Since even before we had children, my wife Air and I have enjoyed booking the occasional night at a fancy hotel in downtown Vancouver, just for the hell of it. We did so again this evening, so we had only a short trip after Navarik's annual staff Christmas party to a comfy bed at the Sutton Place Hotel. The kids are at home with their grandparents and the dog.
Some people find it odd that we spend money to sleep in a strange bed in our own city, but that's why we choose only the nicest downtown hotels. It's a relatively cheap luxury experience, where we can order room service, soak in a hot tub, have a maid clean our room, and get easy access to city-centre shopping, while minimizing travel time and hassle. (I even rode the SkyTrain down to check in before Air met me after work.)
A few years ago, our friend Tris pointed me to the then-new hotwire.com, which offers superb (but non-refundable) deals on hotels, plus the sometimes-fun bonus of not knowing the name of your hotel until after you book it. It becomes a mini-vacation with a bit of lottery unpredictability built in—except, since any four- or five-star hotel downtown is great (especially for less than $125 a night, as little as a third of the standard price), there's no way to lose.
If the concept of a stay-home trip seems odd or a waste of money to you, I recommend you try it. It can actually be less expensive than a fancy dinner and a show (though you could add those too), and often feels like a longer getaway than it is.
Plus: mmm, room service breakfast.