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Get Schooled on Vacation With These 7 Fun Trips for Grown-ups

Aug. 13, 2018
9 min read
Back-to-School Trip List for Grown-Ups-Triple Creek Ranch cowboy class-ftr
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You’re never too old to learn something new. That’s the idea behind travel, right? It opens us up to new worlds, new languages and new ways of living life. Some trips can be more illuminating than others, however. So this year, when the kids go back-to-school, you should, too.

We’ve compiled seven itineraries perfect for travelers who want to expand their horizons. Whether you’re interested in picking up a new hobby (painting, fly-fishing), or want a crash course in a new field (horticulture, geology) taught by a professional, these fun-filled trips put you back in a scholarly mind set — minus the homework, of course.

Read on for the best trips for travelers who want to get schooled.

Learn how to fly fish

Where: Jackson, Wyoming

A Tom Weiskopf-designed 18-hole golf course, contemporary tiny homes and direct access to Bridger-Teton National Forest aren’t even the most impressive offerings at Snake River Sporting Club, a luxury resort outside Jackson, Wyoming. Its winning feature? Six miles of pristine frontage along the Snake River.

This makes it a haven for trout anglers, who joyfully wade ankle deep into water that flows fresh from the Tetons. Travelers can cast a line for the first time with the help of the prestigious Orvis Fly Fishing School, which maintains a special partnership with the resort. Guests (novice or otherwise) can embark on an immersive one- or two-day course while staying there.

Led by Spencer Morton, a seasoned fisherman and decorated Wyoming outdoors guide, students get practical advice on fly casting and how to choose the right tackle, while also allowing plenty of hands-on learning on the secluded banks of the river. Late summer is traditionally the best time to try it, as the weather is mild and the water runs so clear you can see straight through to the riverbed.

Enroll in a geology class

Where: Gateway, Colorado

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The wild sandstone canyons surrounding tiny Gateway, Colorado are full of clues to the area’s rich geological past: there are beautifully colored rock formations, fossilized sand dunes and even dinosaur tracks to be found. Zebulon Miracle, a full-time geologist and former curator at the Museum of Western Colorado, leads themed geology tours at Gateway Canyons Resort, a remote five-star property surrounded by striking red rock at the western end of Unaweep Canyon, a 1.5 billion-year-old tract.

“It’s a really easy place to learn geology,” Zebulon said, referencing the various ancient landscapes visible throughout the canyon and beyond. While in town, guests can hunt for dinosaur tracks — the largest of which span two feet from toe to heel — and along the way, learn how to distinguish between Triassic and Jurassic rock. Conditions in the arid, high-desert region are perfect for preserving everything from dinosaur bones to prehistoric rock carvings. Just be ready to sweat: Gateway hits average highs of 90 degrees in August, and remains in the low 80s through September. (Classes and custom tours book up quickly, so make sure to plan with the hotel’s concierge ahead of your trip.)

Try your hand at sailing

Where: Newport, RI

Looking for a dreamy New England getaway where you can safely learn to sail? Better start with Newport. With a rich colonial history that dates back to 1636, Newport became a vibrant trading post for whaling captains and sea merchants, from the 1930s to the 1980s, hosted the America’s Cup, one of the most famous sailing races in the world. (The town’s main boulevard is even named after the race.)

Sail Newport is the most reliable way to get out on the water, with minimum fuss and maximum resources. Instructors at the 35-year-old school teach sailing to both youngsters as well as adults. (When you’re out sailing, be sure to ask the instructor to take you under the Newport Bridge. It’s a perspective few tourists get to see.) Even when the winds aren't favorable, Newport's views don’t disappoint: Sail Newport is positioned right at the south end of Newport harbor, alongside Fort Adams.

Complete the trip by booking a room at the stunning Castle Hill Inn, a grand hotel on the waterfront just a few minutes down the road from Sail Newport. Use your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to book your room through to get 10x miles on your stay through Jan. 31, 2020. With the Rewards program, you'll get one free night for every 10 paid nights you stay.

