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Flowers, chocolates, Champagne and … Mickey Mouse?

If Disney characters don’t exactly top your list of prerequisites for romance, you might be surprised by the findings of a recent Orbitz survey on Valentine’s Day travel. Based on bookings for the coming weekend, the site named its three most popular destinations for Valentine’s Day getaways: Las Vegas, Orlando and Cancun.

I’m not too shocked that Sin City made the list, considering that some 100,000 couples tie the knot there each year. But fighting the kiddie hordes at Disney World or getting trashed with a bunch of coeds in Cancun doesn’t really strike me as the epitome of romance.

If you’re dreaming of a getaway just for two, uncluttered by casinos and crowds, we have a few less-traveled alternatives to recommend:

1. For a truly serene desert getaway, forget about Las Vegas and head for Sedona, Arizona. Winter is one of the quietest times of year here, and the area’s trademark red rocks are often lightly dusted with snow. This is the perfect season for you and your partner to cozy up together in a romantic bed and breakfast, or indulge in a couples’ massage at one of the area’s many spas.

sedona red rocks snow winter arizona


2. Just a few hours southwest of Orlando, the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island feel a world away. By day, you can go kayaking, explore the secluded shores of Lovers Key and collect seashells as mementos of your trip (this part of Florida is one of the country’s best spots for shelling). By night, you can sit on the sand with your sweetheart and watch the sun sink down into the Gulf of Mexico. Learn more in Florida’s Many Faces and Places.

fort myers beach florida


3. Skip the mega-resorts and hard-partying atmosphere of Cancun and head instead to St. John, the least developed of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Two-thirds of the island is protected within Virgin Islands National Park, including the soft sands of Trunk Bay; its calm, clear waters and wide, white beach make this a perfect spot for snorkeling, swimming and relaxing in the sand. Couples can go hiking in the national park or take a scenic horseback ride through the mountains. Learn more in St. John Essentials.

trunk bay st john usvi


Don’t miss our Seven Secrets for a More Romantic Trip.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Thanks, Jack.

I’m talking about Jack LaLanne, the fitness pioneer who died Sunday at age 96. I have a few years to go before I hit that milestone (well, five decades), but you have to hand it to the guy: he knew how to keep it healthy. And he was an “exercise guru” before anyone really knew what that term meant.

I remember watching Jack on TV as a kid, doing jumping jacks in sync with the chiseled marvel. Today, I struggle to touch my toes. But adventure travelers should look to Jack for inspiration, because nothing can be more ruinous on a vacation than not being prepared for the rigors of a particular destination.

I’m thinking back to a trip I took eight years ago to the Galapagos. I still feel badly for the older travelers among the 29 explorers on our boat — by the end of a strenuous seven-day sail among the islands, three were so worn out they refused to leave the vessel. While the rest of us were looking at blue-footed boobies, they sat on deck chairs staring out to sea. I remember the wildlife expert assigned to the ship bemoaning the fact that they’d blown a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Fast-forward a few years to the Grand Canyon. For months, I’d been preparing for a rim-to-rim trek, working out five days a week, going for miles-long hikes around Washington D.C. and walking seven miles to work with a fully loaded backpack. It wasn’t enough. By the time I reached Phantom Ranch in the bowels of the canyon, my left knee was throbbing, my back aching. The 105-degree temperatures didn’t help. I can’t remember much about getting out of the canyon the next day, except that it was excruciating.

grand canyon


Two years later, I did it again, this time preparing twice as long and arriving with better hiking poles, knee braces and a more realistic attitude. Ok, I battled a stomach bug the night before, but I still made it down in good time — and pain-free.

Now I’m preparing to do it again. I just joined a gym, I’m hiking on the riverside trail that edges my backyard and I’ve taken those knee braces out of storage. All I have to do now is get reservations at Phantom Ranch, which is easier said than done, alas, but well worth the effort.

And Jack? Something tells me that at my age, Mr. LaLanne could have made the hike blindfolded and shoeless — and he sure could do a mean jumping jack.

– written by John Deiner