Monumental Getaway

Romantic honeymoons don’t have to occur in faraway places. Instead, explore some of the most breathtaking views at one of these national parks—right here in the U.S.
By contributing writer Judith Fertig

When your wedding is as formal as you want to get for a while, and the Mexican Riviera or an all-inclusive newlyweds’ package to the Virgin Islands is just not your style, then consider one of the national parks for a rustic and romantic honeymoon.

America’s national parks were founded because their landscapes and eco-systems were deemed unique enough to be protected by the federal government. While no national park remains untouched by civilization, the aim is to keep them as pristine and non-commercial as possible. You won’t find a chain restaurant or a convenience store. You might not have room service. But what you will find are historic hotels, unique restaurants, and a great emphasis on the America the Beautiful all around you.

Quaint New England villages, pine forests, and a rocky shoreline greet you at Acadia National Park in northern Maine. The Grand Tetons, natural hot springs, and a roaming herd of bison call you to Yellowstone National Park, spreading into parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. In the Southwest, just one glimpse of the Grand Canyon proves why it is one of the natural wonders of the world.

Some historic hotels like the El Tovar in the Grand Canyon or the vintage Airstream trailer near Acadia National Park get snapped up early, so plan ahead. The season for Yellowstone National Park is short—May through early October—but breathtaking. Why not make your honeymoon your Great American Adventure?

Where to go

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park was the first official national park, signed into existence by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Parkland includes lakes, mountains, rivers, and an active volcano, the Yellowstone Caldera (right under Yellowstone Lake). The park is one of the last surviving nearly intact eco-systems of what was once the American wilderness. And it’s beautiful. That’s pretty romantic, right?

What to do
A honeymoon in Yellowstone is a chance to step back into the Old West. Take a guided horseback tour, go wolf watching, hike in the mountains or on one of many park trails, past natural hot springs. Take a Scenicruise on Yellowstone Lake to see where eagles and ospreys nest and elk and bison come to drink. Or board a vintage 1930s bus (refitted for today) and head to the north side of the park for a Lake Butte Sunset Tour, when the light is magnificent and you have a better chance of seeing wildlife. On a chilly night, cuddle up by the fire and watch the star-filled night sky in the Rockies.

What to eat
In the log cabin ambiance, you’re free from coat and tie to enjoy a more laid-back meal. Start the day with huckleberry pancakes, fluffy pancakes topped with small local berries similar to blueberries. Because the area is popular with outdoor and health enthusiasts, the hotel offers quite a few vegan and vegetarian dishes and has an emphasis on regional foods. For dinner, try smoked trout ravioli, grilled quail, or penne with Montana-raised lamb and tomato ragout.

Where to stay
The Old Faithful Inn
Also built in 1905, this historic inn within the park is right next to the geyser of the same name. Built of log and wood shingles, it’s as massive as the shaggy buffalo you see grazing in the park. The lobby soars to 76 feet with an imposing stone fireplace. It’s the icon of national park hotels and deservedly so. The window of opportunity to stay here is brief—May through mid-October—because the park is inaccessible to regular vehicles during the winter. It all adds to the rustic charm. The Old Faithful Inn is not just a place to stay, it’s the embodiment of the national park ideal that some places are just so special that they need to be set aside and preserved for future generations. 

Where to go

Acadia National Park

Sea smoke and fog. A sunset in which the sea glows pink. The fresh aroma of ocean and pine, woodsmoke and wildflowers. Especially as summer turns to fall, Acadia National Park in northeastern Maine is a little piece of northern paradise. Cobblestone carriage roads, built by John D. Rockefeller, wind through the park, which is named for French Canadian settlers who eventually made their way to Louisiana—Acadians to Cajuns. You can enjoy the bars, restaurants, and shopping in nearby Bar Harbor, then escape to the back roads where you can have all the alone time you want.

What to do
Climb up one of the craggy heights and look down on the islands and the walk around Jordan Pond (and have lunch at Jordan Pond House), then go up to Cadillac Mountain with a bottle of wine to enjoy the sunset. Sand Beach has crystal blue (and cold) water, white sands and a fringe of pine trees to remind you you’re not in the Caribbean. Check out all the charming New England villages, busy with summer vacationers. A $25 park pass for your car is good for seven days. Even on a hot day, the mornings and evenings are chilly—perfect for snuggling.

What to eat
Maine blueberries and strawberries. Lobster rolls. Fresh scallops, steamers, and mussels. What’s not to like? At Jordan Pond House, located within the park, you can enjoy afternoon tea and popovers, seafood chowder, and blueberry crisp or blueberry sorbet. At Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream, a charming ice cream parlor in Bar Harbor, the focus is on local and quirky—Blueberry Sour Cream Crumble vies with Chocolate Wasabi and Indian Pudding ice creams and Beet Ginger sorbet.

Where to stay
A Vintage Airstream Trailer
For a signature experience, nothing beats staying in your own updated, renovated vintage Airstream trailer, complete with a queen-size bed. You’ll have all the amenities, including Wi-Fi, a firepit and a kitchen, plus all the free sunsets-on-the-beach you can wish for. You can also stay in a variety of tiny homes (called cabins) on the property, right outside Bar Harbor.

Where to go

The Grand Canyon

If there is any place that puts the past hassles of a wedding in perspective, it’s the majesty of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. Carved out by the Colorado River over five million years ago, the Grand Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site with evidence of Paleo-Indian settlement dating back 12,000 years. The layers of ancient rock tell the geologic story of North America—and that’s not counting the scenery. Over 277 miles of undulating, steep-sided canyon in layers of Redwall Limestone, Bright Angel Shale, and granite catch sun and shadow with the green river below, the blue sky above.

What to do
Explore the Grand Canyon in whatever way suits your style. Take an expedition on the back of a mule, down and back up the steep canyon. Hike around the rim or venture down into the canyon itself. Or sit in comfort on a bus tour. Run the rapids of the Colorado River on a raft. Every twist and turn, every bend of the canyon offers something thrilling to experience.

What to eat
At the hotel, start your day with polenta corncakes with prickly pear pistachio butter, a salute to the foodways of the region. Enjoy a traditional Navajo taco or perhaps a pork tamale with red chile and adobo for lunch. One night, have dinner in your room, especially if your view overlooks the canyon. Share a prickly pear margarita and slice into a tender steak from beef reared on an Arizona ranch.

Where to stay
El Tovar
A world-class travel destination, this hotel is considered the crown jewel of historic national park lodges. Dark and rugged with stone and timber, the hotel perches right on the rim of the Grand Canyon and first opened its doors in 1905. In the past, the hotel has hosted such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, President Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney and countless others.

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