Vacations can be a perfect time to learn something that you have always dreamed of doing. These are not return-to-school suggestions, so a laid-back atmosphere will dominate. These educational getaways are perfect for couples as well as the solo traveler looking to meet like-minded independent vacationers.
Whether your secret desire is wooden boat making, surfing, baking, rock climbing or glassblowing, there is a skill-building vacation with your name on it. Here are seven trips, including one day getaway, that will help you gain new talents without skimping on the fun factor. (And if you can’t fit in a class-y getaway any time soon, CourseHorse.com is a great new resource for finding all kinds of classes throughout NYC.)
What: Indoor and Outdoor Skills
Where: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York
When: Year round
Why: A Victorian castle resort with charming accommodations and stunning grounds, this family-run property offers a wide range of educational activities year round. When you’re not learning new skills—like rock climbing, locavorism, ballroom dancing, the art of chocolate, or couple massage lessons—enjoy hiking, lake swimming, cross-country skiing, boating, tennis and three delicious meals (plus a scrumptious afternoon tea) per day, included in the rate, which starts at $188 per person, per night based on double occupancy.
How to get there: Take Adirondack Trailways from Port Authority to the New Paltz Bus Station, in about 90 minutes. Call the hotel’s Transportation Department 845.256.2016 at least 24 hours in advance to arrange for a pick up.
What: Surf Camp
Where: Long Beach, NY
When: Starts January 1
Why: Learn the sport of Polynesian kings. Skudin Surf Surfing Camps are open to adults of any skill level. They provide boards, rash guards and wet suits. Surf camp runs Monday-Friday from 9 a.m -1 p.m., and you are free to sign up for a day or for the full week. It costs $90 per day, with discounts for half and full weeks. You may never find your inner Laird Hamilton, but you will learn to appreciate the waves in a whole new way. The nearby trendy oceanfront Allegria hotel is offering rates from $169.
How to get there: The LIRR from Penn Station to Long Beach in 50 minutes.
What: Learn a Craft
Where: Snow Farm, The New England Craft Program, Williamsburg, MA.
When: The season runs year round, offering weekend intensives and weeklong courses.
Why: The bucolic grounds here are ideal for learning or perfecting a craft from master artisans. Try your hand at welding, glassblowing or recycled metal tinsmithing, to name a few options. You will share a no-frills, rustic but pleasant accommodation with a roomie and feast on three meals per day, featuring home baked breads. The price ranges from $330 for a weekend session to $840 for the most expensive weeklong session, meals and lodging included.
How to get there: Peter Pan bus from Port Authority to Northampton in just over 3 hours. Call Valley Transporter to arrange a shuttle that will have you at Snow Farm in about fifteen minutes.
What: Cooking School at Cooks Academy
Where: The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa
When: Cooking classes run all year
Why: Learn new techniques or hone your current skills in a low-pressure environment. This hands-on culinary experience will place you alongside trained chefs, using local Vermont ingredients. Class size is limited to eight students, so expect lots of attention in this intimate setting. Most classes last for two hours, range from $65 and cover a broad range of topics, from Classic French Haute Cuisine to American BBQ to Bake Like a Pro to Italian Classics. When you are ready to put down your spatula, you will be busy engaging in this neo-Colonial resort’s many activities from fly-fishing to hot-air ballooning.
How to get there: Amtrak to Burlington in six hours. The hotel will pick you up with advance notice and have you at the resort in approximately 15 minutes.
What: Wooden Boat Building
Where: Wooden Boat School, Brookline, Maine
When: Week-long classes run throughout the year
Why: Learn the craft of traditional wooden boat building in this friendly community steeped in maritime traditions. The school offers a variety of classes from fundamentals to more specialized offerings, such as Build your own Willow Sea Kayak. You will live in a clean, comfortable double room in one of two student houses costing $450 per week, including full board. Or shed creature comforts and wake up to the smell of salt air if you should prefer to pitch a tent in the school’s waterfront campsite for approximately $100 per week. The tuition fee for classes varies, but expect to pay around $700 per week-long course.
How to get there: See oM’s Boston transport guide. Concord Coach Lines from Boston’s South Station to Bangor in 5 hours. The school will arrange to pick you up with two weeks advanced notice, and shuttle you to Brooklin is 90 minutes.
What: Learn the Art of Historically Sensitive Restoration
Where: Bartow-Pell Mansion, Pelham Bay, Bronx, NY
When: July 29 – August 2, 2013
Why: You don’t have to leave NYC to participate in an educational expedition. Adventures in Preservation is offering Shutter Shop on Shore Road: Restoration Work at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum. This program emphasizes environmentally considerate techniques and is a hands-on opportunity to learn priming, painting and carpentry as you and your fellow participants preserve the interior shutters of this historic 19th Century mansion. You will be doing worthwhile work, as the mansion is open to the public and hosts many valuable educational opportunities for kids and adults. The cost is $295 and includes daily morning coffee, snacks, picnic lunch and the opportunity to gain behind-the-scenes knowledge of this National Historic Landmark.
How to get there: 6 train to the Pelham Bay Park station, followed by the Westchester Bee-Line #45 bus direct to the mansion gate.
What: Outdoor Adventure Classes
Where: The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia
When: Year Round
Why: Generations of well-heeled vacationers have “taken the waters” at the hotel’s legendary medicinal springs. Surrounded by the natural splendor of the Allegheny Mountains, this genteel resort is a National Historic Landmark and a perfect place to learn cool things, like falconry, trap shooting, fly fishing, and archery. You can also book a learn to ski package with the family and receive accommodations, daily lift tickets, equipment rentals, group lessons, and more for $305 per room.
How to get there: Take Amtrak to Clifton Forge in nine hours. Call The Homestead Activities Department at 800-838-1766, option 4, to arrange pick up. They will have you at the resort in 30 minutes.
Photos: Courtesy of Michael Rutkowski, Jim Smith Photography, Skuddin Surf Camp, The Essex, Wooden Boat School, and The Homestead
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.