4 Best U.S. Vacation Destinations For Couples To Explore In 2020

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4 Best U.S. Vacation Destinations For Couples To Explore In 2020
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Traveling across the Atlantic or Pacific to parts unknown certainly has its appeal (just ask the late and great Anthony Bourdain) but to dismiss destinations within our own borders would be to a disservice to America, the beautiful, America, the vast, America, the plenty ... of places to go! And since the beginning of a new decade is an ideal time for daydreaming and goal-setting about what the year — and the next ten years! — ahead may bring, it's high-time to highlight a few of our favorite continental cities that are certainly worth a visit if you haven't been. (And if you have? Awesome. They're certainly worth another trip.) So request those vaca days now and get to day-dreaming. Like we did in 2019, we're highlighting four of our favorite American cities to check off your list in 2020 — happy meandering!

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1. Asheville, North Carolina

Why? Funky. Arty. BLUE. (As in mountains.) It's a city with a distinctive personality and progressive viewpoint. It's also chock-full of great restaurants, an incredible craft beer scene, and myriad outdoor activities. It's a city vibrant in all the best ways: an emerging art scene offers seriously impressive DIY mural tours and speaking of seriously impressive, have you ever been to the Omni Grove Park Inn's restaurant at sunset? The same adjectives could be used to describe the outdoor terrace views — at particular hours, it's the literal definiton of 'purple mountains majesty', as evidenced in the photo below. If you're into killer views, you've also got the Blue Rige Parkway at your doorstep, a drivable 469-mile adventure of magnificent natural beauty where the only questions you have to concern yourself with are: North or South? and: Did we fill up on gas? 

Where to stay? Whether you plan to visit the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, explore the iconic Biltmore, or hike one of their many scenic trails, from Chimney Rock to Mount Pisgah, the best of Asheville is easily accessible at the AC Hotel Asheville. The hotel's 'Capella on 9' rooftop, where they serve breakfast and evening cocktails, has an outdoor wrap-around balcony, featuring stunning views of the city's movie-set-like mountain backdrop.

What to do:

1. Visit the Biltmore. The Biltmore, once the luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt is a marvel of elegance and charm, as magnificent today as it was more than a century ago. Faithfully preserved and filled with original furnishings and masterpieces of art, no other residence in America offers a more authentic and inspiring view of Gilded Age life. Don't miss the Downton Abbey exhibit, the indoor/outdoor winery in the heart of Antler Hill Village, or exploring the estate via their more than 20 miles (!) of bike trails — no matter your travel pace or interest, there's plenty of activities to create a perfectly-tailored Biltmore experience that'll instantly take you back in time.

2. Have dinner at the Red Stag Grill.  Red Stag Grill, the rusticly chic (yes, there's such a vibe) hunting lodge at the Grand Bohemian Hotel is where European comfort food awaits you. We recommend the elk carpaccio with lusty monk mustard aïoli, the wild board osso bucco, and the bohemian hunt board. Pair your meal with a bottle of their own Kessler blend amid a sultry dining ambiance; think low-lighting, a cracking fire, and lots and lots of leather.

3. Soar atop the Blue Ridge Mountains. Feel like a bird (or Superman, for that matter) by booking a treetop tour with Navitat Canopy Adventures: you'll zipline from tree-to-free, cross sky bridges, and rappel from the forest floor on a one-of-a-kind eco-journey. (All the ziplines will get your heart-racing but hold your breath for the last one, where you'll zip so fast, your brain makes you feel like you're actually moving in slow-motion: it's a wild and weird mind-trick.) Plus, the friendly guides are all super-knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is a fun, educational addition.