Study horticulture

Where: Washington, Texas

There are plenty of places to find a good meal in Texas. But how many are situated on a USDA-certified organic farm, with luxurious Spanish-inspired haciendas and a 7,000-bottle wine cellar? That’s just the tip of the iceberg at Inn at Dos Brisas, a former cattle ranch turned Relais & Châteaux backcountry getaway in Washington, Texas (about halfway between Austin and Houston).

Come here to dive into a beginner’s horticulture class with Stephen R. King, who received his PhD in plant breeding at Cornell University. The leaf whisperer leads guests all over the 42-acre farm during the hour-long class, during which he shares useful tips on how his pupils can start their own gardens; using organic pest control; and how to plant according to season.

Of course, picking and tasting are encouraged — so come hungry. Guests don't need to worry about packing their own supplies, as garden gloves are provided. Around late summer, everything is ready to be harvested, so in addition to hauling back fresh veggies (think: fresh garlic, parsnips and collard greens) visitor also get a peek at the berry patch, fruit orchards and herb garden.

Take a surf lesson

Where: Waikiki, Hawaii

You don’t have to go far to find a decent surf lesson in Oahu. That’s especially true when you’re staying at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, where Kai Sallas Pro Surf School has a sign-up counter located in the lobby.

Lessons are taught by trained instructors from the legendary school — at a secluded surf spot, half a mile from the resort. While you’re getting a feel for the board, you can also watch impressive surfing at the beach, which is frequented by locals and pro surfers on a daily basis. And since this is Hawaii, there’s no rush: classes are offered daily at 9:00am, noon and 3:00pm. Choose from a beginner group lesson or private lesson — all of which begin with a 20-minute tutorial on land, before heading out into the water. Can’t figure out how to stand up on your first try? Who cares. At least you’ll have a blast trying.

Rooms at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa start at $199, or 40,000 Marriott Rewards point per night. (That rate will increase to 50,000 points once the new award chart is implemented on Aug. 18.)

Train to become a cowboy

Where: Darby, Montana

Cowboy school might sound like something you’d send your five-year-old to, but actually this is a thing grown-ups do, too. In southern Montana, near the Idaho state line, Triple Creek Ranch is just the latest property to catch onto the steadfast dude ranch trend. Except here, they take it up a notch.

Surrounded by rolling wilderness and forest in the Bitterroot Mountains, the ranch has its own bison, migratory elk and even an apple orchard complete with a cider press. But it’s during the cattle herding classes that you’ll really get a feel for the rough-and-tumble cowboy life. During sessions, teams of guests and cowhands become adept at separating individual calves from the herd, and moving those calves through separate pens. (Planning a spring visit? Then you can try out your roping skills at the annual spring branding class.)

The class is available on Tuesdays and Saturdays through September, and meets at 10:00am. Should you need more stimulation for the remainder of your trip, you won’t be left twiddling your thumbs. On-site activities include nature safaris, mountain biking and guided stargazing beneath the expansive Montana sky.

Book an art class

Where: Vail, Colorado

Run by the same family for five generations, Sonnenalp commands a stunning perch high over the Rockies — the kind of scenery you’d expect Heidi to go waltzing across. The crowds pick up in December come ski season (there’s a dedicated ski concierge to help with fittings and such), but when you show up in late August, it’s all about the painting classes.

Led by instructors from the nearby Alpine Art Center, a local art studio, hotel guests are taken through a beginner landscape painting lesson — and what a landscape it is! Before sitting down to paint, students hike through the White River National Forest to learn about native plants and wildlife, before returning to the studio, freshly inspired. (Typically, these classes require driving out on a forest service road to feel utterly engrossed in the local nature.)

Painting class is scheduled multiple times throughout the summer and fall months, though private sessions can be arranged for couples or families. Don’t worry about packing your own easel and paintbrush: it’s all provided by the instructor, as is a shrimp cocktail lunch. The end product will be a great souvenir to take home — or bequeath to the hotel so you have an excuse to come back and admire your masterpiece.

Book your stay with The Platinum Card® from American Express through the Fine Hotels & Resorts travel portal. You'll get a host of perks like a room upgrade upon arrival, when available; daily breakfast for two; and, until September 14, a $300 property credit.