ATX Update: Lake Austin Spa Resort, Music Lane Are Must-Hits for Spring

ATX Update: Lake Austin Spa Resort, Music Lane Are Must-Hits for Spring

Hotel Magdalena on land once owned by Willie Nelson (photo by Casey Dunn)

ONE OF HOUSTON'S favorite spa getaways has for decades been the lakeside paradise of Lake Austin Spa Resort. Its magic has lied both in its commitment to core values of quiet peace, ATX-style outdoor exercise, and un-preachy environmentalism — its perch by deep still water opposite wooded hills is its most impressive luxury — and in its eagerness to evolve.

Per the latter, the resort has just unveiled a partnership with Italian wellness brand Comfort Zone. The otherwise richly traditional spa — the fireside Blue Room will be the most opulent and relaxing waiting room in which you’ve ever sipped tea before a lavish treatment such as the $1,050 Valmont facial — has created a new, first-in-the-U.S. place for trendy new treatments done in what’s called an “open, inclusive” environment.

At the new “FACE SPAce” setup, expect interactional, efficient, semi-public, non-nude (obvi) treatments utilizing blue-light gizmos, stainless steel roller thingies, intensive facial massage and mineral-rich, proudly sustainable products galore. The new Body Strategist Experience straddles the old and the new, beginning in the FACE SPAce area’s foot cleansing station before moving to its (very) bracing cold-plunge patio and ending in a traditional treatment room for a massage and full-body mud mask.

Other innovations at the resort — as famous for its water sports such as paddleboarding, and yoga sessions by lake, as its lovely dining room with pretty views — include an effort to highlight the considerable talents of handsome culinary director Stephane Beaucamp. The cooking class with the paella isn’t just a fun experience; it yields some damn good paella!

Honestly, that’s just scratching the surface of what can be undertaken here. There’s a booze cruise, a sound bath in the indoor pool, even tarot card readings. But, for one recent guest, the simplest activity may have been the loveliest. Truly, can you beat finishing up a great session on the gym’s elliptical, watching a lone turtle play in gentle, sun-dappled lake waters?

Elsewhere in Austin, considerably more urbane thrills await. For those who haven’t yet checked out Hotel Magdalena, the newest Texas outpost from the storied Bunkhouse group (which is readying its first two Houston properties, in Montrose and the Heights) is ideally located in the spiffy Music Lane development, just off bustling South Congress. This is a sunny setup, with spare, earthy rooms, and a bright, mod sensibility; one can chill with the off-duty hipsters and entertainment execs by the pool or tiered, verdant grounds, or stumble over to some amazing people-watching and shopping. LoveShackFancy and Rag & Bone are steps away; venerable but still very cool men’s shop Stag is just a couple blocks.

The emergence of Music Lane has also brought about a bit of dining renaissance on the strip. Joining the beloved old Tex-Mex and pizza haunts are the likes of Aba, a vibey Medit-savvy place with both be-seen breezeway seating out front and a huge deck wrapped around a towering oak out back. The pretty people are all here — both posted up to the bar, and taking your order as staff! Careful falling leaves don’t wind up in your hummus topped with charred bits of tamarind-braised, pomegranate-molasses-kissed short ribs. The heirloom chicken dish is terrific, with crispy-skin chicken thigh and bits of butternut squash meddling in a bit of warmly seasoned jus.

Although it’s arguably unnecessary to venture too far from homebase, a detour over to the East Side’s Uptown Sports Club is recommended. What a fun, feel-good spot! Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s Barbecue fame has beautifully restored a circa-1890s corner building and filled it with Big Easy energy — from the Mardi Gras beads in the houseplants to the menu’s vegan-friendly red beans and rice. The brunch-time Bloody Mary is a little spicy and a little sweet, and, for the fancy people, the caviar starter comes with Zapp’s potato chips. Billy Joel and Steve Winwood are on the stereo, and there’s fresh whipped cream on the bananas-Foster-fabulous bread pudding.

Lake Austin Spa Resort

Aba’s mushroom hummus

Uptown Sports Club

Lake Austin

​Frozen Greek Yogurt at Abu

Hotel Magdalena

Hotel Magdalena

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