4. Make your own glass tumblers at a glass-blowing class. If you've ever wanted to try your hand at glass-blowing, get thee a pair of safety goggles and turn up the HEAT (literally and figuratively) at North Carolina Glass Center in the RIver Arts District AKA RAD, which is also a literal description of the entire area. (Asheville is home to a thriving creative hub along the French Broad river: former warehouses and mills now house indie art galleries and studios, many with technicolor, eye-popping murals adorning their storefronts. (For a more in-depth art tour where you can chat with local artists, book an Asheville Art Studios Tour — ask for Tony! — and when you're done, reward yourself with a brew. Asheville's craft beer scene is ridiculous, as in ridiculously-GOOD — we recommend Wedge Brewing for its quality small batch beers and funky vibes (See: Signs made out Barbie parts.

5. Meditate via sound at Skinny Beats sound shop. If you're interested in an atypical meditation experience, Billy Zanski, owner of Skinny Beats, will lead you in a sound healing session using crystal bowls, gongs, harps, and several other instruments to create a peaceful atmospheric soundscape that assisst in relaxation and healing. (He also offers Djembe drum classes, if dropping a sick beat is more your vaca style.) 

RELATED: 5 Best U.S. Vacation Destinations For Couples To Explore In 2019

2. Scottsdale, Arizona

Why? An arid, dry climate that makes winters delightful and even the warmest summer temperatures bearable. Luxuriously romantic resorts offer crystal-clear, starry night skies: something congested cities can't compete with, no matter how beautiful a day it is. Mountains for drama — the good kind of drama. Copious golf courses, hiking trails, and spas. The vast — and frankly, overwhelming — beauty of the Sonoran desert, as seen from 3,000 feet up in the air. A charming walkable dowtown area rife with olive trees and wine bars. The desert city is an unparalled destination for romance and for every personality from sports-lover (baseball spring training!) to architecture aficionado (Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's former home and studio.

Where to stay? A 65-acre resort, the Fairmont Princess truly evokes well-being and relaxation: two things every overworked vacationer seeks. Think: sunny, sparkling pools (6 of them!), world-class golf courses, impeccable grounds, and a spa that's truly on another level of luxury: you could spend an entire day traipsing between the waterfall grotto, cold plunge, and open-air outdoor pool. After you've worked up a sweat or found your zen (or perhaps both!) margaritas and Mexican await at La Hacienda — for the sippers, the in-house Tequila Goddess will visit you table-side to make recs on the more than 200 (!) tequilas on offer.

What to do:

1. Wine-taste at Merkin Vineyards in Old Town Scottsdale. Treat yourself to some AZ vino at Merkin Vineyards, which just opened in March 2019 by owner and winemaker MJ Keenan, who you may also know as a Grammy award-winining vocalist from Tool or A Perfect Circle. All of Merkin's wines — predominantly Italian and Spanish varieties — are produced from fruit grown on their 70-acre vineyard in Wilcox, AZ and the resaturant has an extensive farm-to-table menu to pair: whatever they don't grow locally in their Verde Valley, they source from local farmers. 

2. Dine amid the mountains at LON'S. Set in Scottsdale's picturesque Paradise Valley (a literal descriptor, to be sure) and surrounded by adobe, LON's at the Hermosa Inn from  executive chef Jeremy Pacheco is about as rustically romantic as it gets and the service is 5-stars. (We'd give it 6 if we could.) An ornate water fixture is the centerpiece of the restaurant, which is dramatically flanked by cozy fireplaces which warm up even the coolest of desert evenings — of which their are very few! For an even more opulent experience, book a private candlelit dinner in LON'S wine cellar, featuring 1890s Chicago brick, reclaimed beams, and trusses. The entire farm-to-table menu is decadent, but don't leave without trying the Sonoma duck.

3. Check off a bucket list life item ... by hot air ballooning through the Arizona desert. You'll feel like your off to see the Wizard with Hot Air Expeditions. Picture floating 3,000 feet in the air over the dazzling Sonoran Desert in a peaceful trance (fear not, the pilot's paying attention) featuring 360-degree valley views. (For the photographers in the group, this is a cannot-miss.) Where you land? Well, that's sort of up to the wind. (Don't worry, the desert is impressively vast.) Once you arrive safely on the ground, brunch awaits you in the middle of the desert where your only company is your fellow riders and some of the largest cacti you'll ever lay eyes on. Bonus: The sunrise flight means you'll arise early enough to catch the Sonoran sunrise: it's a view that no editor, no matter how astute their writing skill, can aptly describe.

