Retreat ... relax ... rebound
By Helen Bryant
Whether we yearn for spa pampering, horseback riding, floating in a lazy river, hitting the links, or just collapsing in a hammock, we go to a resort for one primary reason: to escape.
We’re not freeing ourselves just from work and housekeeping; we’re also escaping the car—because as much as we love gallivanting across the countryside in our vehicles, sometimes we just want to hole up someplace where we can sleep, eat, and play without revving up an engine.
A resort becomes our self-contained paradise, and there are dozens throughout Texas, each special in its own way. Here are a few favorites:
On a recent night at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines, a gaggle of giggling little girls in bathing suits sprinted through the lobby as ’60s rock music poured out of Shellers Barrelhouse Bar. Up a flight of stairs in the elegant Stories restaurant, diners toasted without hearing any of the clamor.
There you have this resort’s formula: a whirl of activities for kids, paired with an adult experience strong enough to lure honeymooners. Kids enjoy pools with slides and a lazy river, while at the adult pool, couples relax and sip beverages from the bar. Adults indulge in massages at Spa Django, and, in summer, teens enjoy pedicures at Wild Hare Youth Spa.
As for horseback riding, golf, star-gazing, kayaking, and floating lazily in a raft down the Colorado River: Everybody can enjoy those. And at the end of the day, adults like s’mores as much as kids do.
Animals, including two Longhorn steers (available for photographs in the saddle), four Percheron draft horses, and two alpacas, lend the resort the air of a friendly farm, and you’ll see Texas culture referenced everywhere: Placards with information on Texas authors in the Scribes Club, Texas art on the guest-room walls, an infusion of Shiner Bock in the queso in casual Firewheel Cafe.
Want fine dining? Stories restaurant offers buttery seared scallops, Niman Ranch Lamb with house-made kim chi and Asian pear jus, and more, with a fine wine list.
About the pines: You’ll see a few of Bastrop’s “lost” loblolly pines growing here, along with some the resort planted amid the more plentiful pecans, oaks, and cypresses. Resort developers swear they removed only four pecan trees to build Hyatt Lost Pines, and these you’ll find repurposed in the lobby as a chandelier, a coffee table, and wide-planked flooring.
Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, 575 Hyatt Lost Pines Rd., Bastrop; 512/308-1234.
La Torretta sits on a fat peninsula poking out into Lake Conroe, so wherever you look, you see water—and that’s the focus of this resort north of Houston. Lake Conroe, which spreads across 21,000 acres at the edge of Sam Houston National Forest, has long been a favorite with anglers going after large-mouth bass, crappie, and catfish. La Torretta lures you to join the fun. At press time, the marina (with boat rentals) was closed because of low water levels, but you can still bring your own watercraft or rent nearby.
In addition to the lake, La Torretta has its own waterscape with four pools, including some for little kids, and an infinity pool that pours into an Olympic-sized lap pool. Instead of a lazy river, this resort has a fast-moving one that zips you around the pools.
A kids’ camp April through September offers supervised activities so the adults can run off for a game of tennis, a round of golf, a workout at the fitness center, or a treatment at SpaTerre. (Try the Hamam, a eucalyptus-infused steam room.) Other family activities include putt-putt golf and, in summer, outdoor movies.
Dine on juicy steak at Prime or velvety yellowtail at Yoi Sushi Bar. End the evening listening to a piano player’s show tunes in Sonata Lounge.
Each of the 20-story tower’s suites (and it’s all suites) offers an expansive view of Lake Conroe. How could they not? At La Torretta, it’s all about the water.
La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa, 600 La Torretta Blvd., Montgomery, 936/448-4400 or 877/286-9590.
Out in the undulating horse country of southeast Texas, you’ll find a 313-acre ranch that doesn’t call itself a resort.
Certainly, though, The Inn at Dos Brisas seems more resort than inn. True, you won’t see a golf course or spa here (although you can arrange to play golf nearby or enjoy a massage in your guest quarters), but you won’t find a more serene escape. Tranquil, outdoor-focused activities include horseback riding, fly fishing on one of the lakes, and star-gazing. With food a prime attraction here, Dos Brisas also offers classes on gardening and cooking and wine.
