The best of Texas travel including news, trip guides and destinations. 

Where to Be a Tourist

The Capitol, Austin

Everyone loves this building, even if they don’t love politics. Luckily for you, the Legislature meets in regular session for only 140 days every other year, leaving you plenty of time to explore without the crowds. Yes, the dome is fifteen feet higher than the U.S. Capitol’s, and yes, it is the largest state capitol complex in the country. What else would you expect?

Welcome to Texas!

Native Texans are a proud lot, but they would be the first to admit that the state has long been shaped by newcomers. In fact, the story of Texas is the story of migration. The Plains Indians poured in to follow the buffalo. Cabeza de Vaca, who washed ashore on Galveston Island in 1528, was in pursuit of land. The Spanish later rode north from what is now Mexico, and the Anglos headed west from the United States. Sam Houston showed up after he beat a congressman in Washington, D.C., with a cane; George H. W.

Relax. Reset. Renew.

Relax

There is nowhere you’ll feel more spoiled, more rejuvenated, or more mindlessly blissful than at Lake Austin Spa Resort.

Unwinding doesn’t usually come naturally to me, but by my second day at Lake Austin Spa Resort I was wearing my robe to dinner. Even the most tightly wound can morph into hard-core hedonists after just a few days at this secluded retreat twenty miles west of the Capitol. The spa’s nineteen waterfront acres have been, in past lives, a fish camp, a short-lived nudist colony, a bull-riding school, and the Bermuda Inn Reducing Resort; then, in 1997, two Louisiana State University fraternity brothers bought the property and transformed it into a sanctuary of repose. For years now, discriminating travel experts and publications have rated Lake Austin one of the top destination spas in the world. Not surprisingly, it’s also a major splurge: a three-night stay will cost you more than $1,700. Despite the price, Lake Austin doesn’t feel snobby or rarefied, like so many other posh asylums of pleasure, which makes it all the more relaxing. Plus, you get what you pay for. 

When I arrived I was given a little light reading: a twenty-page “Making the Most of Your Stay” booklet with descriptions of the hundred-plus spa treatments offered. The variety of activities and amenities available was almost comically overwhelming and my time finite: a Tibetan yoga class or a sculling lesson? A seaweed scrub or a Manaka tapping treatment? How would I choose? It took a full 24 hours to acclimate to my good fortune, but, oh, how I acclimated.

I hiked. I ate lobster ravioli. I lazed by the pool. Every morning, I’d consult the day’s schedule and pick one new pursuit to try: tai chi in the “tree house” studio, aqua aerobics in the pool barn, Hydrobiking on the Colorado River (imagine a waterborne stationary bike mounted on two huge bananas that has the turning radius of a semi). One afternoon, I skipped the cooking demonstration by the “cowgirl chef” so I could go to the fitness hoop-dance class but ended up skipping that too in favor of a nap. In the evenings, I’d slip into my thick white robe and powder-blue flip-flops and pad down a long gravel path beneath vine-covered trellises to the 25,000-square-foot spa—which is also open to day guests—to be buffed and kneaded and polished from face to feet. From there, it was off to the dining room for saffron squash risotto or grilled Cornish game hen served with the greens that I’d seen chef Stephane Beaucamp snipping from the garden earlier in the day. Afterward, back in my room, I’d slide into a lavender-scented bath before conking out while watching Downton Abbey, which I’d checked out from the front desk.

Though the resort’s Wi-Fi signal was strong, I posted nary a tweet or a photo online and barely glanced at my emails. I didn’t want to crow about my stay to friends and family stuck slogging through work meetings and rush-hour commutes back in the real world. And I wanted to practice being fully present in the moment, whether I was learning how to make goat-cheese soufflés in the French cooking class or swaying in a hammock under a tree as an equally unperturbed squirrel dropped bits of its snack on my head. 

I saved the spa’s signature Tour of Texas treatment for my last night. Over the course of two hours, I was exfoliated with a prickly-pear scrub and slathered in agave nectar before being swaddled like a papoose in soft linens, then anointed with warm essential oils and worked like dough by a masseuse who looked as sweet as a schoolteacher and had the hand strength of a steelworker. I retreated, massage drunk, to the famed Blue Room, a sky-hued lounge filled with antique chairs and Moroccan pouf ottomans, to nibble on dried apricots and unsalted almonds before tightening my sash and walking out into the night, under the stars. 

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