Hey guys, what I'm about to tell you, I'm about to tell you for your own good, not to sound preachy or to kiss anyone's ass. One of the reasons I'm married to my wife today is because early on in our relationship -- say, three months in when we were in that will-we-or-won't-we-really-commit stage -- I took a leap and planned a weekend in Niagara Falls. And it was all a surprise. Well, I told her to pack a bag for a few days and that I was picking her up early from work. Of course, I called her boss first and made sure that was okay. If you are rolling your eyes right now, I understand. But if you've ever been at that stage of a relationship where all you want to do is hang out with her (and let's be honest -- have lots of sex), then you're nodding your head and thinking, yeah, maybe this is a good idea.
So I'm going to tell you about how I planned this particular weekend, and different variations you could incorporate into a similar plan. Suffice it to say, that weekend wasn't the only romantic getaway we had during the first few years, before and after tying the proverbial knot, but it may be the most memorable.
Anyway, this was when we lived in Cleveland, and Niagara Falls was about three-plus hours away. A coworker had told me about a recent weekend when he had taken his wife to Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is a small town about 15-20 minutes up the river from the Falls, on the Canadian side. There are about a bazillion bed and breakfasts, if that's your sort of thing; or hotels, and there are rates for just about every budget. You may not find a destination that is classically romantic like Niagara Falls, but there are little towns like this all over the country. You just have to do some research.
So I made reservations in advance for a bed and breakfast that was in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but slightly off the beaten path from the main drag. Now, these bed and breakfasts are not for everyone -- they sometimes require you to have breakfast as a "family" with other people staying there, but not always. And the best part is that their service is incredibly personal. I think the place we stayed at had three guest rooms, and I got the one with the whirlpool bath. Yeah, baby. I also called ahead and ordered flowers, champagne and chocolates to be in the room waiting for her. Well, for us. These folks went one better and arranged the chocolates in the shape of a heart. Ladies and gentlemen, I had sealed the deal right then and there. I remember when we walked in, we were frazzled from getting lost and arrived late, but she was blown away by the flowers and such -- or, I should say, was blown away that I had thought ahead and did that. Of course, this was just the start.
Usually, you don't have to plan ahead for breakfasts when you're out of town, because most hotels now have free or convenient breakfast, or if you're at a bed and breakfast, it's one of the perks that they enjoy serving for guests. But you should figure out where you're having dinner. Assuming you are doing a Friday night to Sunday morning thing, you might want to make dinner reservations for both nights, or at least for Saturday night. Fridays are sometimes fun to explore and find something together. And it doesn't have to be fancy to be romantic. When we celebrated our first anniversary, we were living in Nashville at the time, and we went to Memphis for the weekend and stumbled upon Rendezvous, the renowned rib joint. We had some ribs, then walked up and down Beale St. drinking what were basically alcoholic slurpees and listening to great live music. In both the Niagara Falls and Memphis trips, I found really nice restaurants and made reservations ahead of time.
It's also important that, even if you don't make reservations to do things during the day, you at least research the town you're going to be in and see what they have going on. Niagara-on-the-Lake has a theater, so we caught a show before dinner. We also checked out some wineries (you can actually do this on bike!), and the following morning on our way home we took in the falls themselves and then went on a helicopter tour.
Of course, these days a trip like that, even if you're driving there and back, will set you back between $500 and $1000, so make sure you budget for it and don't break your own bank. Either way -- trust me on this -- if you want the relationship to progress, you will have just taken some crucial steps in making that happen.
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