The couple that explores together stays together.
OK, so we’re basing that statement entirely on those loving, nomadic YouTubers that make us want to drop everything and buy a refurbished camper. Around the country they travel, blissfully unaware of responsibilities and the rest of the world. They have to be happy, right? (Actually, travel is scientifically shown to improve relationships, as Wanderu Content Director Tyler Moss once detailed for Condé Nast Traveler.)
Luckily, you and your boo don’t have to make that camper-van kind of commitment to post your own Instagram-worthy couples pics in front of gorgeous and iconic backdrops. Here at Wanderu, we know that what your relationship really needs is just some quality time away from the stresses of daily life — without high travel costs that just add to said stress.
How do you plan a romantic getaway on a budget?
Quality time with your partner isn’t dependent on expensive experiences, like luxury suites or four-course dinners. Anything that facilitates meaningful interaction — from hiking to cooking to touring a museum — can deepen a relationship. Likewise, travel itself doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With Wanderu, you can compare bus, train and flight options on a single platform to find the trip that best fits your budget. Or, if you and your significant other live in different cities, find somewhere cheap to meet in the middle. (For even more travel hacks for people in long-distance relationships, read our guide.)
Below, we’ve analyzed our own Wanderu data to find destinations that are a bargain to get to and offer a wealth of inexpensive activities. This round-up of romantic destinations for couples includes beaches, mountains, museums and more. So whether you’re planning your first weekend trip together or your 50th, you’ll find a setting where the two of you can relax and reconnect.
1. Newport, RI
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Spring or fall for mild temperatures and avoiding tourists. September and October are great for colorful New England leaves, but keep an eye out during hurricane season (which runs June 1 – Nov. 30).
TOP ATTRACTIONS: The Cliff Walk; historic mansions; oysters; winery tours.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: When we said these destinations included all those things “and more,” maybe we should have said “walking.” There’s almost nothing more romantic (and less expensive!) than a leisurely walk in the right setting, and the main attraction of Newport fits the bill. The 3.5-mile Cliff Walk provides beautiful views of Easton Bay and some truly remarkable architecture.
You’ll also want to sample some of that architecture up close, especially the various mansions you can tour, such as The Breakers and Marble House (tickets can be purchased online in advance).
Finally, seek out some fresh oysters. Sure, the jury’s still out on whether or not they’re actually an aphrodisiac, but when in Newport, you might as well give ’em a try.
2. Salt Lake City, UT
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Fall or spring (spring can sometimes be too rainy, but you’ll find more active wildlife and blooming flowers). Unlike many of the spots on this list, summer is also a good option because the main tourist season (winter) revolves around skiing.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: If you’re an outdoorsy couple, Salt Lake City should be at the top of your list of cities to visit. Along the many nearby hiking trails, you’ll find beautiful peaks, waterfalls, and lakes, including the Great Salt Lake. You can also share a raft down the Provo River during the warmer months, or hit the nearby slopes in winter.
Red Butte Gardens (open year-round) is ideal for a romantic picnic. Finally, stop by for a view of the imposing Salt Lake Temple. You can’t go inside the temple unless you’re Mormon (and it’s not exactly a romantic stop, per se), but admission to Temple Square and the visitors centers are free, and you’ll get a nice overview of one of the things that makes this city so unique.
3. New Orleans, LA
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Two answers — if you and your better half love a party, nothing beats Mardi Gras. Otherwise, plan your trip for December or January to avoid both peak-tourist season and the hurricane threat that looms over late summer and fall.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: As anyone who’s been there will tell you, New Orleans is unlike any other city in the world — which makes it an ideal place to explore with your significant other.
You’ll want to stroll down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter for a (quick) glimpse of where the late-night debauchery happens, take a swamp tour or go on a steamboat cruise. (One of those is a bit more romantic than the other, admittedly, but who are we to judge what you and your beau like?) Also, the massive homes in the Garden District are distinctive and photo-friendly, and the bars on Frenchmen Street like The Spotted Cat and d.b.a. are the best places to catch live music.
Finally, check out the above-ground cemeteries like St. Louis No. 1 and entertain each other by making up stories about the people entombed there.
4. Portland, OR
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Fall — you’ll avoid peak season but still be able to enjoy the great outdoors. Plus, fall (especially September) is perfect for winery visits and gorgeous foliage. Summer is better for roses, but you’ll still see roses blooming in September and even into October.
TOP ATTRACTIONS: The International Rose Test Garden; culinary festivals; breweries and wineries; hiking and biking.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Did we mention the rose garden? (And did we mention it’s free?) Talk about a terrific spot for couples — roses are basically the epitome of romance. Portland also has one of the best food scenes in the entire U.S., with a variety of culinary festivals throughout the year like Feast Portland, which the creators consider a “think tank” for food.
Also located near the mountains, Portland is an awesome place for hiking as well. Urban green space like the expansive Forest Park actually makes Portland the fifth best city in the U.S. for fall outdoor activities.
