This Northeastern Riverfront Town Is A Valentine's Day Getaway That Won't Break The Bank

Cities like Paris or Venice may have romance written all over them, but you don't have to travel so far away — or spend so much money — to have an unforgettable Valentine's Day getaway. A quick trip to Clayton, New York, known as the "Gateway to the Thousand Islands," will bring you and your significant other closer with its charming atmosphere and dreamy riverside views.

Note that Clayton doesn't offer the dazzling bright lights of the Eiffel Tower or the touristy gondola rides you'll find in Italy. The Northeastern destination has an unmistakable small-town flair, complete with mom-and-pop shops and touches of Americana you won't find in most guidebooks. Consider Clayton the perfect — though underrated — Valentine's Day backdrop for down-to-earth couples.

That's not to say that the town is without excitement or a distinct personality. Lovebirds will find plenty of gems in Clayton's Downtown area, which is conveniently located right on the St. Lawrence River. Take in the gorgeous water views, discover many of the town's best hotels and restaurants, and explore the nightlife spots for when you and your partner are ready to let loose.

Clayton attractions for couples

A stroll through Clayton's grid-arranged streets is arguably the best way to get to know the town. If you're vacationing in the area during Valentine's Day, be sure to bundle up (and hold your partner tight!), as the below-freezing temperatures are common in February. For coastal views, walk along Riverside Drive and make a stop at Frink Park, where you'll find marine-themed sculptures and candy-colored Adirondack chairs (an ideal spot for some cute selfies). As you explore the town on foot, be on the lookout for charming shops, including The Mason Jar (a gift shop where you can snag jewelry and other keepsakes to commemorate your romantic getaway), The Golden Cleat (a shop offering unique nautical jewelry), and 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese (selling — you guessed it — cheese, which can come in handy if you decide to throw an intimate two-person cheese and wine party during your trip).

When you're ready to escape the cold, grab a table at Lyric Coffee House, a cute local spot serving steamy coffee and sweet pastries. Then, head a few houses south on James Street to the Thousand Islands Museum, a free attraction offering visitors a glimpse of Clayton's history (note that the museum is only open a few days each week, so plan your trip accordingly).

Clayton doesn't close up once the sun goes down. Check out the town's opera house for evening events or grab drinks at the cozy Wood Boat Brewery before turning in for the night.

Where to stay

A Valentine's Day getaway isn't complete without a warm and inviting accommodation for when you and your significant other crave some alone time. In Clayton, look to the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, located in the heart of the town. The four-star hotel boasts an indoor swimming pool and whirlpool, a riverside restaurant and bar, and luxurious rooms with stunning views of the water and village below. In addition, couples can book the hotel's Romance Package to receive a rose petal turn-down service, a bottle of champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and breakfast for two.

The delightfully humble Chateau Country Inn is another option for lovebirds looking for a romantic escape without breaking the bank. The accommodation is situated just outside of Downtown Clayton near the water's edge. Rooms are cozy and often adorned with boat-themed decor in honor of the town's position in the 1000 Islands area. Enjoy a continental breakfast each morning, and be sure to gaze outside at sunset for an incredible view.