3 Ways to Celebrate Mardi Gras Outside of New Orleans
With the annual celebration of Mardi Gras, many travelers may be looking for ways to partake in the festivities without the high-end price and stress of New Orleans. Here are three great alternatives for an equally (or more!) exciting and unique Mardi Gras experience.
International Flavors of Carnaval at Universal Studios Florida
Universal Orlando Resort guests can let the good times roll and party beyond the bayou during Universal’s Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval. The fan-favorite event returns to Universal Studios Florida with a dazzling parade, mouthwatering cuisine inspired by global Carnaval celebrations and star-studded live concerts on select nights.
Running daily from February 4 through April 16, this year’s festivities invite guests to:
- Enjoy eight live performances by top names in music like Sean Paul, Maren Morris and Goo Goo Dolls at the Music Plaza Stage on select nights (see below for full concert lineup)
- Catch beads by the handful during this year’s dazzling “Mythical Realms of Mardi Gras” parade – featuring six new floats inspired by fantastical creatures like dragons, phoenixes, unicorns and more that will join Universal’s traditional lineup of New Orleans-inspired floats – such as the iconic, two-story Riverboat and nearly 50-foot-long King Gator. Plus, guests can take the celebration to the next level and be part of the festivities by tossing beads to fellow partygoers by purchasing the new Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience, which includes a 3-course meal at one of four participating restaurants and one Mardi Gras parade float rider reservation.
- Taste the mouthwatering flavors of global Carnaval celebrations from New Orleans to Brazil to Belgium and beyond with an expansive menu featuring more than 50 tasting-sized items. Plus, guests can enjoy more for less with the purchase of the Universal Orlando Resort Food and Beverage Card by paying $65 for a $75 card, and Universal Orlando Passholders have exclusive access to a $150 card for only $120.
- Stock up on the latest Mardi Gras merchandise at this year’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store, located in an all-new space in the Hollywood area of the park. The highly immersive retail location is themed to represent an international jazz celebration that leads to the traditional alleyways of New Orleans and ultimately into a speakeasy where the Mardi Gras festivities continue.
- Keep the party going at Universal CityWalk with special Mardi Gras menu items at select restaurants, including a new Masquerade Milkshake at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, along with food kiosks located throughout the complex featuring delicious menu items that offer a taste of the Mediterranean, the Islands and popular Mardi Gras fare. Plus, guests can attend a Mardi Gras After Party at Pat O’Brien’s on select nights and enjoy special entertainment and theming at the Red Coconut Club – which will transform to the Cursed Coconut Club for the Mardi Gras season.
- And more!
Access to Universal’s Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval is included with admission to Universal Studios Florida or with an Annual or Seasonal Pass (blockout dates apply). Florida Residents can take advantage of a new offer to partake in the festivities that gives them two days of free admission to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure with the purchase of a 2-Park, 2-Day ticket (valid for use through June 29, 2023; blockout dates apply) – and for just $25 more, they can add one day of admission to Universal’s Volcano Bay. For more information about Universal’s Mardi Gras, visit www.UniversalOrlando.com/MardiGras.
Kid-friendly Museums & Parades in Coastal Mississippi
"The Secret Coast" is not too far from New Orleans, so it has the added benefit of sharing in the French Creole and Cajun cultures that make Louisiana's famous celebration so distinct. The gulf coast area has unique museums and more than 20 parades, each featuring floats, events and more along the 62-mile coastline. Many of the celebrations are family friendly, welcoming everyone to join along in the Mardi Gras entertainment.
- Coastal Mississippi Mardi Gras Museum: Located in Biloxi, this family friendly museum welcomes all to experience the unique coastal history of Mardi Gras on The Secret Coast.
- LMDC Children’s Mardi Gras Celebration: Mardi Gras but for the family! On January 28 at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, families can come together in their favorite Mardi Gras costume and enjoy Mardi Gras themed music, bingo, art activities and karaoke.
- Annual Ocean Springs - Elks Mardi Gras Parade: The first large parade of the Mardi Gras season in The Secret Coast, taking place on February 4, from Front Beach to Holcomb Blvd. in Ocean Springs.
- Annual Biloxi Children’s Mardi Gras Walking Parade: Starting on February 11 at 10pm, this walking parade features art activities, refreshments, custom and float contests through the streets of Downtown Biloxi.
- Annual Gulf Coast Carnival Association Mardi Gras Parade: Rush through the streets of downtown Biloxi on February 21 with The Secret Coast’s biggest Mardi Gras parade. 115 years and strong - What happens on the float...stays on the float!
- Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras Night Parade: The last parade of the Mardi Gras season, the evening of February 21 in Gulfport, starting on 19th street and winding through elegant downtown Gulfport.
