Ask any hotel or bed-and-breakfast reservation clerk, and you'll learn that the first rooms booked by couples seeking romantic evenings are those furnished with a whirlpool or a fireplace.
As Valentine's Day nears, I went in search of the Twin Cities area's most romantic rooms -- with a fireplace, a double whirlpool or both. Cheap they aren't, but discounts are available at non-peak times -- although Valentine's Day weekend isn't one of them.
You may be able to find rooms with fireplaces and whirlpools at some of the midpriced hotel chains. They may lack the ambience and charm of, say, the Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis, but also may cost less. Amenities vary by location, so you'll have to do some calling around.
Many of the best rooms that I visited are already booked for Valentine's weekend. But the advantage of choosing a nearby hotel is that you can check availability at the last minute and drive there in 30 minutes or less.
If you're planning a romantic stay-over where you want everything to be perfect, scout out the room before making a reservation. The B&B Web sites listed below also provide pictures of most of the rooms.
If the room seems too pricey, avoid buying the romance package and its accouterments for an additional charge. Shop around for your own flowers, chocolates and wine and bring them yourself, or have the front desk deliver them to the room in advance.
The advantage of most of these hotels is that you never have to leave your room. Room service can satiate almost every appetite. One frugal tip that couples can adopt from business travelers is to request a room one grade below the one they really want. Then ask for an upgrade at a nominal or no charge.
Romance packages: On Fridays and Saturdays only, the Hilton romance package includes champagne, breakfast in bed via room service and a 3 p.m. checkout. It's $159 for a whirlpool room and $129 for an executive floor room. The Bed and Breakfast weekend package is $149 for a whirlpool room. The price includes a full breakfast for two at Basil's.
Special rooms: The six corner rooms with whirlpool baths are the most popular. Executive rooms on the top three floors have steam baths built into the shower, terry-cloth robes and upgraded bathroom amenities. Excellent skyline views. No fireplaces.
Amenities: Fitness club with sauna. Basil's restaurant overlooks the Crystal Court.
Parking: Free heated parking on weekends.
Other discounts: Members of Hilton Honors program should check special offers or discounts. Occasional discounts are available on the Web at http://www.twincities.sidewalk.
com or http://www.hilton.com.
Romance packages: Year-round romance packages include a FantaSuite with unique theme (see below), whirlpool, champagne, chocolates, two pairs of silk boxer shorts and continental breakfast for $215 Sunday through Thursday, $260 on Friday and $280 on Saturday. Basic rates without the package are $139 Sunday through Thursday, $185 on Friday and $195 on Saturday.
Special rooms: There are 23 themed rooms. I found them more funky than romantic, but without the pretense of some B&Bs. Quite a few of them could be a kick for a couple wanting to mix romance and role playing. Arabian Nights features a 10-sided waterbed and an overhead mirror in a sheik's tent, Caesar's Court has a marble whirlpool surrounded by columns and mirrors and Cupid's Corner includes a pink marble whirlpool and a heart-shaped waterbed. All rooms have whirlpools, including those without a theme. No fireplaces.