February 2011 Issue
Find the perfect weekend at these romantic destinations.
Where to Stay: The Renaissance Cleveland Hotel
Even when times are tough Clevelanders love their town, and for good reason: Once one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, the city is loaded with enough cultural and architectural history to steal the heart of any visitor. For a historic stay in the heart of it all, the landmark Renaissance Cleveland Hotel is the place. The romantic details — including the lobby’s marble fountain (mined from the same quarry as Michelangelo’s “David”) and grand staircase — plus the comfortable, modern rooms, are outshined only by the gracious staff that seem to have a genuine interest in making your stay enjoyable.
For the best scenery, book a “city view” room overlooking Public Square — the shores of Lake Erie and the rest of the cityscape in the distance might inspire the two of you to hit the town. If so, visit cityprowl.com and download one of the site’s five self-guided audio walking tours of the downtown area (the Public Square tour starts just steps from the hotel’s entrance). Each excursion takes about 40 minutes, and will leave you amazed by how much history happened right outside the hotel’s door. When you’re done, keep walking to East 4th Street and check out Chinato, the newest restaurant from local chef Zack Bruell. Named for an herb-infused digestif popular in Italy’s Piedmont region, the restaurant’s extensive Italian wine list is amore in a glass. Starting at $149 per night.
Where to Eat: Lola
Celebrity chef Michael Symon’s heart belongs to Cleveland, and at Lola, Symon’s ultra-chic East 4th Street restaurant, the native son bears his soul on every plate. Dishes like the beef cheek pierogi with mushrooms and horseradish crème fraiche speak to his local roots, but artfully prepared entrees like the rib-eye steak with smoked garlic bone marrow butter remind you why he was crowned Iron Chef.
What to Do: PlayhouseSquare
Cleveland’s theater scene is top-notch, and the eight performance venues in its theater district, PlayhouseSquare, make it the country’s largest performing arts center outside New York City. On February 13, pop singer, songwriter and producer Richard Marx (best known for his love-inspired hits such as “Right Here Waiting” and “Endless Summer Nights”) teams up with Matt Scannell, lead singer of the band Vertical Horizon, for an intimate evening of music. For a complete performance schedule, visit
Where to Stay: The Cincinnatian
This elegant boutique hotel in the heart of the Queen City dates to 1882, when the eight-story, French Second Empire-style structure was considered the grandest in Cincinnati. Despite a major remodel in 1987, The Cincinnatian retains its most dignified elements, notably the lobby’s magnificent marble-and-walnut grand staircase. Naturally, the hotel has become the city’s go-to spot for special occasions, with a full-time concierge ready to assist with a horse-drawn carriage ride, silk-rose-petal turndown or other romantic surprise. Deep soaking tubs and Italian tile are among the amenities, but book a whirlpool balcony suite to enjoy a cozy breakfast for two on a private indoor balcony overlooking the hotel’s eight-story atrium. From $149 per night.
Where to Eat: The Palace
Like The Cincinnatian, The Palace — the hotel’s in-house restaurant — is one of the city’s most romantic spots. Executive Chef Jose Salazar trained in the restaurants of culinary icon Thomas Keller, and his contemporary menu expresses the creativity and finesse rarely born outside this level of experience. On Valentine’s Day, cap your meal with a decadent dark-and-milk-chocolate Chambord tartlet with crushed raspberry sauce from the restaurant’s equally talented pastry chef. It bears mentioning that plates are delivered to your table under silver cloches, so if a dramatic presentation of a surprise piece of jewelry is in your plans this Valentine’s Day, this is a good bet.
What to Do: The Cincinnati Pops
What could be more romantic than a live performance of “Moon River” during Valentine’s Day weekend — especially when Monica Mancini, daughter of the piece’s famed musical composer, Henry Mancini, delivers that performance? Mancini joins the Cincinnati Pops on Feb. 11, 12 and 13 to perform this and other classics from her father’s remarkable legacy.
Where to Stay: Hilton Columbus at Easton
Posh surroundings and A-list service at a big-city hotel usually require a downtown address. But the luxuriously appointed Hilton Columbus at Easton defies every stereotype of chain accommodations in a suburban locale. You’ll sink into the soft linens (standard in every room) and appreciate the option of breakfast delivered to your door the next morning. After a day of shopping, retreat to the dramatic indoor pool, where floor-to-ceiling windows fill the room with natural light. You can get a cocktail “to go” from the lobby bar and sip it poolside, or enjoy a pre-dinner drink by the fire in the homey lobby lounge. Starting at $199 per night.
What to Do: Shadowbox Live
Of her 50-year marriage to actor Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward famously said, “sexiness wears thin after awhile and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh everyday, ah, now that’s a real treat.” A few doors down from the Ocean Club, Shadowbox Live mixes sketch comedy with rock and roll for a high-energy production that will have you laughing together. This month, the cast performs “The Naked Truth,” a racy comedy about what goes on behind closed doors.
Where to Eat: Mitchell's Ocean Club
Restaurateur Cameron Mitchell is known for his go-big-or-go-home style of dining, and at Mitchell’s Ocean Club, elegant banquettes and live piano music on weekends make every evening feel like a special occasion. Start with colossal shrimp and briny oysters from the raw bar, then dive into perfectly executed fish or steaks. A la carte sides are big enough to share and nine different potato options — including jalapeno au gratin, garlic mashed and latkes with apple sauce and sour cream — make overdoing it almost a given. Add to the swank with an updated take on a vintage cocktail: The passion martini (blended with passion fruit puree) will make you thankful Prohibition was repealed.
Where to Stay: The Glass House
The rural Hocking Hills has become an unexpected destination for luxury lodging, compounded by views you can’t put a price on. One of the newest spots for a grand getaway is the uber-modern Glass House. Tucked into 50 secluded acres off St. Rte. 664 South, it features amenities such as his-and-hers massage chairs adjacent to the indoor serenity pond, vaulted ceilings and unobstructed views of the gorge from the back deck, guaranteeing that your stress will melt away faster than the snow on your hiking boots. The 2,000-plus-square-foot property also is equipped with geothermal heating, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and other green materials, making this a romantic getaway you can feel good about. From $489 per night.
Where to Eat: Flutes & Peppercorns
When the hills get snowy, it’s tempting to let the locals do the legwork. If staying in sounds like the perfect evening, call Chef Mary at Flutes & Peppercorns in McArthur. For $21.40 per person (which includes the delivery fee) she’ll bring a three-course, made-from-scratch dinner — she even makes her own vanilla — for two to your door. Her menus include hearty comfort foods such as red-wine-braised roast beef and baked fettuccini Alfredo, but she’ll fulfill just about any menu request if you give her ample notice.
What to Do: Blue Valley Massage
The forested hills reveal their magic in the winter, making this one of the most peaceful times of the year for a walk in the woods. The property’s 50 acres is suited for short walks, or gear up and take a long hike starting at Old Man’s Cave, which is just two miles down the road. If you’re not the outdoor type, Blue Valley Massage will bring their healing spa facials, pedicures, hot stone treatments or massages to you. Still can’t shake the stress of the workweek? Get centered with an hour-long private yoga session with one of Blue Valley’s expert instructors.