Soulard's Cajun Food & Festivities in St. Louis, Missouri
The second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the US takes place in St. Louis, in Soulard (somewhat fittingly, a neighborhood with a French name that means “drunkard”). Every year, the celebrations begin in the first week of January and last through most of February. Events include a winter festival, scavenger hunt, Cajun cook-off, a pet parade and "weiner dog derby," and much more. New this year, cooking demonstrations will include cannabis-infused Cajun cuisine with help from N’Bliss cannabis dispensary. Chef Mike Johnson of Sugarfire Smokehouse and Chef Adam Pritchett of the Hi-Pointe Drive-In will demonstrate how to infuse cannabis into some of their favorite Cajun dishes just two days before recreational cannabis sales begin in Missouri.
For more great food, there's the "Taste of Soulard" held February 11th and 12th. This self-guided tasting and pub crawl allows visitors to choose their own adventure through the many Cajun flavors throughout Soulard. Each purchase includes one drink voucher and six food vouchers that can be redeemed at any of the participating establishments. On Saturday, Trolleys will be shuttling merrymakers to restaurants throughout the neighborhood.
The Mayor’s Ball is a must-attend gala on February 17th that features fine cuisine, cocktails, dancing, live music, and aerial acts throughout the event. This charitable event is hosted by the Mardi Gras Foundation, and the proceeds go to create community grants that have shown demonstrable benefits to the Soulard and Downtown communities since 2003.
The crown jewel of the Soulard Mardi Gras season is the biggest parade outside of the Big Easy: the Bud Light Grand Parade—this year it will be held on February 18th. It begins at Busch Stadium and proceeds through the streets of Downtown South and Soulard to the place where your beer was born: Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The fun doesn’t have to stop at the Bud Light Grand Parade. Afterwards, there's the post-parade Rue du Cirque street party featuring games, live music, a High Heel Drag Race, and a world record-breaking attempt at the largest game of Flip Cup.
Top Landmarks to Celebrate Black History Month
Black History Month, celebrated every February, is a perfect excuse to plan an educational trip to a new place. Below, here are some of the top landmarks to visit to experience culture and entertainment, learn about abolitionist and Civil Rights history, visit the homes of influential figures, and see both contemporary art and historical artifacts at museums around the country. Beale Street Historic District - Memphis, TN Beale Street, established in 1841 and one of the most iconic streets in America, became a thriving area for black commerce and culture around the time of the Civil War. But in the 1870s, yellow fever hit Memphis and severely affected the city’s population. As a result, the city had to forfeit its charter in 1879. During this time, former slave Robert Church acquired land in the area, and his investments helped restore the business community’s confidence in Memphis, which led to the regaining of its charter. Among Church’s contributions was the Robert R. Church Park at the corner of Fourth and Beale. The park quickly became a gathering center for blues musicians and featured a 2,000-seat auditorium. Beale Street was also home to many black-owned businesses, clubs, restaurants, and shops and was the headquarters of Ida B. Wells’ anti-segregationist newspaper, Free Speech. The newspaper office was housed in the historic First Baptist Church (Beale Street), which was built by a congregation of freed slaves. From the 1920s to 1940s, artists such as Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong and B.B. King played on the street and subsequently developed the legendary Memphis blues sound. During the Civil Rights Movement, the area was also where African-Americans came to entertain and be entertained, shop, strategize and protest. When city sanitation workers decided to strike in response to deplorable job conditions, they marched down Beale Street, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis in support. The demonstrations were a precursor to his assassination on April 4, 1968. Despite the closing of many sections of the storied street by the 1960s, Beale Street saw a successful revitalization. Today, it continues to be a hub for music, nightlife, dining and the arts. The Withers Collection Museum & Gallery, toward the end of Beale Street, houses an archive of 1.8 million images by photographer Dr. Ernest C. Withers. The building was Withers’ working studio, and visitors can see displays of his iconic images of legendary Civil Rights Movement events as well as blues and jazz performers. Other nearby landmarks: National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Clayborn Temple, WDIA Radio Station Martin Luther King Jr Memorial - Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial - courtesy of britannica.com Located in downtown Washington, DC, the memorial honors Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. A prominent leader in the modern civil rights movement, Dr. King was a tireless advocate for racial equality, working class, and the oppressed around the world. The National Mall was also the site of one of the largest human rights protests in American history – the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – after which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream Speech” to a crowd of 250,000. Washington, DC is a site that’s central to the Civil Rights Movement. The United States Supreme Court building here was the location of the groundbreaking decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and students and professors at local Howard University played a major role in bringing school desegregation to the nation’s attention. The nation’s capital and its historic landmarks offer opportunities for reflection on the American Civil Rights Movement and the country’s progress moving