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Romantic getaways can be found close to home and out West

"At last, I'm safe from holidays and special occasions," I said to myself as I was doing my errands right after New Year's. My neighborhood dollar store put the kibosh on that feeling. As I pushed my cart, I came upon the store's seasonal aisle. Tables that were once filled with mini Christmas trees were replaced with heart-shaped boxes containing sweets. It was all a reminder that I needed to do something for Valentine's Day. Since sweets are forbidden in our house, due to dietary restrictions, I like to take romantic trips.

Romance in Augusta

If you're looking for an affordable, quiet getaway, Augusta is the answer. Augusta has grown in recent years, but not too much. The city that's known for the Masters Tournament has been going through a downtown revitalization that includes new shops, restaurants and its romantic Riverwalk that overlooks the Savannah River.

When you visit Augusta, take a romantic stroll down the long path at Riverwalk. Follow that walk with a meal at the nearby Boll Weevil or Blue Sky Kitchen restaurants. The Tuna Carpaccio dish is popular at the Boll Weevil, while the Mojo Shrimp and Rice take center stage at Blue Sky.

If you plan to stay overnight, many hotels, including the historic Partridge Inn on Walton Way in the tree-lined Summerville neighborhood, offer Valentine's Day packages. The Partridge Inn is a renovated building from the late 1800s which sits on a hilltop that provides sweeping views of the city.

While the Partridge Inn's staff boasts about their comfortable rooms, high-speed Internet connection, and pool, I was sold on the Verandah Grill. To me, nothing makes a weekend more romantic than dining on their Valentine's Day meal, which includes dishes like Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut and White Chocolate Passion Fruit Mousse for dessert.

For Valentine's Day, the Partridge Inn offers the "Amour Package," which includes accommodations, dinner, a bottle of champagne, an assortment of chocolates, a keepsake pair of champagne flutes and a long-stemmed rose.

Love is in the "thinner" air

If you have the time, funds and energy, look into a romantic ski getaway. Park City, Utah, is my favorite ski destination because it isn't crowded like other resorts, and the area is simple to navigate.

To get to the town - which also holds the annual Sundance Film Festival - you must book a flight to Salt Lake City's airport, which is only 40 minutes to Park City. Driving from the airport to Park City is easy, but I prefer to take the Park City Transportation shuttle to my hotel. The last time I visited, I checked into the Canyons Grand Summit Hotel, home to cozy suites with fluffy beds, state-of-the-art kitchens and fireplaces where couples can warm up with hot cocoa after a day of skiing.

Whether you are a beginning or advanced skier, there's a slope for you at the Canyons. Since my wife and I have little skiing experience, we were grateful for the resort's accommodations, including easy access to its lifts and a ski equipment storage room.

The Ski Butlers made our experience in Park City even more enjoyable. The Ski Butlers provide everything you need for your skiing adventure. Tell them what you want over the phone, and they deliver the goods to you in a timely manner.

When you're not on the slopes, hit Park City's main street, which is home to a number of shops and restaurants, including filmmaker Robert Redford's Zoom, Jean Louis and The Riverhorse.

Gorgeous Greenville

If skiing is not your idea of a romantic getaway, drive up the road to Greenville, S.C. Just like Augusta, Greenville has been sprucing up its downtown. When I arrived in Greenville, I was amazed to find that this metropolis has more than 50 shops and restaurants in its downtown area.

The Westin Poinsett Hotel is my property of choice for a romantic weekend. This hotel has everything you would expect from a Westin, including a stylish lobby, elegant king and junior suites and a great restaurant. At this Westin, the popular Spoonbread restaurant attracts locals and visitors alike.

You can't beat the Westin's location. The Bi-Lo Center, The Peace Center for the Performing Arts and the Greenville County Museum of Art are close by. Admission to the public art museum is free. This museum's collection contains only American art and is currently displaying the works of Andrew Wyeth and South Carolinian Jasper Johns.

After walking through the art museum, visit Trio: A Brick Oven Café. Duck Sausage and Penne Pasta, Smoked Norwegian Salmon and Bow Ties and a selection of wood-fired pizza are all delectable dishes that draw patrons here on a regular basis.

Romance for anyone

So this year, forget about the box of chocolates, and hit the road or take to the sky for a romantic escape.

SideBar: More Info

The Partridge Inn

www.partridgeinn.com

1-800-476-6888

The Canyons Grand Summit Hotel

http://www.thecanyons.com/grand_summit.html

Ski Butlers

www.skibutlers.com

The Westin Poinsett

www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1255