As a Valentine's Day gift to you, we will answer a question often asked by our readers: Where can my honey and I go for a romantic weekend getaway that's near St. Louis?
Because some males are gun-shy about sharing bathrooms or breakfast tables at B&Bs, our Top 10 list of all-time favorites in Missouri and Illinois includes cozy cabins and cottages with a premium on privacy. The B&Bs that are included have lodging where you can be alone.
All are within a few hours' drive of St. Louis, and many feature fireplaces, rustic settings and jetted tubs for two. They may have TVs, but don't count on it.
You may have to find something else to do - so bring the cards.
Here we go, beginning with six in Missouri:
The place: Heaven On Earth Bed & Breakfast
The location: Near Dutzow, about an hour's drive west of St. Louis, in the heart of Missouri wine country.
The price: $165 a night during the week; $195 on the weekend, or $350 for any two consecutive nights.
The charm: Judy Jones has built two cozy cabins on five-acres of a wooded hillside with a stream at the bottom. The Cowboy Cabin is decorated with Western gear and features a wood-burning fireplace and rockers on the front porch. A Jacuzzi tub for two sits next to a quilt-covered, queen-sized bed. The Ranch House Cabin, separated from the first by a grove of trees, has a front-porch swing, a fireplace and a tub for two. The location is near several wineries, the Katy Trail, and across the Missouri River from Washington and its restaurants and shops.
For more information: 636-433-2511, www.heavenonearth.ws
The place: Fair Winds Cabins
The location: Spread out on 100 acres off Highway 49, near Cherryville, about a 90-minute drive southwest of St. Louis. There are five cabins, two with two bedrooms and three with one.
The price: $119 for the singles, $150 for the doubles.
The charm: Owner Judy Bell has decorated the cabins in country chic. All have fireplaces, huge jetted tubs and full kitchens with a bottle of complimentary sparkling wine in the fridge. Outside are barbecue grills and porches looking out on the woods. They are located in secluded settings, with hiking on gravel roads perfect for leaves in the fall and wildflowers in the summer. You can have a picnic near Dry Creek, which isn't dry.
For more information: 1-573-743-6200, www.fairwindscabins.com
The place: Meadow View Ranch
The location: On a farm road near Lebanon, which is off Interstate 44, about a two-hour drive west of St. Louis.
The price: $68 a night for two persons.
The charm: Owners Craig and Heidi MacQueen built a guesthouse on their 200-acre ranch, with one bedroom downstairs and a sleeping loft. The house has a full kitchen and a swing on the front porch, which looks out on woods and a pasture filled with cattle and horses. No nearby lights interfere with stargazing at night. If you ask, Heidi may let you help with the chores, such as bottle-feeding hungry calves. The ranch has a licensed masseuse who offers Swedish massages for $45 for an hour. Also, Bennett Spring State Park, which is known for its trout fishing, is four miles away, and the Niangua River is great for floating. Andy's Catch restaurant in the Lebanon Country Club is open to the public.
For more information: 1-417-533-8133, www.meadowviewranch.com
The place: River of Life Farm
The location: South of Dora, in south-central Missouri near the Arkansas border, about a four-hour drive from St. Louis.
The price: $175 a night.
The charm: It's a long drive, but worth it. Myron McKee has built "tree houses" overlooking the sparkling North Fork of the White River, a spring-fed jewel known for its trout fishing and floating. The Tree Top Cedar Chest and Tree Top Hideaway are for couples, with jetted tubs for two, quilt-covered beds made from local cedar, gas fireplaces and decks overlooking the woods and river. They have full kitchens and gas barbecue grills, which you'll need because the cabins are in secluded settings, leaving you alone with the birds and bees.
For more information, 1-888-824-2398, and www.riveroflifefarm.com.
The place: New Haven Levee House Bed & Breakfast
The location: In New Haven, which is off Highway 100 on the Missouri River, 50 miles west of St. Louis.
The price: Weeknights, $100; Friday or Saturday, $135.
The charm: Yeah, yeah, this is a B&B. But you rent the whole house, which has a single bedroom. The two-story white cottage surrounded by gardens was built in 1876 and used as a ladies' hat shop. It sits next to the levee, with views of the muddy Missouri from three porches and each of its rooms. You can have morning coffee at the kitchen table and look out a picture window at the river rolling by. Robbler Vineyard is across the highway.
For more information: 636-239-6190, www.leveehouse.com
The place: The Cottage at Wildwood Springs Lodge
The location: Off Highway 19, just north of Steelville, about an hour and a half's drive southwest of St. Louis.