forward. Other nearby landmarks: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (reopens March 2023), Lincoln Memorial, National Museum of African American History and Culture Biddy Mason Memorial Park - Los Angeles, CA Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born into slavery in 1818. Not much is known of her early life, but by the time she was a young adult she was enslaved in the household of Robert Smith. In 1847, she traveled, mostly on foot, from Mississippi to Utah with the Smith household. The household lived in Salt Lake City for two years, then resettled in San Bernardino, California in 1851. California was admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free, nonslave state, which meant Smith was holding Mason illegally. Mason fought for her freedom in court, with the trial ruling confirming her freedom in 1856. As a free woman, Mason settled in Los Angeles with her children and found work as a nurse and midwife. In 1866, she purchased a nearly one-acre site between present-day Broadway (then Fort Street) and Spring Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets. On this, the present location of the park, she built her homestead. Throughout the years, this pioneering black woman purchased more property, and as the value of her holdings escalated, she eventually became a relatively wealthy woman and an untiring philanthropist. This mini-park was designed by landscape architects Katherine Spitz and Pamela Burton. The artwork Biddy Mason Time and Place is an 80-foot-long poured concrete wall by artist Sheila Levrant de Bretteville. The wall is a timeline of Biddy Mason’s life, illustrated by impressions of objects such as agave leaves, wagon wheels, and a midwife’s bag, as well as simple text and images such as an early survey map of Los Angeles and Biddy’s freedom papers. The history begins at the right (northernmost) end of the wall with the text “Biddy Mason born a slave,” and progresses in time to the inscription: “Los Angeles mourns and reveres Grandma Mason.” Other nearby landmarks: The Great Wall of Crenshaw, Ralph Bunch House, African American Firefighter Museum, Lincoln Theater Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site - Richmond, VA Maggie L. Walker House - courtesy of npplan.com Maggie Lena Walker devoted her life to civil rights advancement, economic empowerment, and educational opportunities for Jim Crow-era African Americans and women. As a bank president, newspaper editor, and fraternal leader, Walker served as an inspiration of pride and progress. Today, Walker’s home is preserved as a tribute to her enduring legacy of vision, courage, and determination. The residence at 110 1/2 East Leigh Street was built in 1883. The address became a prime location in the heart of Jackson Ward, the center of Richmond's African American business and social life at the turn of the century. The Walkers purchased the house in 1904 and soon began making changes. Central heating and electricity were added, and with the addition of several bedrooms and enclosed porches, the home increased from 9 to 28 rooms. In 1928 an elevator was added in the rear of the house to provide Mrs. Walker access to the second floor. The Walker family owned the home until 1979, when it was purchased by the National Park Service. Most of the furnishings throughout the home are original family pieces. They are valuable in understanding the 1904–1934 period of her occupancy. Together the house and the furnishings help us to learn more about Maggie Walker and the world in which she lived. Her community of Jackson Ward, a National Historic Landmark District, continues to exemplify the success of African American entrepreneurship. Other nearby landmarks: Robert Russa Moton Museum, Virginia Civil Rights Memorial, Jackson Ward, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, Booker T Washington National Monument Mississippi Freedom Trail Freedom Trail marker - courtesy of civilrightstrail.com There are several Freedom Trail markers in Jackson, so if you’re starting from there, you can see markers at the home of Medgar Evers, the Greyhound Bus Station, Mississippi State Capitol, Council of Federated Organizations Civil Rights Education Center, Tougaloo College, Jackson State University and the site of the 1963 sit-in at Woolworth’s. According to the state of Mississippi’s tourism website, three more markers are scheduled to be placed in Jackson – at the NAACP state headquarters, Masonic Temple (M.W. Stringer Grand Lodge) and WLBT news offices. Northern Mississippi is also home to several markers. In Cleveland, you can visit the home of Amzie Moore, an underappreciated champion of civil rights in Mississippi. Nearby Ruleville has two markers, one at William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and one at the gravesite of civil rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer. Take a 40-minute drive to explore the Mississippi Delta and visit Clarksdale to see the Freedom Trail marker at Aaron Henry’s Fourth Street Drug Store. Other northern Mississippi cities with markers on the Freedom Trail include Mayersville, Greenwood, Holly Springs and Blue Mountain. For a complete list of cities and markers, visit Mississippi’s tourism website. Abiel Smith School & African Meeting House - Boston, MA African Meeting House - courtesy of nps.gov The Museum of African American History is New England’s largest museum dedicated to preserving, conserving and interpreting the contributions of African Americans. In Boston, the Museum has preserved two historic sites that tell the story of organized Black communities from the Colonial Period through the 19th century. At the Boston location, visitors arrive first at the Abiel Smith School. The Abiel Smith School (1835) is the oldest public school in the United States that was built for the sole purpose of educating African American children. Its walls tell the story of abolition and equal education. Located steps away from the Massachusetts State House, the Abiel Smith School currently houses first-class