Spring Travel: Get Active in Austin

Abandon your usual routine and pursue the ultimate travel souvenir: a new pastime.
At Travaasa, guests can try their hand at horseback riding. Photo via istockphoto

At Travaasa, guests can try their hand at horseback riding. Photo courtesy of Travaasa Experiential Resorts

Most vacations are punctuated by a staid lineup of activities, like regrettable sunbathing and reservations at lackluster seafood joints. While some sojourners favor the familiar, more intrepid types face a dilemma: Should they bite their tongues and hit the beach, or plan a more outside-the-box getaway? For the latter, there’s Travaasa, a 72-room “experiential resort” in Austin that marries action-packed instructional programming (daily dude-ranch-inspired classes) with leisure (tranquil spa treatments and farm-to-table dining).

Crowning a hilltop on the city’s perimeter, the lush boutique property — it’s reminiscent of a super-luxe summer camp — boasts 20 rotating classes and daily private lessons. With scheduling starting as early as 6 a.m. and ending near dinnertime, guests are free to be laissez-faire, but for the ultimate vacay, you’ll want to max out the day. One authentically Texas experience: hatchet throwing, in which patient instructors guide you through the basics and act as cheerleaders — even when your hurling technique teeters on hazardous. Also on offer: mechanical bull-riding set to country tunes, plus more accessible classes, including mountain biking, two-step, archery, horseback riding, and roping, taught by, of course, an honest-to-goodness cowboy.

Leave time, though, for more low-key adventures, like dinner at the resort’s Preserve Kitchen + Bar (reserve a table outside), whose constantly evolving menus are dotted with out-there dishes (think: antelope tacos and quail breasts) accompanied by vegetables harvested from the on-site farm. The sprawling spa, meanwhile, is home to a bevy of treatments; opt for a massage using locally sourced organic honey, a well-deserved way to wind down after an action-filled day. When it’s time to check out, you’ll be equipped with an arsenal of new skills (how many people in Philly know how to lasso a steer?) and ready to tackle them at home. Just, you know, be careful with the hatchets.

WHERE TO STAY: Travaasa Austin, 13500 Farm to Market Road 2769, Austin, Texas; starting at $325 per night.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Carve out a few hours to relax at the horizon-skimming saltwater pool, where you can hunker down in a private cabana and nosh on freshly made quinoa rolls from the patio bar.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft have pulled out of Austin, so download legal alternative Ride Austin (it’s nearly identical to Uber) before you land, for the 35-minute trip to Travaasa.

Published as “The Purpose-Driven Traveler: Learn Something New” in the March 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.