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Ahh-Inspired in Austin

Just how relaxed can a city-slicker get? Leigh Crandall dons a robe and slippers to find out at Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas

See recent posts by Ben Solomon

“Lavender or mint?”

Amanda, my spa therapist at Lake Austin Spa Resort, looks at me expectantly and I turn my attention to the little cart in front of us lined with a dozen delicate pots, each with a small bouquet of herbs inside. I shuffle my weight from one slippered foot to the other and, sensing my hesitation, Amanda patiently walks me through the benefits of each choice: lavender has a calming effect while mint is effervescent, its scent instilling a sense of wellbeing. “And, of course, there’s always sage.”

These herbs will be used as part of the “Gifts of Our Garden” treatment—100 minutes that includes exfoliation, a massage and a wrap utilizing the healing powers of these plants. My herbal indecision is stemming from a meeting I’d had earlier in the day with Trisha Shirey, Lake Austin’s “Director of Flora & Fauna”, who has been with the resort for 30 years and who speaks of the grounds with such affection that choosing a favorite of her plants would be akin to dubbing one child sweeter than the next. {"type": "left-quote", "text": "Pear, persimmon and six types of fig trees dot the grounds and the Texas Mountain Laurel’s clusters of purple flowers give the air a sweet, grape-like scent. "}

“I started digging these gardens the second day of the job here,” Shirey explained in her Texas twang as we walked through the organic herb, flower and vegetable beds planted along the shore of the lake. There’s a bay laurel tree, which guests are encouraged to prune to take the bay leaves home for cooking. Pear, persimmon and six types of fig trees dot the grounds. The Texas Mountain Laurel’s clusters of purple flowers give the air a sweet, grape-like scent attracting butterflies and bees. Shirey merrily hopped around the plant beds, discussing the things she’s created from the garden’s bounty – limoncello from the lemons, herbal-infused liquors, homemade beauty products. “I guess I’m a bit of a garden junky,” she laughed.

Plants from the garden are not only used in the treatments at the Lakehouse Spa, but also in the resort’s healthful seasonal menu (breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in a stay here) and in the cooking and crafting classes offered as part of the resort’s activity program. The weekly event calendar runs the gamut from yoga on a deck overlooking the river to water aerobics in the spa’s indoor pool, housed in a beautiful old barn.

The through-line in everything at Lake Austin is rejuvenation and relaxation—guests are even encouraged to come to meals dressed only in the plush robes the resort provides, which is exactly what I’m wearing as I ponder the choice again: lavender or mint? I point to a pot and rest easy knowing that, when you’re relaxed and dressed in a cozy robe and slippers, it’s tough to make a bad decision.

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Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

Willow Stream Spa is among the most popular in California Wine Country thanks to its “bathing-ritual,” an experience that includes therapeutic baths, a steam room and dry sauna, plus outdoor thermal mineral pools. Treatment to Book: Harvest Kur Local products like grapeseed oil are used to promote relaxation and balance, and stimulate your immune system via a bubble bath, wrap and full-body massage. (90 min; $265)

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Gateway Canyons

Relaxation comes easy thanks to Gateway Spa’s stunning desert landscape in Colorado. In addition to a long menu of spa treatments, visitors can also opt for outdoor yoga and Pilates classes. Treatment to Book: Native Desert Sage Massage Designed to enhance your mood, a body mask draws impurities from the skin while the application of desert sage oil during a massage leaves skin soft.

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Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa

Spa Grande lives up to its name—it’s the largest in all of Hawaii at over 50,000-square-feet. Facilities include a terme hydrotheraphy circuit with three cascading waterfalls, a Japanese furo and Hawaiian salt sea baths. Treatments utilize local ingredients including volcanic ash, pineapple and seaweed. Treatment to Book: Maui Sugar Cane Exfoliation Sugar cane is combined with coconut and macadamia nut oil to remove dead skin cells and polish skin for a healthier glow (50 min; $165)

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L'Auberge Del Mar

Designed by acclaimed architect Cary Collier, Spa L'Auberge in San Diego has a cozy, beach cottage style to it. With its seaside setting as an influence, the treatment menu revolves around the healing power of the ocean. Treatment to Book: Detoxifying Seaweed Body Wrap After a vigorous dry brushing exfoliation, a wrap infuses the body with the curative powers of seaweed. The final touch is a relaxing mini-massage using a seaweed oil to hydrate, remineralize and deeply nourish the skin (80 min; $185)

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Sanctuary Camelback Mountain

An Asian-inspired menu of treatments is offered in indoor and outdoor rooms at this Scottsdale spa. A zen meditation garden, tranquil reflecting pond, and Watsu pool for aquatic massage provide other ways to unwind. Treatment to Book: Golden Lotus Balancing Ritual Balance your yin/yang energy with finely ground herbs that are then massaged into the body. A full body acupressure session along with a head & neck release also releases tension and restores the flow of natural energy (90 min; $240)

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