As a home-schooling against my will mom of three, while simultaneously working-from-home travel agent slash advisor, I had been dreaming of a solo vacation by myself since we were all ordered to stay at home in March. I needed to enjoy the glorious sound of silence and treat myself to a spa and wellness retreat since my kids had seemingly not stopped bickering for months. I had never been on vacation alone before, but with so many state closures, required testing, and limited flights, I was looking for something accessible and safe. I landed on Austin, Texas. There were several excellent hotel and resort choices, so I chose three and went off on my own to explore the best of what Austin, Texas had to offer. So long, kiddos! Sorry, husband.
Perfect For: Music Lovers | Foodies | Couples Weekend Getaway | Bachelor/Bachelorette party | Wellness Retreat | Spa
When most people think of the things to do in Austin, Texas, they might think of its official slogan The Live Music Capital of the World. With festivals like SXSW music festival (pronounced South by Southwest for those of you who live under a rock) and Austin City Limits, there’s never a shortage of live music and unique venues to be found year-round. And speaking of year-round, Austin boasts amazing weather for most of the year, which allows you to enjoy everything it has to offer, no matter the time of year.
The other unofficial slogan of Keep Austin Weird refers to its residents’ strong support of small local businesses and desire to keep out massive corporations. This is apparent as soon as you step off the airplane in AUS, where there’s no Starbucks or Burger King in sight within the terminal, but rather small local restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops. Aside from the music scene and small shop scene, Austin is known for its foodie and restaurant scene. You’ll find tons of amazing restaurants, so in combination with the music scene, makes for the perfect pairing for a couple’s weekend getaway or friends and family reunion.
The lesser known of top things to do in Austin is the health, wellness and spa scene. Lake Austin is home to two of the country’s best wellness resorts, Lake Austin Spa Resort and Miraval Austin Wellness Resort & Spa. These two resorts are destinations in and of themselves, and I can’t wait to share more about my stays there.
While not quite like DFW International, Austin has plenty of non-stop flights and is easily accessible from all over the country. My non-stop flight from Miami was only $90 and left in the morning and returned at night, which is ideal for a weekend trip anywhere. Driving to Austin from Dallas takes 3 hours, and a 2.5 hour drive from Houston, so setting up a multi-city tour through Texas is also a great trip option if you have the time. I love planning trips for clients who want to discover the best things to do in Texas, combining city options with ranches that lie just beyond city limits.
The Best Hotels in Austin Texas
While I didn’t have a chance to see some other fantastic hotels like Four Seasons Resort or Austin Proper Hotel, I’m going to cover three of the best hotels in Austin. When live music returns, I’ll be sure to be back with my husband and visit the other hotels I missed on Round #1.
Perhaps the resort that most exceeded my expectations was Lake Austin Spa Resort, which just underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. I didn’t know much about this adults-only, dog-friendly, all-inclusive hotel, as most of my clients are coastal and didn’t travel domestically quite like they are now after the pandemic. What struck me most about this 40-room boutique resort on the edge of Lake Austin that sits opposite a protected bird sanctuary, is its European feel. It is truly the best kept secret in Texas, and its high-profile clients like the Bush family, Matthew McConaughey, and Drew Barrymore probably prefer to keep it that way.
On the lake, they offer wakeboarding, water skiing, wake surfing, hydro-bikes, and stand-up paddle boards. They also have an included daily afternoon cruise and a sunset wine cruise for an additional cost. Magnolia Beach is the perfect setting to enjoy the soft breeze under an embracing Magnolia tree with a good book and southern sweet tea or glass of Rosé in hand. In addition to the water sports, they have a daily roster of about 25 classes throughout the property, from hiking part of its 22 miles of hiking trails, to fossil hunting, to gardening and culinary events that feature guest speakers coverings topics such as the journey through death, cancer, or divorce to birding and culinary classes.
The rooms range from the entry-level signature rooms that don’t have a view to the lake to the lakeview rooms. Perhaps my favorite was the Lady Bird Johnson suite, where its namesake stayed many times during her travels to this intimate resort. It offers a private garden patio and is located on the quieter end of the resort that doesn’t have views of the lake, but experiences less foot traffic. So, if you’re trying to fly under the radar and avoiding the paparazzi, I recommend this suite most of all.
The 25,000-square-foot spa has 20 private treatment rooms with over 100 treatment choices including myofascial and craniosacral treatments. The Bamboo Suite spa package includes a 3-hour private experience in a private outdoor patio with 2 hours of treatments and 1 hour of alone time to enjoy the space. As an ex-competitive swimmer myself, I really loved the indoor 2-lane 25-yard pool. There are also two different outdoor pools – one lakefront pool perfect for enjoying the views and sunlight and one spa pool, which offers more shade and an organic shape.
In addition to being the ideal getaway for a wellness and spa retreat, this Austin resort is ideal for larger corporate incentive or family events. The resort is equipped with plenty of spaces that allow for outdoor events, team building activities, conference rooms, and more. Even the dock can be converted into a covered outdoor dining space under the stars. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway for just you and your partner, or needing a venue for your next corporate event, I can handle all of the details to make your stay personalized for you. It’s important to note that Lake Austin Spa Resort has a 3-night minimum stay for most of the year.
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The hotel I was most excited about seeing is the newest addition to the Auberge Resort portfolio, the Commodore Perry Estate. If you’ve ever stayed at an Auberge hotel, you’ll understand its level of excellence. I’m also a sucker for quirky and eccentric boutique resorts, so when I had seen photos of Ken Fulk’s past work featured in Architectural Digest, I was looking forward to see what this interior design visionary came up with for his latest project to restore this historical mansion and treasured landmark that sits on a 10-acre parcel in the center of Austin.
