs and sample their wares. 4. Tackle That Bucket List In other words: save money and budget more for travel. There are everyday ways you can do that, like cooking at home more and reining in the impulse purchases. (Personally, this travel fanatic puts away every five-dollar bill that lands in her wallet. Trust me, it adds up.) Then there’s the holy trinity of travel planning: Buy tickets as far ahead of your travel dates as you can, be flexible, and consider flights with layovers or transfers. Choosing airlines that fly to secondary airports is another tactic that experts recommend. It might require a drive to your final destination, but it could save you serious cash. Plus, it’s a good way to take in a landscape that you might not otherwise discover. Our digital age offers some easy hacks that could help you score a better deal. If you’re looking for a specific destination but you’re flexible with your dates, turn on Google Flight alerts to receive notifications when a ticket price goes down. Sites like hopper.com also continuously scan the internet for lower rates. Even simpler? Sign up for airlines’ newsletters. They’ll often offer packages or announce sales in advance. 5. Consider the Environment Refraining from asking housekeeping to change your sheets and towels every day or, better yet, choosing to stay at eco-minded hotels are certainly good earth-conscious moves, but there are many steps you can take to travel more sustainably—things as simple as keeping a water bottle with you so you use fewer disposable plastic bottles and avoiding plastic straws and Styrofoam. Unfortunately, the carbon footprint of flying is a necessary evil. Air travel is required for many vacation destinations, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that a commercial airplane produces a little over 53 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile, according to BlueSkyModel, a carbon dioxide emissions tracker. Andy McCune, a travel photographer and co-founder of Unfold, an app that provides templates for creating stories on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, suggests buying offset credits. “The money will fund projects that reduce carbon emissions in other ways, offsetting your footprint. Some airlines like Delta and JetBlue offer their own carbon offsetting programs, supporting a wide variety of projects like land use and renewable energy,” he says. He also encourages supporting progressive airlines like KLM, which is testing biofuels, an energy source that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%.

Inspiration

4 Destinations That Honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s towering achievements by doing one of your favorite things: traveling. A variety of sites operated by the National Parks Service and nonprofit organizations offer the opportunity to enjoy your MLK weekend (January 19, 20, and 21, 2019) by immersing yourself in the history of the civil rights movement in vibrant communities across the American South. Add these to your all-American must-see list. 1. MONTGOMERY, AL The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery, Alabama, is drawing visitors from all over the world, becoming one of the most essential destinations for travelers interested in educating themselves about the Civil Right Movement. The city of Montgomery is packed with historic sites and museums dedicated to the movement. At 252 Montgomery Street, you can see the exact spot where civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man on December 1, 1955. Her subsequent arrest triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in which Dr. King played a leading role. Today, 252 Montgomery Street is home to Troy University’s Rosa Parks Library and Museum (troy.edu/rosaparks). The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Memorial, designed by Maya Lin (best known for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C.), is a black granite table and wall engraved with the history of the civil rights movement and the names of its martyrs, along with one of Dr. King’s favorite biblical paraphrases, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” An adjacent Civil Rights Memorial Center (splcenter.org/civil-rights-memorial) educates visitors on the history of the bus boycott and the larger movement. For visitors hungry for more civil rights-era historical sites, the center is a short walk from Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (where King served as pastor at the time of the bus boycott), the Alabama State Capitol, and the Alabama Department of Archives and History. 2. MEMPHIS, TN The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel (civilrightsmuseum.org) is one of the most extraordinary examples of hope rising out of pain. Built on the site of Dr. King’s 1968 assassination, the museum traces the history of the civil rights movement from its roots in the colonial slave trade to the present day. 3. WASHINGTON, D.C. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, dedicated in 2011, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, has joined the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his speech to an estimated audience of 250,000 demonstrators, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a place where visitors are often moved and inspired beyond their expectations. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (nmaahc.si.educ), which opened in September 2016, is a gorgeously designed, immersive educational experience that belongs on any traveler's list of D.C. essentials. 4. ATLANTA, GA The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site (nps.gov/malu) includes the house in which Dr. King was born, a visitors’ center, an International Peace Rose Garden, and the nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized and served as a minister, along with his father, from 1960 until his death in 1968.

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