Natural State of Love

WORDS Marla Cantrell
IMAGES courtesy venues

Jan 1, 2024 | Featured, Travel

Looking for a romantic getaway to wow your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? Breathe, because you have a bigger window this year. Since February 14 falls on a Wednesday, you can celebrate the weekend before, the week of, or the weekend after. You don’t need to travel far; Arkansas is the natural state of love.

Rosemont B&B Cottages
Little Rock, Arkansas

Create your own fairytale in Little Rock. Rosemont B&B Cottages look as if you might stumble across them in an enchanted forest, but they’re in the downtown area and walking distance from entertainment, shops, and restaurants. The one and two-bedroom cottages are private and have a garden, balcony, or porch. Every cottage has a fireplace or radiant heat stove, a double-jetted tub or walk-in shower, a kitchen, or kitchenette. Order breakfast from the menu, and it will be delivered to your cottage, either ready-to-eat or ready to easily prepare.

For Valentine’s Day, owner Susan Maddox has specials. The Lovers Only package includes champagne, chocolates, candles, and bath amenities. The Simply Romantic package comes with wine, chocolates, and candles, and there is a Champagne and Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries option. Finally, the Champagne Service, which includes a chilled bottle of Champagne and two stemmed glasses.

Eateries abound in this area. Guests recommend Mylo’s Coffee and Café Bossa Nova, both on Kavanaugh Boulevard. Located on Main Street, other top dining choices are The Root Café, offering farm-to-table fare, the all-new Bread Cheese Wine featuring elevated grilled cheese sandwiches and a diverse and eclectic wine list, and Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom for incredible pizza, house-made pasta and craft cocktails.

Live music abounds in Little Rock, as do comedy clubs, bars and breweries, and one-of-a-kind cultural centers, like the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. Visit Rock Town Distillery to try their vodka and bourbon cocktails, and Flyway and Lost Forty are two iconic breweries. Head to Pinnacle Mountain State Park for a hike, or bike on the Arkansas River Trail.

There’s another reason to celebrate. The SoMa (South Main Street) district is having their SoMardi Gras: Under the Sea Ball on February 9, and the Mardi Gras celebration on February 10.

Lookout Point Lakeside Inn
Hot Springs, Arkansas

Love is better on the lake, especially at Lookout Point Lakeside Inn in Hot Springs, Arkansas. This boutique hotel has been repeatedly named one of the most romantic hotels in the country. There, you’ll find luxury suites with a view of Lake Hamilton. Manicured gardens make for romantic walks across the property, and downtown Hot Springs is just minutes away.

If you’re hungry to spend time alone, you’ll love the room service, starting with a two-course breakfast. Guests can’t get enough of the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Greek Frittatas, and the ever-popular mimosas and Tomatito Bloody Marys. Hand-crafted cocktails and appetizers like duck meatballs and flatbreads are available in the afternoon. Room service is available from 3pm to 7pm.

When eating out, consider choosing one of the nearby restaurants: Luna Bella, The Vault, 501 Prime, J&S Italian Villa, or a lunchtime favorite, Café 1217.

If you really want to make Valentine’s Day sizzle, consider The Great Romance Package, which includes a spa gift box, a dozen long-stemmed roses, chilled French sparkling wine, fine chocolates, a cheese/cracker basket, a couple’s massage, tickets to Garvan Woodland Gardens, and a $50 in-house credit.

Consider catching a race or placing a bet at Oaklawn, one of the best horse tracks in the country, which recently opened a gorgeous hotel and spa on-site. Visit Bathhouse Row and soak in the thermal waters, which is why Hot Springs has its name, and don’t miss downtown shopping, Superior Bathhouse Brewery, and the incredible views from The Waters Hotel rooftop bar.

Gaston’s White River Resort
Lakeview, Arkansas

If you love the outdoors nearly as much as you love each other, this is your getaway. Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview (near Mountain Home) is one of the most iconic establishments in Arkansas, with some of the best trout fishing you can find. The pink cottages, synonymous with Gaston’s, have been around since Al Gaston built the first few in 1958. Today, there are seventy-nine cottages, welcoming visitors from all fifty states and around the world. There’s a landing strip for small planes—approximately 10,000 different types of aircraft stop by Gaston’s each year. A muster of peacocks calls Gaston’s home, so be prepared to see these colorful birds on the grounds.

Guests in February will get forty percent off a stay of two nights or more, making this choice even more appealing. Clint Gaston, carrying on the family legacy, says it’s the perfect time to target bigger brown trout. Because the weather can change on a dime, dress in layers, and be sure to work up an appetite.

The resort’s restaurant is run by Executive Chef Rick Gollinger, who serves dishes like Sea Bream DeJonghe, Pork Wellington, Chicken Florentine, and various sandwiches and burgers. If you’d rather eat the fish you caught, his team can prepare it for you.

The Valentine’s menu will be a special one, giving diners the chance to watch the White River from the expanse of windows.

There are three nature trails on this 400-acre property, and a fly-fishing school for those who want to learn or sharpen their skills. Hiking and mountain biking are abundant in this part of the state, and fishing guides are available through Gaston’s. Drive to nearby Mountain Home for culinary delights. Don’t miss Mont Thai Cuisine, or O.M. Greek (open for lunch or a very early dinner). Make the trip even sweeter by visiting Petite Patisserie Bakery for French bread and treats.

21c Museum Hotel Bentonville
Bentonville, Arkansas

Ever dreamed of spending the night in an art museum, the beauty of the world all around you? Try staying at 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville, where you and your love will be surrounded by masterpieces, something that once seemed improbable in Arkansas. But in 2011, the state became world-renowned for its commitment to culture when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened that November. In 2013, 21c opened, with 104 rooms and 12,000 square feet of rotating modern art exhibition space integrated throughout the hotel and The Hive, its restaurant featuring refined country cuisine by Executive Chef Micah Klasky. On the menu at this writing, are dishes like the dessert cocktail Buffalo River Float, with black walnut bourbon, root beer, buttermilk ice cream, and a cherry brandy drizzle. Dinners include Pan-Seared Sea Bass, House-Made Campenelle, and Pan-Roasted Chicken. There are also burgers, chops, and steaks. On Valentine’s Day, a custom menu with wine pairings will be served.

Now, yearly events like the Bentonville Film Festival bring in big names from Hollywood and beyond, and mountain biking enthusiasts show up to ride the trails. It’s the perfect mix of nature and art.

Step outside 21c, and you’re near twenty miles of walking and biking trails, the impeccable Crystal Bridges, and restaurants that offer diverse cuisine. Have drinks and dinner at Tusk & Trotter, experience Crepes Paulette, or visit the eclectic restaurant, The Preacher’s Son, housed in an old church building. Downstairs is the Undercroft Bar, perfect for cocktails.

The Bentonville entertainment venue seems to belong in a bigger city, but that only makes it better for Arkansans who frequent the town. Many of 21c’s guests travel from New York, California, and Texas, but there have been visitors from across the globe. While 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville has garnered praise from the likes of Condé Nast, they say their biggest reward comes from the guests themselves.

Do South Magazine

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