With school back in session, we're supposed to believe summer is over. Hah! Tell that to the thermometer, which could register triple digits into September. Face it, you need an end-of-season escape from the heat. Plan to go someplace where the weather's cooler, where there's plenty of water or where you feel like you're cool just by being there (and by relaxing in the air conditioning).
We rounded up five places that will get you through these last dog days with a semblance of sanity.
Three of the destinations are Texas resorts, perfect for chilling out for a few days as you enjoy special fall packages. The other two are getaway sites in neighboring states.
This 70-room retreat, formerly called the Crossings, lies about 20 miles northwest of Austin, not far from Lake Travis. The 210-acre patch of land next door to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve gives you plenty of hiking terrain in the shade of live oaks, as well as an equine program, special activities like cowboy poetry readings and cooking classes, plus a spa that gets you right with the world again.
Why go: Now through Sept. 15, the Friends Stay Free program lets you have a partner or pal join you for complimentary accommodations, daily breakfast and activities with your paid stay. Weekend rates start at about $190.
Be sure to: Look into the mechanical bull-riding workout, spend some quiet time next to the infinity swimming pool, and ask executive chef Ben Baker to suggest the right wine pairing with his grilled fish of the day.
Details: 13500 Farm Road 2769, Austin. 855-868-7282; www.travaasa.com.
Lake Austin Spa Resort
Found about 25 miles northwest of downtown Austin on Lake Austin, this longtime favorite brings in girlfriend groups as well as couples who want a better approach to health and fitness, and it offers a long list of sublime spa treatments in a huge spa setting. It's posh as can be, but most folks roam around day and night in their robes and flip-flops, so there's no fancy-pants attitude.
Why go: The September Special is a 30 percent-off deal on certain packages, such as the Refresher or Resort, which require stays of three days or more. The deals vary according to the myriad details involved, but it can be a savings of up to nearly $2,000. And to celebrate the designation of top destination spa this year by Conde Nast Traveler, the resort brings back its Sunday Suppers through Oct. 23; this includes a seven-course tasting dinner with wine pairings, included with your stay of three nights or more.
Be sure to: Book a massage called From Sweden to Tibet and Back, a blending of the traditional with a balancing of your chakras and energy with the vibrations from Tibetan singing bowls. And note that the visiting chefs during culinary week, Sept. 12-18, include stars/cookbook authors like Susan Spicer, Paula Disbrowe, Erin McKenna and Grace Young.
Details: 800-847-5637; www.lakeaustin.com.
La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa
A stone's throw north of Houston on Lake Conroe, this place has everything from golf to lake activities, plus a water park and a spa. Bring the kids or don't. Bring your spouse or just a bunch of pals. There's something for everyone.
Why go: Anyone who dreads the advent of football season will celebrate this resort's Fantasy Football Widows Package. Starting at $365 per night for two people, now through Dec. 18, the deal includes a first-round draft suite; kickoff pitcher of margaritas upon arrival; multitrade mani/pedi at Spa Terre; three-course touchdown dinner at Chez Roux; and quarterback sneak away to Cork This! wine tasting.
Be sure to: Take in a yoga or Pilates class at the fitness center; and get rid of those margarita toxins at the Hamam, the eucalyptus-filled bathhouse experience inside the spa.
Details: 936-448-4400; www.LaTorrettaLakeResort.com.
This Victorian village in northwest Arkansas is a seven-hour drive from Fort Worth or a one-hour drive from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, which has nonstop daily flights from DFW via American Eagle. The town, with its steep hills at the foot of the Ozarks, is packed with old-fashioned spring-fed spas, shops, B&Bs and restaurants.
Why go: September starts the shoulder season, when the leaves begin to turn and the charming hamlet takes on fairy-tale qualities. On Sept. 11, Twilight Tales is a sweet little outdoor theater production by the local historical society in downtown Basin Spring Park, and admission is free. On the weekend of Sept. 23-25, it's Eureka Springs' annual Adventure into Art Studio Tour, a free, self-guided walk through artists' studios to visit with them while they work.
Be sure to: Book a room at one of the historic hotels, such as the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (www.crescent-hotel.com) or the 1908 Basin Park Hotel (www.basinpark.com/) for a stay-and-spa package; and dine on baked brie served with fresh pears, apples, toasted almonds, honey-lemon sauce and bread and pan-seared beef tenderloin topped with Gorgonzola butter at Local Flavor, a favorite cafe on Main Street (www.localflavorcafe.net).
High Road to Taos
Travelers wanting to get far off the beaten path in New Mexico find the air clean and cool along this back-country route between Santa Fe and Taos. A meandering drive takes you through high desert, mountains, forest, farm villages and minute communities dating back to old Spanish land grants. You'll pass galleries and studios, old churches that beg picture-taking and little cafes where you'll want to linger well past sunset.
Why go: The High Road is gorgeous at any time, and it's cooler up there than most other places in the Southwest in summer. On the weekends of Sept. 17-18 and Sept. 24-25, you'll happen upon the annual High Road Art Tour: Wondrous Nature, Glorious Art. You'll find more than 70 artists and craftsmen who live along the High Road opening their studios and homes on N.M. Highways 73, 75 and 76 between Chimayo and Vadito. See paintings, ceramics, sculpture, woodcarvings and more.
Be sure to: Stop at the nonprofit High Road Marketplace in Truchas; visit the Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo to see the evidence of miracles sought by tens of thousands of people of all faiths; enjoy a plate of chiles rellenos at Rancho de Chimayo in Chimayo (www.ranchodechimayo.com); arrive in early or late daylight to photograph the church at Rancho de Taos, made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe and other artists; and enjoy a prickly pear margarita or an absinthe cocktail at the Anaconda Bar inside El Monte Sagrado, a Taos resort (www.elmontesagrado.com).