Most Wanted Valentine's Gifts

On Valentine's Day, say "I love you" with the perfect gift—something that shows you've put some thought into how much she means to you, instead of that last-minute heart-shaped box of chocolates from the corner store. We consulted a group of retail experts and dozens of women for their dream V-day gifts. From coast to coast, the unanimous choice of women everywhere is some serious couple time. Our group also suggests putting a romantic spin on some old favorites:

Romantic retreat—"The ideal present would be to get away for the weekend," says Stacey Hanson, 26, who does staffing for high-tech companies. "Something adventurous, yet romantic," says Cara Broglia, 26, a public relations manager. Try a three-day jaunt courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines. At about $400 per person, you can take off to the Bahamas from Miami, or Baja Mexico from Los Angeles, and make a long Valentine’s weekend of it. Or book a relaxing weekend for two at a cozy bed & breakfast nearby.

Show tickets—"I want to feel like a princess for a night," says Lisa Ballesteros, 27, a research associate. "It's the one day of the year when he can take the initiative to plan something in advance, where all I have to do is show up." Score big with hard to get tickets to a concert or theater event. Or get decked out for a night on the town, starting with the symphony or opera.

Candlelight dinner—The perfect gift includes an intimate dinner for two, says Marlo Morales, an office manager. Create a romantic mood for your home-cooked meal with Coach’s Signature candles on red leather coasters. Set the table with red and white heart-patterned table linens and heart-shaped plates and bowls from Williams-Sonoma. Already made reservations? Serve her breakfast in bed with heart-shaped muffin pans or a Villaware heart-shaped wafflemaker, also from Williams-Sonoma.

Jewelry—Few things are more meaningful than precious gems. A gold necklace or bracelet does the trick too. Julia Kleyner, manager of publicity for Tiffany & Co., suggests a simple gold heart-shaped locket, gold and diamond “Heart” pendant or gold "Love Knot" earrings. If you truly want to leave her speechless, place a Tiffany & Co. bracelet made of 125 perfectly matched pink sapphires and 125 round diamonds set in 18K gold and platinum on her pillow Valentine’s Day morning for a mere $93,000.

Lingerie—"Valentine’s Day is an excuse to give something in hot pink or red—something she’d never buy for herself because it may be too expensive, too luxurious or in a color she wouldn’t normally wear," says Marnie McLaughlin, public relations manager for Victoria’s Secret. "Or try a less provocative item in a more sensuous, pampering fabric like silk or satin," says McLaughlin. Whatever you choose, "Go for luxury." Lacy new “Desire” lingerie in burgundy, red or pink or red silk plisse pajamas from Victoria’s Secret were practically invented for the occasion.

Sensual bath stuff—Give her something to make her feel like she's just stepped out of a spa, says Lisa Rossi, public relations manager for Macy's West. Surround her tub with Sensual Bathlights by Perfumes Isabell and moisturize her face with $1000 a jar Crème de la Mer, both from Neiman Marcus. Put together a bath basket with an aromatherapy kit and throw in a spa gift certificate.

Fragrance—A new scent is always a sure bet, says Rossi, who suggests Estee Lauder's solid perfume collection. If you really want to get her something unique, buy her Lalique’s newest fragrance, Le Baiser, meaning "the kiss." Each $800 crystal flacon depicts two lovers before a kiss and is adorned with an 18K gold trellis of thorns. Available at Neiman Marcus.

Frames—Crate and Barrel spokesperson Bette Kahn says picture frames are the way to get the ball rolling this Valentine's Day. Put memorable photos in a J. Strongwater double heart or jeweled frame from Neiman Marcus.

Crystal—Crystal is a surprisingly popular item for Valentine's Day, says Alexandra Elliot, director of media relations for Neiman Marcus. The trick is making it romantic: fill a Salviati red heart vase ($250) with a dozen long-stemmed red roses, gift a Steuben Heart Forever Yours paperweight ($480) so she’ll be reminded of you while she’s working, or toast your relationship with champagne in crystal flutes.

Julie Chai