VALENTINE'S DAY 101

The World's Most Romantic Spots Go All-American

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

For Valentine's Day, couples with big wallets can follow Cupid's arrow to the world's most romantic spots -- which, according to Modern Bride magazine, include Hawaii (No. 1), Bali and France. However, you might need to rein in the little devil. With that in mind, we chose three dreamy locales from MB's list and domesticated them. You can still surprise your gal or guy with, say, a trip to Athens -- but it just might be in Georgia. -- Andrea Sachs

TAHITI SUBSTITUTES

· Jet off to the South Seas -- the South Seas Hotel in Miami, that is. The South Beach hotel has a secluded palm grove with hammocks, a stretch of soft sand and the Plikia cafe and bar. Rooms start at $239 per night double. Info: 800-345-2678, http://www.southseashotel.com/ . Travel northwest to Captiva Island, Fla., for the South Seas' Resort and Yacht Club, on the Gulf of Mexico. Though the property is closed until March 17 (due to hurricane-related renovations), its sister hotel, the Sanibel Inn, is open. The inn has an "island feel," with rooms decorated in Caribbean style, a restaurant and a pool bar. Rooms are $359, including breakfast and bike rentals. Info: 800-965-7772, http://www.sanibelinn.com/ .

· At the Tiki Resort (518-668-5744, http://www.tikiresort.com/ ), New York's Lake George sits in for the Pacific. Otherwise, the Howard Johnson inn is an ersatz Tahiti, with a Polynesian show with fire swallowers and rooms with heart-shape tubs -- a universal sign for romance. Rates from $59; reopens in May.

· Tahiti meets Mickey at the Polynesian (407-824-2000, http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/ ), a Disney World resort with a beach, the Nanea Volcano Pool and indigenous vegetation. Restaurants offer Polynesian-Hawaiian fusion, including the Ohana Cafe, where your meal is grilled over a fire pit. At the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show ($50), catch the Polynesian dancing, music and fire-twirling between bites. Rooms from $315.

GREECE SUBSTITUTES

· In Chicago's Greektown, you can yell "Opa!" without attracting stares. The ethnic neighborhood around South Halstead Street, between West Van Buren and West Monroe streets, is packed with restaurants and bakeries serving such Greek specialties as baklava, spanakopita and ouzo; shops selling fisherman caps, music and cookbooks; and clubs, like Nine Muses, rocking out to Greek pop and deejays.

· Athens, Ga ., might not have the Acropolis but it does have Athena: A statue of the goddess (below) stands before the Classic Center Theatre (300 N. Thomas St.). You can also view Greek art and coins at the Georgia Museum of Art (90 Carlton St., 706-542-GMOA, http://www.uga.edu/gamuseum ; free) and see Greek Revival architecture at the Taylor-Grady House (634 Prince Ave., 706-549-8688; $3) and University of Georgia campus (Demosthenian Hall, Phi Kappa Hall, etc.). And at the Foundry Park Inn & Spa (295 E. Dougherty St., 866-9-ATHENS, http://www.foundryparkinn.com/ ), treat yourselves like Zeus and Hera with a couples hot-stone massage ($180). Info: Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-653-0603, http://www.visitathensga.com/ .

· Pay homage to Pokereus, the God of Gambling, at the Greektown Casino (555 E. Lafayette Ave., 888-771-4386, http://www.greektowncasino.com/ ) in the Greektown District of Detroit. When not playing the slots or tables, catch live entertainment in the Apollo Lounge, dine in the Grapevine Cafe or party like Bacchus in the nightclub Rapture. When your luck's down, take a breather at any of the surrounding Greek restaurants.

ITALY SUBSTITUTES

· Find canals, art and a Carnival-esque craziness on South California's Venice Beach . The Venetian Renaissance-style Venice-of-America has canals lined with homes. Take a self-guided tour of VB's art murals and architecture. Watch the freakfest on Ocean Front Walk. Snack on Jody Maroni's Italian sausage (2011 Ocean Front Walk, 310-822-5639) or Italian deli fare at Stroh's Gourmet (1239 Abbot Kinney Blvd., 310-450-5119). At the Venice Beach Hotel, rooms honor area legends such as town founder Abbot Kinney (15 30th Ave., 310-823-1966, http://www.venicebeachhouse.com/ ; rooms from $130). Info: Venice Chamber of Commerce, 310-822-5425, http://www.venicechamber.net/ .

(Istockphoto)
· In Little Italy ( http://www.littleitalynyc.com/ ) on Manhattan's Lower East Side, everyone sounds like Tony Soprano. Savory Sojourns' food tours (888-9-SAVORY, http://www.savorysojourns.com/ ; $150-$155) takes you into the stomach of Little Italy, with visits to a homemade pasta store, a cheese store, etc. Also eat your way through Mulberry Street -- from zuppa to cannoli.

· You'll hear singing gondoliers in your sleep at the Venetian resort in Las Vegas . Romancers can ride in a gondola ($12.50) along the winding Grand Canal. The on-site Guggenheim ($19.50) exhibits the masters, some Italian. Take a break from shopping to enjoy the opera singers and costumed street performers in the mall-azzo. Dine at Canalatto and enjoy the views of St. Mark's Square -- without the fear of pigeons dropping in. Info: 877-883-6423, http://www.venetian.com/ ; from $169.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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