Valentine ideas, to enhance romance

Sybaris, near Mequon. ©Photo from Sybaris.

Maybe you give or get roses by the dozen during this month of love, and that’s fine, but don’t dismiss other ways to freshen up affections. For example:

Many recreational areas in the state arrange snowshoeing, hiking or cross-country skiing by candlelight during this time of year, and the state Department of Natural Resources compiles a range of possibilities at (search for “candlelight ski”).

For a more athletic, one-of-a-kind experience, head north to Ashland for the annual Book Across the Bay, a 10-kilometer trek across Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay on Feb. 18. The wintry race to Washburn is framed by lovely lighting after dusk, but what’s the big rush? About 1,000 candles in luminaries mark the way from beginning to end.

For more:, 800-284-9484. Participants need to register for the event and use snowshoes or skis; hiking is allowed only if course conditions safely permit it.

Two buildings define the unincorporated community of St. John in Calumet County. One is a Catholic church. The other is the 1928 Crystal Ballroom, where couples waltz, rumba, tango and more on Friday nights.

College students to senior citizens wear jeans to cocktail dresses while mixing it up on a hardwood floor that co-owner Lisa Lauer says is “easy on the knees” because it was long ago designed for dancing. A DJ provides the music, the next five-week set of dance lessons for beginners starts Feb. 17, and afternoon dancing happens on the first Sunday of the month.

For more: Crystal Ballroom, W3307 Highway B, Hilbert;, 920-989-8252. In warm weather, dancers linger along the big building’s double veranda.

You just missed an aphrodisiac-themed cooking class at Mangia Trattoria, Kenosha, but another option is the Italian restaurant’s pasta cooking class, scheduled on … St. Patrick’s Day.

Chef/owner Tony Mantuano also operates Chicago’s Spiaggia; he and that business have earned accolades from the James Beard Foundation, whose awards are akin to Oscars in the restaurant biz.

For more: Mangia Trattoria, 5717 Sheridan Rd., Kenosha;, 262-652-4285.

If money isn’t an issue, consider Kohler’s newly opened Sandhill, luxury lodging in a secluded cabin on 350 acres. “Cabin” means 2,000 square feet on three levels, enough space to accommodate up to six adults, in the town of Mosel. Amenities include a fireplace, sauna and “poker shack.”

The price for up to four people starts at $785 per night, with a three-night minimum stay required. Guests receive access to a Kohler health club, River Wildlife (a wildlife sanctuary) and amenities associated with the Forbes five-star American Club resort.

For more:, 800-344-2838. The cabin is named after a pair of cranes that return to the property each year.

Celebrating its 20th year in Mequon in 2012 is Sybaris, an adults-only getaway with suites that can be rented by the afternoon as well as an overnight or more. In the most elaborate accommodations are a tropical waterfall, 10-foot waterslide, warm-water swimming pool, steam room, hot tub and private garage.

Although some suites are spacious, only two adults are allowed in each – no parties or kids. The property is run as a private club, which means a reservation requires the purchase of a $30 annual membership.

What else? The business encourages intimacy and sells auxiliary assistance such as the Liberator Ramp, a $150 device that “eliminates position fatigue and back strain.” For more: Sybaris, 10240 Cedarburg Rd., Mequon;, 262-242-8000.

Seating choices at the Silver Coach, a railroad car restaurant in Stevens Point since the 1940s, include two private dining rooms, each big enough for two people. A former country club chef and his wife run the show here, specializing in blackened steaks to pecan-crusted salmon.

Add unusual ambiance – curved wood paneling and well-kept stained glass – to this dinner-only setting. Start the meal off with crawfish balls, a popular appetizer.

For more: Silver Coach Restaurant, 38 Park Ridge Dr., Stevens Point;, 715-341-6588.

Another cozy and unusual place to share a meal is the made-for-two Omar Sharif Room at House of Embers Grille, a resilient, family-owned restaurant that is squeezed between the many waterparks of Wisconsin Dells.

Drawn curtains hide diners from the rest of the world. On the walls of this private dining area (which is a former closet) are photos of the actor at work in “Dr. Zhivago” and other movies.

For more: Wally’s House of Embers, 935 Wisconsin Dells Parkway, Lake Delton;, 608-253-6411. . Longtime menu specialties include hickory-smoked spareribs and from-scratch cinnamon rolls.