5. Washington, DC
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Springtime cherry blossoms and 4th of July fireworks are both tempting when you and your partner are hoping to make some fireworks of your own. But avoid the crowds (and sweltering summer heat ) in favor of fall, especially October.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: No matter your interests, you and your loved one can find something to linger over at a Smithsonian museum (bonus points from boo if you take an interest in their favorite exhibit). Highlights include the National Gallery of Art, with works from Vermeer and Picasso, and the ultra-popular National Museum of African American History and Culture.
And with some good walking shoes, there’s nothing like strolling along holding hands and chatting as you make your way from monument to monument or through picturesque Georgetown (where you can also do some shopping).
6. Sedona, AZ
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Fall in Sedona is perfect hiking weather, and the blooming desert flowers of spring are a can’t-miss. For the cheapest hotel prices, visit in the winter: the weather is still a comfortable 55–60 degrees during the day, and you may even see a rare snow dusting on red rocks in the morning.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The sheer beauty of your surroundings is reason enough to see Sedona. If you and your partner like hiking, you’ll love exploring all of the trails, and maybe even camping and stargazing. Frankly, hiking is the main reason to visit Sedona. (We did warn you that vacationing as a couple involves a lot of scenic walks!)
Even if you’re not into hiking, however, the area has a lot to offer. You can still enjoy the outdoors from a bit of a distance — just check in for a couples’ massage at one of the city’s many spas. Tlaquepaque also provides breathtaking scenery and an arts community where you’ll find excellent food and wine from the Verde Valley, galleries and more.
7. Minneapolis, MN
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer, definitely — June through August is the best time to take advantage of the city’s 13 lakes. This does, unfortunately, coincide with peak tourist season, so make sure to book a place to stay in advance for the best prices.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Minneapolis is the perfect place to head to if your significant other is looking for some beach time, but you’re dying to see some shows (after all, relationships are all about compromise). Spend the days swimming in the Chain of Lakes, then freshen up and head to Minneapolis’s bustling theater district for a musical.
If you’re hoping to see both of the Twin Cities, public transport will get you from downtown Minneapolis to St. Paul in just over 30 minutes. Finally, take a hike in Minnehaha Park to Minnehaha Falls, the perfect backdrop for — dare we say it — a proposal. (Wink wink.)
And whether you like craft beer or just cool places to hang out and drink, Minneapolis ranks as the second-best craft beer city in the U.S., so hunt down a pint while you’re at it.
8. San Francisco, CA
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Late summer through fall, especially September. Avoid summer, which is super touristy and sometimes too foggy to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: San Francisco may be the second-most expensive American city to live in, but luckily, you can plan a romantic visit on the cheap. Get a great view of the homes along Postcard Row (colorful Victorian houses known as “painted ladies”) with a picnic in Alamo Square Park, or walk across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge for free. (Biking is also a popular option — find a number of scenic bike routes in our San Francisco biking guide.)
Even the public transportation is a venue for romance in SF — just hop on one of the cable cars and hold each other close for a ride up Nob Hill.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a prime spot for shopping, museums, great seafood and more. It’s also a very popular tourist spot, which means it’s perfect for people watching. (Nothing brings two people together more than judging everyone else, right?)
9. Ottawa, ON
BEST TIME TO VISIT: March through May has the best weather (and the annual Tulip Festival), and fall weather is also pleasant. Winter in Ottawa might be cold (OK, very cold), but hear us out: As long as you’re bundled properly, the city has some undeniably romantic offerings particular to the winter season.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Ottawa’s 35 major festivals range from music, culture, arts, seasonal events and more, including the popular Tulip Festival in May and the Winterlude festival in February.
Plus, in winter, the Rideau Canal (worth a visit at any time of year) transforms into the world’s largest outdoor ice skating rink. And what’s more sweet and sentimental than an ice skating session under the stars, followed by hot chocolate next to a cozy fireplace?
Other times of the year, Gatineau Park is a go-to for long, peaceful walks in a tranquil setting. Or prefer the crowds? ByWard Market is full of shops and food that you’ll delight in exploring together.
10. Key West, FL
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Spring, especially March through May, will keep you out of the busiest season (winter) and hurricane season (which peaks between August and October).
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Talk about a honeymoon destination! This tropical getaway has beaches, snorkeling, kayaking and more, including historic architecture. The nightly Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square is where crowds congregate to watch the spectacular colors as the sun sinks over the Gulf of Mexico, an other-worldly experience for couples.
And, if you’re lucky, a butterfly might land on you at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Tickets are $12, but admiring hundreds of butterfly species as they flutter around you and your partner is priceless.
So, take a break from your daily routine: Grab your significant other and head to one of these top destinations for couples. Remember, true love isn’t about diamond rings and expensive wine. It’s about the shared memories forged through your own experiences.
Wherever you go, you’ll be making those memories together — and by the end of the weekend, you’ll be closer than ever. And to find the very cheapest travel deals, remember to turn to Wanderu. Compare routes, schedules and prices on bus and train fares across the United States (and Europe!), and book your tickets on a single platform without paying a premium. Just download the Wanderu app or visit Wanderu.com to start your search.