Dancing in the moonlight may make the best song lyric, but dining in the moonlight is just as romantic…and this is the season for it. Whether you're headed to this stunning Maldives island or a Southwest desert on vacation, here are 11 dining experiences that make the most of gorgeous summer nights. Pictured, the Vilu Reef Beach & Spa Resort.
|The Vines of Mendoza Resort & Spa, Argentina|
At The Vines of Mendoza winery in Argentina, Siete Fuegos restaurant welcomes guests to the vineyards for a traditional outdoor asada, grilled with flair by Chef Francis Mallmann. The Vines of Mendoza is opening guest accommodations this October….possibly as a necessary convenience for all the dinner guests who fall asleep by the fire after an excess of Argentina's famous beef and the winery's critically acclaimed Malbec.
|Whiteface Lodge, Lake Placid, N.Y.|
They call it "dining in a lean-to," but this handsomely rugged indoor-outdoor space at Whiteface Lodge has little in common with the lean-tos we read about in Little House on the Prairie. For one thing, it's in the Adirondacks – one of two structures specially designed for guests of luxury mountain resort Whiteface Lodge to dine, drink wine, and snuggle under the stars year-round. Blankets and crackling fires not pictured, because you won't need them in summer.
|Turtle Inn , Placencia, Belize|
Is it a movie set? Not quite – it's a Coppola property, masterminded by the famous producer/director and his family, and thus, quite perfectly designed to give every guest a night straight out of an Oscar-winning film. There are three Belize properties, each small and exquisite. Restaurants showcase local flavors and the natural beauty of the surroundings – at the Gauguin Grill in Placencia, it's fresh seafood served in simple baskets, with tables set right on the sand.
|320 Ranch, Big Sky, Mont.|
Now this is roughing it. Only, not really. Big Sky, Montana is certainly cowboy country, but the dude ranches in this part of the West offer a completely idealized version of the cowboy lifestyle: hayrides and sunrise hikes, cookouts under the stars, wine dinners in the saloon… The 320 Steakhouse kicks off its 2013 summer season with a pig roast on June 10th.
|Different Pointe of View, Ariz.|
With its clear skies and year-round warm weather (okay, in summer, downright hot weather), the Arizona desert is ideal for open-air dining…hence the proliferation of choices. Romantic firepit seating and mountaintop setting not pictured, because they come standard with the zip code. What's special about this restaurant is the dessert: liqueur-infused marshmallows that guests can roast over the fire and put between cookies for gooey, decadent grownup s'mores.
|Westin Dawn Beach, St. Maarten|
What's a Caribbean resort without a balmy outdoor terrace overlooking Infinity pools, beach and beautiful skies? Because of its size and fairly isolated setting Oyster Pond setting, the Westin Dawn Beach offers ocean views from almost every outdoor table in either restaurant, and with lamps glowing and the pool illuminated, it's a perfect evening in the islands.
|The Vineyards Restaurant at Garden Ridge, Texas|
Here's yet another revelation about modern cowboy culture: In the gorgeous rolling "Hill Country" of Central Texas, it mixes with wine-growing culture to create one of America's coolest and most colorful culinary scenes. Famously funky Austin and Fredericksburg (Texas' wine country epicenter) are the two most famous Hill Country destinations, but San Antonio may be the undiscovered gem. Just look at this picture-perfect local favorite.
|Cotton Tree, Grand Caymans|
For people who prefer an intimate Caribbean experience, Cotton Tree is everything the big-box luxury hotels are not: Owned and operated by two sisters, the Grand Cayman hideaway has only four guest cottages, and when you dine beachside, it's a white-table setup for just one party. This sand-under-your-feet experience is available by special request, and naturally, a favorite with couples.
|Tali Wiru Dinner, Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia|
If prairies and islands just aren't remote enough, journey to the bottom of the earth for dinner at Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru. Sacred to the Aborigine, this massive sandstone landmark illuminates at sunset. It's one of the world's most dramatic destinations – and also, quite remote. Super-luxury tour companies like Travcoa offer a sunset wine dinner as one of their most exclusive experiences. As the stars and moon come out, the view of Uluru fades into dusk.
|Peninsula Grill, Charleston, S.C.|
But there's no need to travel to the ends of the earth. Even the most urban of spaces can offer a glimpse of the stars, as this idyllic patio scene demonstrates. The Planters Inn Courtyard is the special-occasion jewel within the Peninsula Grill – open April through October. It's an oasis in an alley, offering plantation-style beauty right in the heart of Charleston.