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.