Everyone needs a foolproof date night plan — or romantic escape — regardless of whether they celebrate Valentine’s Day. Here’s a cheat sheet you can use any time and (almost) anywhere, tried and tested by Bloomberg’s experts in global cities, from Miami to Milan.
If you want one great night: Get lost in the enchanted world that is the Borderless Digital Museum in Odaiba, a dimly lit, 100 000-square-foot maze of captivating visual projections and kaleidoscopic art installations. Make it out there before sunset, and you can take advantage of the giant, 377-foot-high Ferris wheel just outside. Then it’s off to Ujien Urasando Garden café, a tucked-away gem in Omotesando where the intimate vibes and stellar matcha drinks feel like a wormhole to old Kyoto. Dinner is nearby, at Nishi Azabu, an unpretentious Michelin-starred restaurant that blends the best of Scandinavian, French, and North American flavours. (Think bamboo-charcoal croquettes disguised as stones and desserts, topped with frozen herb “dust.”) Still going strong? Close out with cocktails at Gen Yamamato, whose knack for balancing unlikely ingredients always feels like magic.
If you want a weekend getaway: Head to the quaint mountain village of Kusatsu in Gunma. This onsen (hot spring) resort is only a two-hour train ride from central Tokyo and far less crowded than the ever-popular Hakone, but it’s at least as charming — if not more so. In the cold winter months it doubles as a ski destination; prioritize a few runs at Kusatsu Snow & Spa Resort during the day, then warm up in the city center’s illuminated yubatake (sort of like giant, naturally heated foot baths) before indulging on manjus, a local confection that’s soft, steamed, and made from maple.
If you’re going out on a weekday: Start the day early by watching the sun rise over South Pointe Park in South Beach. You’ll need only your beach towel and camera. Stop by nearby Lilikoi Organic Living for a casual breakfast afterward, and if you don’t need to be in the office, spend the day at the classic Fontainebleau Hotel, where a treatment at the stately Lapis Spa will give you access to the resort’s pools and beach for the day. Once the sun sets — or work lets out — take a pre-dinner stroll along Lincoln Road and Española Way. You’ll work up an appetite for the Japanese-Peruvian fare at Chotto Matte, where dishes like yuzu-glazed Nippon chicken and rib-eye steak anticuchos (skewers) are prepared on a traditional robata grill and served in a soaring, indoor-outdoor atrium.
If you’re going out on the weekend: Kick off your adventures on and along the Miami River, starting with a mile-long, manatee-spotting walk around the Brickell Key loop. Then it’s off for a scenic history lesson at Miami Circle Park, where you can explore what remains of a 2 000-year-old settlement at the confluence of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay. Use Boatsetter (it’s like Airbnb for sailing) to charter a small yacht for the rest of the weekend — and head straight to Luijo Island. It’s tiny, accessible only by boat, and offers a great view of the Miami skyline; conveniently, you’ll be just downstream from Greek hotspot Kiki on the River, where it’s de rigueur to sit outside for a late, languid lunch of lavraki (sea bass) and tomato salad. From there, Fisher Island is your last stop: The 1920s cottages that make up its glitzy Island Club resort are tucked right next to a marina, making them a convenient and plush landing pad for a pampering weekend (not too far) away.
If you want one great night: You’re lucky that this year, Valentine’s Day comes on a Thursday — one of three days the Hermitage stays open until 9 p.m., making it the perfect place to walk off a round of drinks from the Gatsby-esque Apotheke cocktail bar. With that in mind, book a fashionably late dinner at what’s arguably the city’s most established (certainly its most beautiful) restaurant, L’Europe inside the Grand Hotel Europe. Its vaulted, double-height dining room and Art Nouveau ceiling will guarantee that the meal feels as special as the night.
If you want a weekend getaway: If it’s February in St. Petersburg, chances are you’re in the mood to get out of the city. Take a drive north into Finland to stay at the rustic Hotel Punkaharju, which recently underwent a total restoration. Set on Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland, there are plenty of winter activities, including illuminated Nordic ski trails and snowshoe routes. (For the truly strong of heart, there’s winter swimming in the lake.) On your way back, stop in the historic seaside town of Vyborg to check out the its medieval fortress — and take a break from the cold at the English-style gastropub Creep Pub, which, despite its name, offers hearty fare and a warm welcome.
If you want one great night: First, book one of the 11 ultra-spacious suites at the Bulgari Hotel, a renovated 18th-century Milanese palazzo hidden down a private street in central Milan. Since you’ll be right above the luxury shopping outlets that line Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga, pick up something nice to wear at Massimo Alba and then go see conductor Marc Albrecht lead the orchestra at the city’s great opera house, Teatro alla Scala, a five-minute walk down the street. Or stop into Pinacoteca, housed in the elegant Palazzo Brera, where you can see masterpieces of Italian painting in an intimate setting. Either way, you’ll want to eat at Il Ristorante back at the hotel. Helmed by Niko Romito, who’s earned three Michelin stars at his remote Reale restaurant, this spot features what he calls “recodified” versions of the classics, from lasagna to veal Milanese and — of course — tiramisù.
