Finding Romance Close to Home

words: Addi McNeel
images:courtesy certain vendors, and; Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and Sassafras Springs Vineyard, Hudson Photography; Michael's Mansion, Drew Lacy Photography;
Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Romance is not something that’s found in one specific place. But there are tried and true places that evoke romance, and our section of Arkansas has more than a few gems for you to visit with the one you love.



The Arkansas Missouri Railroad includes tracks spanning 150 miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Monett, Missouri. There are several trips in passenger trains that take place in between these two points from January through March. On Saturdays, you can travel in a vintage train car from Fort Smith to Winslow. The four-hour ride begins at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum at 100 South 4th Street at 11am.

Costs range from $44 (coach ticket) to $88 for a ticket that includes special seating, a box lunch, and a souvenir photo.


Also, on February 11, A&M is offering a ride on the Love Train, which offers a choice of either a Petit Filet or Seared Salmon, and music by Lori Fay with the Fort Smith Symphony. Train departs from Fort Smith at 6pm. Riders should show up at 5:30pm. For additional information, visit



At the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, which covers more than 100 acres, there are year-round exhibits, such as the towering structures like the Crown Sculpture and Peace Arbor, bridges crossing over koi ponds, giant glass and ceramic chimes, and a greenhouse butterfly garden.

Couples love the Garden. In fact, last year alone, forty-eight couples exchanged vows here.

Admission for adults is $7. The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks is open every day from 9am-5pm. Details at


Not far away, in Bentonville, is the Peel Mansion, built in 1875 by Colonel Samuel West Peel for his bride, and Compton Gardens. In bloom this month is Ozark Witch Hazel, Leatherwood, Frostweed, Squaw Weed, American Holly and Christmas Fern. Continue your walk as the trail connects to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Trail. Don’t want to walk? Bring your bicycles! The Peel Mansion is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-3pm. Tours cost $5.10 for adults. Visitors can tour the Gardens for free, from dawn to dusk. For details, visit


At Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton, romance awaits at Mather Lodge, or at one of the cabins. On the weekend of February 10-12, the park is hosting Hikes, Hearts, and Hugs, with free activities geared toward couples, such as guided hikes. For details, visit



Sassafras Springs Vineyard in Springdale only opened in 2015, but the winery is already making waves throughout the local wine scene. On Fridays and Saturdays, couples can enjoy live, soft jazz while tasting wine over a local artisan cheese board. Sassafras makes four different red wines and one Riesling. In addition to the vineyard and winery room, Sassafras has horse stables and an old open-air chapel made to look as if it is in ruins where many marriage proposals and weddings take place. For details, visit


Not far away, Tontitown Winery in Tontitown makes wine on site and offers free wine tasting seven days a week in their tasting room. The winery is housed in the Taldo House, built in 1917, and there’s even a History Room that shows the tradition of grape growing by the Italian immigrants who made their home here beginning in 1897. To learn more, visit

Artisan Chocolate Shops


Valentine’s Day is particularly sweet at Kopper Kettle, where the Greer family has been making candy since 1925. At the shop at 6300 Alma Highway, in Van Buren, you can watch candy being made. You can’t go wrong with their staples, like Ozarkies, a delight made with vanilla cream, chocolate and pecans. Sugar-free candy is also available. And yes, they do make chocolate delights in a copper kettle! Open Monday through Friday from 9am-5:30pm; Saturday from 9am-5pm; closed Sundays. For more, visit


In Fayetteville, Hello Cocoa at 4170 West Martin Luther King Boulevard is another chocolate shop that will put you in the mood for romance. The chocolate is single-origin, small-batch made and handcrafted so you can be sure the makers are quality-oriented. Try their truffles and their cocoa tea! Open Thursday through Saturday from 10am-2pm. Details at

Bed and Breakfasts With Special Nights Out


Beland Manor, a two-story colonial mansion at 1320 South Albert Pike in Fort Smith, plays host to many weddings throughout the year and even has special honeymoon and romance packages for their visitors. Valentine’s Day is a big time for them. They can provide a candlelit dinner and fresh flowers, the “Ultimate Escape” with an in-room spa and personal fireplace, or the “Picnic in Your Room” package with assorted cheeses and champagne. If you’re looking for a special dinner on Valentine’s Day, Beland is the place to be. They’re planning a special menu, with two seatings, one at 6pm and another at 8pm. Call 479.782.3300 for reservations or visit


Michael’s Mansion at 2900 Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith is a colonial-style mansion and art gallery. They offer in-suite spas and fireplaces. Each stay includes a three-course, chef prepared breakfast. Also, from February 10-14, there will be a special five-course dinner for $129 per couple (tax and gratuity not included), with seating beginning at 5:30pm. The main course is Chicken Cordon Bleu or Beef Tenderloin with a Red Wine Reduction, served with Heavenly Twice Baked Potato and Roasted Carrots. Call 479.883.8336 for reservations or visit


Planning to visit some of these great places this
month? We’d love to see your photos! Email us


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