Romance in the Ancient City

St. Augustine is one of those city’s that boasts romance around every corner. Whether the beauty of the outdoors inspires, or the luxuries only found indoors, the nation’s oldest city has abundant enchantment and entertainment to make date night special. Here are 10 ideas to keep in mind.

1. Set sail for romance

Catching a wondrous sunset is one of life’s great pleasures. But the chance to experience a sunset aboard a festive tour boat or even a pirate ship elevates the experience from enjoyable to extraordinary. St. Augustine has several sunset cruise options, all leaving from the Municipal Marina downtown. If privacy is a priority, charter your own yacht, complete with a captain and crew. Sip something sparkling as you cruise the Matanzas Bay and Intracoastal Waterway for a mesmerizing view of the ancient city’s architectural treasures.

2. Get carried away

Very few cities have old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage rides anymore, but St. Augustine has offered this timeless treat since 1877. Cuddled up in the back seat of a quaint carriage ignites the imagination. As you surrender to the slow pace, you can’t help but wonder what it might have been like if the two of you had met in the Henry Flagler era. His legacy lives on in the architecture of the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) and the Alcazar Hotel (now Lightner Museum and City Hall) you will pass on your ride. The cadence of clip-clop on the red brick streets of the downtown historic district will enhance the romantic reverie. Look for the carriages along the bayfront to set up a ride.

3. Dine in style

A candlelit dinner is good, but waterfront dining is oh-so-much more memorable. St. Augustine has at least a dozen restaurants located right on the water, with another 10 or so that are close enough for a glimpse of the shimmer. And where there’s water, there is seafood. The waterfront establishments teem with local oysters, shrimp, mussels and many varieties of fresh fish. Add a glass of wine, a well-worded sentimental toast, and the idyllic evening is complete.

4. Heighten the charm

A key to romance is a change of scenery. Rendezvous for a night, or a long weekend, at one of St. Augustine’s 24 historic bed and breakfast inns. The circa 18th-century charmers are the ideal combination of sexy and sentimental. Each inn has its own special old-world ambiance, but all of them share some things in common, too. They celebrate history with antique furnishings and décor, but fast-forward to the 21st century for lavish amenities, like hot tubs or in-room massage. Intimate and elegant havens, St. Augustine’s B&Bs are all within walking distance of downtown restaurants, bars, shopping and attractions. No airports required.

5. Chocolate and Wine

St. Augustine is home to several high-quality artisan chocolate shops with luscious candies made by hand. Head to King Street or St. George Street and watch chocolatiers dip chocolate-covered strawberries or create delectable fudge just for you and your sweetheart. There is even a fun chocolate factory tour. Then head to the San Sebastian Winery or enjoy one of the other wine tastings in area shops. Be sure to try the wines made with Muscadine grapes that are native to the St. Augustine region, dating back to the 16th century. Pair dessert wines with dark chocolate, cream sherry with milk chocolate and champagne with white chocolate, the experts say.

6. Stroll by the sea

St. Johns County has 42 miles of coastline, from Ponte Vedra Beach in the north to Crescent Beach in the south. The feeling of sand in your toes unleashes the primitive rush so essential for romance. Start at the Ocean Pier at St. Augustine Beach and take a walk with only the moonlight, the cresting waves and your shining love for illumination. And of course, pause to draw a giant heart in the sand.

7. Be a pampered pair

Everybody loves a spa day. But a spa day for two is the epitomy of togetherness. The sensuality of a couple’s or a “duet” massage is surprisingly bonding. There are more than a dozen places to indulge in the decadent spa day in St. Augustine. And perhaps this will provide inspiration for in-home massages in the future.

8. Go slow dancing

St. Augustine has so many live music venues — from a single guitar player to a full rock ‘n’ roll band — that it is truly a music lover’s dream. For this occasion, let’s call it a lover’s dream. Whether you’re looking for a sultry slow dance to the tickled ivories at a piano bar or letting loose to a more rocking beat, there are musical offerings in downtown St. Augustine for every mood and style. Because the couple that dances together romances together.

9. Pack a picnic

The beauty of a picnic is its simplicity. Many shops in historic downtown make it easy to fill a yummy, bountiful picnic basket with local delicacies like datil pepper jelly or Spanish ham. Select a spot on the lawn surrounding the Castillo de San Marcos for a setting no other city offers: 16th-century history, 21st-century people watching and a gorgeous Matanzas Bay view. St. Augustine is full of other quiet, cozy picnic spots, too, such as the Spanish fountain near the Visitor Information Center or on a park bench in the Plaza de la Constitucion.

10. Ride the Carousel

Round and round it goes. The St. Augustine vintage carousel transports you back to the simple joys of life. Carousels have been both a childhood delight and a quaint romantic activity since they began in 1886. The carousel’s location in Davenport Park allows you to keep the playful mood going by going to the playground, too. When was the last time you played on the swings? It is at its most romantic when the carousel lights up at night until 10 p.m. Plus, it’s a cheap date — only $1 a ride.

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