exhibit galleries, education programs, and a museum store filled with books and inspired gifts. Nearby, the African Meeting House (1806) is the oldest extant black church building in the nation and built by free African American artisans. Once a church, a school, and vital community meeting place, the African Meeting House has been returned to its 1855 appearance through historic restoration and is open to the public for talks and tours, our events and yours. In addition to the historic sites, the Museum has also preserved sites in Nantucket as well as a trail through the Beacon Hill neighborhood that includes the Charles Street Meeting House, Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial, George Middleton House, The Phillips School, John J. Smith House, Lewis and Harriet Hayden House, John Coburn House, and the Smith Court Residences. Other nearby landmarks: Boston Common, Boston Women's Memorial for Phillis Wheatley, Orchard House, W. E. B. DuBois HomesiteThe Langston Hughes House - New York, NY The African-American poet Langston Hughes, one of the foremost figures of the Harlem Renaissance, lived at 20 East 127th Street for the last two decades of his life, on the top floor of a brownstone row house where he wrote such notable works as "Montage of a Dream Deferred" and "I Wonder as I Wander." Open to the public, it's also home to the I, Too, Arts Collective, a non-profit committed to nurturing creativity within underrepresented communities that offers poetry salons, workshops and affordable work space. Other nearby landmarks: The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Apollo Theater, Audre Lorde Residence, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Frederick Douglass Memorial,Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art The Little Rock Nine Monument - Little Rock, AR The Little Rock Nine - courtesy of civilrightstrail.com Following the decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the court mandated that all public schools in the U.S. be desegregated “with all deliberate speed” in a second ruling called Brown II. Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus opposed the decision and attempted to block nine black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock by calling in the Arkansas National Guard on September 4, 1957. These students, known as the Little Rock Nine, and their plight drew national attention. President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to protect the students and let them enter the school safely. By the end of September, all nine had been admitted to Little Rock Central High School, marking a major victory in the fight for civil rights in education. “Testament: The Little Rock Nine Monument” honors the courage of the nine African-American students enrolled at Little Rock Central High School who began the process of desegregating the city’s public schools in 1957. Located on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol, the memorial features bronze sculptures of the nine, along with plaques bearing quotations from each of them. Other nearby landmarks: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail
Visit the Home of Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day certainly isn't a major holiday, nor one that gets a lot of attention when it comes to planning a celebration. However, there's plenty to do in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and the nearby township of Gobbler's Knob (where the country's most famous weather-predicting mammal actually resides). If you find yourself in the area for the annual February 2nd festivities, be sure to check out the attractions below for a fun, if not kitschy, trip. Take part in the official "Groundhog Club" events Gobbler's Knob - courtesy of visitpago.com The Groundhog Club Headquarters is the site for historical and rare Groundhog Club and Punxsutawney Phil items. Located in the historical library on Mahoning Street, in downtown Punxatawney. The Club also hosts the Groundhog Day events, many of which are reserved for members of the "inner circle" (didn't know a groundhog had such a big following, did you?). The Gobbler's Knob grounds where the official celebration takes places opens early—at 3am. Shuttle services are offered by the club. The Hospitality Village held at the Gobbler’s Knob Visitors Center Pavilion opens at 4am. This limited-entry, ticketed area features a heated pavilion and is the ultimate way to watch the day's festivities. There's food, coffee, live feed of the Knob, a firepit, and access to the restrooms in the building. Guests also get an exclusive souvenir and will have a chance to have a photo with Phil after the Groundhog Day Ceremonies. On Friday, the Club hosts The Groundhog Ball at the Punxsutawney Country Club. This traditional formal attire event features a live band, alcoholic beverages, food, and a great opportunity to engage with the Inner Circle and out of town Phil Phans. This year's theme is "Winter Wonderland" and tickets start at $35. For a more relaxed experience, the Club hosts the Lunch with Phil the next day, on Saturday at the Gobbler's Knob Visitors Center Hall. A full schedule of official Groundhog Club events can be found here. Hike along the The Gobbler's Knob Trail The Gobbler's Knob Trail - courtesy of visitpago.com The Gobbler’s Knob Trail is nearly a half mile and features the metal art created each year on Groundhog Day by Jeff Tech, a local trade school. The flora and fauna along the way is identified by markers and in a brochure at the entrance of the trail. Signage that gives the history of Groundhog Day, the Inner Circle, Punxsutawney Phil, groundhog facts, and much more serve as a main focal point and includes smart phone technology to enhance the visitor experience. In addition to this trail, winding its way through most of the Punxsutawney area is the Manhoning Shadow Trail. This 15.5-mile long, multi-use trail is perfect for hiking and biking, as well as cross country skiing and snow shoeing in the winter. Named for the creek that runs