Perhaps it is no accident that the year’s most romantic holiday lands in the middle of winter, as there can be nothing like the cold to heat things up. For this Valentine’s Day, we have curated a selection of enchanting, adventurous and/or unexpected experiences sure to put you and your sweetheart in a Romantic (New York) State of Mind, along with a selection of New York Makers products to help set the mood. Please be sure to check with each place, and book all activities and destinations before you go!
Discover a timeless classic, even without the ring: Niagara Falls
Bridal Veil Falls of Niagara Falls
Generations of happy newlyweds have honeymooned in Western New York’s Niagara Falls, which earned the moniker “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” back in the early 1900s -- but what about a few days of escape with your honey (and maybe a proposal) in this awe-inspiring spot? The falls offer a perfect destination for lovers. Even without a Maid of the Mist tour (only possible in warmer weather), bundle up and take a walk around the perimeter of the cascading falls, sung to by their powerful roar. Then, head inside for cozy restaurants, a relaxing spa treatment or a turn at the slots. The four-star Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino offers a number of specials and packages. If you want to add some culture, make the quick half-hour drive to Buffalo and spend a few hours at the Burchfield Penney Art Center and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Setting the mood: Don’t forget a warm scarf for that walk, such as our handwoven buffalo plaid scarf made in Saratoga.
Go underground: Howe Caverns
Guided Lantern Tour. Photo: Howe Caverns
Calcite Heart in the Caverns. Photo: Howe Caverns
What could be more out-of-the-box fun than going spelunking together at Howe Caverns, just 40 miles outside of Albany? The cave, more than 150 feet below Earth’s surface, stays a steady 50-52 degrees year-round, which makes it a viable option even at this otherwise frigid time of year. You and your special someone can opt to do one of the popular lantern tours, which take place every Friday and Saturday night. Be forewarned that this destination might also inspire you to tie the knot! To date, there have been 672 weddings (up to 40 people at standing room only) held at Howe Caverns’ underground altar. Howe Caverns offers Sweetheart Package Tours that include two tickets for the guided Lantern Tour, overnight accommodations at the conveniently located Howe Caverns Motel -- which gets four-star reviews for its clean, spacious rooms -- with wine for two and special chocolate treats in your room on arrival ($205 for King Jacuzzi Room).
Setting the mood: Reveal your destination by giving your sweetie this Capital Region-Made Saratoga Lantern. Even though you won’t need it in the caverns, the lantern’s cozy glow will help light the way through the many dark nights of winter and remind you both of a wonderful time together. And for the perfect gift for her will always be our Classic Herkimer Diamond Necklace, made simply and elegantly with seven Herkimer diamonds and the net proceeds going to the charity of your choice.
Unwind with Nectar of the Gods: Finger Lakes Wine Trail
As New York State earns its place on the map of wine destinations, the Finger Lakes wineries can be busy places to visit during the peak summer months. That makes winter an ideal season to tour the trails. Fewer people at each stop means a more intimate experience: you can sip and savor the flavors and talk in-depth with the winemakers and vineyard managers, who are also enjoying the down time. One of our favorite Finger Lakes areas is between Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake, where you can explore the Keuka Lake Wine Trail on one side and the Seneca Lake Wine Trail on the other. Wherever else you roam, be sure to schedule a tasting at Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, the setting is lovely and the vintages are outstanding.
Belhurst Castle. Photo: Belhurst Castle
In between your vineyard adventures, stop for lunch at FLX Wienery. If you happen to decide to look for a wedding venue for down the road, check out the Left Bank, an event space in Geneva created by Sophie Paillard-Elkin that will satisfy your every dream for rustic elegance. For romantic places to stay, we would recommend Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, located at the base of Seneca Lake, and offering a Valentine’s Package, the Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee, and, in Geneva, either Park House Geneva, Geneva on the Lake or Belhurst Castle. Geneva is particularly appealing because it is located next to some terrific restaurants, of which we recommend FLX Table as the best (owned by master sommelier Christopher Bates and his wife, Isabel; share a large table with 12 other people and enjoy a fixed menu at $59 per person; wine pairings, international or local, or beer pairings are offered; it may be too late to reserve for this year because you usually need to book a spot at least a month in advance).
Microclimate Wine Bar. Photo: Microclimate Wine Bar
And Microclimate Wine Bar (owned by James Emery Elkin, son of Sophie Paillard-Elkin) is also definitely worth a visit. Before you leave the area, be sure and enjoy the small town main street of Penn Yan for a pancake (buckwheat for the gluten free) made from flour produced at the local Birkett Mills and an omelette breakfast at Angel’s Family Restaurant (no website! Go here for information about it and other local diners). Finally, try to see the world’s largest pancake griddle.
Setting the mood: Nothing says romance around wine like a candlelit Italian affair....Just ask Lady and the Tramp! Pick up some made-from-scratch organic Sfoglini pasta, uncork a bottle of New York State red wine to serve in our sparkling Handblown Wine Glasses. For dessert, indulge in a Greyston Bakery brownie. Even if you don’t make it to the Finger Lakes this year, you’ll feel like you have!
