Weekender: 3 Texas Resorts for Cool Pools, Culinary Creations and Zen Downtime

by Marika Flatt on July 28, 2021 in Travel, Austin, Houston,
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Lean into luxury at these Texas resorts while you treat yourself the Texan way — BIG. And remember, it isn’t too late to reclaim last summer’s missed adventures.

Whether you’re looking for a slow-paced couples oasis or an energetic family escape, there’s something for all in our three picks.

Omni Barton Creek Resort, Austin

Omni Barton Creek’s signature restaurant, Blind Salamander Kitchen & Bar, offers healthy dishes and seasonal seafood with award-winning views of rolling countryside. Courtesy photo

With its pristine golf course and stylish air, the Austin elite have gathered for decades at the 493-room Omni Barton Creek Resort for a round of golf, high stakes meetings over a cocktail or just to blow off steam.

Crenshaw’s Bar & Eatery is the perfect hideaway for golfers and guests looking to catch the game indoors or grab a drink on the outdoor deck.
Photo courtesy Omni Barton Creek

Texas Legends

The Hall of Legends boasts the history of the original property, including many photos of golf star Ben Crenshaw and his pals, including UT’s Coach Darryl Royal and Willie Nelson.

Much of what the resort offers in terms of activities are designed to help you relax, such as the mini golf course, the family and adult pools, Velvet Joe’s coffee shop and Mokara Spa.

Bask in the summer sun and cool off in the Omni’s Mokara spa pool. Lined by comfy lounge chairs, the pool is perfect for a relaxing dip.
Photo courtesy Omni Barton Creek

Spa All Day

Mokara Spa is full-service and offers a myriad of facials and massages — enough to keep you busy for a full day. Enjoy the indoor whirlpool, sauna and steam room, relaxation lounge with a view, and quiet outdoor pool. 

My 50-minute massage was perfection. I needed to work out sore muscles and my therapist turned the massage into the perfect blend of sports massage with pure relaxation, including some much-needed compression. 

The comprehensive fitness center at Omni Barton Creek includes exercise machines, Peloton bikes, a spacious free weight and functional fitness area, a temperature-controlled indoor lap pool, running track and dedicated studios for yoga classes, spin and TRX training. Courtesy photo

Fitness Galore

The one aspect of the resort that’s not built around relaxation is the 33,000 square-foot fitness center. With over 30 weekly classes, including yoga, spin and CrossFit, and an indoor track, this fitness center is one that you’ll want to take advantage of, even on vacation.

Dining

The experience at Omni Barton Creek is built around dining. Although a tad pricey, the chefs at this resort are aiming to please. Including room service and the pool bar, there are 10 options for dining. Texas Spice offers a full breakfast daily. Crenshaw’s Bar is casual and offers a beautiful view at sunset. Then there are two options that you don’t want to miss.

Enjoy dinner at Blind Salamander, starting your experience with the Omni Flavor Origins menu of cocktails. Use the color-coded grid to figure out your perfect cocktail based on options for: adventurous, strong and aromatic, light and refreshing, or comforting. Dinner is a multi-course experience, possibly starting with their Smoked Whitefish Dip and then moving on to a Burrata Salad. You might follow that with a creamy Risotto of sugar snap peas, carrots and wild mushrooms or go with the Three Day Snake River Wagyu Beef. Finish off sharing the warm Chocolate Molten Cake.

The Omni Barton Creek’s Blind Salamander is old-money luxe. With options of booth or table seating and wonderful food and drink selections, the Blind Salamander satisfies from the atmosphere to the dishes and everything in between. Courtesy photo

For lunch, enjoy Napoles, indoors and right by the pool. Highlights include the Nachos and Street Tacos (choose from beef, chicken, fish or shrimp). Or enjoy the Lomo Saltado, a steak bowl with veggies, rice, black beans, sweet potatoes and topped with a chipotle crema — a great combination of both healthy and filling.

Movies and More

Starting on Thursday and through the weekend, the resort host special events, such as live music with Bartons Unplugged, rooftop yoga, and Starlight Cinema poolside movies.

The Omni Barton Creek’s heated pools are open year-round, perfect for families and couples looking for a place to unwind for the day. Guests can relax poolside in private cabanas, splash around on the splash pad, warm up in the oversize adult-only hot tub and relax by two fire pits overlooking Austin’s hills. Courtesy photo

The Woodlands Resort, The Woodlands

Photo courtesy The Woodlands Resort

One of the best resorts in Texas for families with teens or young kids is The Woodlands Resort, near Houston. 

The expansive resort has a golf course, tennis center, conference center and hotel. Guests have access to the fitness center and other amenities like s’mores outside on the lawn. The Forest Oasis waterscape and lazy river will keep families entertained for several days.