Home to the only Forbes (formerly Mobil) five-star restaurant in Texas, Dos Brisas now aims to win accolades for its lodging. So, last year, in addition to its four elegant, 730-square-foot casitas, Dos Brisas added five 2,950-square-foot Spanish-style haciendas. Opulent, but not overbearing—with soaring ceilings, French oak floors, screened porches, private pools, 575-square-foot bathrooms, and ornately carved beds so high you nearly have to pole-vault into their fluffiness—these haciendas invite a long stay.
In the living room of each hacienda, thick recipe books are tossed casually on an oversized turquoise ottoman so you can put your feet up and read in front of the fireplace.
Maybe you’ll want to cook when you get home, but certainly not here. Chef Raj Dixit creatively composes his phenomenal meals with produce from the property’s organic farm and greenhouses, and proteins and dairy products from local sources when possible. He scatters periwinkles (sea snails) around a plate of succulent, seared black sea bass. A handful of mustard greens arrives decorated with negi onions, cashews, and a few shavings of squid.
Enjoy dinner in the dining room, but a golf cart delivers breakfast to your house, and lunch can be ferried to wherever you happen to be fishing, riding, or relaxing. Even if you’re in the hammock.
The Inn at Dos Brisas, 10000 Champion Dr., Washington; 979/277-7750.
It’s a par 3, but what a par 3: A bunker lies smack in the middle of the Number 16 green at AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio. Touring golf pros play this course. You can, too, if you stay at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country.
This resort, which rises up like a limestone fortress on a hill north of San Antonio, offers two TPC courses: the more forgiving Pete Dye-designed Canyons Course and the killer Oaks Course maniacally crafted by Australian pro-golfer Greg Norman. You might not be a pro, but you’ll feel like one after you’ve navigated these courses.
The resort doesn’t stop with golf, though. The River Bluff Water Experience elicits happy squeals with pools, slides, and both a rapid river ride and lazy river. Lantana Spa, with 30 treatment rooms (think restorative organic massages and citrus blossom facials), includes a fitness center and private lap pool. Explore the outdoors on foot, on a bike, or on a Segway.
The golf clubhouse hosts the resort’s fine dining establishment, 18 Oaks, specializing in melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon, New York strips, tomahawk steaks, and other prime cuts. For lunch, linger at the informal Cibolo Moon, with its bison meatloaf and house-made jellies (try cranberry-grape with a kick of habanero), then stop by the tequila bar next door.
Add a nature preserve, sports bar (with a 120-foot, big-screen TV), wedding pavilion, and kids’ club with activities such as ice cream-making, and it’s easy for families to find this resort a winner in the clubhouse.
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, 23808 Resort Pkwy., San Antonio; 210/276-2500.
Hunters throng to Rough Creek in pursuit of deer, wild hogs, and quail. Author Sandra Brown comes in search of pastoral quiet in which to write. Corporate workers compete in cattle drives here to build teamwork. And families swim, fish, zipline, and take hayrides.
The one thing nobody does at Rough Creek Lodge is rough it. The staff bathes you in friendliness, starting with the ranch-hand vibe of the bellman who meets you as you park your car, grabs your suitcase, and extends an embrace like you’re a long-lost family member.
But when he opens the door to your hotel room —the Bolivian
walnut door, hand-carved with wildlife images—and reveals an elegant retreat
with crown molding and a
Rough Creek offers fishing (in a boat or from shore) on 80-acre Mallard Lake, hiking, biking, tennis, Frisbee golf, paintball, clay-shooting, and a driving range. Work out at the fitness center, relax at the spa, or hunt for fossils on Gun Mountain and at other spots. Kids will enjoy a 45-foot climbing wall, 650-foot zipline, and bungee trampoline, along with ping-pong, air hockey, and other indoor games. Two pools ensure that family fun doesn’t splash adult relaxation. A pavilion and pastoral chapel provide a splendid wedding venue.
And the restaurant features Chef Gerard Thompson’s rustic American cuisine. True to the hunting theme, the most popular menu item is quail. Succulent and beautifully grilled with a sweet sherry-maple glaze, the plump birds are so flavorful that some diners have been known to order up a whole covey.
Rough Creek Lodge, 5165 CR 2013, Glen Rose; 254/488-4753 or 800/864-4705.
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From the May 2012 issue.