5 Romantic Escapes

BY Sandra Chambers

This year Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday providing the perfect opportunity for a long romantic weekend getaway with your honey. But any weekend of the year can be romantic if you desire. With that in mind here are five winter weekend escapes — one in our own backyard one in the mountains two just a few hours away and one a quick flight from ILM. So pack that suitcase and grab your sweetheart for a romantic weekend you’ll still be talking about come next Valentine’s Day.

1. Litchfield Plantation • Pawleys Island S.C.

As you drive down the quarter-mile-long entrance to your romantic weekend at Litchfield Plantation — a Country Inn Resort in Pawleys Island surrounded by massive live oaks draped with Spanish moss — you and your sweetheart may feel a little like Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.

Prepare for a weekend of southern hospitality whether you choose to stay in one of the beautifully renovated rooms in the circa 1750 Plantation House or a modern villa where you can enjoy your own hot tub two-person Jacuzzi or fireplace.

To begin your romantic weekend plan on having a special dinner at Austin’s Restaurant where you will discover an inviting atmosphere outstanding service and excellent seafood and steaks prepared by Chef Bill Austin.

After dinner return to the Carriage House Club at Litchfield for a glass of wine or dessert sit in front of the fire in the wood-paneled library and let the romance begin.

Spend the next day strolling hand-in-hand through the historic seaport town of Georgetown. Check out Front Street with its kitschy boutiques art galleries and European antiques. And be sure to stop by Sweeties Original Low Country Pralines and Chocolates and ask for a “Sweetheart Basket” of handmade delights to tide you over for the entire weekend.

For lunch the Rice Paddy Restaurant is housed in an old bank building. Whatever else you decide to order its homemade peppermint ice cream is a must for dessert.

While you’re in Pawleys Island visit the quaint Hammock Shops Village for a delightful variety of Low Country shops including The Original Hammock Shop where you can purchase a world-famous Pawleys Island rope hammock as a souvenir of your weekend.

With your complimentary tickets from Litchfield you’ll want to spend a day exploring nearby Brookgreen Gardens with its year-round beauty of bloom and statuary. During February and March enjoy Daffodil Days and other special exhibits.

Getting there:
Pawleys Island is a quick 2½ hour drive from Wrightsville Beach. Head south on US-17 but be sure to miss the congestion in Myrtle Beach by using the bypass SC-31 S and Grissom Pkwy.

Litchfield Plantation
Pawleys Island S.C.

Austin’s Restaurant
Pawleys Island S.C.
(843) 235-3800

Rice Paddy Georgetown S.C.
(843) 546-2021

Brookgreen Gardens
Murrells Inlet S.C.

2. Albemarle Inn • Asheville N.C.

Picture yourself wrapped in a cozy blanket in front of a blazing fireplace. Your destination is Asheville where you’ll enjoy luxurious pampering as well as a taste of the local culture.

Everyone knows of the famous Grove Park Inn but you might not know that nearby hidden in its shadows is the AAA Four Diamond and Mobil Four Star Albemarle Inn where a romantic winter getaway awaits you with champagne chocolate truffles fresh flowers and an in-room couple’s massage.

Pair that with an unforgettable romantic dinner at Gabrielle’s Restaurant at the Richmond Hill Inn complete with a live pianist to play “your song” during Chef Fernandes’ outstanding five-course tasting menu dinner and your honey can’t help but be impressed.

If it’s your first visit to Asheville a day at the Biltmore Estate is a must. In addition to the house tour cozy up together and take an optional carriage ride around the estate grounds. For lunch stop at the Bistro at the winery for outstanding fare such as the locally raised pecan-crusted mountain trout.

Spend the afternoon strolling hand-in-hand through downtown Asheville — dubbed the “Paris of the South” for its art deco architecture and more than 150 unique shops galleries and cafés. Be sure not to miss the restored neo-Gothic Grove Arcade shopping area. And don’t leave without stopping at the 1940s-style Mast General Store offering all kinds of wares and old-time barrel candy.

With the Blue Ridge Parkway at Asheville’s doorstep you might want to take a romantic drive to the mountains — weather permitting. Stop at the Parkway’s milepost 382 at the Folk Art Center (open all year) for some of the finest art and crafts from Southern Appalachia artists.

For entertainment we suggest checking out the award-winning North Carolina Stage Company as well as the Diane Wortham Theater both in downtown Asheville.

Getting there:
Almost a straight shot across North Carolina via I-40 Asheville is a simple six-hour drive from Wrightsville Beach.

Albemarle Inn

Gabrielle’s Restaurant

Biltmore House
800-411-3812 or
(828) 225-1333

3. Fearrington Inn • Pittsboro N.C.

Enjoy a unique rural escape to the Fearrington Country House Inn located just eight miles south of Chapel Hill. Originally a 640-acre dairy farm the barn and silo still crown the landscape along with Belted Galloway cows from Scotland and Tennessee fainting goats. But the crown jewel is the AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Five Star Fearrington Inn and Restaurant which offers 33 luxury rooms with English antiques original artwork pastoral views daily gourmet breakfasts and afternoon tea.

