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 are mountains, wineries, farms and even outdoor obstacle courses offering unique experiences you'll never forget.
1. EAT AND DRINK
THE FARMING LIFE
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” 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. There’s more butchering activity at Five Marys Farm, which offers full immersion in ranch life. Well, an urbanite’s version. (The farm is, after all, near downtown Fort Jones. It's quaint, but a downtown nevertheless.) Spend days learning cast iron cooking techniques, farming hacks, and cocktail making. There are posh glamping accommodations on the historic farm’s camping site. Couples looking for the complete immersion in the area's history can stay at the Railroad Park Resort, where they can sleep in an historical caboose.
Maybe you and your beau have fantasized about retiring to California to run a winery. Might as well take advantage of an opportunity to try your hand at the craft. Bottlest is a classy bar and bistro in Santa Barbara’s wine country that offers an uncommon DIY experience: make your own wine and design the label. You design the wine online before arrival, using sliding scales to determine the body and various flavors, then design your label. You'll meet with winemakers and pick their brains about the process, but if you’re not happy with the outcome (don’t be too hard on yourselves, it takes practice), not to worry. The bistro offers up to 55 wines by the glass.
There’s a bit more of an academic approach on offer in the Sierra Foothills of Calaveras County, California, which is dotted with small vineyards along serene country roads. Courtwood Wine Tasting Tours offers customized tours that will pick you up and drop you off, so you can feel free to enjoy without worrying about driving. But true as well as aspiring wine aficionados can do a deep dive into the wine world with the Adult Wine Camp, two days and two nights that includes luxe lodgings, lunches at wineries, transportation to and from the accommodations, tastings galore, and all kinds of meals. And, of course, no couple goes home empty-handed. You and your sweetheart go home with a bottle of wine from each winery on the itinerary as well as a bottle you blend on your own.
THE HISTORY OF BOURBON IS THE HISTORY OF AMERICA
Each year, hundreds of thousands 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 them. For a full immersion, Louisville-based Mint Julep Tours offers more than just visits. You can customize your tour to include anything from a visit to a local cooperage to watch barrels get raised and charred, a bourbon/chocolate truffle pairing at chocolatier Art Eatables, a mixology class at Copper & Kings, a popular brandy distillery, a trip to Ashford Stud farm to visit with a Triple Crown-winning racehorse, and a stop at a distillery where you can pull whiskey straight from the barrel. They’ll take you from stop to stop (typically three to four in a day) in a posh SUV.
2. SHARE AN ADVENTURE
You can’t hurry love, they say, but adrenaline junkies in love can experience speed in its own right at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, about 20 miles south of Atlanta. There’s a range of offerings at this professional race track, from 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.
The landscapes of Georgia State Parks will take your breath away, for sure, but there are few better views than the one you get from above, like the one you take in while you’re settling down in the trees. Yes, up in the branches. At Georgia's 100-acre Panola Mountain, you can lock on your harness, climb up a tree, and settle in for the night in nifty secluded boat-like quarters with their “ZZZs in the trees” program.
HAVE MOUNTAINS, WILL CLIMB
Usually when people talk about the mountains of New England, they’re talking about skiing, but the high peaks are just as suited to climbing, and Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School in Maine can customize a vertical hike at whatever level you and your companion are comfortable with, from lower angled climbs to tucked-away canyons. They offer half-day programs near Acadia National Park as well as full-day ones throughout Maine and New Hampshire. And of course you’ll need a solid rest after such intense activity. Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island feature lodgings ranging from rustic campsites in the National Park to posh suites.
3. LEARN TOGETHER
SURVIVAL SKILLS 101
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, 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 basics, with sessions like Primitive Living Skills (7 or 14 days), Mountain Navigator (14 days), and general field courses (4, 14, or 28 days). Get through this together and you know your relationship is ironclad.
French bistros, burger joints, Asian fusion, farm-to-table. You lost track long ago of all the terrific (and not-so-terrific) restaurants you've eaten in. You probably do plenty of cooking at home, too, but few things help you truly understand your meals like foraging for your own food. Dubbing its excursions as “find dining,” No Taste Like Home is a one-of-a-kind forage-to-table tour company that offers excursions in stunning Asheville, led by experts in edible wild plants, mushrooms and such. Tours, which run 90 minutes or three hours, take place largely from March through October (mushrooms’ peak season is July through mid-October, and April is when you can find the greatest variety of plants), but there are tours in the off-season, too. You’ll learn some survival skills when you’re out in the wilderness, but rest assured, you’ll enjoy your bounty in style when a local chef uses it in your dinner later that day.
A 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 nearby knockout desert landscape. And, lest we forget, the circus school. Seriously. Wise Fool offers a variety of classes, from stilt-walking to juggling to aerial skills to soaring on a trapeze. Classes are ongoing throughout the year and available on a drop-in basis. (Pro tip: There’s typically more space in daytime than nighttime classes.) Couples can also schedule private lessons. Just make sure that if it inspires you to run away and join the circus, the decision is mutual.
4. TAKE A ROAD TRIP
Considering a road trip to the next state over? How passé. Or at least that’s what you’ll probably think if you and your better half make a date to go to Columbus, Georgia, about 100 miles south of Atlanta, where you can take off on a zipline across the Chattahoochee River from the Peach State to Alabama. (Translation: 40MPH at 125 feet in the air.) If you’ve both got enough endurance to make it through the rest of the area’s high-intensity activities—a treetop obstacle course, the world's longest urban whitewater course (2.5 miles)—it's a sure sign of an enduring relationship. Options for winding down are bountiful: Check out RiverMarket, 16 acres of antiques; bike down Rails-to-Trails, an 11-mile paved pathway along an old railroad route; or learn a thing or two about the Civil War at the new National Infantry Museum or one of the many historical sites; or just chill out with an exceptional local brew.