Outside the (Chocolate) Box: A Romantic Atlanta Itinerary

Explore the natural beauty and effortless romance found throughout a city known for its charm, warmth and hospitality.

Time to fess up: I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. Whether in a long-term relationship, newly dating or single, I always feel overwhelmed by the pomp and circumstance surrounding the day of lovers. This year, I'm trading in the chocolate boxes, rose bouquets and heart-shaped baubles for naturally romantic activities that are available year-round. Join me in exploring the natural beauty and effortless romance found throughout a city known for its charm, warmth and hospitality. This one-day itinerary will take you and yours through some of the most scenic, decadent and intimate stops Atlanta has to offer—teddy bears and greeting cards not included.

Canoe Restaurant, Atlanta
Behind the restaurant sits Canoe's serene garden, which faces the Chattahoochee River. (Courtesy Green Olive Media)

Brunch on the Chattahoochee

Perched on the edge of the Chattahoochee River, Canoe takes full advantage of its location with a serene garden speckled with river-facing Adirondack chairs. But this restaurant is more than just good looks—the brunch menu has real substance. Start with a basket of freshly baked goods served with housemade spreads. Then, try the house-smoked salmon served over crispy potato pancakes topped with goat cheese. Finally, pick from nearly a dozen main-course options, ranging from savory to sweet to superbly Southern. While the dessert menu is a mouthwatering roll call, don't miss the popcorn ice-cream sundae topped with homemade Cracker Jack.

Serenbe TrailRiding
Enjoy a private lunch for two at the foot of a small waterfall with Serenbe Trailriding. (©Rachel Gravitt)

Stallions & Waterfalls

Galloping through fields to an ethereal waterfall isn’t just the stuff of dreams and Old Hollywood movies. For $100 per person, Serenbe Trailriding's gentle horses—led by skilled trail manager Ashley Thomas—guide you faithfully on a 15-minute ride through picturesque fields and wooded trails. Upon arriving at the waterfall, enjoy a private lunch from local cafe The Blue Eyed Daisy while perched at the fall’s base. Then, revel once more in Serenbe’s countryside views during a 30-minute ride back to the stables. It’s no surprise this romantic, 90-minute experience is considered an ideal setting for marriage proposals. 10950 Hutcheson Ferry Road, 678.333.2989

Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
The couples suite at the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta's Spa is a stunning sanctuary. (Courtesy Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta)

Romantic Recharge

In the heart of Buckhead, the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Atlanta contains a secret paradise. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental is one of Atlanta's best—especially for couples. An elevator delivers you to the full-level spa where you receive plush robes, slippers, oil-infused oshibori (hot towels) and hot tea in the soothing waiting room. Then, you and your lover are escorted to the couples suite, a stunning sanctuary outfitted with two treatment beds, a marble soaking tub and private shower. The nearly two-hour “Re-Connect” treatment is a perfect midday refresher that includes full-body exfoliation and a customized massage for $620.

CineBistro at Town Brookhaven, Atlanta, Georgia
CineBistro at Town Brookhaven combines a movie, bar and restaurant experience into one fun package. (Courtesy CineBistro)

Dinner and a Movie and a Bar

Take “dinner and a movie” to new heights at CineBistro, which combines the best aspects of a bar, restaurant and movie theater. Buy tickets online to pick seats in advance, then arrive an hour early to enjoy cocktails at the fully stocked bar and lounge. Make your way to the movie theater 30 minutes before showtime, where you’ll find row after row of plush leather seats equipped with small trays and cupholders. Order from a plentiful menu of such delicious dishes as—my personal favorite—pan-seared Atlantic salmon served over lemon whipped potatoes, smoky-bacon collard greens, sautéed shrimp, tomatoes and avocado-key lime butter sauce.