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Pilots share their top romantic destinationsPilots share their top romantic destinations

Move over, Cupid: These pilots know how to go all out to woo their true love! Instead of a bow and arrow, they use an airplane or helicopter.

Island hopping

Spectacular views like this await at Friday Harbor, a great romantic getaway. Photo by Mike Fizer.

We asked pilots to share their favorite romantic getaways to give you some fresh ideas for Valentine’s Day or other special occasions like a birthday, anniversary, or babymoon. Pilots are a romantic bunch! Here are their suggestions.

Dinner date

Fly to Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky, to dine at Bistro Le Relais, “a [quiet], romantic, upscale French restaurant located inside the old historic terminal building next to Cardinal Aviation. The décor is 1940's art-deco and the food exquisite. Be sure to plan though, as reservations are required well in advance.” We agree—for a “taste” of Bistro Le Relais and some ideas of other things you can do in the area, check out “Louisville is Lovely.”

Magical day

Just 50 miles from New York City, the European-style Glenmere Mansion was dubbed No. 1 in Hideaways.com’s Top 10 Most Romantic Hideaways for 2011. Stay at the luxury 18-room hotel and spa or make reservations for dinner. “A few years ago, I took my wife to Glenmere Mansion in New York. She was about 6 months pregnant, and I felt like this was something fun and romantic to do before we have our child. It was wonderful. All the ‘rich’ people there came out to see who landed the helicopter in the front lawn of the resort. We truly made the ‘grand entrance’ there. After that, we had a very romantic outdoor dinner with great views, sans alcohol, of course. That was truly a magical day!” If you won’t be arriving by helicopter, fly into New York Stewart International, a Class D airport about a 30-minute drive away.

Beautiful sunsets

Overlook the Pacific Ocean from your room, walk along Black Sands Beach and the Lost Coast, hike in the Rockefeller forest, or tour the Cape Mendocino lighthouse during your stay at the Spy Glass Inn at Shelter Cove. Book early—it only has four rooms. Perched on a cliff, it’s a “wonderful place to bicycle or just walk. Or just sit on the balcony and watch the birds (whales in season). Enjoy the beautiful sunsets. The hotel will meet you at the airport (half a mile away) and take you and your bags to and from your room.” Fly in to Shelter Cove Airport, and when you book your reservation, let the staff know you will be flying in. They will waive their cancellation fees if you have to cancel or postpone because of the weather. Speaking of…“Watch the weather. You might get fogged in… (Oh darn! :) ).” For more in the area, check out this Fly-Outs article about Shelter Cove.

Further south, the Spindrift Inn at Monterey, California, “is on the water and has fireplaces in the room,” making it a go-to romantic getaway for one pilot and his wife. The boutique hotel is offering special packages for the month of February because, as it says, “Valentine’s Day isn’t just a one-day affair!” Spindrift Inn has made the top 10 list of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for Best Hotel for Romance in the United States for three years in a row. Fly into Monterey Regional Airport about five miles away.

Birthday weekend

“Picked up my destined to be Mrs. for her 2014 Birthday weekend.” After a flight in a Van’s Aircraft RV–7 from Denver, along the Front Range of the Rockies to Las Vegas, the two headed to Santa Fe. “I had made arrangements at The Hacienda Hotel,” where the two spent three “blissful days there enjoying the amenities of the hotel (i.e., swimming pool, hot tub, awesome restaurant, very nice folks, other visitors' pups, [cool] Mini Cooper Wagon shuttle, and a wonderful on-site couples massage), as well as touring the city, taking in the sights, markets, shops, superb dinner fare, etc.” Now married, it’s a trip they want to repeat! Santa Fe Municipal Airport is one our favorites too—we even hosted a fly-in there in 2018!

Wine tasting

“Some of the finest restaurants on the West Coast are within walking distance” of the Bardessono Spa Hotel near Napa, California. “Bikes are available for a ride to (and walk back from) many wineries for tastings. And each hotel room is equipped with spa tables so that you and your partner can enjoy a massage in the privacy of your room.” The spa hotel has won numerous accolades, most recently TripAdvisor’s 2019 Certificate of Excellence and Forbes Travel Guide 2019 Four Star Award. Fly in to the Napa County Airport.

Fine dining, fine views

After flying a helicopter to a friend’s house near Boulder, Colorado, this pilot offers up a double date to the Flagstaff House. “We usually drive with him and his wife the 3 minutes to the Valet parking and an unbelievable night out! Dinner costs more than the hourly rate on the helicopter use but is worth every minute!!!!” Flagstaff House was originally built as a summer cabin in 1929 and turned into an “elegant summer restaurant” in 1954, according to the website. Perched atop Flagstaff Mountain, it is now open year-round, boasting magnificent views during any season. If you won’t be flying a helicopter and landing at your friend’s house, fly into Boulder Municipal Airport, less than 10 miles away.