Experience Fire and Ice: Adirondack Cabin
Airbnb Adirondacks cabin. Photo: Cabin owner
Snuggle up by the fire with your significant other after a day of skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, bobsledding (yes!) or other outdoor winter fun. Whether you venture to Lake Placid, Lake George, North Creek or places in between, the Adirondack Mountains offer countless outdoor recreation opportunities. Get cozy and adventurous with a cabin rental, giving you privacy and a chance to live like the locals. Try Airbnb to start your search. For something more traditionally luxurious and full service in the heart of the Adirondacks, Lake Placid: look into Whiteface Lodge located within Adirondack Park (also with special packages available), Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa (special spa and romantic getaway packages available when you book directly), High Peaks Resort with a number of special packages, and Lake Placid Lodge with special romance offers; Saranac Lake: romantic, rustically elegant The Point, where cross-country skis and snowshoes are provided for guests to venture down snow-covered paths and skating, curling and ice-fishing on the frozen lake area provide winter joy; and Lake George: check out the Valentine’s package being offered at grand dame The Sagamore.
Setting the mood: Commemorate the moment with a Garnet and Adirondack Chair charm necklace, made with pride in the Adirondacks featuring a New York State-mined garnet (red for Valentine’s and the official gemstone of New York). Capture the forest essence with a Hand-poured Balsam Cedar Candle.
Escape to Historic Romance: Hudson Valley
Step back in time and immerse yourself in the picturesque vibe of the Hudson Valley’s idyllic small towns. From Ghent to Hudson to Rhinebeck to Beacon to Cold Spring, you and your sweetheart could find more places to see and things to do than you would ever have time to do on one trip — and that would be just on the east side of the Hudson River! Here are fun possibilities based in Rhinebeck, or starting there and moving along Route 9 from Rhinebeck and north for you to sample, as your schedule allows. We guarantee you will discover your own additional favorite places as you drive along.
Beginning in Rhinebeck, stroll hand in hand along the main Route 9 intersection of town to look in the great shops like Hammertown Barn and Paper Trail and dip into the red Antiques Barn behind The Beekman Arms (by reputation, the oldest continually operating inn in the country; George Washington stayed there) to see what treasures you can find from the many dealers represented. For lunch, walk across the street to enjoy one of the best kale salads or other delicious dishes at Market Street. Perhaps take a short drive over to discover the Omega Institute -- a cool place to stay and take a workshop (you could spend your whole trip there if you are into healthy foods, meditation, yoga and inner growth) -- or venture into Val-Kill to see where Eleanor Roosevelt and her family spent their private time.
Hammertown Barn. Photo: Hammertown Barn
If you chose to stay in Rhinebeck, you could return there for a beer at the historic Beekman Arms Tavern, then possibly take in a movie at Upstate Films or the Lyceum, in Red Hook just to the north of downtown Rhinebeck on Route 9. Either way, if you are an ice cream lover, don’t miss a chance to stop at Holy Cow across the street from the Lyceum for “udder” deliciousness in a cup or cone. If you enjoy classical music, an unforgettable option for either the evening of Saturday, February 17 or for the afternoon of Sunday, February 18, would be to attend a performance of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony at Bard College’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts.
And If that is not your thing, but you have time to keep venturing north on Route 9G, check out the small town of Tivoli. Have a cup of coffee and something sweet at Murray’s Tivoli, located within a former church building, and peek in to see what artist exhibit is on display at the gallery. For a delightful place to stay and/or have dinner, look into the Hotel Tivoli. If you have another day, keep driving north about a half hour and check out the antiques and other shops and restaurants on Warren Street in Hudson, NY. For culture, you could reserve a tour of nearby, historic Olana Castle.
Husk cherry cupcakes with huckleberry icing at Murray's Tivoli. Photo: Murray's Tivoli.
Setting the mood: Grab a bottle of “Love Potion No. 9,” aka The Hudson Standard’s Love Struck Bitters and put an extra kick into your favorite cocktail (Old Fashioned, anyone?) or sparkling water. In case you need some extra warmth for the car rides, pack a merino wool throw.
Escape to a Tropical Getaway Here at Home: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
No need to go away to feel some equatorial heat. Escape the winter doldrums with a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Feel the transformative effects of the warm environment of the Aquatic House, where it’s lush and sunny even on the darkest days. Soak in the experience of being surrounded by cascading tropical plants in the middle of New York City. Outside, explore the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and the meditative stillness of the garden in winter.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
In the evening, enjoy one of Brooklyn’s many cool restaurants. If you want to stick with the tropic theme, you may want to check out Luke’s Lobster Park Slope, which gets rave reviews by lobster roll lovers or Littleneck, where oysters and other shellfish delight in a rustic setting somewhat off the beaten Brooklyn path. Across the street from Littleneck is a nontropical, but utterly delicious, recent find for us, Runner and Stone. If you need a place to stay in Brooklyn, The Boxhouse Hotel and Franklin Guesthouse are worth checking out.
Braised brisket ravioli. Photo: Runner and Stone
For evening entertainment, if you want to hang out, local bars are in plentiful supply serving Brooklyn-made and other brews. If you crave a sports fix, see what is happening at the Barclays Center. For a Brooklyn film experience, see what is playing at BAM.
Setting the mood: Inspired by the gardens to try out your own green thumb? Get a jump on the growing season with a beautiful rainbow pack of organic seed bombs.