At The Woodlands Resort, near Houston, summer means fun in the sun at the Forest Oasis waterpark. Courtesy photo

Additional activities include poolside bingo, arts and crafts and evening movies on the lawn. But the family will most likely stay quite busy at the waterpark.

Back Table Kitchen + Bar at the Woodlands Resort is the place to go for a fresh culinary experience. Folks can enjoy southern fare with nontraditional flair like these Voodoo Beer-Batter Fish Sticks. Courtesy photo

Dining

Enjoy dinner on property at Back Table Kitchen + Bar. Start with a delicious wine such as the Mer Soleil from Monterey County, California, a cool chardonnay perfectly paired with their menu. Enjoy the Coal Roasted Beets and Farmers Lee Spinach Salad. Then move on the Canadian favorite, Duck Gravy Poutine followed by an entrée such as the Tennessee Ramen, Louisiana Shrimp and Grits, King Salmon or Braised Beef Short Ribs. Don’t forget to ask your server about the daily inspiration for dessert.

With two championship golf courses to choose from at The Woodlands Resort, golfers of all levels can set a tee time and take to the green. Courtesy photo

Off Property

If you’re going off property, there are many shopping centers in The Woodlands and also check out the Riva Row boat center, where you can rent swan boats, kayaks, SUPs and more to paddle along the waterway.

The Woodlands Resort has a network of biking and walking trails through the grounds, making it easy for the whole family to escape into nature. Courtesy photo

The Houstonian Hotel and Trellis Spa, Houston

The Houstonian Hotel  is just the spot for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city without being too far from it. Known as one of the most historic and elegant hotels in Texas, this gem sits on 27 acres in the heart of Houston’s Galleria area. 

Step into the historic Houstonian Hotel. The lobby, furnished with leather furniture, an antler chandelier and a warm contrast of colors, welcomes guests to what is ahead. Courtesy photo

Highlights

Highlights of The Houstonian include it’s four-star ranking by Forbes, the upscale four-story hotel, the unparalleled fitness club that guests have access to, (ranked by Fitness magazine as one of the top fitness centers in the US) and the preeminent Trellis Spa.

The country club feel of The Houstonian is matched by its array of activities, like tennis and golf. Guests can play tennis on one of the indoor courts at The Houstonian Club. Courtesy photo

Look out for the historic lobby, featuring one of the largest flower arrangements ever seen, The Bar, boasting comfortable seating and offering an array of wines and delicious appetizers, and guest room floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the wooded landscape.

The Tribute dining room, is open all day, starting with a small but hearty breakfast menu. For those who want to relax there’s 24-hour in-room dining. (Introverts rejoice!) 

Personal Favorite: Trellis Spa

The Houstonian’s Trellis Spa is a world-class highlight. The indoor wading pool rimmed with relaxing lounge chairs gives guests the opportunity to avoid the sun while enjoying a serene dip. Courtesy photo

Since first visiting 15 years ago, Trellis Spa at the Houstonian has remained one of my top five favorite day spas in the world. (Others include the Fairmont Banff Springs in Canada, Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico, the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, and The Gainsborough Bath Spa in Bath, England.)

Either purchase a day pass or schedule a treatment to have access to this outstanding day spa, where you will want to spend the entire day. The Recovery and Anti-fatigue Facial was perhaps the best facial I have ever had! The aesthetician expertly utilized pressure points and gave valuable advice. Guests can purchase lunch ahead of time from a very healthy menu which includes appetizers like a Red Pepper Hummus Plate and entrées such as the Shrimp Summer Salad, paired with a bottle of The Calling chardonnay.

The Trellis Spa has outdoor options for guests looking to soak up some vitamin D by the pool or sink comfortably into one of the hot tubs. Courtesy photo

An All-Day Relax

The very best day spas have plenty of amenities to keep you entertained and relaxed all day. This Mediterranean- style 26,500 square-foot spa is no exception. Luxurious locker rooms, an indoor jacuzzi and steam room, indoor float pool and outdoor warm tubs are great, but my favorite is the dimmed lighting tranquility room with fireplace, perfect for reading or napping.

Make your plans in advance and book all of your spa services early as even weekdays get quite busy at Trellis Spa.

To round off your day, The Houstonian’s fine dining and drinks are one of the prides of the resort, including a fully-stocked wine room. Courtesy photo

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Cover photo courtesy Omni Barton Creek Resort

Resort and spa-loving Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine and was named “Outstanding Austin Communicator” 2021 by Women Communicators of Austin. Flatt has been the voice of the Weekend Trip Tips on NPR’s Texas Standard for over three years and is a regular travel contributor to TV shows across the state.