alongside it, the Manhoning Shadow Trail also offers many interesting features along the way, including its own waterfall. Explore science and folklore at the Weather Discovery Center The Weather Discovery Center - courtesy of visitpago.com Punxsutawney is also known as “The Weather Capital of the World," making it the the ultimate destination to learn about the science and folklore of weather! The exhibits are interactive, making it fun for the whole family. Weather topics to explore include tornados, thunderstorms, weather folklore (including famous Punxsutawney Phil), precipitation, clouds, the water cycle, weather forecasting technology, lightening, and weather emergency readiness. Additionally, each Groundhog Day, The Weather Discovery Center honors individuals who have advanced the knowledge of weather science, climatology, and meteorology. Currently open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm. Taste your way through the Groundhog Wine Trail Wood Lodge Winery - courtesy of woodylodgewinery.com Nestled in the Pennsylvania Wilds, the Groundhog Wine Trail stretches over 120 miles and includes access to several vineyards. In the southern region, Raspberry Acres is a small winery that ferments wines on site and features their beloved mascot, a yellow lab named Bacchus. At the Woody Lodge Winery, guests can enjoy a glass of wine at one of their custom-made sassafras bistro tables or outside at the tasting bar. In the northern region, visitors can try more than just wine at the Twisted Vine Beverage Co—a winery, brewery, and distillery all under one roof with a full service five-star dining experience. Nearby, the Allegheny Cellars Winery is nestled in the beautiful mountains of the Allegheny National Forest with a tasting room and gift shop full of souvenirs and gift ideas. Finally, in the central region Foxburg Wine Cellars sits overlooking the Allegheny River, with a lovely grape-arbor covered patio for a beautiful outdoor tasting experience. They also feature one of the largest wine retail outlet stores in Pennsylvania, offering over 30 varieties of wine, accessories, glassware, clothing, gifts, meats, cheeses, coffees, and home winemaking supplies. If you don't want to traverse the whole trail, Shadow Vineyard and Winery is the closest to Gobbler's Knob and Punxsutawney. This year, on February 11, 2023, visitors can also celebrate at the Groundhog Wine Festival. The event features vendors, entertainment, tastings, and door prizes, and tickets start at $25.
Best Things To Do for an Unforgettable Valentine's Day
Looking for something beyond the classic dinner-and-a-movie date night for you and your sweetheart? From arts festivals and nature centers, to mountains and beaches, to vibrant nightlife and secluded retreats, there are plenty of unique events and destinations to choose from for a romantic winter trip. Below are the top things to do and places to see for Valentine's Day 2023 that are sure to impress. Attend the Art + Sol Winter Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico Santa Fe - courtesy of Sean Pavone / Shutterstock Winter in Santa Fe is a magical season—not only is the snow light and fluffy, the skies a bluebird blue, and the sun warm, but The City Different’s vibrant world-class performing arts and culture scene ramps up to offer a rich array of events in music, comedy, theater, dance, and education via the inaugural Art + Sol Santa Fe Winter Arts Festival, a nine-day celebration (February 11-19) and landmark collaborative effort among prominent arts organizations, including Santa Fe Pro Musica, Santa Fe Symphony, and Performance Santa Fe. Plus, extend your stay to see screenings at The Santa Fe Film Festival (running February 17-26, 2023) or take advantage of the 12th annual Santa Restaurant Week (February 20-March 2, 2023). Meet "The Lovers" at Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center Wolf at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center - courtesy of Kyle Cooper Located less than an hour from Colorado Springs in a scenic mountain setting awaits a unique and educational wildlife experience. The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is home to wolves, coyotes and fox that each live and thrive in large wooded enclosures that provide privacy, sanctuary and stimulation for these amazing and beautiful animals.On a special February 12th tour, visitors will experience the thrill of the intense gaze of these beautiful creatures and learn the heartwarming story of Sabin, and the romantic story of "The Lovers", Chinook and Nikita, for whom it was love at first sight. Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center visitors can take an hour tour to meet all of the resident animals, learn their histories and gain a better understanding of how they and their habitat are being threatened and what people can do to help. Each tour culminates with a group "wolf howl." Your tour guide starts the howl, you join in, and, with luck, all the wolves soon begin to howl, creating a magical and serene experience for everyone. Reservations are required for The Lovers tour, and strongly recommended for other tours. For a unique hotel experience, book a room at the Glen Eyrie Castle, a 67-room English Tudor-style castle situated in the northwest foothills of the Garden of the Gods Park and built by General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs. Castle tours and teas held in the Castle Music Room are also available to book. Head to The Secret Coast of Mississippi Coastal Mississippi - courtesy of colemanconcierge.com Travelers searching for new experiences in the new year should look no further than coast Mississippi, also known as the Secret Coast—a breathtaking 62-mile coastline, perfect for the wildlife and nature-lover in your life. For a unique experience, treat your sweetheart to a romantic Valentine's Dinner Under the Sea in Mississippi Aquarium's mesmerizing Aquatic Wonders. Enjoy an elegant dinner with seating for two thoughtfully placed at windows in the Oceans and Swirl habitats. For the