If you want a weekend getaway: It may take a little longer to get to the Dolomites from Milan than, say, to St. Moritz, but the impeccably appointed inns along the region’s mountain towns are worth the four-hour drive. In pastel-colored Cortina d’Ampezzo, Cristallo Resort & Spa has 73 spacious, country-chic rooms overlooking an iconic clocktower and the snow-capped mountains beyond — all bookable with points, since it’s part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. Or stay in the more Bavarian-feeling town of San Cassiano, where the wellness-oriented Rosa Alpina has a world-famous spa with indoor pool, Finnish sauna, hammam, and cold plunge pool — all perfect after a day of “mindful skiing” with a resort guide.
If you want one great night: Your romantic evening begins with a dose of culture — an exhibit on the Dutch Masters will open on Valentine’s Day at the Louvre Abu Dhabi: See more than 90 pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and their contemporaries. Then it’s just a 10-minute drive up the road on Saadiyat Island to the Park Hyatt for a sunset dinner at the Beach House restaurant, which has a range of Italian- and Spanish-influenced dishes. Sounds a little too sedate? Skip the museum and head for the water. You can rent a kayak from one of several operators, including Noukhada and Sea Hawk, for two-hour tours of the mangroves.
If you want a weekend getaway: Get out of the city and hop over to Oman, where the luxurious Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel and spa is tucked into the dramatic Al Hajar mountains. (Ask for the Ridge View Suite for the best views of the canyons.) You could spend all day in the spa or by the infinity pool, going to yoga and meditation classes. But if you can pull yourself away, take advantage of the surroundings to explore the local villages and wadi, or valley, on a long hike. To get your heart really racing, try a via ferrata climb — or wait until nightfall, when unrivalled stargazing sessions are sure to set you aflutter.
If you want one great night: You might not be able to levitate in the planetarium like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, but fans of La La Land can still recreate some of the film’s oh-so-romantic dance scenes. Drive up the winding road to the Griffith Park Observatory at dusk and twirl your partner as the lights turn on in the city below. Then head to the Green Room, the swanky new speakeasy tucked behind the Castaway restaurant in nearby Burbank. The indoor-outdoor hideaway, open only on Friday and Saturday nights, offers fireside seating, big cocktails served in hand-blown-glass creations, and views that span from downtown L.A. to the San Fernando Valley. Reservations are required, but worth it — if only for the feeling you’re floating above it all. For bookings on Valentine’s Day itself, you’ll need to eat at the Castaway first.
If you want a weekend getaway: Just 80 miles northwest of the city, the Rosewood Miramar Beach resort in Montecito is opening on February 11. It’s the first time in two decades that you can stay in California’s grand dame, whose history stretches back to the 1870s. Book one of 22 accommodations at the Beach House and you’ll get ocean views from a private patio — just like nearby residents Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe. While you’re there, check out the botanical gardens at Lotusland; then Uber up to Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, a bustling warehouse-turned-arts district for a tipple at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective and Mediterranean-inspired dinner at Blackbird in the remodeled Hotel Californian. Save time for a detour on your drive home: A short hike at the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve reveals spectacular views of the crashing waves and jagged cliffs — the perfect romantic photo op.
If you want one great night: Warm up with an early drink and snacks at Marble to relish the westward views before the sun goes down. The ideal order: a super-summery Bianco Charra No. 1 (gin, lemon juice, elderflower syrup, and cucumber) and a dozen oysters topped with citrus granita, mint, and a spectacular Thai water dressing. Afterward, amble north to Marble’s sister restaurant Saint, where sinners are not only welcomed but encouraged. The ostrich feathers and neon lighting make for a Johannesburg meets Miami Vice vibe, and the luscious Italian dishes are fit for gluttons; think gooey arancini, balsamic-braised lamb, and a rich mascarpone parfait for dessert. For the young and reckless, Taboo Night Club is just around the block — along with a wide array of hotels.
If you want a weekend getaway: Go big and book tickets to Cape Town on the Blue Train, Africa’s answer to the Orient Express. You’ll have two nights to sample South African specialties, including Knysna oysters and Karoo lamb, while sipping on wines from the Western Cape. The views are also to be savored as the train winds its way through purple-hued desert lands to the green-backed mountains of the Hex River Valley and the vineyard-strewn village of De Doorns, finally arriving at the foothills of iconic Table Mountain. From white sand beaches to scuba diving with seals and spectacular restaurants galore, the city affectionately known as “Mother City” has it all — including an art scene unmatched on the continent.
Still in search for more? Read Part 2 here.
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