Pulling into the gravel driveway to the welcoming smile of an eager attendant was the first indication that you’ve just left one world to enter another. Stepping into the reception area, with a wall mural painted by a local Austinite, feels like a mix between a Tuscan villa and an eclectic lounge in hues of deep blue and burnt orange that invite you to sit down by the fire and get lost in a good book. Your eye can’t help but wander from floor to ceiling, stopping at every detail that Fulk masterfully pairs together in ways one would never think of doing. As I walked down a long corridor to my room, which is opened by a large brass key, the sales manager led me into the room where I was met with a fully-stocked bar cart and large plate of artisan cheeses and ice-cold grapes drizzled in honey. “It’s on the honor system,” she casually told me. “The liquor will be charged on consumption.” In other words, fix yourself a cocktail and make yourself at home.
The original building of the Estate, where Commodore Perry lived with his family, is five suites in total and done in a different style than the rest of the hotel, which are all new surrounding buildings. The five suites that make up the Mansion are whimsically appointed and charmingly distinct, named for each of the Perry family members. The LaVerne Suite is perhaps the most popular, combining the total envelopment of pink floral over the walls, ceiling and curtains with a pink stripe and pink vintage bathroom tiles. Some might call it tacky. Most would call it delightful – and it’s Fulk’s whimsy at his finest.
So how did I spend my alone time at this European-style retreat? Finishing a book poolside as I sipped on a mocktail, eating a delectable room service dinner in a plush bathrobe and sprawled across fluffy pillows, and people watching at the mansion while I relished in the notable absence of three very needy children. What I missed: conversation with friends over the punch bowl at the Mansion’s living room bar, a mystical palm reading in the property chapel, live music on weekend evenings, a yoga session or picnic on the grassy green lawn, or lunch at the larger restaurant, Lutie’s, which was not yet open due to the pandemic. Will I be going back? Yes. And if you know me, you know that I will only return to properties I really love. And I really, really loved the Commodore Perry Estate.
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I was really looking forward to my stay at Miraval Austin Wellness Resort & Spa because I felt like I was on the brink of insanity, a sentiment shared by every single mom who survived the challenges of educating kids at home while they can’t play with their friends. I expected a soulful experience (after all, my company slogan is Curating travel that speaks to your soul), but the delivery fell short.I wavered on how I wanted to present this resort, as their sales team was amazing to work with and I think that for the right person, this resort would be a perfect fit. It just wasn’t what I was expecting, and here’s why I didn’t like it:
The location: Perched up on a hillside, overlooking Lake Austin, I was expecting expansive views of the lake. Instead, you can catch a glimpse of the lake from only limited spots on property. There is a somewhat busy road running between the property and lake as well, which disrupts the feeling of being one with nature, as the sound of whirring vehicles interrupts the ohm of your yoga class.
The classes: While this resort is all-inclusive, many of the classes offered are an additional cost. I sought out classes geared toward mental health as opposed to physical health, because I had just lost a family member and as I mentioned, I was going through some stuff after being stuck inside with kids for months on-end. While I thought these classes would be more interactive and therapeutic, my experience was that there was a lead instructor that gave a lecture for an hour where the guests listened and took notes. Hardly soulful and hardly effective, in my opinion. Having said that, there was a myriad of physical fitness classes, and I witnessed many small groups of friends enjoying these together. So, if you want to sign up for every fitness class under the sun and are the type that likes boot camps or a rigorous exercise itinerary, then Miraval Austin would be a great fit for you.
The food: After a flight delay, I arrived later than expected with ravenous hunger. The main restaurant was closed, so my only option was the grab-and-go pre-packaged options at the smoothie bar next door. I grabbed a salad, an avocado chocolate gluten free cookie, and a drink and sat down outdoors, overlooking that little sliver of Lake Austin. The salad was mediocre at best, but I was hungry so I wolfed it down anyway. That evening my meal was undercooked and did not contain the ingredients that were listed on the menu. I mentioned it to my waiter and was told that menu items can vary slightly. However, that was my experience at every meal. The menu contained mouth-watering descriptions of Michelin-level options, but the delivery was plain and simple food that lacked flavor or variety. Sorry, Miraval. I was hungry for a good meal after I left, and I do not consider myself a picky eater.
The vibe: Miraval was recently bought by Hyatt Hotel group, so I did feel that there was a somewhat corporate vibe throughout the hotel. The rooms felt like any other Hyatt and the service was more standardized and less personable, if you will. This would be an excellent hotel for corporate retreats, looking for team-building and a property that can accommodate a large group. As I mentioned, I also think that this is a great property for larger groups of friends who want the most amount of class options available. As a side note, I have heard from many fellow agents who have been to both Miraval Arizona and Miraval Austin, and it is generally said that the Austin location pales in comparison. Diego Travel, which is a proud independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel, is also a Hyatt Privé member, which translates to exclusive offers and rates for our clients at both Miraval properties.
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To summarize, whether you’re planning a 2-night couples getaway or a week-long stay to explore and attend Austin City Limits (no pun intended), Austin is a great option for a weekend celebration like bachelor/bachelorette weekend or birthday bash, or couples trip to reconnect for an anniversary. It’s also an incredible destination for wellness and spa retreats, as we covered at both Lake Austin Spa Resort and Miraval Austin. I spent three nights total, but felt like I could have spent a lot more, and didn’t even leave the hotels to explore around town. When you book your vacation with Diego Travel, an independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel, and member of Virtuoso, we provide all the above listed amenities at no extra charge to our clients. Direct hotel bookings are always complimentary, and when trip planning or concierge service is involved, there is a minimal custom trip planning fee. Next time you’re planning to travel to Austin, feel free to reach out to see how we can enhance your travel experience.