ultimate Valentine experience, reserve your table in the Aquarium's 360 degree tunnel, Undersea Passage. Or, try some of the area's newest dining options. The upscale restaurant Radish, which opened in late 2022 in the heart of downtown Long Beach, offers an ingredient-driven menu that showcases the fresh, authentic flavors of the South. Head Chef William Rester uses traditional techniques and preparation styles, paying homage to the farmers who harvested the land in the nineteenth century, to cultivate a menu including small and large plates, sandwiches, and a full cocktail menu. Mangiamo Italian Restaurant, which opened in Gulfport in November, is an authentic Italian restaurant with a vast menu that combines Italian cuisine and Gulf-fresh seafood favorites. The menu features pasta dishes, like Seafood Lasagna and Penne a la Vodka, large Italian-themed entrees, and pizzas that have taken much of the city by storm. Spend the night at the historic Gulf Hills Hotel & Resort in Ocean Springs, which holds a unique place in Coastal Mississippi history. Recently under new management, Gulf Hills features new upgrades and restorations that pay homage to the history of the property and notable guests like Marilyn Monroe. The renovations include a remodeled indoor ballroom, the Pink Pony Lounge – a favorite spot where Elvis Presley played piano – and the addition of an outdoor chapel for wedding parties. Get Cozy in the Mountains of North Carolina Silver Run Falls in Jackson County, NC - courtesy of discoverjacksonnc.com If the beach or the crowds aren't quite your vibe, head to the seclusion of the mountains in North Carolina. Book a cozy cabin in Jackson County, the perfect spot to enjoy nature and time together but still close enough to nearby dining options that are sure to compete with any big city's upscale restaurants. Listen to the roar of the Tuckasegee River while dining outside on the Foragers Canteen spacious patio. This local restaurant serves up a fusion of locally sourced, farm to table ingredients. It’s also near the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, so it’s possible you’d also hear the trains as they come by. For a unique fusion dining experience, try Chef Santiago Guzzetti's Italian-Appalachian cuisine at ILDA. Diners will find Instagram-worthy plates such as Saffron Paccheri pasta with butternut squash, brown butter, sunflower seed pesto and fried sage and Taleggio Crostinis to share featuring local filone and grilled, preserved grapes. Unique cuisine combination continue over at Guadalupe Cafe, which also features locally grown ingredients and regeneratively raised beef from Mountainside Family Farm. Most wouldn’t think of the tropics when they think of dining in the mountains, however Guadalupe’s incredibly creative tropical fusion cuisine is not to be missed with a menu inspired by Spain, the Middle East and the Caribbean. If you try one thing, let it be the tacos. Adventurous flavors include red curry shrimp, blackened plantains, peanut chicken, mango pork, and much more. For dessert, savor fresh chocolate from the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. See Why "Virginia is for Lovers" at Pippin Hill Farm Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards - courtesy of pippinhillfarm.com Located just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards is more than just a farm as their website explains—"it’s a love story." The lovechild of proprietors and husband-and-wife team, Lynn Easton and Dean Andrews, Pippin Hill represents the marrying of their complementary talents in a place they love—the undulating green hills of Virginia’s wine country. The grounds are composed of vineyards, kitchen gardens, flower gardens, eight acres of natural areas made up of native flowers and grasses, as well as dedicated livestock areas and an apiary. Make reservations on the Veranda to enjoy tableside food service, suggested wine pairings, and self-guided wine flights. Can't get the reservation you want? Lawn seating is available for walk-ins. Afterwards, enjoy additional food and wine on the grounds with self-guided tours of the gardens, chicken coop, apiary, and seasonal wildflower meadow. More in-depth estate tours and tastings can also be reserved. Visitors can even book a water color painting class, where students will learn basic watercolor mixing and brush techniques to paint bouquet of flora and fauna inspired by the Pippin Hill Farm gardens, or take part in a cooking class that culminates with a family style dinner in the Tasting Room. Guests can stay nearby at the Crossroads Inn, recently purchased by the Easton and Andrews in 2022. This historic inn has been accommodating travelers since it was built in 1820 and is listed on the National Historic Register as a designated Virginia Historic Landmark. Originally known as the Crossroads Tavern, the Inn has served no other purpose since its completed construction than as a stop for the weary traveler. Because of the remarkable preservation and detailed rooms, the Inn can provide guests a modern glimpse of how early 1800’s taverns were built. Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt are just some of the distinguished former guests. Party With Your Galentines in Atlantic City, New Jersey The Pool After Dark, Harrah's - courtesy of ra.co No date? No problem. Valentine's Day isn't just for the couples! Considered the Las Vegas of the East Coast, Atlantic City is the perfect weekend getaway for the girls. Covered in casinos, luxurious resorts, acclaimed restaurants along the beach and high-end shopping, there’s no excuse to not be booked and busy in Atlantic City! Soak in the scene and enjoy a fresh margarita accompanied by live music at girl’s night out hotspot Gypsy Tequila Bar, or take a gamble in Ocean Casino Resort’s 135,000 square foot paradise. Looking to take the night to the next level? Explore the legendary, indoor The Pool After Dark inside the classic Harrah’s Resort for a one-of-a-kind nightlife experience that will keep guests satisfied until next Galentine’s Day!
