Chilling at Lake Austin Spa

A few days of pampering, eating well make for a fresh outlook

A few days of pampering, eating well make for a fresh outlook

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Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa
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Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa
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Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa
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Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa
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Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa
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News_Lake Austin Spa_exterior
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News_Lake Austin Spa_exterior

Who knew that a long weekend at Lake Austin Spa Resort could have such magical results? When I returned to Houston after several days of exercise, eating well (including a few glasses of wine) and the most indulgent pampering imaginable, friends asked if I had "done something."

And, as most of you know, in social parlance that means either cosmetic surgery or, at the least, a painful round of Restylane. No way, I answered, attributing the youthful glow to the Age Arresting Facial, 80 sleep-inducing minutes of oiling, massaging, buffing and steaming that truly erased several years of wear and tear. 

Also, it could have been those leisurely afternoons lounging in the wicker rocker on my porch, reading and watching the boaters go by on the lake below. Of course, snoozing in my cabana by the spa pool did as much to relieve the city stress as did the wondrous spa massages. It seems that every element of the Lake Austin Spa experience contributed to that noticeable fresh look. 

The resort 411

Spread over 19 serene and magnificently-landscaped acres located on the banks of Lake Austin, the spa is 30 minutes from downtown Austin and three hours by car, door-to-door, from most of Houston — and a lifetime away from the big city hustle and bustle.

Guests put their heads down each night in one of 40 luxe country-themed, lakeside guest rooms. That, of course, comes after a day of exercise classes, spa treatments and meals so surprisingly delicious that you simply cannot believe that they are calorie- and fat gram-friendly.

Getting in shape

I opted for a less-than-strenuous approach to the workout possibilities focusing instead on finishing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,  while my husband (and men are welcome year-round) went for multiple, sweat-inducing, calorie-killing classes.

The exercise choices are bountiful and range in difficulty from barely breath-taking to strenuous. Kayaking, hydro-biking (my fave), Zumba, Pilates, T'ai Chi, cardio hikes, yoga, kick boxing and water works in the indoor junior Olympic lap pool (way cool) are just a few of the athletic offerings that run throughout the day.

Not into group activities? Treadmills, Stairmasters, stationary bikes and a full assortment of weight machines and free weights make the gym the place to burn fat. Classes and individual instruction are also available.

Lake Austin recently introduced the Power of 7 Program, a flexible and customized healthy lifestyle curriculum available year-round, starting any day of the week. The power track focus deals with fitness, stress management, weight loss and/or other issues. The program is overseen by fitness director Sharon Rekieta, who directs the Power Team in developing a personalized program for the individual guest.

The point is that much can be accomplished in a seven-night stay.

Don't say "spa food"

Pinch me. Long gone are the grueling "fat farm" days, when under previous ownership, Lake Austin served basically beans and rice. Today, three bountiful and tasty meals (wine and beer available at dinner) are spa staples, what chef Terry Conlan calls "stealth health" cuisine, so subtle is the low-fat, low-calorie aspect that you can hardly believe it.

Menu selections are varied and based on seasonal specialties, plus low-fat desserts and flavored yogurts insure that you do not feel deprived. Though with the high quality of the meals, that is hardly a possibility. For variety, overnight guests can take their lunch in the casual LakeHouse Spa where the midday meal runs on the soup and salad side.

The food was so tasty that we had to have the spa cookbook, Fresh: Healthy Cooking and Living from Lake Austin Spa Resort. The lentil salad alone was worth the cover price.

Applause, applause

Chef Conlan's talents most assuredly contributed to Lake Austin Spa Resort being named the number one destination spa in North American by Condé Nast Traveler in 2008.

In fact, accolades add up faster than calories at this palace of pampering that has been lauded and given honors by Travel & Leisure magazine, the Zagat Survey of top U.S. Hotels, Resorts & Spas,  Allure magazine, Health magazine and more. In 2009, Condé Nast Traveler named it the top-rated destination spa on the publication's gold list of world's best places to stay, a ranking it has earned again this year.

The LakeHouse Spa

This multi-million dollar, 25,000-square-foot addition to the resort was completed in 2004 and has been setting the bar for spa standards across the country. More than 100 spa and salon treatments are offered in various locations, including a screened veranda, popular with couples wishing to have massages in tandem.

Time limitations prevented me from experiencing the fun of the treatment cabanas or the inviting private outdoor garden suite with hot tub, outdoor shower and treatment cabana for two. We must return.

I will say that the Age Arresting Facial was worth the trip alone. But then there were so many other treatments to choose from that I could go back just to experience the Rosemary Sea Salt Scrub, or the Japanese Adzuki Bean Treatment (exfoliation) or the Eucalyptus Uplift, a body wrap and massage treatment. I did try the Perfect Pomegranate, a soothing scrub, shower and massage (another anti-aging treatment) and my skin truly was never softer.

Special for CultureMappers

Now through Sept. 15, CultureMap readers have access to the three-night Ultimate Spa Pampering Package in premier accommodations. Cost is $2,045 per person for two nights (taxes and service charges included) with the third night free. That includes a $310 spa and fitness allowance, three healthy gourmet meals daily, unlimited fitness activities and discovery programs. The package represents a 25 percent savings off the regular rate.

To take advantage of the discount, readers should mention the CultureMap Special when booking at 1-800-847-5637.