Summer is slipping away, and with all the weddings, graduations, backyard barbecues, and other festivities, it's likely many couples haven't spent much alone time together this year. Fret not. The lull between summer and the holiday season is a good time to catch deals on airfare and accommodations for a romantic trip during what many resorts call the "shoulder season." The key is to keep the trip simple -- a short flight or drivable distance is ideal for a weekend getaway that's easy on the budget. Here are 13 ideas.
John Denver described West Virginia as "almost heaven," so why not put Canaan Valley State Park Resort on the bucket list? The bed and breakfast package for two is $136 a night Sunday through Thursday ($166 a night on Friday and Saturday) and includes access to the fitness center and pool. A scenic chairlift at the ski area ($7) takes visitors to an elevation of 4,280 feet in a region with more than 200 species of birds and other wildlife, including turkeys, black bears, and deer. Visitors can golf or hike through the wilderness areas of the park. Seek out the nearby towns of Thomas and Davis for galleries, shops, and restaurants with live music.
The crowds leave this scenic beach town soon after Labor Day, and quiet returns. Starting rates at the Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina drop to $129 a night in the fall, compared with $450 a night during peak season. Although prices are cut, amenities are not, as the resort remains fully open. The weather's still plenty warm enough to sail, bike, play tennis, and winery hop at the popular Channing Daughters Winery, Wölffer Estate Vineyards, and more. Enjoy a romantic dinner of Southern-inspired cuisine at the resort, or at one of the legendary local eateries.
La Casa del Camino hotel is one of the only oceanfront boutique hotels in Laguna Beach, offering discounted rooms in the fall in a community where summer never ends. Stay in one of 10 uniquely designed suites that reflect the surf culture of Laguna Beach, or a cheaper Spanish-style room. Cuddle up at the hotel lounge, the Rooftop, a local hangout spot with some of the best sunset views in Orange County. When hunger calls, head downstairs to K'ya Bistro Bar, boasting a tapas-style menu with a San Francisco atmosphere. Hop on the free air trolley to explore more than 80 unique works of public art throughout the city or take a whale-watching cruise.
Mesa may not be as desirable a destination as neighboring Phoenix or Scottsdale, but budget-minded couples will find more affordable accommodations and the same easy access to area attractions. For example, room packages at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa start at $99 a night, while rates at the comparable Marriott in Scottsdale run $175. Plan a foodie road trip with a tour of the Queen Creek Olive Mill, which features a market and eatery, or Hayden Flour Mills, where visitors can take pasta-making and bread-baking classes. Schnepf Farms, Arizona's largest peach grower, hosts an annual Pumpkin and Chili Party in October. Sample local ice cream and cheese at Superstition Dairy Farms.
For comfort, charm, and value, consider the Cottages by the Ocean in Pompano Beach, Florida, on the north side of Fort Lauderdale. The setting is romantic, with historic, perfectly maintained homes reminiscent of dollhouses with large screened porches. Find rates through Dec. 8 from $109 a night. The resort is less than two blocks from one of South Florida's most serene beaches, which features a fishing pier and historic lighthouse. Cottages have full kitchens and private barbecue grills (for curbing dining costs) and are located within an easy walk of restaurants and shops.
As fall arrives in this Northern California coastal town, so do the rains, producing a bumper crop of mushrooms (some of which grow only on the Mendocino Coast). Some believe the mushrooms have amatory qualities, making this an ideal destination for couples. But don't go picking on your own. Go on an edible wild mushroom tour or check out the annual Mendocino Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Festival (Nov. 4-13). Take advantage of off-season rates at the Victorian-style Little River Inn, which offers crab, wine, beer, and mushroom pairing dinners. Fall rates start at $169 a night, and packages can include spa treatments, winemaker dinners, and more. Go for a stroll or a swim at the nearby beach and then warm up by the fireplace or in a hot tub (featured in some rooms.)
Park City is best known as a ski destination, but visitors in the fall will find no shortage of activities. Hikers and mountain bikers have more than 400 miles to explore, with some resorts providing lift service for those who prefer to go only down the mountain. Zip lining gives thrill seekers a chance to fly a hundred feet in the air at speeds of about 40 mph. Affordable accommodations are easy to find in the off-season. The Canyons Grand Summit Hotel, for example, offers room rates from $154 a night for a late-September weekend stay.
Imagine lobster dinners paired with fine wines, coastal fall foliage views, and luxurious hotels for less. Rates in Bar Harbor drop nearly $100 a night when fall begins, and restaurant options range from lobster shacks to fine dining. Drive along Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park, bike the carriage roads, or hike to the summit of a mountain or along the ocean. To get closer still to the water, kayak or canoe on Frenchman Bay. A week pass into Acadia National Park costs $25 a vehicle, and bike rentals run less than $25 a day at Acadia Bike or Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop.
On the Gulf Coast, take a sunset sail with North Star Sailing Charters through the Mississippi Sound, which is home to the highest concentration of bottlenose dolphins in the U.S. Or take a more active approach and kayak or paddleboard through the waterways. Enjoy a couple's massage at one of several spas in the area and further stimulate your senses by taking in the art at numerous museums. Popular places to stay include Bay Town Inn in Bay St. Louis, Hard Rock Biloxi, and the Inn at Ocean Springs.
Reconnect and reignite that spark while walking the quaint downtown main streets of Manassas, which feature wineries, breweries, and an annual fall festival. Situated 30 miles west of Washington, the city is best known as the home of Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of two Civil War battles. Plan a picnic at the Winery at La Grange or check out historic Occoquan, which hosts more than 60 shops and restaurants. Several area bed and breakfasts provide reasonably priced accommodations.
Situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles along the California coast, the little town of Pismo Beach is just right for a seaside rendezvous. The beaches, downtown wine tasting rooms, seafood galore, and laidback locals make for a chill vibe and a pleasant stay for any couple. Explore the coastline, paddleboard, kiteboard, or kayak. Just be sure to watch the sunset on the 1,370-foot-long Pismo Beach Pier.