Travel at its core is an exercise rooted in new experiences. If done right, it will surely leave its practitioners having learned something new, whether about the world or themselves. With travel comes the inevitable opportunities to bear witness to new cultures, customs and experiences ranging from new cuisines to religions and even physical activities.
You don’t have to venture somewhere far or even considerably exotic to have a boundary-breaking cultural experience. Resorts around the United States offer unique immersive programs and packages catering to an array of experiences, all aimed to help you learn, practice and inevitably grow a little through the act of travel. The seven resorts in this week’s Bucket List offer a variety of retreats aimed at themed cultural experiences ranging from golf and yoga to surfing, cooking and art.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Nestled against a backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains on 4,200 acres in Walland, Tennessee, Blackberry Farm offers a world-renowned escape to a simpler way of life. The 62-room resort includes a few ingredients in their recipe for relaxation, particularly a focus on wellness and wilderness. The idyllic location and their farm-to-table philosophy translates to a vast array of guided activities and incredible food to fuel you throughout your stay. What's especially unique about Blackberry Farm is the menu of outdoor offerings available to guests, which range from water sports like paddle boarding and canoeing to land activities like hiking and biking.
Photo by Blackberry Farm
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The utterly impressive list of accolades for the Inn at Little Washington is long and touch just about every aspect of its offerings, especially of the culinary variety. This Washington, Virginia-based inn is home to the Stagiaire Program, which invites guests to learn the basics of professional cooking alongside renowned Chef/Proprietor Patrick O'Connell who has been dubbed the "Pope of American cuisine." Lessons are available in one, two and three day programs and give an "overview of how a professional kitchen is organized, an introduction to evaluating fish, meats and produce, hands on training in foundation techniques, and a chance to see all of your hard work translated into the beautiful, finished dishes while expediting during the dinner service."
Photo by The Inn at Little Washington
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Firelight Camps' mission is to "create comfortable, stylish and revitalizing camping experiences that awaken our staff and guests' appreciation for nature, inspire adventure and deepen connection with family, friends and community," which makes it the perfect yoga-themed escape. Guests can spend their days practicing asana yoga surrounded by the stunning landscape of Upper Buttermilk Falls State Park in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Days start with a complimentary breakfast of seasonal juice or local coffee, granola, artisanal breads, pastries and more. Nights are spent around the campfire or at Firelight's bar, which offers guests complimentary tastings each night and serves local wine, beer, cider and more. Before doing it all again the next day, you'll rest and recuperate in one of their luxury tents that prove roughing it doesn't have to be rough. Each come furnished with battery-powered lanterns, writing desks and beds with soft linens, along with additional comforts you might not expect to find in a tent.
Photo by Firelight Camps
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Located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Sonoran Desert of Tucson, Arizona, Canyon Ranch is a self-proclaimed fitness spa resort that aims to teach guests "how to feel your best every day, at every age." With health and wellness at the core of its philosophy, Canyon Ranch offers an array of fitness-related programs to spark a life of activity. Exercise physiologists and certified fitness instructors help guests assess their current health and craft a program for your stay, which includes options like golf, yoga, water exercise, hiking, biking and more. To round out your fitness vacation, the resort has a team of specialists available ranging from chiropractors and acupuncturists to nutritionists, healing touch practitioners and physical therapists.
Photo by Canyon Ranch
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Learning to surf is a staple on many active travelers' bucket lists and there's no better way to learn than from a professional. The Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, California offers surf hosts dedicated to helping you enjoy all the Pacific Ocean has to offer, especially its waves. Private surf lessons are available for learning the skills necessary to tackle this iconic surf destination's waves solo. For those still a little weak in the knees at the thought of surfing, private body boarding lessons are also available. You'll inevitably work up an appetite and when you do, the Monarch Bay Club is conveniently located at the beach to fuel you with an assortment of food and drinks.
Photo by Monarch Beach Resort
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For those who love golf, the opportunity to play on different courses around the world is a major catalyst for travel. For those of us who haven't quite polished our skills enough to cut it at Pebble Beach, there's Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Florida. Considered one of the best golf resorts in North America, Saddlebrook is home to not one, but two Arnold Palmer championship courses. While the resort offers several golf packages, their golf academy, digital golf learning studio and 16-acre Saddlebrook Golf Training Center and Range are what earned them a spot in this gallery. Saddlebrook's team of professional golf instructors provide guests of the hotel comprehensive player development and training, including coaching sessions, private lessons and a chance to play with (and like) a professional.
Photo by Saddlebrook Resort
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For the right price, you can experience the unique menu of creative-themed programs surrounded by one of the most inspiring landscapes in the world. Sedona, Arizona's Mii Amo is so much more than a spa. Sure, there is the expected focus on spirituality and holistic health, but this resort has programs you'd be hard to find at other spas. Keeping true to Mii Amo's goal of inspiring rejuvenation and transformation, the spa offers an array of creative and creativity-inducing workshops that can be enjoyed during their three, four or seven night programs. Start your day with a sunrise stretch, qi gong or yoga (yoga and walking), before taking classes in Native American flute, photography, gourd decorating, watercolors, vision boarding and more. Days end with stargazing sessions or various themed lectures.
Photo by Mii Amo