Five Spots for a Romantic Presidents’ Day (or a Presidential Valentine’s Day)

These locations combine presidential history and romance

President and First Lady Edith Wilson. (© CORBIS)
smithsonian.com

Sometimes, the calendar conspires to combine seemingly disparate holidays together into one amalgamation of celebration. In 2013, the world watched as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fell on the same day, leading to to the birth of the menurkey (turkey-menorah). 2015 presents a similar—though decidedly less rare—situation, as Valentine's Day and President's Day fall a mere 48 hours apart.

You could celebrate the long weekend of romance and presidential history by giving your Valentine a card with your favorite president on it, but why not take things a step further by visiting a location where the fires of presidential romance once burned bright. Here are five locations, from first kisses to honeymoons, where presidents and their first ladies made some romantic memories.

Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas

Who: Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson

What: First Date

Lyndon Johnson might have had a dinner date with another woman later that evening, but that didn't stop him from asking Claudia Alta Taylor, known as "Lady Bird," to get breakfast with him the next day at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas. It was September 1934, and Johnson, then an aide for Texas congressman Richard Kleberg, was a 26-year-old cultivating a love for politics. Lady Bird was 22, and, having just graduated from the University of Texas, was considering the next step in her life: The daughter of a respected Texas businessman, she was looking for something beyond the Lone Star State, and considering teaching positions in Hawaii or Alaska.

The two met in the office of a mutual friend, and agreed to meet for a meal the next day. Breakfast turned into a day-long date, and Johnson proposed at the end of it. Lady Bird didn't immediately accept, but the two began a passionate courtship filled with love letters sent back and forth between Washington and Texas. "Knowing you has been one of my greatest pleasures," Johnson wrote in one of his first letters to Lady Bird. "You know, I think, that you mean everything to me. I hope I may mean equally as much to you." After just two and a half months, the couple married in San Antonio. They remained married for 39 years, until Johnson's death in 1973. 

Today, the Driskill Hotel honors the location of the Johnsons' first date with a dedicated Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson Suite, decorated with linens and art inspired by Texas wildflowers, which Lady Bird was reported to love. The Driskill Grill, where the Johnsons first ate breakfast together, is still operating, and is considered one of the top 25 hotel restaurants in the country, according to Zagat.

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