If financial or time constraints are putting limits on your honeymoon plans, don't despair. There are dozens of terrific destinations available to you in the continental U.S. Below are five of our favorites.
is dominated by one of the most romantic cities in the world; San Francisco.
Nestled (sometimes precariously!) among rolling hills and offering an epic view of the Pacific, San Francisco features more recognizable landmarks than any other city in the world: the famous cable cars, Golden Gate Bridge, Knob Hill, Coit Tower, Pan-Pacific Park, Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street
(the "crookedest street in the world"), Chinatown,
and Fisherman's Wharf,
to name just a few. The restaurants are outstanding, offering a range of cuisine inspired by the dozens of world cultures represented in the diverse San Francisco population. The hot place to stay? Union Square's Hotel Monaco
(tel. 800/214-4220), where the inspired décor and outstanding dining room more than make up for the smallish size of the rooms. And while in San Francisco, you're just a 90 minute drive from the famous vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley
and Sonoma Valley.
You'll want to spend at least one day touring the lush countryside and visiting the many tasting rooms. If you aren't interested in the big city bustle of San Francisco, plan to spend your entire honeymoon in the idyllic wine country.
Another popular Northern California destination is Lake Tahoe -- a glorious vacation spot, winter or summer. In addition to breath-taking forests and mountains, world-class snow skiing (at the Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl and Heavenly Resorts), and summer boating on the pristine lake, Tahoe's location on the California/Nevada border means that you can even enjoy gambling and Vegas-style entertainment at Stateline, if that's your preference. If you're into roughing it, some of the best backpacking in the world is found within the neighboring Desolation Wilderness. Be sure to dine one evening at Tahoe City's extraordinary yet unpretentious Wolfdale's restaurant.
Southern California is, of course, home to the city of Los Angeles and its most famous district, Hollywood. For couples with stars in their eyes, there's no better honeymoon spot, and unless your visit is scheduled for June (when Southern California is almost always hazy), you're sure to have wonderful weather. But don't be naïve; you aren't likely to spot Leonardo DiCaprio or Jennifer Lopez hanging around outside the famous Chinese Theater. Still, you'll have loads of fun trying on the famous footprints of legendary stars, past and present. Close by is the original Universal Studios, with its famous tour of the stages where "Jaws" and "Back To The Future" were filmed. If you're eager to spot stars, you may have more luck out at the beach in Malibu, or dining at an "in" spot like celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's original Spago restaurant. South of L.A. in the city of Anaheim is Disneyland -- still the best theme park in the world to many purists. If you want to see more of Southern California, you might want to continue on south to idyllic San Diego, home to the world-famous zoo, the best regional theater in the U.S., and the famous, red-roofed Hotel del Coronado. Or head east to the desert oasis of Palm Springs -- home to dozens of four star resorts and PGA-class golf courses.
This remarkable city, on the banks of the Mississippi River in easternmost Louisiana, draws its unique flavor from the exotic blend of French, Spanish, Caribbean and Acadian cultures. In New Orleans, the motto is "laissez les bon temps rouler"
-- "let the good times roll" -- and in the city of New Orleans, the party never ends. Your visit must include: the ritual New Orleans morning at Café Du Monde,
enjoying the people watching, the strong coffee, and the biegnets (fried French pastries); an afternoon taking in the historic buildings of Jackson Square
and the mansions of the Garden District;
and an evening of revelry on Bourbon Street
in the French Quarter
-- where the jazz and zydeco music is hot and the drinks flow freely. Don't forget to catch a set by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band,
but remember to arrive at least 1 hour before the show to make sure you get a seat. New Orleans is also famous for its excellent Cajun and Creole cuisine; celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme,
and Frank Brigsten
have put the city back on the culinary map, although the folks at the legendary Antoine's
restaurant -- run by the same family for over 150 years -- would insist it never left. New Orleans is famous for its raucous Mardi Gras
celebrations in the Spring, so unless you like things really wild, avoid that time of year.
is the most popular honeymoon destination in the continental U.S. In 1971, the Disney company turned miles of swampland into Walt Disney World,
and the once quiet, rural community of Orlando
soon became a vacation mecca, filled with hotels and restaurants. Other theme parks and attractions were soon added, including Universal Studios Florida,
the Disney-MGM Studios,
and Animal Kingdom,
and Sea World.
