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Heartfelt Hideaways

Three Southern getaways suited for a romantic escape are close to home but far from the ordinary.

As the calendar prepares to flip to February, thoughts turn to romantic dinners, tranquil settings, and quiet, stolen moments with the object of our affection. There are many destinations throughout the South to bring those romantic visions to life.

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Above: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens has restaurants and overnight accommodations for a getaway that drips in Southern romance. Houmas House Plantation

Below: Have a memorable, romantic meal at Thirty-two, one of the restaurants at IP Casino Resort Spa. IP Casino Resort Spa

dining

Three of those venues took us from one end of the region to the other: the romantic Angel at Rose Hall in Eureka Springs, Ark.; the luxurious IP Casino Resort and Spa in Biloxi, Miss.; and the historical Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, La.

Whether your idea of romance involves mountains, diversions and activities, or just quiet time with your favorite someone, the ultimate in Southern hospitality is available at any of these getaways.

ANGEL AT ROSE HALL

Nestled in the Boston Mountains region of the north Arkansas Ozarks, the Victorian village of Eureka Springs nearly defies description. A funky and artsy spot that’s awash in breathtaking natural scenery, Eureka Springs is a one-of-a-kind destination that hosts visitors from all over the world.

Those who go first class in this hamlet go straight for the Angel at Rose Hall (AAA Four Diamonds), a gorgeous bed and breakfast located at 46 Hillside Ave., one block up from the distal end of Main Street (literally “up” because here, streets curl up the mountainside like tree roots).

The Angel is a warm, plush jewel among the many quaint cottages, historical inns, and hotels in town. Though not historical – the Angel was built in 1999 – the property was crafted with painstaking care to reflect Victorian style while offering modern amenities.

Innkeeper and former architect Susan Misavage and her husband, Bob, took ownership of the Angel in 2006 after researching available bed and breakfasts nationwide. Nine years later, at an average 170 weddings per year, Susan has seen enough proposals and nuptials to handle just about anything a creative bridegroom (or most particular bride) can come up with.

If there's one thing that’s difficult about the Angel, it's easily getting a reservation. The property boasts just five suites, each tastefully and distinctively appointed with Victorian antiques, king-size beds, two-person Jacuzzi soaking tubs, fireplaces, and balconies. Landing a room during in-demand dates (Valentine’s weekend, May, June, September, and October see the majority of the 5,000 weddings held in Eureka Springs each year) takes some serious advance planning.

Whatever the occasion, expect to be treated to warm hospitality, as well as warm muffins and croissants, as part of the daily gourmet candlelight breakfast. Or, take breakfast in your suite, one of several in-room extras that also features couples massage, chocolate-covered strawberries, and long-stemmed roses among other optional amenities.

Then, spend the day strolling downtown, which is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a carriage ride, see a show, browse the unique shops, or share an intimate dinner at the locally recommended Grand Taverne, Ermilio’s, Le Stick Nouveau, or DeVito’s.

IP CASINO RESORT SPA

For those couples who take a side of the bright lights with their romance, there's the highly awarded IP Casino Resort Spa offering spectacular views, gaming excitement, and some of the finest dining throughout the Gulf Coast.

The fact the property is standing at all – much less at this level of luxury and service – is a story in itself. Like many properties along the Gulf Coast, IP Casino Resort Spa was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Since 2005, investment in IP’s comeback has been unrelenting, as has the attention to detail and insistence on providing the highest quality experience for guests.

Diamonds are wild at IP Casino Resort Spa; the 1,000-room hotel and its two fine dining restaurants are all AAA Four Diamond rated. A casual Italian restaurant, Costa Cucina, boasts the AAA Three Diamond designation.

Improvements to the hotel’s luxurious guest accommodations include renovation of 370 guest rooms in spring 2015 and 53 suites scheduled for completion in early 2016. This final phase of renovations demonstrates management’s refusal to rest on its laurels.

Couples represent an important segment to casinos and IP has done much to appeal to the wedding, honeymoon, and anniversary clientele. The busy season for weddings here starts late May and continues through August.

there's also plenty of entertainment to occupy a romantic weekend. After a day on the gaming floor, taking in the local sights, or golfing at one of the nearby courses – Shell Landing being the property’s partner course – there's no better way to unwind than with Senses Spa and Salon’s variety of treatments for men, women, and couples. The spa offers a private co-ed lounge, suite, steam room, and rain shower for couples.

Finally, plan an unforgettable meal at either of IP’s fine dining restaurants: Tien for artistic Asian cuisine and sushi and Thirty-two for steaks. Situated on the namesake 32nd floor of the hotel, Thirty-two is a particular showstopper where fine food meets sweeping views of the city and shoreline. After dinner, enjoy a cocktail in Chill Ultra Lounge or grab a show in the Studio A showroom that offers music and comedy acts across all genres.

HOUMAS HOUSE PLANTATION

Houmas House sits two hours west from the glittering Gulf Coast casinos, but it might as well be on another planet. Serene and pastoral, the antebellum plantation, manicured gardens, waterfront landing, and attendant bed-and-breakfast cottages hearken back to the sweeping romanticism of a bygone era. AAA travel experts designated Houmas House as a GEM (Great Experience for Members).

The history of the property is compelling. Houmas House Plantation traces its lineage to the mid-1700s when Maurice Conway and Alexander Latil purchased the land from the indigenous Houmas tribe. So vast was the plantation – at its peak, 300,000 acres – when businessman John Burnside purchased it in 1857, it fetched $1 million.

The Great Depression brought the proud plantation to its knees, and it languished until 1940 when it was bought and restored by Dr. George B. Crozat. His heirs eventually opened the property to the public for tours and to Hollywood as a period backdrop. In 2003, current owner, Kevin Kelly, purchased the property.

Today, the self-titled “Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road” is thriving once again with an elegance and majesty that make it particularly irresistible to lovers of all ages. So romantic is the setting that weddings are held two per weekend on average; as many as five per weekend during peak season. Spring is particularly brisk, thanks to the plantation’s renowned gardens, the product of mild winters and 50,000 new plants going in every April and November.

The natural beauty, fantastical setting, and tranquility draw many couples looking to get away from it all, although Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and outlet shopping are an hour or less away for those seeking a day trip. History buffs will appreciate three other plantations – San Francisco, Laura, and Oak Alley – within a 30-minute radius.

Those content to simply lounge at The Inn at Houmas House find no amenity lacking, either. The on-premises bed and breakfast is comprised of cottages nestled along an alley of ancient oak trees. Three restaurants feature casual and fine dining a short walk from the cottages. Accommodations recall the historical architecture of the plantation era, luxuriously appointed with old-world furnishings, marble bathrooms, and a porch to watch the sunset. Breakfast and a tour of the mansion are included.

Regardless of the time of year or the season of your life, there's much to love at any one of these three fabulous retreats.

Dwain Hebda is a contributor from Little Rock, Ark.

January/February 2016 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

To visit these Southern romantic getaways, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.


For more information, contact:

Angel at Rose Hall,
(800) 618-4255

IP Casino Resort and Spa,
(888) 946-2847

Houmas House Plantation and Gardens,
(225) 473-9380


Order free information about Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi through the Free Travel Information Card found online.

 


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