Santa Fe, New Mexico: A Sweet Destination for Any Couple
Santa Fe, New Mexico is a historic city, teeming with alluring views, unique experiences, and delectable cuisine, making it the perfect place for a romantic getaway. New Mexico’s capital truly has something for type of couple, whether art junkies, history buffs, thrill seekers, or epicureans looking for a charming weekend away. If you're looking for a Valentine's Day getaway or a romantic retreat, look no further than "the Land of Enchantment." For creative couples: New Mexico Museum of Art - courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe Did you know that Santa Fe was listed as one of The World's Best Cities for Arts and Culture by Travel and Leisure? This southwestern city is an art lover's paradise. Start with Canyon Road, a half-mile-long stretch of famous galleries and boutiques, where you can wander the halls of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Art gallery on Canyon Road - courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe Couples can explore contemporary and traditional galleries that are filled with an impressive array of works by local, national, and international artists. Visitors will see everything from paintings to photography, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, jewelry, and more. Take time on this celebrated street devoted to arts and crafts. Later make the short drive up to Museum Hill, where there is not only a great cafe with extraordinary views, but four world-class museums and a botanical garden. Make sure not to miss the immersive art destination of Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return, which is open late on weekends and often hosts unique musical acts. Continue the fun at the eclectic and vibrant Railyard District, with its contemporary galleries, art spaces, and parks. There is always something new to see in this dynamic district, including the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from early morning to noon. Stop at Santa Fe Plaza to find more galleries devoted to Native American art as well as contemporary and traditional arts of the Southwest. For the foodies: Farmers' market in Santa Fe - courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe Thanks to the convergence of many cultures that influence Santa Fe, the city has become an award-winning culinary paradise. From fine dining to Frito pie, there is endless flavors to experience for the couple that just loves to eat! Innovative Southwestern fare created by award-winning chefs and hearty New Mexico dishes such as breakfast burritos and green chile stew are reason enough for Santa Fe to have earned a prominent place on the world's culinary map. But, you're in luck if you desire creative contemporary cuisine or Asian, French, Italian, Indian or Middle Eastern bites. New Mexicans love their chile—it's spicy, delicious, and everywhere! If your server asks "Red, green, or Christmas?" this refers to the kind of chile you'd like served over enchiladas, chile rellenos, or other staples of New Mexican fare. When in doubt, answer "Christmas" and you'll get both. For a more hands-on experience, spend the day mastering the flavors of the real Southwest with a cooking class taught by highly acclaimed local chefs. Try the “Green Chile Workshop” at Santa Fe School of Cooking to really heat things up. Visitors can wash down all the delicious cuisine from their trip with a stroll down Margarita Trail, a This one-of-a-kind margarita experience allows you to taste more than 40 of the best margaritas in the world. Get your paper Passport or download the app to keep track of the margaritas you have tried and receive a dollar off each location’s signature margarita. Some highlights: The Cowgirl Cadillac Margarita from Cowgirl BBQ, the Chimayóso Margarita at Low ‘N Slow, and the Meowgarita from Meow Wolf. For the history buffs: Palace of the Governors - courtesy of santafe.org As the nation’s oldest capital city, Santa Fe is overflowing with history around every corner, the dream for the couples that love educational trips. The city experienced waves of migrations along the three trails that led here—and more recently via the rails, Route 66, and the interstate. Artists, chefs, wellness experts, and other creative dreamers all bring their culture, talents and experience with them and when they meet Santa Fe’s unique, multi-cultural history against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountains’ majesty and the spectacular sunsets over the Jemez range—nothing short of magic transpires. The heart of downtown Santa Fe for nearly 400 years, the historic Plaza, which remains the meeting place of The City Different, features Indian and Spanish markets and events such as concerts and more. For a unique day trip, visit a nearby Pueblo, where American Indians inhabited New Mexico long before Spanish contact in the 1500s, and their timeless culture, traditions, arts, and beliefs continue to enrich the state today. Several Pueblos are easily accessible from Santa Fe and can make for a wonderful day or half-day outing during a touring stay in Santa Fe. There are eight Pueblos going north, between Santa Fe and Taos, and there are scenic views to enjoy along the way. History-loving couples should check out the New Mexico History Museum, home to informative exhibitions to display the many events, people, and places that shaped what New Mexico is today. For a deeper dive into native culture, check out the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Another can’t miss is the New Mexico Military Museum, opened by members of New Mexico's National Guard, the museum displays the history of the Bataan Death March, a World War II tragedy in the Philippine Islands that had a significantly harsh impact on New Mexico. In addition, the museum portrays the history of the New Mexico military, from the Spanish Conquest to the Civil War to both World Wars, Vietnam, and to the present-day Middle East conflicts. Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi - courtesy of santafe.org For a real life look into life in New Mexico in the 18th and 19th century, check out El Racho De Las Golondrinas, a historic early 1700’s ranch that was transformed into a living history museum and once was an important paraje or stopping place along the famous Camino Real, the Royal Road from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Arguably the most historic and recognizable building in Santa Fe, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi’s Gothic architecture is a stark contrast to the adobe buildings making up the surrounding area. Built in 1886 by Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the first archbishop of the Diocese of Santa Fe. For those seeking ultimate relaxation: The spa at the Loretto Inn - courtesy of hotelloretto.com Santa Fe's restorative powers are legendary. People have been traveling here for centuries to renew body, mind, and spirit in the area's high, dry climate, natural hot springs, sun-filled days, and starry nights. Whether couples prefer to soak, massage or detoxify their stress away, or just spend one on one time relaxing with their partner, Santa Fe has numerous day spa choices like Nidah Spa at Eldorado Hotel and Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe. The spa at the Loretto Inn has a homespun vibe—starting with the homemade massage oils. All the standard treatments are on offer, from facials and milk baths to couples' massage, plus a room outfitted with a Vichy shower for water therapy. Ten Thousand Waves offers a spa experience inspired by the great Japanese mountain hot spring resorts, a unique concept that cannot be found elsewhere on the North American continent. The spa offers private hot tub suites, bodywork, indoor and patio dining, serene lodging and new transformation ketamine experiences to reset the nervous system in a totally supportive environment. Couples can enjoy a luxe Italian meal complete with mixologists crafted cocktails at Sassella or high-end Mexican cuisine at Sazon. For an upscale and romantic evening with a “global eclectic” menu, visit Geronimo, set in the elegant "Borrego House" was built by Geronimo Lopez in 1756. For adventurous, nature-loving duos: Skiing outside of Santa Fe - courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe Santa Fe is an amazing destination for a couple who loves outdoor adventure. Once you arrive in the highest elevation capital city in the United States at more than 7,000 feet—you may find yourself astonished by the beauty and variety of the landscape. Located in the southern Rocky Mountain chain at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe is a semiarid climate at the crossroads of grass and shrub lands, piñon-juniper woodlands, and 1.6 million acres of high mountain coniferous national forest. Experience our 320+ days of sunshine, four distinct seasons, brilliant blue skies, and some of the purest air in the world. Charter any of Santa Fe's experienced river rafting companies for a full day on the river and you'll be in expert hands, plus have all the gear you need for your great adventure. Or try the popular Aspen Vista Trail, with beautiful views of the aspen trees that turn golden in the fall. You can also rent mountain bikes and bike the Aspen Vista Trail. If you'd prefer to play golf rather than hike the mountains, you'll find plenty of beautiful, award-winning golf courses. You could also spend the day fly fishing in the mountains. Charter a fly-fishing trip with one of Santa Fe's outdoor adventure companies and you'll be an expert by the time the lesson is over. In the winter you can ski greens to double blacks just 16 miles from historic downtown Santa Fe. At an elevation of 12,075 feet, the ski area is open late fall through early spring, and enjoys up to 300 inches of light, fluffy snow a year. Before it's time for dinner, make time to watch one of the spectacular sunsets from the top of the Cross of the Martyrs, an outdoor park on the northeast side of Paseo de Peralta. End the night with “The Stargazer” adventure. This special excursion transports passengers from the Santa Fe Railyard out into the dark skies of the scenic northern New Mexico landscape. On this ride, visitors will enjoy champagne and live music in the comfort of restored vintage Pullman cars, as they start their excursion traveling along a historic section of railway that was constructed in the 1880s. As the train rolls away from the city lights into the dark New Mexico night, professional astronomers will share tales of celestial objects that have been passed down for hundreds of years. When the train reaches the Galisteo Basin overlook, passengers are invited out to the open-air flatbed cars to view the night sky through telescopes pointed at the best constellations or planets viewable that night. Upcoming 2023 dates for this ride are February 18, March 18, April 15. The ride is only offered one time per month to capitalize on the darkest (little or no moon) Saturday of the month.