7 Romantic (and Affordable) Cities, Because What’s Hotter Than Saving Money?

published Feb 14, 2019
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When you think of romance, pinching pennies isn’t necessarily what comes to mind. But let’s face it: When you’re spending a chunk of change on your housing every month, you can’t afford to break the bank for holidays like Valentine’s Day by planning lavish dates and buying expensive gifts for your special someone.

So why not whisk your bae away to a locale that can do both? I found seven great examples from coast to coast that are both affordable and romantic. To determine their affordability, I referenced the U.S. News & World Report 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018 and noted each city’s ranking on that list below. To determine the romance factor–well, you’ll just have to keep reading:

Anchorage, Alaska

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Affordability ranking: #24

Average rent: $1,396

Romance factor

If you’re looking for a picturesque backdrop to take engagement photos or just a cute couples shot for Instagram, you’re in luck in Anchorage. The city is surrounded by the natural beauty of glaciers, sparkling waterways, and impressive mountains, like Denali.

Prefer doing your sightseeing indoors? The Crow’s Nest is a AAA four-star restaurant that offers not only French and American cuisine and a stellar wine list, but also fantastic 360-degree views. After dinner, enjoy a ride on one of the city’s popular horse-drawn carriages.

Charlotte, North Carolina

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Affordability ranking: #23

Average rent: $1,179

Romance factor

Charlotte has plenty of tempting restaurants to choose from, but one of its most romantic spots is the award-winning McNinch House Restaurant, which is located in a charming turn-of-the-century home. Expect multi-course meals and first-class southern hospitality. Get a nightcap at The Punch Room at The Ritz-Carlton, an intimate, candlelit spot with handcrafted libations.

The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is an ideal setting for strolling hand-in-hand and taking some romantic photos. Another al fresco option is snuggling on a blanket while snacking on a picnic lunch in Freedom Park.

St. Louis, Missouri

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Affordability ranking: #22

Average rent: $943

Romance factor

You’ll feel like a Disney princess while enjoying a Cinderella carriage ride from St. Louis Carriage Company, which looks just like the one from the cartoon.

Then, it’s time to eat. You won’t be short on options, considering that St. Louis was included on OpenTable’s list of 25 Most Romantic Cities 2018, which is based on the amount of restaurants with a romantic rating by diners; the amount of tables for two; and the amount of people who dined out for Valentine’s Day in 2017. Romantic options include Sidney Street Cafe, for its mood-making dark brick, and Ruth’s Chris, with velvet-curtained booths for private canoodling.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Affordability ranking: #15

Average rent: $1,022

Romance factor

Don’t forget the camera when visiting Baton Rouge–the city has several spots ready-made for romantic photo ops. The Hilltop Arboretum comprises 14 acres of trees, wildflowers, trails, and a pond. Take a stroll on the boardwalk before snapping some more pics. Feel like getting a little wild? Visit the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center to explore the cypress-tupelo swamp, with even more boardwalks and paths for private walks and photo sessions.

Also one of OpenTable’s 25 Most Romantic Cities 2018, Baton Rouge has a burgeoning culinary scene with diverse options to sample. The Gregory, located in the former Louisiana National Bank, is a noteworthy venue that showcases local ingredients with artful plating.

Louisville, Kentucky

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Affordability ranking: #15

Average rent: $924

Romance factor

Louisville is home to the nation’s largest municipal forest, Jefferson Memorial Forest, which is great for engagement photos, picnicking, strolling, or however you’d like to canoodle. Head to the top of Iroquois Park Hill for incredible vistas of the city.

Kentucky is known for its equestrian heritage, so it only makes sense to enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride in town. But, if you’re looking for more excitement, take a hot air balloon ride. If the weather is bad, you can snuggle under the stars at the Rauch Planetarium.

As yet another city on OpenTable’s 25 Most Romantic Cities 2018 list, Louisville offers many romantic dining options, such as Rivue, featuring jaw-dropping views from the 25th floor.

Minneapolis—St. Paul, Minnesota

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Affordability ranking: #9

Average rent: $1,457

Romance factor

Chances are your date night in the Twin Cities will take place on a cold day, but that’s no reason to put romance on hold. At Loring Park, ice skate while taking in views of the Minneapolis skyline at the Wells Fargo Winterskate, with free skate rentals and a warming house. Keep the theme going by visiting nearby Excelsior to peruse the display of ice castles.

Prefer to stay inside? Enjoy dinner and a show at Chanhassen Dinner Theater; a clay date–a la the movie “Ghost”–at Studio 2 Ceramics; or a performance at the Guthrie Theater, an architectural gem. (Bonus: At the Guthrie, you can take snaps with the Mississippi River in the background.)

Salt Lake City, Utah

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Affordability ranking: #6

Average rent: $1,166

Romance factor

For special occasion dining in Salt Lake City, look no further than Log Haven. This historic log mansion is located minutes from downtown in Wasatch National Forest and is constantly featured on most romantic restaurant lists. In addition to fine dining, the venue is located on 40 private acres—making it an ideal photo shoot locale. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, the city was named one of OpenTable 25 Most Romantic Cities 2018, so you’re sure to find many more alluring dining options.

Cultural options also abound in Salt Lake City, so get gussied up with your date and enjoy a performance by the Utah Symphony, Utah Opera, or Ballet West while holding hands.