• Christine Sommers

Best Way to See Beauty's Reflection Staring Back at You

Hey, you—you there, holding this page up to a mirror. Take a look at yourself. Gazing at yourself in the bathroom mirror, checking your reflection in a shop window, stuffing this page in front of the rearview mirror of a parked car . . . Ever since the queen in Snow White asked, "Who is the fairest of them all?" we've been fascinated with reflections.

Is your look weary? If so, it's time to sink into one of the many hot springs Napa County has to offer. At the reflective waters at Harbin Hot Springs in Middletown, from the heart-shaped mineral pool to the holistic grounds, "it's a spiritually based, green community," according to massage therapist—and Harbin fan—Biz Sherman. "You can hike all the way up the mountain, where you'll be drawn into an eclectic group of artists and creative people. There are labyrinths, yoga, dancing and drumming circles, and the geothermal pools are beautifully laid out."

For couples looking to rustle up some romance, Sherman recommends a heart-shaped soak. "In the warm pool, couples are always hanging out and hugging," she says. "It's very romantic in certain areas." Given that Harbin's pools are clothing-optional, heating things up is a cinch, but don't let your romantic inclinations go rogue. ("They don't let you make out," Sherman cautions. "It's patrolled.")

If you're really looking to cook, head up the steps to the shelter housing the hot pools, where temperatures average 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Slip back down the candlelit steps to the warm pool, or wander among the fig trees and ferns to the cold-plunge pool.

As you drop in for a final dip with your true love at your side, snag a look at your reflection. You might just see the fairest of them all, staring back. 18424 Harbin Springs Road, Middletown.—C.J.

Best Brand-New Inspiration Point

Santa Rosa's go-to inspiration point used to be in Fountaingrove, but ever since the nightly collection of parked cars with steamed windows was replaced by a street of large houses on Altruria Drive, the city that loves to kiss has had to make do with shoddy replacements. (The Fifth Street parking garage: not romantic.) Thank goodness for the recently opened Taylor Mountain Regional Park, then, which provides sweeping views of the city below. OK, OK—so you can't park your dad's '57 Chevy up there. But nothing beats sitting on a hillside, being with the girl or boy of your dreams on the top of the world, the problems of the city beneath you reduced to a hill of beans. Hey, hon, look, it's that first house we lived in. And over there—remember when we got lost on that road together after swimming in the creek that one day? And that Italian place over there? Let's stay here a while longer . . . Entrance on Kawana Springs Road, Santa Rosa.—G.M.

Best Romanticized Bunch of Rocks

It might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but the Petrified Forest in Calistoga is one of the most romantic places on earth. Think about it: the former inhabitants of this enchanted land perished and were turned to stone long ago. Their graves were excavated and left uncovered as a reminder to us all that every living being remains, in some form, long after life as we understand it has ceased to exist. The power released by two hearts replaces the transient, living tissue with something greater than the physical world has to offer. Untouchable by outside forces, it survives storms, seismic shifts, the birth of nations and the death of climate. Just because a body dies doesn't mean love dies with it. The rocks that were trees remind us that over time, love makes us strong enough to endure anything in the world. 4100 Petrified Forest Road, Calistoga.—N.G.

  • Christina Julian

Best Young Newlyweds Squatting at an Abandoned Mining Camp

What better way to woo your sweetheart off her feet than with heavenly views from Mount St. Helena? After all, famed Silverado squatter and scribe Robert Louis Stevenson swept his bride, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, off her feet and up the mountain to honeymoon in 1880, where the happy couple squatted in an abandoned bunkhouse on the side of the mountain.

From the crest of Highway 29, hike a mile up through the shaded Stevenson Memorial Trail—you'll find the spot where the Stevensons stayed. A memorial awaits in the form of an open, marble book, marking where the honeymoon hovel once stood. Continue another half mile to see standout views of Calistoga, Napa Valley and the Palisades. Adventurers should carry on another quarter-mile to Bubble Rock (pictured) for some rock-wall scaling sure to ignite a thrill. But for those who endure another four miles up the fire road on a clear day, the top of the northern peak grants 360-degree views ranging from snow-capped Sierras and a shimmering Pacific Ocean to downtown San Francisco, Mt. Tam, Mt. Diablo and even Mt. Shasta.

If all that doesn't unlock that loving feeling, break open Stevenson's Silverado Squatters and read: "[F]rom the summit of the mountain one little snowy wisp of cloud after another kept detaching itself, like smoke from a volcano, and blowing southward in some high stream of air." Highway 29, mile marker 49.—C.J.

Best Resort Hotel Where Two Lovers Can Hide from the Law

In the 2001 movie Bandits, Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton play neurotic lovers who end up camped out in a vintage pink-and-white hotel room. They give each other facials, eat takeout and talk about how much they hate antique furniture. Apparently, you want to be like them. This year, you voted that very iconic hotel from Bandits, the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa, the Best Staycation in Sonoma County. Unlike the star-crossed fugitives, you can actually go out and do some laps in the pool or order several martinis at the bar. The classic hotel has enough going on, in fact, that you can have a weekend staycation without leaving the property—which, judging from the way Blanchett and Thornton turn out in Bandits, might not be a bad idea. 2777 Fourth St., Santa Rosa.—R.D.

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