Written by Erica Stewart
If you can get past the idea of corporate American imposing upon you a specific day to display your love and devotion for your significant other (or remind you that you don’t have one), and can observe it objectively, one might see that Valentine’s Day really is a different animal than most other major commercial holidays. Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example, where the ritual largely depends upon a well-executed holiday feast or a resplendent balsam fir tree, Valentine’s is short on physical props and long on the intangible. Celebrating the holiday well hinges on more than nailing Grandma’s famous gravy, or giving/getting the ideal present you’ve been eyeing all year—though I would never underestimate the power of a perfect pink box of truffles. Achieving Valentine’s Day perfection is more ephemeral than that, having to do with creating a feeling, a mood that is……well, romantic. Seems a little daunting when one gets to the candy-coated heart of it, doesn’t it?
Don’t despair. We at the National Trust Main Street Center have done some research and we’ve found that vibrant, historic Main Streets rank very high on the romance meter. Something about being in a place whose streets hum with life, whose buildings speak stories, whose energy is transmitted on a wavelength all its own, is very, dare I say, seductive.
Can we be more specific, you ask? Can we offer some examples? Yes, as a matter of fact we can. This year we initiated a search for the Most Romantic Main Streets in the country. We invited our local Main Street partners to brag a bit about their downtown’s sex appeal. We’re talking cozy candle-lit restaurants, horse-drawn carriages, intimate wine-tasting rooms, quaint B&Bs, special historic spots — to name just a few of the things that make Main Street districts a romantic destination.
Here are our top five finalists, chosen on the basis of their gorgeous photos and the tantalizing stories behind them. I know, I know, too late now to pull off a Valentine’s Day escapade. But I’m willing to bet that if you can’t make it to one of these five, there is a Main Street near you that possesses its own irresistible, inimitable charm that you and your sweetie can enjoy at any time of year.
Middletown, Connecticut. Middletown’s allure includes an artful Main Street brimming with elegant restaurants, an award-winning local chocolatier, and the romantic Inn at Middletown, offering the best of New England charm.
Madison, Indiana. You’ll fall in love with Madison’s natural and historic treasures, including lush vineyards, one of the state’s prettiest parks, and a picture-perfect downtown rich in vintage quilts and antiques, gourmet foods, clothing, and arts and crafts.
Natchitoches, Louisiana. With its historic brick thoroughfare, picture-book architecture, and Southern-style charm, Natchitoches is sure to delight, whether through its regional arts and antiques, cozy restaurants, or its stunning Virginia Baker Park — a favorite location to tie the knot.
Franklin, Tennessee. Franklin’s historic downtown has been stealing hearts for years, especially its 73-year old theatre, the “home of first kisses"; its quaint sidewalk cafes; and colorful Victorian architecture.
Paducah, Kentucky. Lovers can do no better than visit Paducah, with its horse-drawn carriage rides along cobblestones streets, one-of-a-kind restaurants in historic treasures, and lovely riverfront setting.
For a photo slideshow of the winners as well as a “dream date” itinerary for each, visit our Most Romantic Main Streets page.
Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Communications and Marketing department.