Surprise your valentine with an indulgent stay. These great hideaways will make your heartstrings sing.

My sweetheart and I yearned for a getaway, a respite from the last vestiges of winter. Besides, Valentine's Day was fast approaching, and an early-spring romantic rendezvous appealed to us both.

But where to go? What was the perfect destination? Well, we didn't find one ideal spot--we found three. You don't have to be as greedy as we were. Just pick one, and your sweetheart will love you for it. Cupid's honor.

The Governor's House Inn

Charleston, South Carolina, with its devotion to charm and grace, offered us a perfect destination for a Valentine celebration. And my sweetie and I discovered a flawless urban hideaway at The Governor's House Inn.

Located in the historic district within walking distance of restaurants, shopping, and The Battery, the 1760s bed-and-breakfast on Broad Street provided the wished-for refuge. Our elegantly furnished room featured a private veranda easily accessible through triple-hung windows. "What a view," I said. "What's for dinner?" he asked.

We ambled on down to East Bay Street to High Cotton, where we dined on blue cheese grits, buttermilk fried oysters, and rabbit and quail while we drank in the rich contralto of a jazz singer who gave Billie Holiday a run for her money with "Sentimental Journey." The Charleston Praline Soufflé proved an incredible ending to a memorable meal.

Our room's fireplace took the February chill from the night air, and we slept like royalty in the four-poster canopy bed. Morning brought South Carolina sunshine and apricot muffins and energy to explore. Hand in hand, we took in the antiques shops and art galleries on King Street, The Market, and the funky shops on East Bay.

Emboldened by the level streets, we discovered we really hadn't forgotten how to ride bicycles. Then we returned to the sanctuary of our room, bearing souvenirs of our visit--Charleston peanuts, a framed print, a sweetgrass basket, and more warm memories of our Valentine's venture.

Blackberry Farm

When you catch a glimpse of the undulating white fence, you'll know you're almost there. And once you arrive, you may never want to leave.

Resting in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains in Walland, Tennessee, Blackberry Farm caters to the utter spoiling of its guests--in a good way.

"Wow," said my usually very verbal sweetie as our bags were whisked from our car, placed in a golf cart, and deposited with us inside our storybook cottage. A wood-burning fireplace awaited, as well as rocking chairs, which we had to try immediately. Not to mention the roses, champagne (or sparkling cider), and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

It only got better. Dinner in the Main House delivered more pampering in the guise of an indescribably tender Angus steak and an almond sorbet. A crackling fire in the cottage (plus enough pillows and lush linens to lull an insomniac into sublime oblivion) made dreams sweet, mine tempered only by the hiking and fly-fishing to come the next day. I needn't have worried.

Dwight, a retired park ranger, led us up picturesque paths and paused often for tenderfoot hikers. And I never knew fishing could be fun. But Jim, the instructor, taught my sweetheart how to execute the perfect cast (I wasn't too bad, either). Soon we found ourselves casting into a quiet pond.

After such strenuous (for me) activities, I talked my fishing-obsessed companion into a trip to the Farmhouse Spa. Even he came away raving about his newly softened skin.

After another perfect night's sleep, we awoke to breakfast delivered to our cottage in a picnic basket. We both wanted to stay.

We took one last drive around some of the 1,100-acre property in our golf cart. The sheep grazed serenely on a hillside under the careful eye of the watch llama. Another happy couple clip-clopped along the path in a horse-drawn carriage ride.

As we reluctantly drove away, we took one last look at the living picture postcard that is Blackberry Farm. "Wow," we both said.

Riverwalk Inn

We both loved Spanish in high school, and my sweetheart had never been to San Antonio. So off we went to spend a weekend by The Riverwalk. The Riverwalk Inn lies tucked away on the less traveled part of the San Antonio River. Built of conjoined vintage log cabins, it offers a rustic, private, and singularly Texas getaway. Our room boasted rocking chairs, a quilt-covered bed, and a granite shower large enough to have held all of Santa Anna's men. The long porch, surrounded by well-tended gardens, offered a quiet respite in the heart of a salsa-infused city.

Breakfast was served buffet style on a long, narrow table in the common room. This is also where we discovered homemade cake and cookies waiting for us in the late afternoons.

We used The Riverwalk as our path and followed it all the way to The Alamo (by cutting through the Hyatt lobby). Then we took a trolley to the Market Square in search of souvenirs and more food (not necessarily in that order). We found lunch at La Margarita, where the food was simply wonderful.

Still in exploring mode, we went on a river cruise, learning more about the history of the city and the river itself. One sight was "Marriage Island," where couples hold small weddings right in the middle of the river. Then we took a pedicab through the King William District, marveling at the architecture of this Southwestern beauty.

Shopping was next, with the main stop at La Villita, the oldest part of San Antonio and now a shopping mecca with artists plying their trades.

As we rocked on our porch at the end of the day, listening to the sounds of the night, we practiced our Spanish learned so long ago. Felicidad. Happiness. It was a word easily recaptured in this magical place.

There were hearts and flowers and magic in the air on our romantic wanderings. There was a sense of discovery and rediscovery on our long walks. Cupid lives in the South, and his emissaries pointed us to the perfect sweet destinations. We loved it all, my valentine and I. You will too.

Valentine Venues

  • The Governor's House Inn: 117 Broad Street, Charleston, SC 29401; (843) 720-2070, 1-800-720-9812, or Rates: Begin at $179 and include Continental breakfast and afternoon tea.
  • Blackberry Farm: 1471 West Millers Cove Road, Walland, TN 37886; (865) 984-8166, 1-800-273-6004, or Rates: Begin at $445 and include three meals, as well as hiking and fly-fishing.
  • Riverwalk Inn: 329 Old Guilbeau, San Antonio, TX 78204; (210) 212-8300, 1-800-254-4440, or Rates: Range from $130 to $175 and include Continental breakfast and evening dessert.

This article is from the February 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.