4. Brunch at elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain. Start your morning off right by sleeping in — then head to brunch at Food Network star Beau McMillan's restaurant, elements, which has the distinction of being both delicious (try the cinnamon bun pancakes for decadence or pumpkin-spiced yogurt parfait) and dramatic: you'll dine overlooking the resort's infinity pool and Paradise Valley (they also serve dinner and sunset is a cluch time to go for obvious reasons.) 

5. Explode your mind at Wonderspaces. A new home for extraordinary (and sometimes bizarre) art — don't miss the skull leaking black venom; it's as wild and freaky as it sounds — Wonderspaces is a giant installation that partners with artists from around the world to deliver truly unique art experiences. Each of the installations is immersive, so prepare all your senses to be overloaded as you float from room to room, taking it all in. 

3. Bozeman, Montana

Why? Nature, nature, nature. If you're an outdoor enthusisast, mountain lover (the flight into Bozeman is a nice preview of what's to come) or an up-for-anything adventurer, Montana is for YOU. Plus, you've got Yellowstone at your doorstep — which is a full expedition in an of itself — and myriad day-trip options ranging from fly-fishing to river rafting to hot springing (yes, we're using that as a verb).

Where to stay? Nestled on the banks of the Yellowstone River (and about an hour outside of Bozeman), Sage Lodge is a new, one-of-a-kind luxury lodge for travelers seeking a lavish Montana getaway. Upon entering, jaws will gape at the floor-to-ceiling windows that show off Sage's peaks (a view you can also take in by cuddling up near one of their outdoor fire pits, in the hottub, or within the spa's sauna, which they've genius-ely adorned with a glass window so you can shivtz in style.) The oversized chairs and couches throughout the lobby are pure comfort and so is the hearty restaurant fare and in-room fireplaces. Sage's vibe is ruggedly snug and cozy. For a pit stop, head down the street to The Old Saloon, which used to service the rail line passing through the Paradise Valley en route to Yellowstone since 1902 (and still has clapboard doors, like the ones you see in old Westerns) for drinks and deer butts

What to do?

1. Encouter grizzlies up-close at the Montana Grizzly Encounter Founded in 2004, the Montana Grizzly Encounter provides a spacious and natural home for rescued grizzlies. At the same time it offers lucky folks a place to come and learn about grizzly bears up, close and personal and we've gotta tell you: all five bears — Brutus, Sheena, Maggi, Max, and Montana — are as majestic and adorable as you could ever hope for. 

2. Become a fly fisherman for a day. Sage Lodge's guided fishing excursion, which is run by Angler's West Fly Fishing Outfitters, is a full day outing for every fly-fishing enthusiast. Guests will float several of the larger Montana regional rivers including the Yellowstone, Madison, Jefferson, Boulder, and Stillwater, and Yellowstone National Park is just 35 minutes away, so walk and wade fishing opportunities are boundless. For those of you (raises hand) who've never held a fishing rod (much less fly-fished), fear not: the very patient folks at Sage Lodge are more than eager to schedule a private tutorial, where expert fly fishermen will show you how to cast and reel in Sage's backyard lake. (Hint: it's all in the wrist.)

3. Get your caffeine fix at Treeline Coffee Roasters. Started as a frozen food truck after owner Natalie discovered the ancient craft of coffee roasting while traveling across Colombia, Treeline is now a fully-formed roastery in Bozeman's industrial Mill District. Their shop is committed to sourcing high-quality coffees and it's a super-cozy spot to bring a book/laptop and sip an expresso at the coffee bar before the mountains call again — and they always do.

4. Yellowstone National Park. It's, of course, impossible to mention Bozeman without including thee destination most people visit for: Yellowstone National Park, a nearly 3,500-square-mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. Covering three states, Yellowstone features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, wildlife, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. What to do while you're there? More like: what isn't there to do? Yellowstone is Mother Nature at its finest and visiting the park is undoubtedly a USA bucket-list item you can't miss.