“Folks are looking for a place to cocoon to wrap themselves up and be treated nicely ” says proprietor R.B. Fitch.

Modeled after a small English village there are several unique shops to explore by foot or bicycle.

Located in a 1927 two-story frame family home is the award-winning Fearrington Inn Restaurant the perfect place for a romantic dinner. Chef Graham Fox prepares outstanding seasonal dishes with touches of both English and French cuisines.

Take a morning to visit the quaint town of Pittsboro. Explore several antique shops and a food co-op housed in an old paper mill and then take your true love to the old fashioned S&T Soda Shoppe and order one milkshake with two straws.

Plan to visit nearby Chapel Hill. Walk down Franklin Street and stop at one of its many coffee shops for some joe and local college chatter. Enjoy the afternoon discovering more than 15 000 exhibits at the Ackland Art Museum. And don’t leave Chapel Hill without a visit to the 60 000-square-foot Southern Season gourmet emporium with wall-to-wall kitchen accessories and gourmet delights.

If you’re not too tired take in an evening performance at the Playmakers Repertory Company in the intimate Paul Green Theatre or a performance at the newly renovated Memorial Hall at UNC.

Getting there:
The adorable town of Pittsboro North Carolina is a simple 2½ hour drive up I-40 and taking a left in Raleigh. Or take the scenic route up Hwy 421 and hang a right outside of Sanford.

Fearrington House Inn and Restaurant
(919) 542-2121

Ackland Art Museum

A Southern Season

Playmakers Repertory Company

Memorial Hall

4. Wrightsville Beach

You don’t have to go far to find a romantic getaway. In fact you don’t have to go anywhere at all. Wintertime at Wrightsville Beach is a great place for lovers! Enjoy a two-night Romantic Rendezvous package at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort and Conference Center. A bottle of champagne awaits your arrival along with a special dinner for two and breakfast each morning.

Shell Island Resort offers a special winter oceanfront package with the third night free and the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort will customize any package with flowers champagne or a massage to make it a romantic adventure.

Of course a sunset walk on the beach is a must wherever you choose to stay.

Enjoy a wonderful dinner overlooking the ocean at The Oceanic Restaurant where the She-crab soup is outstanding! The Port Land Grille just across the bridge in Lumina Station is another great choice for dinner.

Spend at least one day getting reacquainted with the Historic Downtown Wilmington that tourists know and love. Start at the Cotton Exchange on Front Street and wander through its unique shops and restaurants. Don’t miss the Golden Gallery of watercolors and photography and Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts where all items are handmade by local artists.

Continue down to the Cape Fear River and travel the River Walk area where you can enjoy lunch or full tea at the Wilmington Tea Room or at one of the other restaurants along the water.

For a romantic evening schedule a private horse-drawn carriage tour in a French evening coach through the streets of Old Wilmington snuggled together under a warm blanket. After your journey stop for the out-of-this-world chocolate cake at Chelsea’s or take in a show at Thalian Hall.

Back on Wrightsville Beach choose Sunday Jazz Brunch at either the Holiday Inn SunSpree or Blockade Runner or for a more casual breakfast join your friends at the Causeway Café. Then wander through Redix and buy a pair of sandals in honor of the soon-to-return summer at Wrightsville Beach.

Blockade Runner Beach Resort & Conference Cente
(910) 256-2251

Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort
(910) 256-2231

Shell Island Resort
(910) 256-8696

Horsedrawn Carriage & Trolley Tours Wilmington
(910) 251-8889

Thalian Hall Wilmington
(910) 343-3664

5. Mandarin Oriental • New York N.Y.

A weekend at the five star Mandarin Oriental New York offers easy access to many of the city’s highlights but with all the luxurious pampering and amenities right on site you may decide just to hide away and let the world go by.

Located on the top of the Time Warner Center (floors 35-54) with spectacular views of Central Park the Hudson River and the city skyline the Mandarin Oriental offers shopping dining entertainment a high-performance fitness center and a 14 500-square foot spa on-site. For a real treat book the exquisite VIP Spa Suite with private steam room sauna a deep-soaking tub and fireplace.

Be sure to dine at the Asiate (on the 35th floor) which features Japanese/French cuisine as well as an unparalleled view of the city. Ask for one of its intimate booths with floor-to-ceiling windows. The six-course dinner tasting menu changes daily and every day is a winner.

If shopping is a must for your weekend there are three floors of upscale retail stores within the Time Warner Center. And entertainment is only an elevator ride away. Visit Jazz at Lincoln Center where artistic director Wynton Marsalis says “A theme of romance threads through the 2007-08 season.”

And if you decide to venture out into the Big Apple the list of museums galleries restaurants clubs and events is endless. Broadway Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House are all located right at the doorstep of the Mandarin Oriental.

Getting there:
New York is a 10-hour drive up the East Coast but only an hour and a half flight. ILM offers direct flights to New York (LGA) for around $300 per person.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Spa

Asiate Restaurant
(212) 805-8881

Jazz at Lincoln Center