Slipping into resort life at Omni Barton Creek

April, 2021

You’re more likely to find me tucked inside a tent than lounging at a posh resort with beds swathed in high thread count sheets, but here I am, standing in the “sitting room” of a suite at the Omni Barton Creek, wondering if we could stage a gymnastics competition in here.

The room, with three balconies suitable for taking in the surrounding hills and golf courses, is huge––way too big for two human beings. A well-trained gymnast could nail the landing of a round-off, flip-flop, double somersault floor routine, then stroll to the adjoining wet bar to mix up a martini afterward. It’s not the type of place I usually hang out, but it’s fun to see how the well heeled recreate.

My husband and I are here for a night to celebrate his birthday, at the invitation of the resort. I’m curious about the fitness facilities. I’m also told I can take my pick of four swimming pools, or work up a sweat inside the 33,000-square-foot fitness center.

I step out on one of the balconies in my room. It’s raining lightly, and a thick fog is swirling over everything, turning the grounds below into a steaming cauldron. I want to explore.

After a stop in the lobby bar for a well-mixed old fashioned, we wander through the corridors of the building, noting the historic photographs and paintings by local artists. (No mention of the “Barton Springs Uprising” that embroiled the Barton Creek Resort & Spa, as it was called in 1990, when hundreds of citizens protested––and stopped, at least for the time being–– the proposed addition of 3,000 homes, three more golf courses and commercial buildings in the surrounding hills during an all-night city council meeting.)

The resort eventually underwent a $150 million makeover in 2018, and today it features four golf courses, including one designed by hometown hero Ben Crenshaw, another by Arnold Palmer and two by Tom Fazio. It costs about $210 to play a round here, and it’s only open to club members and guests.

As we walk outside to take in the view from behind the main buildings, we notice a small tee just off the patio, where couples are sipping glasses of wine and soaking in the orangey-gold hue of the day’s end. This is where the “sunset swing” takes place at 5:30 p.m. each Thursday through Sunday. One lucky golfer takes a hit from the perch, aiming for a pond across the way, thus ceremoniously kicking off happy hour.

We continue our stroll to the fitness club, which bristles with equipment––Peloton bikes, free weights, TRX suspension training machines, a yoga studio, spin studio, an indoor pool suitable for lap swimming and a twisting indoor track, in case you’d rather log your running miles in air-conditioned comfort. It’s all free for guests, who can also pay for special fitness classes or private sessions with the on-site trainer.

Outside, nature trails wind by a creek, kids can play on an 18-hole miniature golf course, and athletes nimbly sprint back and forth behind the nets at the lighted, 10-court tennis complex, where I’ve signed up for a lesson the next morning. I’m a little apprehensive: My tennis experience consists of a couple of afternoons at the neighborhood park, where every time I smack a ball lobbed in my direction, it goes sailing high over the back wall and, presumably, into the heavens.

This resort attracts plenty of locals looking for a close-to-home getaway where they can golf or play tennis all day with their buddies, then relax with a cocktail and a steak dinner in lush, Texas-y surroundings. The resort also draws lots of clients from Dallas and Houston, according to marketing manager Alison Waldon, and while it’s family friendly, the amenities are geared more toward adults than young children.

Since we’re not ready for exercise just yet, we swing by the Blind Salamander, one of the resort’s seven eateries, where the bartender puts on a show, whipping up a strawberry peppercorn gin and tonic pretty enough for a photo shoot and an “untraditional Manhattan,” made with High West bourbon and delivered in a cloud of fragrant cedar smoke.

Our tour complete, we head to Bob’s Steak & Chop House, where we’ve reserved a table outdoors, next to the firepit. (The restaurant also does takeout, and the indoor dining room is also open for business.)

Chris orders the filet mignon, I get the Australian rack of lamb, and we succumb to silence, munching away next to the warmth of the smoldering logs. The filet mignon especially blows us away (we’re sharing), although we’re both baffled by the single enormous carrot draped across each of our plates––so orange and perfectly shaped it doesn’t look real, and glazed in what can only be described as the cinnamon-infused essence of Thanksgiving.

Back in our enormous room, we ease off our shoes, contemplate a gymnastics routine in the cavernous room, decide against it, and climb into the king-sized bed, where we snooze until dawn, then peer out our window onto the dripping balcony. The tennis courts are too wet to play, and our lesson is cancelled. The morning is ours.

We feast on bacon, eggs and toast, delivered to our room, then head to the adults-only infinity pool, a crescent-shaped curve of glassy and inviting water, where we swim a few laps in the nearly-as-warm-as-a-hot tub water, then give up and float.

It’s languid and luxurious, and makes even me just want to chill out––which, I’ve determined, is the whole point.

If You Go

Getting there:

The Omni Barton Creek is located at 8212 Barton Club Drive in West Austin.

Stay:

Through June 5, the resort is offering packages starting at $299 per night. For more information go to www.omnihotels.com.

Do:

The resort features four golf courses, four swimming pools, 10-court tennis complex, seven restaurants, nature trails, a 33,000-square-foot fitness center, and a spa.

Eat and drink:

The resort operates seven restaurants. Skip to the chase and order a steak (we loved the prime filet mignon) from Bob’s Steak and Chophouse.

Pro tip:

Grab a Crenshaw Manhattan from Crenshaw’s and head to the back patio at 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday for the “sunset swing.”

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