The price: $100 a night, with a two-night minimum, off-season. During summer, $155 a night on weekends, with a two-night minimum. On concert nights, $245 a night.
The charm: Located at the end of a gravel drive near a wooded bluff overlooking the Meramec River Valley, the cottage - originally built in 1921 - was renovated and reopened last year. It has one bedroom, a kitchen, two sitting areas inside and an outdoor patio. Decorated with antiques and country collectibles, it's within walking distance of the lodge, which features weekend "living room" concerts. A hiking trail is nearby. Steelville is a short drive away and has collectibles shops and the Feed Store restaurant.
For more information: 1-573-775-2400, www.wildwoodspringslodge.com
Now, for Illinois:
The place: Tara Point Cottages
The location: On a bluff overlooking Grafton.
The price: $150 a night Sunday through Thursday; $180 a night Friday and Saturday.
The charm: Tara Point Inn has a terrific view of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers below. The main house is out front and serves as a B&B, with the eight connected cottages at the rear. The cottages are suites with porches where you can sip coffee in the morning, or cocktails in the evening, and enjoy the breathtaking vista. The cottages have kitchenettes, wood-burning fireplaces and oversized jetted tubs. In winter, bald eagles circle the bluff at eye level. A drive downhill brings you to the shops and restaurants of Grafton.
For more information: 618-786-3555, www.tarapoint.com
The place: Windy Hills Acres Inn
The location: In Cobden, about 145 miles southeast of St. Louis, on the Southern Illinois Wine Trail.
The price: $65 a night for a couple.
The charm: Bob and Carol Nebughr took a 150-year-old stone potato-drying house on their property and converted it into a two-bedroom cottage. The neat-as-a-pin house is decorated with country collectibles, and there's a deck out back looking over the woods. It's a short drive to Alto Pass, which has interesting restaurants and antiques shops, and to several wineries, including the new Blue Sky Vineyard at Makanda.
For more information: 618-893-4065, www.windyhillacresinn.com
The place: Lock and Dam 51 Houses
The location: Golconda, on the Ohio River, in the southeast corner of Illinois, about 200 miles from St. Louis.
The price: The two one-bedroom houses rent for $85 a night Sunday through Thursday, and $100 Friday and Saturday. There also are two larger brick cottages with three bedrooms, which rent for $170 Sunday through Thursday, $185 Friday and Saturday.
The charm: These four houses were built in 1928 to serve the personnel at Lock and Dam 51, which was razed in the 1980s. The Illinois Historical Preservation Society helped restore the cottages, with gleaming hardwood floors, doilies on the overstuffed chairs, vintage furnishings and a barbecue grill out back. The houses sit on a hillside overlooking the river, and you may see eagles from the screened front porches in winter. The town of Golconda is a short walk or bike ride away, and has restaurants and shops around the historic town square.
For more information: 618-683-6702
The place: The Flagship, a "boatel" at Rend Lake Resort
The location: Rend Lake is south of Mount Vernon, 90 miles east of St. Louis.
The price: Winter rates are from $60 to $130 a night, depending on amenities. Summer rates range from $98 to $130 a night.
The charm: The Flagship is the newest of three "boatels," which are built right on the water. Room 602 is top-of-the-line, with a tub for two behind a glass-block wall, a gas fireplace and a glass door leading onto a small balcony over the water, which is perfect for watching the sunset. The resort's Window Restaurant has gourmet dining, while Bruno's, in Sesser, is the best restaurant outside the resort. The resort is within a state park that offers fishing, boating, hiking and bike riding. The Pheasant Hollow Winery is across the highway, and the Southern Illinois Artisans Shop has quality locally made arts and crafts.
For more information: 1-800-633-3341, www.rendlakeresort.net
The place: Olde Squat Inn
The location: In the farmland east of Marion, about a two-hour drive southeast of St. Louis.
The price: $75 a night during the week, $85 on weekends. Stay three nights, get the fourth night free.
The charm: This is for the couple who really want to get away from it all. The inn is a collection of relocated, pre-1875 log cabins reconstructed at the end of a gravel drive. They are filled with well-used furniture and appliances for that lived-in feel. Some have front porches looking out on a large lake and farm fields. Most come with a friendly hound. You see hawks during the day, hear owls during the night. A hearty breakfast is included. The inn is a short distance from the restaurants in Marion, including the award-winning 17th Street Bar and Grill Barbecue.
For more information: 618-982-2916, www.oldesquatinn.com