True Romance

This night was made for love.

Ah, New Year's Eve. It's one of those nights that just begs for some serious romance. And whether your purse strings are pulled tight or you've got wads of cash to throw around, Westwordwants to help keep you lovers happy. So put down the popcorn, put back the movie, and peruse our guide to a night of passion on any budget.

Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs: With piping hot water flowing through natural pools, nothing could be more amorous than spending the night soaking by a waterfall. Swimsuits are optional after dark, which can only lead to skinny-dipping debauchery.

Admission is $10 a pop, making a visit to Strawberry Park about as cheap as you can go on the big night. With all of your savings, you might want to spring for an overnight stay in a rustic cabin or campsite. After all, why travel the steep, winding gravel road back to town when all the fun is out here?

Brown Palace Hotel, Denver: If you're looking for opulence, the Brown Palace Hotel's annual New Year's Eve Gala is always the toast of the town. Dine at either Ellyngton's, the Palace Arms or in the Grand Ballroom, then dance to the Park Avenue Orchestra in the lovely stained-glass atrium, capping off 2002 with a champagne toast at midnight. An evening like this doesn't come cheap, but you're worth it: Packages range from $325 per couple for dinner and dancing to $1,445 if you want to bed down in the luxurious Presidential Suite.

Moonlight New Year's Eve Train, Durango: Take a journey back in time on a steam-powered locomotive traveling down the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Winding through the spectacular canyons of the San Juan National Forest, this high-class four-hour ride features strolling entertainers, hors d'oeuvres and a sure-to-be-bustling bar car. Victorian attire is encouraged (corsets and top hats can be very sexy in the moonlight). Back at the station, revelers can celebrate the stroke of midnight with champagne and dancing in the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum for just $75.

Beano's Cabin, Beaver Creek: This destination atop Beaver Creek Mountain may be romantic, but the trip itself is half the fun. Bundle up under warm, woolen blankets for a twenty-minute sleigh ride through snow-dusted pine and aspen forests to a cozy log cabin beckoning with a blazing fire and chilling champagne. Once there, you'll feast on a gourmet five-course dinner and dance to a three-piece band. The $350-per-person tab is a bit steep (no pun intended), but general manager Robert Battle practically guarantees that at least one woman will be wearing a new diamond at the stroke of midnight. "We've done everything from put engagement rings in a glass of champagne to writing 'Will You Marry Me?' in sauce on a desert plate,' Battle says. "I would be terribly, terribly surprised if there isn't one on New Year's Eve; it's a big night."

Romantic Outings

Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs, 44200 County Road No. 36, Steamboat Springs, $10 entry, reservations required for lodging, 1-970-879-6834 or www.strawberryhotsprings.com.

Brown Palace Hotel, 321 17th Street, Denver, $325 to $1,445, reservations required, 303-297-3111 or www.brownpalace.com.

Moonlight New Year's Eve Train, 479 Main Avenue, Durango, $75, reservations required, 1-888-872-4607 or www.durangotrain.com.

Beano's Cabin, Beaver Creek Mountain, Beaver Creek, $350 per person, reservations required, 1-877-345-0061.

 
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