The mood is just right at romantic restaurants like Char’s, Mangia Qui and note.; at a bed and breakfast like City House; while huddling with your sweetie in Riverfront Park as the moon sparkles off the icy Susquehanna River.
But maybe you’ve done Valentine’s Day in the city before, or maybe you’d just like to get out of town for a night. Fortunately, there are places nearby that may fit your desires, each evocative of Victorian-era romance and just a short drive from Harrisburg.
Tea for Two
Looking for a romantic way to begin your Valentine’s Day weekend? Then be sure to stop by Sweet Remembrances Tea Room, located in an artfully restored post-Civil War era red brick row home in historic downtown Mechanicsburg, just 15 minutes west of Harrisburg.
“We opened the tea room to complement Rosemary House, the herb and spice shop that my mother, Bertha Reppert, started in 1968,” said owner Nancy Reppert.
Presently, Nancy’s sister, Susanna, owns and operates the Rosemary House where, in addition to herbs and spices, she sells the wide variety of loose leaf teas they serve in the tea room, along with related tea accouterments.
“We work closely together,” Nancy explained, “and our customers enjoy the personal touch of our combined businesses. It’s not uncommon to find Susanna pouring tea in Sweet Remembrances Tea Room or me helping out in the Rosemary House.”
Afternoon teas are scheduled on Wednesdays throughout the year and on the first Saturday of the month. Nancy also offers a wide variety of unique events throughout the year, such as themed teas, guest speakers, herbal workshops and bus trips.
Valentine’s Day will be a special time at the tea room this year.
On Friday, Feb. 13, and Saturday, Feb. 14 at 1 p.m., Nancy will host a special afternoon tea for guests to celebrate friendships or to provide a serene location for the romantic couple.
“The menu is special,” Nancy said. “We’ll feature hearts and roses galore with heart-shaped sandwiches, rosy red foods, our famous fresh-from-the-oven English cream scones, and of course, chocolate.”
Advance reservations are encouraged for the $35-per-person special tea, so plan early.
During my visit, I especially enjoyed the French caramel crème brulee and found it fun to sit, relax, sip tea and nibble on sandwiches, scones and sweets.
I found something for every tea lover on the menu: 13 different kinds of black teas and 18 flavored teas, along with a number of herbal teas. According to Nancy, the most popular flavored tea is the Blue Lady tea, composed of coconut, strawberry and kiwi, a fruity delight just perfect for Valentine’s Day.
House of Love
Following tea, it’s time to get dressed for a romantic dinner. Outside of Harrisburg, it’s hard to beat Alfred’s Victorian, a restaurant nestled within the historic Raymond-Young Mansion in Middletown, the interior all gussied up in high Victorian décor.
“I call Alfred’s Victorian the ‘House of Love,’” said manager Jill Seltzer. “So many couples come to us to celebrate an anniversary of dating or their marriage anniversary or simply to enjoy a romantic dinner.”
Many bed and breakfasts in the local area send their guests who are on a romantic weekend to dine at Alfred’s Victorian during their stay, said Seltzer.
Valentine’s Day is a special event at Alfred’s Victorian, and the restaurant takes reservations a year in advance. The Victorian mansion, built in 1888, is covered inside, top to bottom, with hearts, lace, red, pink and cupid pops.
“We celebrate all weekend and into the next weekend trying to accommodate the many couples wanting to come out and visit,” Seltzer said.
The restaurant, in fact, offers a special discounted menu the weekend after Valentine’s Day.
The menu for Valentine’s weekend includes such holiday-themed items as “You’re My Valentine Salad,” “Seafood Passion Papillote” and a special Valentine’s cheesecake. The wine list will feature an additional Champagne and prosecco ready for your “toast of love.”
A bit farther to the east, the General Sutter Inn occupies a prime downtown spot in the quaint town of Lititz. In 1776, this Moravian settlement was named for the Bohemian town of Lidice where, in 1756, the followers of John Hus formed the Moravian Church.
In 1930, the name of the inn on the square was changed to the General Sutter to honor John Augustus Sutter, a California gold rush pioneer who lived his last seven years in Lititz and is buried in the Moravian Cemetery.
“This inn has been in the hospitality business since 1764,” said Joseph Cilluffo, the inn’s general manager. “I take great pride in our multi-concept restaurants, including the Bulls Head Public House room, which is a traditional English pub, and our more elegant white tablecloth dining room, perfect for any special occasion.”
The inn has two floors of rooms, the second floor Victorian in style and the third floor modeled in modern decor. On Saturdays, the inn offers a special English breakfast in the pub. The inn also serves a complimentary continental breakfast each morning for guests in the bed and breakfast.
“Each year, we feature a speciala la carte menu in our dining room for Valentine’s Day,” Cilluffo explained, “but we still offer our traditional fare in the pub. My favorite menu items are the chicken leak pie and the filet dinner. Everything on our menu is made from scratch. Our purpose is to give each and every one of our guests a warm memory of their visit, an overall sense of home.”
On the other side of Harrisburg, the stone Cochran-Anspach Mansion in Millerstown will host a special Valentine’s Day dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, Feb. 13 and 14.
“The dinners will be catered by Rocco’s Restaurant in Harrisburg,” organizer Curt Black explained. “Our dinners are designed for couples, or groups of four in an intimate setting.”
The circa-1821 mansion is not technically Victorian, but later remodeling has left Victorian touches, such as the entryway lighting, and the overall elegance of the house offers an early indication of the decorative era to come.
The mansion was built by Thomas Cochran, one of the first settlers in Millerstown.
“Cochran owned vast land holdings in Pennsylvania and Missouri,” said Dennis Hocker, president of the Perry County Historical Society. “The son of his granddaughter, Anna Kaufman Anspach, willed the home to the Perry County Historical Society in 1981.”
As you enter, you’ll see this is a special house. The front door is enhanced with a graceful double arch of six panes overhead and leads to a spacious central hall with a suspended stairway. There are four large rooms downstairs, each with a handsome fireplace, and, upstairs, four more rooms. An herb and flower garden is located on either side of the patio in the back of the house.
So, there’s a plan: four Victorian-inspired celebrations, each less than an hour’s drive from Harrisburg. Make your reservations early and enjoy the most romantic day of the calendar with that special someone.
Nancy Reppert’s Sweet Remembrances Tea Room
118 S. Market St., Mechanicsburg
www.sweetremembrancestearoom.com or 717-697-5785
38 N. Union St., Middletown
www.alfredsvictorian.com or 717-944-5373
General Sutter Inn
14 E. Main St., Lititz
www.generalsutterinn.com or 717-626-2115
18 N. Market St., Millerstown
Call Curt Black at 717-589-3598.
Don Helin published his first thriller, “Thy Kingdom Come,” in 2009. His recently published novel, “Devil’s Den,” has been selected as a finalist in the Indie Book Awards. His latest thriller, “Secret Assault,” was published in November. Contact Don on his website, www.donhelin.com.