Quirky, artsy community

Eureka Springs, Arkansas, isn’t “the most romantic place if you are thinking of fancy dinners, long walks on the beach, or messing around in the dunes, but, it's a fun, relaxing place with a plethora of dining choices.” It’s a “quirky, artsy community filled with friendly people, lots of art, hotels, B and B's, places to eat, bars, etc.” and is a convenient flight for most in the Midwest. Fly in to Carroll County Airport to start your getaway in the Ozark Mountains.

Island hopping

California’s Catalina Island received two nominations from pilots, one dubbing it “our most romantic flight.” Land at the Catalina Airport, also called the Airport in the Sky, about 1,600 feet above the ocean. The airport’s runway was redone in 2019, welcoming you for a smooth arrival. “Avalon, the little town on Santa Catalina Island, only ‘Twenty-six miles across the sea,’ is an idyllic California destination popularized in movies, music, and on TV… A shuttle will take you down the winding trail past grazing buffalo to the oceanside site with shops and restaurants for fun and frolic. The ‘Casino’ hosts concerts, dances, and a list of events available online. Lodging is available for a romantic overnighter, but is best booked well ahead of your visit. If you depart near sunset, the mainland coastline gives a stunning view available to proud pilots and their lucky [passengers].” This is another of our favorites as well—many AOPA editors and video producers have flown here (watch a landing), and we even sponsored a fly-out to the island after our Camarillo, California, fly-in. You can’t go wrong coming here for a fun, romantic date!

Pilot’s paradise

“We love Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, [Washington] for a romantic getaway. Bike or walk most places or ride the shuttle to visit lavender fields and scenic Roche Harbor. Bring passports and take the ferry to Victoria BC for tea at the Empress Hotel and a tour of Butchart Gardens.” There’s plenty to see and do on the San Juan Islands—we take you on a video tour in this AOPA Pilot feature. Fly in to Friday Harbor Airport, or Friday Harbor Seaplane Base.

Midwestern resort

“My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful Valentine's weekend at the beautiful West Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick, Indiana… This national history landmark hotel has amazing history. During Prohibition, a train ran from Chicago direct to the hotel for people like Al Capone and others with shady sources of wealth. Later it served as a monastery. Today the hotel has been restored to its former glory. After you check in at the front desk in the beautiful lobby, you will proceed to the amazing atrium. The marble floor at the entry to the atrium is literally worn by the feet of every visitor as they stop there and look up in amazement at the rotunda dome and atrium. My English friends use the word ‘gobsmacked’ to describe the experience. Our luxurious room was very comfortable with French doors that opened onto a balcony with a beautiful view of the atrium and rotunda dome. In the early evening we enjoyed live music and a glass of wine in the atrium before going to dinner. The hotel has both fine and casual dining and there is a nearby casino with additional dining options.” Fly into the French Lick Municipal Airport, and the hotel will provide transportation.

New England daytrip

“My favorite getaway is the tip of Cape Cod. The airport in Provincetown is very accessible and just a short cab ride from downtown Provincetown and Truro, and it is across the street from the National Sea Shore. The restaurants and galleries in that area are always a treat, and the harbor is an active commercial fishing port. It's always a great day trip, and there are hotels and B&B's available as well. The area is a ‘quaint old fashion’ New England fishing village with lots to see and do….the best of the old and new.”

Long walks on the beach

A lot of people might describe their fantasy date as involving a romantic walk on the beach. If that’s true for your or your loved one, you’ll want to visit St. Simons Island or Jekyll Island in Georgia. If you fly into St. Simons Island Airport, “Head over to the King and Prince Resort for a dinner overlooking the Atlantic followed by a romantic stroll along the beach.” Jekyll Island offers the Jekyll Island Club, which is close to the Jekyll Island Airport. “We love going to Jekyll Island,” one pilot wrote. The island is a popular choice, as it is often dubbed “a Southerner’s ‘go to’ for affordable family vacations.” And if you don’t want to walk on the beach—how about a horseback ride?

‘Romance personified’

What could be better than snuggling by a fireplace, enjoying an outdoor jacuzzi, hiking, and watching wildlife? One pilot says Mount Magazine State Park in central Arkansas is “romance personified!” “Views are breathtaking” from the lodge or cabins that overlook a valley. ArkansasStateParks.com describes it as “a place of relaxation, exploration, and nature study.” For adventurers, there’s also “mountain biking, horseback riding, back-packing, and ATV riding,” according to the Arkansas State Parks website. Fly into either Danville Municipal Airport or Paris Municipal Airport.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
Topics: Travel, US Travel

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