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  • Umstead Entry

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    Umstead Hotel's dramatic front entrance
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    The Umstead Hotel and Spa's luxurious spa courtyard
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    The premier king room at Umstead Hotel and Spa
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    Wild Dunes Resort
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    The award-winning Madison's restaurant at Old Edwards Inn and Spa
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    Old Edwards Inn and Spa's pool and lounge
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    One of the spacious suites at Old Edwards Inn and Spa
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    Wild Dunes Resort's Grand Pavilion
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    Wild Dunes Resort's Boardwalk Inn
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    Wild Dunes Resort's Boardwalk Inn and pool

Romantic Retreats

By Sam Boykin

Posted: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013

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Wilds Dunes Resort

The winter months mean reduced rates and sparse crowds along the coast, making it an ideal destination for an intimate getaway. Wild Dunes Resort, located about 250 miles southeast of Lake Norman at Isle of Palms, S.C., is a great option, with numerous romantic package deals and the adventure of nearby Charleston about a 20-minute drive away.

Romantic Recreation

Wild Dunes Resort offers a bevy of year-round adventures that take advantage of its serene oceanfront location. For a peek at the local marine life, embark on the Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise along the salt marshes, where you’ll search for bottlenose dolphins and loggerhead sea turtles. Or, enjoy a leisurely paddle to nearby Crab Bank Island, an ideal spot to enjoy a prepared picnic of local fare such as peel and eat shrimp and Key lime pie. Other activities include Wild Dunes’ two scenic, Tom Fazio-designed golf courses, along with the world-renowned 17-court tennis facility.

If you want to explore nearby Charleston, the resort can arrange a one-hour horse-drawn carriage tour through the city’s historic downtown district, noted for its stunning homes and beautiful gardens. Foodies are sure to enjoy the resort’s Savor the Flavors of Charleston Culinary Tour, during which you can sample delectable Lowcountry cuisine from local eateries.

Dining options at the resort include the upscale Sea Island Grill & Lounge, which specializes in fresh seafood such as scallops, mussels and Lowcountry crab cakes. Sandwiches, pizza, salads and other fare are available at several casual spots at the resort. And during your romantic getaway, be sure to indulge in a spa treatment. One popular option is the Couples Warm Seashell Massage, which uses warm seashells to sooth muscles and relieve stress.

Love Nest

The Boardwalk Inn is located in the heart of Wild Dunes Resort, just steps away from the beach. It has a pool, restaurant and 93 guest rooms, including the luxurious 1,434-square-foot Presidential Suite. The nearby Village at Wild Dunes offers guestrooms, studios and one- to three-bedroom suites and penthouses, all within walking distance to the beach and resort amenities.

Valentine’s Special

A great package for couples is the three-night Bliss by the Beach, with rates starting at $249 per night. The package includes accommodations at Boardwalk Inn or The Village at Wild Dunes, champagne on arrival, breakfast for two and one 50-minute massage per person.

Details: www.wilddunes.com

Old Edwards Inn and Spa

With the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, Old Edwards Inn and Spa, situated at 4118 feet, is a great destination for couples that enjoy the high life. About a four-hour drive west of Lake Norman in Highlands, N.C., Old Edwards Inn has a full lineup of activities and packages designed just for lovebirds.

Romantic Recreation

You can start your romantic getaway by exploring charming downtown Highlands, which is a short walk from the resort. The quaint area is bustling with boutiques, shops, restaurants and art galleries. There are also several scenic hiking trails nearby, including one that winds through Nantahala National Forest to the stunning 70-foot Glen Falls. More adventurous couples can check out Highlands Aerial Park, a new zipline attraction where you can fly 80 feet above the ground past towering oak trees and over deep ravines and gorges.

If you crave a little indulgent pampering, the inn’s luxurious spa has several couples packages available, such as Rainforest Rejuvenation, which includes a steam chamber, aromatic body wash, cleansing scrubs, detoxifying mud and pulse-point water massage. Afterwards, relax by the fire in the spa’s lounge, luxuriate under a 12-head Swiss shower or take a dip in the outdoor heated mineral pool.

There are five restaurants at the resort, most notably the award-winning Madison’s. This upscale eatery specializes in farm-to-table menu items such as seared ribeye, sage-roasted Carolina pheasant and seared sunburst trout. More casual fare can be found at the Wine Garden, where you can enjoy salads and sandwiches in a picturesque setting complete with a waterfall. At night, grab a bottle of champagne and go stargazing as you stroll along the expansive lawn that stretches alongside the lodge.

Love Nest

Accommodations include the historic inn, which has a variety of rooms and suites, some of which have private terraces and rooftop views of downtown Highlands. For a more rustic setting, there’s The Lodge at Old Edwards, where you can take in expansive views of the mountains and countryside from the wraparound rocking-chair porch.

Valentine’s Special

The Romantic Mountain Escape package (two nights, from $445 per night) includes 24-hour butler service, a suite with a rooftop terrace and fireplace, champagne and strawberries, a three-course dinner, two $100 spa credits and rose petal turndown service.

Details: www.oldedwardsinn.com

Umstead Hotel and Spa

Umstead Hotel and Spa is renowned for its innovative and artistic interior, impeccable service and tranquil, 12-acre woodlands setting. It’s less than a three-hour drive from Lake Norman, and minutes from thriving downtown Raleigh. With a luxurious 14,000-square-foot spa, award-winning cuisine and numerous romantic package deals, it’s a perfect place to celebrate Valentines.

Romantic Recreation

Umstead’s artistic design and flair is evident the moment you arrive, from the beautifully landscaped grounds to the lobby’s central glass sculpture by famed artist Dale Chihuly.

A great way to set the romantic tone for your Valentine’s getaway is a visit to the spa. Choose from a full lineup of services, including the 75-minute Couples Retreat, which 
begins with a relaxing bath for two in a jet hydrotherapy tub followed by a dual full-body Swedish massage. The spa also has a heated outdoor pool (which opens March 1) and fitness facilities.

Umstead’s award-winning restaurant, Herons, has a special Valentine’s menu from Feb. 11 to 16 featuring a four-course tasting menu for $95. Herons specializes in locally sourced American cuisine with homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs from a nearby farm.

While you may be tempted to remain on the serene grounds of the hotel, if you and your sweetheart want to venture elsewhere, downtown Raleigh is less than 10 miles away. A great way to explore the state capital is via Triangle Glides, which offers Segway tours through the city’s historic neighborhoods and dining and nightlife hubs. While you’re exploring the city, be sure to check out Fox Liquor Bar, a trendy new lounge with plenty of comfy leather couches and an eclectic cocktail menu, all priced at $11. Nature lovers can explore Raleigh’s wild side is at the NC Museum of Art’s adjoining 164-acre park, where you can hike along a network of trails that winds through forests, rolling fields and along streams before leading to the 660-foot Reedy Creek Pedestrian Bridge, the longest in the state.

Love Nest

Umstead has 150 beautifully appointed and spacious guestrooms, including 27 suites. The 540-square-foot Lake View rooms offer balconies with views the three-acre lake, while the suites range from 750 square feet to the 1,725-square-foot Presidential Suite, featuring panoramic views of the lake and gardens, 50-inch TV, whirlpool tub, wine cooler and an expansive balcony.

Valentine’s Special

Umstead’s Weekend Escape Package includes a $100 credit at the spa, restaurant or boutique and a leisurely 2 p.m. checkout on the day of departure.

Details: www.theumstead.com

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