To make more than memories on your next getaway, book a creative class at a hotel.

By Erica Sloan
February 24, 2020

Memories aren't the only thing to be made on vacation, and these creative hotels prove just that. Thanks to their unique class offerings (open to guests and non-guests), you can create a personal souvenir of your trip—perhaps a bracelet or piece of pottery—or help whip up a meal you'll never forget. In some cases, these on-site programs are also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the surrounding area, work with a local artisan, or simply have an experience that transcends the typical tourist itinerary. The best part: They have no prerequisites, so even the least crafty or coordinated in your bunch can join in on the fun. Here are the spots that are bringing something new to the table (or drawing board or field excursion) by way of hands-on classes in skills you'll be thrilled to learn.

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Walland, Tennessee

Go behind the lens with master photographers John Dolan and Heather Ann Thomas at the luxe Great Smoky Mountains retreat Blackberry Farm's photography workshop, and learn the secrets to framing and composing a shot. Then, head outside for a guided field shoot. You'll try your hand at capturing the property's quiet pastoral charm and the picture-perfect beauty of its sprawling produce gardens. For 2020, the program is scheduled for March 15 to 18 and includes opening and finale group dinners in the wine cellar on-site; $800 per person.

Farmington, Pennsylvania

Founder of the 2,000-acre Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwest Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands, Joseph A. Hardy III, was an art lover and collector. And his legacy lives on not only in the paintings, sculptures, and glasswork that fill the resort's walls and grounds (curators lead tours on Wednesdays and Sundays), but also in the art programs offered on-site. Case in point: the button-and-bead jewelry-making class on Fridays at 1pm. In it, you'll learn the ladder stitch and create a beaded leather bracelet in the style of Chan Luu, the late Vietnamese jeweler whose eponymous brand is best known for its bohemian wrap bracelets; $60 per person, including a glass of wine.

Charleston, South Carolina

At Zero George hotel, chef and two-time Chopped champ Vinson Petrillo teaches intimate groups some of the secrets used in his seasonal menu and preps a three-course meal for attendees. Though the menu changes each week depending on availability of local produce, you can count on making a multi-course meal (with wine pairings) hinging on a range of techniques, from poaching to smoking to dry-freezing. And you'll likely prepare the chef's signature dessert, too: A surprisingly simple yet scrumptious pot de crème with crispy honeycomb. Classes are hosted on Mondays, Saturdays, and select Sundays; $150 per person.

Versailles, Kentucky

Ninety-five percent of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky. If your interest is piqued (or you're just a big fan of "America's only native spirit"), enroll in one of the class offerings from Kentucky Bourbon School at The Kentucky Castle, a 16-room boutique hotel and farm-to-table restaurant 20 minutes from downtown Lexington. Your instructor will be the hotel's bourbon steward-in-residence, Tim Knittel, an aficionado with 10 years of experience in bourbon education. Each month, the classes (offered on two dates) take on a different theme, ranging from the spirit's origins to its traditional production to a break-down of bourbons by brand, along with historic and modern cocktails; $35 per person.

Sundance, Utah

Film isn't the only artistic game in this town. And skiing isn’t the only way to spend your time in Utah. Choose a frigid day at Sundance Mountain Resort to put outdoor adventures on hold and cozy up to one of the two-hour art workshops on offer every day, each taught by local professional artists. For starters, you can bind your own leather journal or learn to make a bracelet with semiprecious stones. Or, choose pottery, and you’ll throw and paint your own creation. Once it dries, staff will fire it, glaze it, and ship it right to your home, where can put it to good use or display it as a memento of your trip for long after it ends. Classes are hosted daily; $95 per person.

Las Vegas, Nevada

If you've been to any of Jaleo's locations across the country, you know Jose Andrés delivers when it comes to tapas, and most importantly, paella. And at the location housed within The Cosmopolitan, all the spectacle of the traditional rice dish happens in the center of the dining room, on one of only three open-fire wood grills in the world designed specially to cook paellas in the classic Spanish style. In classes with the restaurant's head chef, Luis Montesinos, offered Tuesdays through Saturdays for groups of up to a dozen people, you can gather around that same grill and fire up your own batch, choosing between Valenciana (chicken, rabbit, and green beans), Verduras (seasonal veggies), and Gambas (Gulf shrimp). While it simmers, you'll enjoy tapas like croquetas and pan con manchego, along with red-wine sangria. But save room for the finished dish: It's nothing short of a feast for all senses; $200 to $350 per group with $60 and $120 options for tapas per person.

San Diego, California

It would be understandable if all you wanted to do upon arriving to beautiful Paradise Point Resort & Spa was lay on the beach. After all, it's nestled on a private 44-acre island in sun-drenched Mission Bay. But for those seeking a bit of adventure, consider enrolling in surf lessons at the resort's marina—the unofficial first step to becoming a true San Diegan. Classes are three hours long (12:30pm daily), beginning with a boat ride from the resort to Paradise Surf Academy headquarters at Mission Bay Aquatic Center. The $165 fee per person includes a board, wetsuit, and leash; plus, a part of the proceeds from each class benefit the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit working to preserve the quality of oceans and beaches around the world.

Kahuku, Hawaii

Get a healthy dose of physical activity while picking up a few Polynesian dance moves in the Hiva Fitness class at Turtle Bay Resort. It's a high-energy cardio and core workout, but it's also a window into traditional hula techniques (hip-swaying included) and classic Hawaiian drumbeats. The instructor, Penny Toilolo, a performer at the Polynesian Cultural Center, teaches the class at a level fit for beginners, so you don't need to be smooth on your feet to give it a go. This 60-minute full-body workout is offered on Wednesdays at 4:30pm and Fridays at 8:15am; $15 for hotel guests and $20 for non-guests.

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