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
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
(Courtesy Henry County Convention & Visitors Bureau)
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
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
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.