- Couples can go for horseback rides on the beach on Florida's Amelia Island
- The pirate Blackbeard once hung out in the historic town of Beaufort, N.C.
- Two California wine towns provide plenty of lovely dinner options for two
Carly Holbrook came to Aspen, Colorado, for the Winter X Games but left with the love of her life.
The public relations exec recalls meeting her future husband after a free concert, a few cocktails and some impromptu salsa dancing. "As he walked me back to my friend's house later that night," Holbrook beams, "I will never forget the fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky, and street lamps illuminating the charming Main Street. Aspen will always be one of my magical spots."
She's not the only one who swoons over this A-list mountain town. Travel + Leisure's fans and followers ranked Aspen among the best spots for romance in our inaugural America's Favorite Towns survey; readers nominated favorites on social media via the hashtag #TLTowns and then ranked the resulting 744 picks in 55 categories.
To calculate the most romantic towns across America, Travel + Leisure looked at the most lover-friendly categories: brunch spots, bakeries, farmers' markets, wine scenes and idyllic, picnic-friendly parks, as well as gay friendliness and, of course, romantic hotels. And in a bid to weed out noisy kids, we gave points to the least family-friendly of the lot.
So whether you're aiming to stoke the fires of a long-smoldering interest or spend some quality time bonding with your boo, read on to discover the best towns for romance.
No. 1 St. Simons, Georgia
America's top town for romance strikes the right balance between seclusion and accessibility. Located on one of Georgia's Golden Isles, this southern-style beach town has both white sands and live oaks, and was a hit with readers in romance-friendly categories such as picnicking and charming cafés. You can rent bicycles, browse antique shops, and check out another undeniable marker of romantic destinations: the local lighthouse. Stay at the 34-room St. Simon's Inn, and you'll get a clear view of the 19th-century landmark.
No. 2 Beaufort, North Carolina
As one of the oldest towns in North Carolina -- it dates back to 1709 -- this Inner Banks village has a boardwalk, stately old homes that have turned into B&Bs (such as the Ann Street Inn, built in 1832) and an A-list pirate past (Blackbeard hung out here). Readers gave it high marks for civility, though: its hotels and inns ranked in the top 10 for romance, and the no-longer-rogueish locals impressed readers for being quite good-looking.
No. 3 Amelia Island, Florida
You can't get more picture-perfect romantic than a horseback ride on the beach, and Amelia Island State Park is one of the few spots in the country where you can still saddle up on the sand. Readers loved this barrier-island town most for its parks and its quaint historic inns—such as the Fairbanks House, a Victorian-era home filled with fireplaces, four-poster beds, and claw-foot tubs. Amelia Island also ranked in the top 10 for being welcoming to gay travelers.
No. 4 Sag Harbor, New York
Readers ranked Sag Harbor high for romantic hotels, such as the American Hotel, which dates back to 1846. This branch of the Hamptons has long inspired good name-dropping: it attracts plenty of celebs and, more than a hundred years ago, even merited a mention in "Moby Dick." On Saturdays from May through October, you can scan the crowds for familiar faces and pick up a local wine and other picnic provisions at the Sag Harbor Farmers' Market in front of the Breakwater Yacht Club.
No. 5 San Luis Obispo, California
With mild year-round weather, fewer crowds, and affordable prices (at least compared to L.A. and San Francisco), this central-coast college town embodies California mellow, making for easy romance. It also offers easy access to great wine country (think Sideways), laid-back Pismo Beach, and the grandeur of Hearst Castle. Readers ranked it at the top of the survey for its coffee—like the fair-trade, organic brews served at local favorite Blackhorse Espresso and Bakery.
No. 6 Aspen, Colorado
The A-list ski town has no shortage of plush hotels primed for romance -- such as The Little Nell or the St. Regis -- or sips to get you there: the Rocky Mountain state's legendary craft beer scene helped rank this tony mountain town at the top of the survey for its local brews (such as Aspen Brewing's pale ale called This Season's Blonde). For a romantic dinner you can't beat Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, with big views -- from 10,700 feet -- of the Maroon Bells and European-style classics such as fondue and veal schnitzel. Readers also applauded Aspen for its variety of events, from the X Games to the high-minded Aspen Ideas Festival.
No. 7 Burlington, Vermont
Rudyard Kipling supposedly once said that Lake Champlain -- the centerpiece of America's best college town -- was the sweetest place in the world to watch a sunset. Readers, meanwhile, loved Burlington for other romantically oriented times of day, such as cocktail hour (it ranked in the top 10 for cool bars), brunch, and the all-important dessert. One sip of Lake Champlain Chocolates' decadent hot cocoas is all it takes to see why the town also scored highly for cafés and ranks among the top 10 for winter wonderland holiday-season visits.
No. 8 Sonoma, California
The surrounding wine country makes this bucolic town a no-brainer for romance -- with the added couples-friendly enticements of dreamy hotels (such as the rambling Spanish Mission-style Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa) and a noted lack of kids. The foodie factor runs high, too, thanks to renowned restaurants (such as French-country The Girl & the Fig) and top-notch farmers' markets, like the Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers' Market on Fridays. Readers also voted Sonoma into the top 10 for having quirky locals, a plus on any memorable weekend getaway.
No. 9 Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Even if winters get chilly here, readers didn't care, giving it high marks for snuggle-ready weather. A great indoor date spot: The Music Hall, a refurbished 1878 theater that presents classic movies and live, unplugged music. Good wine was a major indicator of romance in the readers' survey, but this historic waterfront town woos lovers who love craft beer. The town was once the biggest beer producer in America and is now home to charming breweries such as Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose.
No. 10 Traverse City, Michigan
This town on the northeastern side of Lake Michigan may be sweet but not cloyingly so: after all, it boasts of being the tart cherry capital of the world. Readers found the most romance in outdoorsy endeavors, such as hiking at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or embarking on a fall color drive. For an extra shot of romance, stay at Chateau Chantal. This small, European-style inn offers its own wines, big breakfasts, and water views and was founded by a former priest and nun who later fell in love.