It’s a frequent scene in books and films: a big-city couple throw their overnight bags into a car late on a Friday afternoon. They leave the city and drive to a smaller, quieter, more intimate place, one where the air is scented not by auto exhaust but by grass and wildflowers and perhaps the inviting aroma of fresh coffee from a cafe on the corner. Instead of department stores and streets of swanky places to dine, there are unique, family-run shops and a handful of mom-and-pop restaurants. Cell phone service might be spotty at best, and that’s just fine, because our couple has come to a small town to disconnect from their harried workweek routines and reconnect with each other.
The little villages and towns that are sprinkled throughout our country might be the last place some people associate with romance, but I actually think that they are ideal places to discover or rediscover it. Life moves at a slower pace in small towns. Every one I’ve lived in is warm and welcoming, a place where people smile and make eye contact when they pass on the sidewalk. And for two people looking to get away from it all, a small town can easily provide a weekend’s worth of charm, relaxation, and new experiences.
Remember the old drive-in movie theaters? Many are still around in small towns and in operation during the warmer months. Some, like the Comanche Drive-In in mountainous Buena Vista, Colorado, come complete with gorgeous scenery surrounding the big screen. Here, a date night could be a nostalgic trip to the past, but one that affords a lot more privacy than seeing a movie in a mega-theater with stadium seating. After the show, our fictional couple could retire to a cozy inn or a beautifully furnished room in a bed-and-breakfast.
The next day might be a good time to explore some of the local shops. Unlike many businesses in a large city, the person who helps a customer find something or rings up a purchase in a small-town store might actually be its owner. You can bet that he or she will truly appreciate your patronage, since it supports the owner’s livelihood and family and keeps dollars within the local economy. And, because small-town shops often carry handmade, homemade, and one-of-a-kind items, they are good places to find unique treasures!
Located in more rural areas, small towns are often gateways to outdoor activities. Our big-city escapees might opt for something as simple as a picnic lunch and hike in a park. Of course, there are always more adventurous things to try. For example, the tiny town of Marengo, Indiana, is known for its vast underground limestone caves. (Cell phones definitely won’t work inside!) The formations in both of the two main caverns are breathtaking, and each tour includes a few minutes in which the tour guides turn off all the lights and allow the visitors to experience absolute darkness. (Hint: that’s an especially good moment for a bit of romance!)
If our couple wants to find a casual place off the beaten path for supper, small towns offer plenty of options. In Wisconsin, for instance, they could visit any of the villages in Door County, which is a peninsula extending into Lake Michigan. Famous for cherry orchards and scenic views, many Door County restaurants host outdoor “fish boils” during the summer, where whitefish and vegetables are cooked in a large kettle over a bonfire and then served buffet-style. Another fun option might be a family-run restaurant like Van Abel’s in the tiny town of Hollandtown, Wisconsin. Established in 1848 and surrounded by farmland, it’s known for perfect roasted chicken and friendly, small-town service.
The following day, our couple will most likely pack up and drive back to their home in the city. Traffic will become heavier. Emails and text messages will increase in frequency. And, on Monday morning, they’ll re-enter the working world with its all-too-familiar demands and deadlines. Fortunately, though, they’ll have fun and romantic memories of their small-town weekend getaway to ease the transition and inspire future ways to reconnect with each other.
Darcie Chan is the New York Times bestselling author of the ebook sensation The Mill River Recluse and the novel The Mill River Redemption. She has been featured in TheNew York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. For fourteen years, Chan worked as an attorney drafting environmental and natural resource legislation for the U.S. Senate. She now writes fiction full-time and lives north of New York City with her husband and son.