For the bride and groom who are still kids at heart, a honeymoon in Central Florida
is the ultimate adventure.
If your idea of adventure is a little more adult, you may prefer to head further south, for the sun, sea and nightlife to be found in Southern Florida. To party like the jet-setting crowd, you've got to visit Miami, and its sizzling South Beach. By day, you can enjoy the people-watching and the sidewalk cafes; stroll the streets of South Beach's Art Deco District and enjoy the stylish architecture. By night, head out on the town, sampling the outstanding Caribbean and Cuban-inspired cuisine and dancing through the night at any of the dozens of nightclubs. If you've ready to splurge on accommodations, the place to stay is The Delano (tel. 305/672-2000), with its outrageous, fur-covered beds and all white interiors. You'll be "livin' la vida loca," big time.
You might be surprised to learn that Tennessee is the fourth most popular domestic honeymoon destination for U.S. couples. They're drawn by the Great Smoky Mountains
-- the perfect destination for a generation of young couples into extreme (or even more moderate) outdoor activities. Hiking, white-water rafting, camping, mountain-biking, backpacking, fishing, and rock-climbing are just some of the possibilities offered in this richly-forested mountain range on the Tennessee/North Carolina border, which has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. If you love the rustic life, be sure to book a few nights LeConte Lodge
-- the only accommodations actually within the park. But pack lightly; it's a four mile hike on moderately strenuous trails to the lodge atop Mount LeConte. The spartan but cozy cabins offer no electricity, phones, or indoor plumbing, so plan accordingly. Not the honeymoon for every couple, but the perfect spot for those who love adventure.
Tennessee is also famous for two of the most important music cities in the world. Located in the central part of the state, Nashville is the country music capital, and features such famous music landmarks as the Ryman Auditorium and Museum from which the famous "Grand Ole Opry" program was broadcast for decades. The popular Opry later spawned the Opryland theme park. During your stay, be sure to enjoy an elegant night out at the popular (but pricey) Wild Boar restaurant, with its ritzy piano bar and impressive wine cellar -- considered one of the five best in the United States. Southwest Tennessee is home to Memphis (this writer's favorite American city). Situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, Memphis is the birthplace of blues, soul and rock ‘n' roll. A visit to Memphis must include a pilgrimage to the kitsch castle of rock, Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion. You'll want to spend at least one night (probably more) on Beale Street, which is lined with clubs offering the best live blues music in the world. Stay at the legendary Peabody Hotel, where the highly genteel atmosphere is punctuated by the daily ritual of a doorman escorting ducks (who otherwise live on the roof) via an elevator downstairs to enjoy a swim in the lobby fountain. But Memphis has its serious side too. Be sure to visit the remarkable National Civil Rights Museum, built adjacent to the Lorraine Motel, where the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as he stepped out onto his room balcony. This shrine to personal freedom shouldn't be missed.
Even if you don't elope, you might want to include Las Vegas
in your nuptial plans. This flamboyant city is the perfect honeymoon destination for the couple that wants to cruise the strip, play the slots, and catch a glitzy Vegas show. Las Vegas was stylish and hip through the 40s, 50s and 60s, and became rather seedy and downtrodden in the 70s and 80s, but more recently has cleaned up its act. A slew of extravagant new resorts, including the Mirage, Bellagio, Venetian, Mandalay Bay, Paris, Luxor,
and New York, New York
have changed the landscape dramatically. In fact, if you haven't been to Vegas in a while, you might be surprised how family-friendly it has become, right down to the theme parks and water slides. Still, Las Vegas is popular with young and not so young lovers. After a late night gambling, you can sleep in the sun by your hotel pool or shop the top designer boutiques in the posh Forum Shops at Ceasar's Palace.
Be sure to stop for lunch or dinner at the Forum's wonderful Bertolini's
Getting around Vegas is easy, so unless you plan a trek out of town, you don't need to rent a car. The weather is invariably hot, but the air conditioning is always cranked up inside, so pack accordingly. If you've got a tight honeymoon budget, Vegas is the place for you; the deals on accommodations are plentiful, and if you lose all your cash at the tables, you can easily find a $1.99 all you can eat breakfast buffet to tide you over.
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