For starters, the place is drop-dead gorgeous with incredible Hill Country scenery.
In addition to the world-class accommodations, you can choose between seven dining destinations, enjoy a six-acre water experience (created by the Sea World architect), play on two challenging golf courses designed by golf legends Pete Dye and Greg Norman (voted among the Top 75 Golf Resorts in the U.S. by Golf Digest), relax in a world-class spa, and hike and bike your way through a nature preserve.
Whew! That's a lot to take in. So, if you only had one day...one perfect day to enjoy this place what would you do? The easy answer: call the front desk and extend your stay. But, let's assume you can't do that...here are our tips for enjoying the Perfect Day at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa.
Chow Down at Cibolo Moon
Head downstairs to Cibolo Moon for the best breakfast buffet you've ever had in your life. This isn't your cold-Cheerios-in-a-bowl kind of place. Want cooked-to-order omelets? Got 'em. How about made-from-scratch breakfast pastries (all baking is done onsite and made fresh daily)? Ditto. You want buttermilk pancakes, Belgian waffles or French toast? Step right up. And if that doesn't satisfy your appetite, you can always go for the down-home biscuits & gravy, breakfast tacos or healthy options ranging from granola to fruit and yogurt. Everything is fresh, locally sourced and over-the-top wonderful.
Tee 'em Up at the AT&T Oaks or AT&T Canyons
I've played some beautiful golf courses - Harbor Town, Colonial, Barton Creek, Kiva Dunes - but the Oaks and Canyons courses at this Hill Country Resort offer breath-taking beauty and a design that's bested some of the biggest names on the PGA tour. The two PGA Tour TPC golf courses are home to tournaments you'll see on television - the Valero Texas Open (April) and The AT&T Championship (October). With stops on both the PGA and Seniors Tours, you can bet there's plenty of golf for players of every skill level...and you're right.
Bring your clubs - or don't. The pro shop rentals feature the latest and greatest from Callaway, TaylorMade and everyone else. Need a left-handed ladies set or some junior clubs? Got 'em. Pro shop rentals are the perfect solution when you're flying in and don't want to pay the awful airline baggage fees. Oh, one more thing. Carts come equipped with a GPS system that gives a "fly over" for every hole. The on-screen pros offer tips and tricks that help even a high-handicapper like me look (semi) good!
Let Loose at the Lantana Spa
Rather relax? No problem. That's where the resort's luxurious Lantana Spa excels. Here everything's designed to help you unwind and de-stress in style.
To start, you'll receive a small piece of red ribbon. Tie seven knots (Los Siete Nudos) in the ribbon, one for each worry, and drop it off before you leave to say "Adios" to your troubles. This ritual from the Curanderos, traditional Latin American folk healers, can be a real release unless, of course, you obsess over tying perfect knots (sorry Charlotte).
Then it's on to your choice of countless healthy facials, massages, body treatments (for one or even two!) and nail services. Each of these mind and body refreshers uses natural and organic ingredients inspired by the Texas Hill Country. Charlotte's hooked on the spa's signature Active Organic Facial for "mature" skin or, as she calls it, her 50-minute ticket to relaxation and a younger look. She loves that it combines healing plants with the latest skincare techniques to exfoliate, reduce fine lines and brighten your complexion.
Now, that's a full program, but we're not done yet. Between treatments, you can enjoy the heated, lagoon-like pool; sauna, and aromatherapy inhalation room while sipping pineapple and citrus infused water. Or work out in the fitness center, where you'll find everything from free weights to the latest in cardio-training equipment plus yoga and other exercise classes.
Lunch on the Patio at Replenish
Take a mid-day break at Replenish, the Lantana Spa's cozy cafe, and dine on the patio if weather permits. Besides offering an atmosphere that encourages lingering, this bistro features healthy sandwiches and salads, fruit smoothies and wine (a nice Cabernet will do!). Homemade breads (they bake everything except bagels themselves), mostly organic ingredients and herbs straight from the 5,000-square-foot, onsite organic garden mean you'll taste freshness in very bite.
