LAKE AUSTIN SPA — I’ve been to Lake Austin Spa twice in October now and once in May. I think fall is actually my favorite time as the temperature crisps up a bit and leaves begin to turn just a baby bit. I’ve been with a friend of mine which was fun to get massages, do some work out classes which are all included and hang at the pool, but most recently, I just went with my parents. We’ve never done anything like this together as we are more of an active vacation lifestyle family either hiking in Colorado or touring in Europe. My dad’s 80th birthday was coming up and while my mom wanted to go to Montreal, I felt some pressure at work with so many restaurant openings. The main goal was just for us to spend time together, so I suggested Lake Austin Spa since it’s just about a 35 min drive from my house and they can easily drive in from Houston. This was the best idea we’ve ever had!! We got to fully be present with each other without having to go to the airport, make dinner reservations, or a list of sites to see.
The resort’s new pool cabanas are gorgeous and perfect for reading. They also just look so nice with their blue interiors that match the gorgeous green and blue mosaics upon entering. My favorite new part was the alfresco dining right on the water. It’s airy, under a little tented pergola and feels more freeing and in nature than the indoor dining room. We made my dad do his first yoga class (at 80) and my mom and I had tears in our eyes watching him try to figure out all the positions and words that he’s never heard of. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life when the teacher said “Shavasana” and my dad said “I’m sorry what are we supposed to be doing now?” He even said “Amen” at the end of the class when everyone else said Namaste.
We enjoyed a lovely little boat cruise that took us all the way down to see Commons Ford on the tame waters, a cycle class, and experienced the hot tub in the backyard of our room for the first time. I LOVED that. I really love the food at the spa restaurant for lunch where we had a little cheese and honey panini and a grilled shrimp salad. Dinner is by far the best meal with specials, a great tender chicken breast, but the crab salad with beets really blew me away. Come here to relax and connect with yourself, friends or loved ones. It’s about enjoying the outdoor beauty so definitely jump in that lake or take a yoga class on a paddle board!
THE YURTOPIAN — The first yurt I stayed in was in Big Sur, but The Yurtopian was a WAY better accommodation and experience shelter wise. Located in Wimberley it’s about a 50 minute drive from downtown Austin. They give you a gate code and you let yourself in and never see anyone but your fun little property equipped with an outdoor shower, kitchen, coffee, little wading pool, fire pit for s’mores, and a rooftop deck. We crossed a little bridge to get to Greta Ger which was one of the most exclusive ones on the property. Everything about it was decorated so beautifully and just right. I loved the deck which felt very nice and glad to have a bathroom so close unlike the one in Big Sur. We walked around the grounds and saw a few of the other yurts which were a bit closer together. I’m so glad we stayed in ours!
The best part was that you have access to the swimming right on the Blanco River and can park at 7A. It’s just a short drive and where I spent three months swimming during the beginning of covid in 2020 because a friend of mine had property there. It brought back so many positive memories, and we brought a float to hang in the water and tan.
To make the most of our Hill Country experience, we then drove during the sunset to eat at Tillie’s at Camp Lucy which was probably a bit too far (45 minutes). However, the drive is SO luxurious and pretty that it was worth it and I probably wouldn’t go on a normal night from Austin anyway. I loved the Yurtopian so much. I definitely want to go in the winter and take advantage of some hiking nearby and that fire pit – just don’t forget s’mores supplies! I’d recommend two nights here next time.
GRUENE HALL — It’s true I had never been to Gruene Hall until I was 35! I don’t know how I didn’t go in college, but we only floated the Guadalupe River and at The Gristmill instead. As the oldest honky tonk in Texas, this cash-only, wine and beer only, NO AC spot was built in 1878. We rented an Airbnb in Wimberley so we could hang on the water during the day. It was the most Texas house I’ve ever seen, and we had a little private watering hole to drink and grill at all day. Then we had a little bus pick us up and take us to Gruene.
The Gristmill has a VERY country menu with as big as your head sized onion rings, nachos, quesadillas, grilled chicken sandwiches, chicken fried steak. You know, Texas food. We ate there then scooted next door to see Roger Creager. So what that I only knew the Everclear song and one other? I loved the old feeling in there, the cowboy boots and hats, and everyone two-stepping. It’s such a cool stage because it’s really just a little bit higher up and feels like someone’s barn. This place made me so happy, fuzzy, and feel like my childhood Texas self when I used to only listen to country music. Catch a show here and stay on the river!
LA CANTERA SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio is just about an hour and a half away from Austin so essentially you could just go for dinner at Magpie and snap back to Austin. Speaking of, Magpie was one of the best meals I’ve had all year! Their Carbonara, which by the way, I don’t even eat Pancetta but I DID and LOVED it, was unreal. They have a little counter we snuck into and we went to town! The Shrimp Toast seems to be a regular on the menu with a caper and shallot sauce, pecorino, on their toasted milk bread. I truly couldn’t believe my tastebuds here, and it was so unexpected!
We also went to honky tonk, The Lonesome Rose, which felt like a movie with really cool posters, music, and local crowd. We spent a night doing local things and then slept at La Cantera Resort. I think this would be a good getaway for families because they have an Adults Only Pool and a Family Pool, there is golf, a spa with yoga and sound bath classes where you’ll have access to a sauna and steam room, and a really great restaurant just down the road that they can golf cart you to called Signature Restaurant.
It reminded me so much of the south. I felt like I was in Atlanta or Nashville with the large, dark wooden chairs and long tables for big groups, circular light fixtures, and Serena & Lily style bar chairs. The kitchen was open with brass pans hanging and all of the cocktails were colorful with cute herbs and garnishes. Get the Filet Mignon and Scallops.
As you begin to plan out your next year, I recommend making a weekend trip out of any one of these places! Go to Lake Austin Spa in the fall with girlfriends (or in my case, parents), Gruene Hall with your friends any time of the year, The Yurtopian during the summer or winter for an intimate, connective getaway or La Cantera in San Antonio during the summer with the kids.