Naughty and nice Valentine’s Day getaways

Romance, chocolate, wine and food — there’s lots to celebrate with your loved ones this February. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday so there’s an entire weekend to plan something special

Need a little inspiration? Here are some ideas you’ll love:

Sample the good stuff (chocolate, of course!)

Leave the heart-shaped box on the store shelf this year and find out why chocolate tourism is a tasty trend. If you can’t be in famous-for-their-chocolate countries like Belgium, France, Switzerland, Belize or Venezuela, look for chocolate sampling events and destinations across Canada and the U.S.

For instance, many major cities offer chocolate tours — like Muddy York Walking Tour’s Chocolate Tour of Toronto. Another option: visit a local factory like Soma Chocolatemakers in Toronto’s Distillery District, the Chocolate Museum in St. Stephen, New Brunswick (open March 1) and Quebec’s Le Musée du Chocolate de le confiserie Bromont and Choco-Musée Énrico. Many hotels feature chocolate or dessert buffets too.

If you want a chocolate gift, go upscale at Whistler’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or Rogers’ Chocolates, Calgary’s Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut and Chocolaterie La Cabosse d’Or in Otterburn Park, Quebec.

Want to order in? Look for chocolate sampler packages — like the “Love Clusters” ($12.95) collection from Sugah! Or be a little naughty and try the “Tantric Tablet Collection” ($39.95), which pairs seven exotic flavours of chocolate with some new suggestions for the bedroom. (Visit Sugah!’s online store for details.)

Learn about everyone’s favourite confection

Connoisseurs and home chefs alike can also learn more about this special ingredient. The DC Duby “Wild Sweets Theatre” in Richmond, British Columbia offers “Edu Tasting” sessions that teach you about the tasty (and artfully-constructed) treats you’ll be sampling. (Visit the DC Duby website for details.)

For even more hands-on experience, try a workshop at Stubbe (in Toronto). The chocolatiers offer classes for all ages — including truffle making and children’s workshops — as well as tastings and private lessons.

If you’re looking for a gift instead of a getaway, look for courses and classes at your local college or community centre.

Wine and dine

Of course, chocolate isn’t the only sweet indulgence. The icewine season isn’t over yet — and the Nova Scotia Winter Icewine Festival presents a nice opportunity for a romantic getaway. Running from February 2-12 in 2012, you’ll find a variety of events, dinners and workshops that incorporate other themes and flavours to get you and your loved one “in the mood” — like icewine paired with chocolate, international cheeses, rich desserts or oysters.

Many of the local hotels also offer getaway packages for the festival and for the Valentine’s Day weekend too. For example, DesBarres Manor Inn’s Fire & Icewine bed and breakfast getaway package includes a romantic five course dinner paired with Nova Scotia wine, one night’s stay in a deluxe room with fireplace with a complimentary breakfast for two and late check out the following morning. (Prices start at $169 per person based on double occupancy.)

For more information on events and accommodations, visit the festival website.

Relax at the spa

Admittedly, there isn’t a bad time of year for a spa retreat — but nothing says sensual like side-by-side couples’ massages or body treatments. If you’re thinking girls’ getaway instead, think chocolate — for your body, that is. This antioxidant-rich ingredient nourishes the skin as well as the body, and who can resist the smell?

The ultimate spa destination may just be the Chocolate Spa at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Chocolate is one of the many ingredients featured in treatments and packages. For a sweet indulgence, try the “Everything Chocolate” or “Chocolate Escape” packages, which include a “Whipped Cocoa Bath” (think soaking in foamy, chocolate milk) and “Sweet Hands and Feet” (which includes a chocolate sugar exfoliation, chocolate mask and chocolate moisturizing massage). Two and three night packages are available, and include access to the Hershey Country club golf courses. (For more information, see the Chocolate Spa website.)

Naturally, Canadian spas have adopted this tasty trend. For example, you could try the chocolate spa treatments at the The Bourget Inn & Spa Resortin Ottawa or the “Chocolate Kiss” and “Everlasting Love” packages at the Elizabeth Milan Premier Day Spa at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Live out a fantasy

You won’t have to travel far to spend the night in Victorian England, ancient Rome, Imperial China, the French countryside or even the moon. Many hotels chains like Best Western and Ramada offer theme rooms where you’ll want to spend a romantic night in. (And yes, king-sized beds, fluffy robes and jacuzzi tubs are often part of the deal.)

If you’re travelling with the kids or grandkids, there are also child-friendly theme rooms which recreate undersea worlds, jungles and outer space.

Or, in keeping with a chocolate theme, try the Chocolate Suite at the Cocoa West Chocolatier on Bowen Island, BC ($150/night). Decorated in chocolaty hues, the suite comes with many amenities — including organic truffles and hot chocolate — and you’ll be close to the company’s chocolate café.

Take a class that will make you blush

Sometimes it’s really nice to be a little naughty — but learning a few new tricks doesn’t have to feel like school. With Valentine’s Day approaching, keep your eyes open for interactive and informative events that may seem embarrassing at first, but you’ll be grateful you gave them a try. For the daring, some areas offer Tantra classes, like in Toronto.

Looking for something for Valentine’s? Keep your eyes open for local workshops, guest speakers and events in your area, like the Toronto Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair on February 11, 2012. Take along your paramour — or a friend for a few giggles.


Indulge a vice

Are your New Year’s resolutions starting to get on your nerves? There’s still time to be just a little bad before the start of Lent. This year, Shrove Tuesday arrives just a week after Valentine’s Day and that means one thing: it’s Carnaval or Mardi Gras! Many countries throughout Europe and South America will be taking an extra day or two off, and celebrations can last a couple of days to a full week. Think parties, parades, colourful costumes and dancing not to mention the fattening food!

You don’t have to leave the continent to celebrate. While events in Canada tend to be low-key in comparison, there’s always our neighbour to the south. Many major U.S. cities get decked out for the occasion, like Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Galveston and San Diego. Carnaval Miami is the largest Hispanic festival in the U.S., and who can forget the famed Mardi Gras in New Orleans?

Need some ideas? Try one of the destinations in our Top places to celebrate Mardi Gras article.

One final word of advice for Valentine’s getaways: Don’t feel married to the date. If you’re looking to save cash, plan a special time earlier or later in the month

Whether you’re celebrating with friends, family or that special someone in your life, there are plenty of activities ahead for Valentine’s Day weekend. Check out local events where you live (or plan to travel) to see what’s available.

Sources:, The Canadian Tourism Commission, tourism bureau websites.

Photo © Lisa Thornberg

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Best V-Day recipes ever (for singles and couples)

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See in the New Year… again

If hearts and flowers aren’t your style, think dragons instead. Chinese New Year (or the Spring Festival) and Lunar New Year falls in February this year and is widely celebrated throughout Asia and Asian communities around the world.

Some of the renowned places for events might surprise you — like Paris, London, Helsinki, Sydney, Washington D.C. and New York City. A little closer to home, many major cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal host celebrations and parades.

The Year of the Snake officially starts on February 10, but unlike the January 1 New Year’s Eve celebrations are often more than one night. Watch for events in the days surrounding the big celebrations. It’s a good opportunity to celebrate with friends and family of all ages.

Need a few ideas? Try one of the destinations or activities in our Celebrate Chinese New Year article.