Pedestrians enjoy a plaza with Chicago's dramatic city skyline visible in the distance.

Chicago skyline photo © Laura Martone.

While an intimate meal-for-two at a local bistro can indeed be a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day, a romantic getaway can be even more memorable. So, consider taking a trip to one of America’s most romantic cities, 30 of which are ranked in the February issue of Travel + Leisure—a list that includes places as varied as San Antonio, Texas, and Seattle, Washington.

After years of traveling across this diverse country, I’ve compiled, in a two-part article, my own list of the top ten most romantic cities in the United States. Hopefully, you’ll agree with my choices.

Here are the first five, in no particular order:

Chicago, Illinois: During the six years I lived in the Windy City, I experienced many of its romantic charms, from strolls along the picturesque Chicago River to moody, candlelit dinners at Geja’s Cafe, the decadent fondue restaurant where my husband proposed to me. Chicago is also a perfect place for an evening carriage ride, perhaps alongside Lake Michigan or down the Magnificent Mile.

Honolulu, Hawaii: Situated on the gorgeous island of O’ahu, Hawaii’s capital city offers its own share of romantic views and diversions, not to mention relatively easy access to the other Hawaiian islands. With all the fabled beaches, verdant mountains, and ocean views of this unparalleled region, it’s no wonder that countless couples spend their honeymoons in or near Honolulu.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Although the vices of Vegas – sex and gambling among them – lure many travelers every weekend, there’s a good reason why Sin City lands on many “top romantic city” lists. With so many fine restaurants, hot nightclubs, luxurious hotels and spas, wedding chapels, and beautiful distractions, such as the Bellagio’s nightly display of lighted fountains, it makes sense that couples go there to get married (as my husband and I did), have a memorable honeymoon, or rekindle their relationship.

Los Angeles, California: Some people might hesitate to call Los Angeles a romantic locale, but as a former resident, I have a unique fondness for this sprawling metropolis. There, you’ll find intimate courtyard restaurants, elegant wine bars, sexy hotels with rooftop views, and inspiring spots like the Santa Monica Pier, Mulholland Drive, and the Huntington Botanical Gardens. As a bonus, Los Angeles lies halfway between San Diego, known for its historic Gaslamp Quarter, and Santa Barbara, the American Riviera and gateway to a thriving wine region.

Miami, Florida: Anyone who watches the television show Burn Notice can see the appeal of Miami, a sexy, Latin-inspired city by the sea. With its stunning beaches, first-rate spas, vibrant eateries, and sizzling nightclubs, Miami is an ideal place to rekindle a romance – any time of year. Even better, Miami isn’t far from the Florida Keys, which boast their own share of luxurious resorts and fine-dining experiences, especially in Islamorada and Key West.

I hope these five cities make it easier to plan your next romantic adventure, and to get you even more in the mood, check out the next five.