5. Nosh on pizza at blackbird. After a long, nature-y day of fly-fishing, snow-shoeing or exploring Yellowstone, you've no doubt worked up an appetite: a carb-friendly one, at that! Do not pass GO and head straight to blackbird for wood-fired pizza, homemade pasta, and frothy post-excursion beers. Salud! (For those looking to fill their tummies pre-adventure, The Western Cafe's a no-brainer for hearty brekky options; just be advised it's first-come, first-serve and there may be a wait — but we promise it's worth it.)

4. Charleston, South Carolina

Why? The low country welcomes nearly four million visitors annually and it's easy to see why: as one of the South's most esteemed cities (and the oldest and largest in South Carolina), Charleston is charm, defined. Cobblestone streeets, historic mansions, share-the-road horse-drawn carriages, and true living history on every street. 

Where to stay? A gorgeously-appointed boutique hotel in the heart of Charleston within walking distance of the historic district, Hotel Bella Grace is a beautiful option to make your home base. After passing by the dramatic entrance features a perfectly-placed mirror — you'll see what we mean upon arrival — which is flanked by regal palm trees, you'll step foot into the circa 1830 Delaney House, a nod to Charleston's architectural history, where a leisurely Southern breakfast on its oversized wrap-around porch awaits.

What to do?

1. Transport yourself back in history at the Nathaniel Russell House. The Nathaniel Russell House Museum offers "a glimpse into the lives of the mercantile elite who flourished in the late Colonial and early Federal period, the artisans and craftspeople they hired to build and adorn their opulent homes, and the enslaved men and women whose forced labor made possible their lavish lifestyles." Don't miss the defining feature of the home: a three-story 'flying' staircase with a paint job that plays tricks on your eyes — look up and you'll see (and if you don't, ask a docent!)

2. Indulge your inner foodie at Wild Common. Executive Chef Orlando Pagán — who hails from Puerto Rico, an influence that touches his every culinary creation — has created custom menus that change daily for an ever-evolving dining experience. If you're the type of traveler who centers their trip around food, you simply can't miss the 4-course tasting menu with wine pairings. For an elevated, extra-special experience, book the Chef's Table, which is available for up to 14 guests and hosted in Wild Common's chic, candle-lit mezzanine.

3. Try a tasty Southern cocktail at Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails. An offshoot of Handcraft NYC, this newly-opened industrial-chic indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar in Charleston's suburban Mt. Pleasant neighborhood is not to miss. They serve up innovative American comfort food and the most refreshingly deeeeeeeelicious (emphasis on the eeeee's) drinks we've ever sipped: Try the 'Honey Be Mine' 21st-century highball: honey vodka, aperol, passionfruit, and elderflower grapefruit soda: We betcha you can't just have one. 

4. Tour the city via Charleston's famed carriage rides. Charleston has the second-largest historic distict in the world (the first being Rome) and one of the best ways to observe it is via an open-air horsedrawn carriage ride. There's a lot of carriage offerings throughout Charleston, but we recommend Palmetto Carriage Works: they're the oldest carriage tour company in the city, grown out of the Big Red Barn (you can't miss it). Before/after, make sure to amble down Meeting Street and wander through Charleston's famed markets where artists galore offer their wares: our favorites were the weaved baskets and the topsy-turvy dolls.

5. Taste the rainbow — or rather, see the rainbow — at Rainbow Row. A photographer's multicolored dream, you simply can't come to Charleston without visiting the prismatic Rainbow Row: thirteen historic Charleston row houses (and the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the state): a perfect backdrop for your Instagram photo. (Cmon, we all 'gram when we travel!) It's located at 79-107 Bay Street.

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Andrea Zimmerman is the editor-at-large at Yourtango. She enjoys reading, traveling, and reading while traveling. Follow her @angiecat86 on Instagram or email her at andreaz@yourtango.com