Here you can't go wrong with the monster grilled cheese sandwich, pure comfort food that's served on crusty French bread with a steaming side of creamy tomato soup. In more of a salad mood? There's a spinach medley that's sure to satisfy. It includes luscious strawberries sourced from local farms, toasted walnuts and goat cheese tossed with a barely there crushed berry dressing.
This six-acre water extravaganza is a must-do, especially if you bring the kids and grandkids along for the trip (trust me, they'll thank you for it). We're talkin' a wild, 650-foot river ride, three water slides and a long, lazy river that measures close to four football fields. Guess where you'll find me floating after 18 holes of golf?
Afterwards, take in a pool or three. If you have little ones, they'll love the kiddie play pool with its bright-colored slides; fun fountains; large, plastic armadillo and other Texas-inspired critters. There's also a mega-size leisure pool perfect for the whole family, a
leave-me-the-heck-alone; it's siesta time adults-only option with an infinity edge that fronts the gorgeous Oaks golf course, hot and cold plunge pools, and relaxing whirlpools.
Worried it's too early to swim? You can soak up the sun in one of the so-many-I-lost-count poolside recliners or hang out in a nice, shady cabana. Better yet, just go for it. All the outdoor water features are heated during cooler months so you can enjoy them year-round.
Score One for High Velocity
Kick off the evening with happy hour at this hot sports bar for a ring-side seat at your favorite game. The only problem: where to watch. Options include everything from 120-foot-long HD video walls that bring the action up-close and personal to private booths with their own screens and comfortable lounge areas overflowing with flat panels.
While checking the score, be sure to sample from the impressive collection of 24 local, craft and imported beers on tap. The Texas pickin's range from Shiner Bock to Ziegenbock and Fort Worth's own Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug Black Lager (you gotta love a cowtown original!).
Hungry? You could snack on fully-loaded cheese fries, true Texas-style chili or Sam's Buffalo Nachos layered with chicken strips, buffalo cheese sauce, blue cheese crumbles and the topping that makes EVERYTHING better: bacon. But, then you'd probably just want to stay for dinner. The blackened fish sandwich is tempting but we have grander plans.
Wine and Dine at 18 Oaks Steakhouse
A prime cut's calling your name at 18 Oaks, the clubhouse ode to fine dining that overlooks the 18th greens of the two TPC golf courses. Even better, there's no need to dress up. Resort casual (shirt and slacks ... no jacket required) makes the grade here every time.
If the weather's nice, request a table on the terrace when making your reservation because the view's stunning, especially at sunset. Or, score some points in the romance department (hey, we all need a little help sometime) by opting for a cozy, fireside spot.
You're in for a real treat either way because 18 Oaks features perfectly aged steaks seared to order, the freshest seafood and chicken dishes, mind-blowing sides and desserts, and, of course, assorted fine wines. Many ingredients are grown in the resort's organic garden; others are sourced locally within 100 miles. And everything's a notch above thanks to the creative genius of Chef Jeffery Surprise (no joke needed ... he's heard them all!).
For starters, try the whole-leaf Caesar salad with pan-toasted croutons and white anchovies (all dressings are homemade). Gulf crab cakes atop butternut squash, apple and sherry-roasted onion are another great beginning. Both pair beautifully with 18 Oak's melt-in-your-mouth rolls, baked fresh with sea salt and butter in the center. Ahhhh!
You can tell this JW Marriott showplace is known for its steaks. Seven choice cuts grace the menu, everything from a 32-ounce Tomahawk (28-day dry aged) to an 8-ounce Texas Wagyu (Japanese cow). Plus, you choose your steak knive from a platter full of mean blade designs.
I went for an eight-ounce baseball steak cooked just my style, well done to almost burnt, and a knife that matched Charlotte's outfit (naturally). She ordered Mahi Mahi (sorry but ketchup wasn't among the six steak sauces). Since the family-style portions are more than generous, we shared sides and dessert.
While the entrée put me in heaven, Charlotte could've made a meal of our veggie gratins: goat cheese potatoes and creamy spinach reggiano. She kept saying "Best scalloped potatoes, EVER!" and made sure we got the recipe (coming to a post near you).
Whatever your choice, do yourself a favor and save room for dessert. The hunk-a-hunk-a lemon blueberry cheesecake makes an ever-so-sweet ending to what we consider a perfect day at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.
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