Learning + Vacation = Best Trip Ever
Set in Bemidji, a rural town in the woodsy Lakes Region of northern Minnesota, Concordia Language Villages feels like summer camp for adults. The teaching style is "full immersion," meaning you'll conduct all your daily activities -- eating meals, chatting with other students, or greeting your instructors on the walk to class -- in your language of choice. Classes are taught by native speakers or certified language instructors; food is home-cooked and ethnically authentic; and you'll attend presentations on history, culture, music, and arts and crafts. Classes are geared toward learners at all levels, so don't worry if you're a complete novice.
Weekend courses start at $420, including lodging, meals, and coursework. Weeklong sessions start at $695. 218-586-8600; languagevillages.org
I Tried It
"I loved all the activities at camp, and I left my weeklong stay on an absolute high. Since I live in Texas I have plenty of opportunities to speak Spanish, but I'd hesitate because I didn't think I knew enough. Now I speak it every chance I get!"
- Jeniffer Shearer, Springtown, Texas
At John C. Campbell Folk School, a historic rural campus that's been operating in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina since the mid-1920s, you can learn just about any rustic craft. There's basketry, jewelry making, woodworking, blacksmithing, cultural dancing, gardening, and more -- 47 skills and more than 860 courses. A typical weekend course includes several hours of class instruction, studio time to work on your craft, and a student exhibition at the close of the weekend. The school is also about two hours from Asheville, a town that's fast becoming an artistic destination in its own right with more than 30 art galleries.
Tuition averages around $300 for weekend courses and $600 for weeklong courses. Lodging rates start at $175 for a weekend and $450 for a week and include three meals a day. 800-365-5724; folkschool.org
I Tried It
"I took a course on hat weaving. The participants and instructors came from all over the country, and the creative energy was so stimulating. Plus, the campus is beautiful."
- Carol Rankin, Decatur, Georgia
The Second City, a Chicago improv company that has produced stars like John Belushi, Mike Myers, and Tina Fey, hosts training workshops during both summer and winter for wannabe comedians. You can take three-day intensives on a few varying topics: improv comedy, sketch comedy, and musical improv. Tuition covers lessons and writing sessions and may include a show featuring resident Second City performers. The company also offers weeklong immersion courses that include sessions on acting, physical comedy, and comedy writing. Classes are held at the famed Second City, a theater that sits near some popular Chicago sights, like the Navy Pier.
Sessions start at $285. Meals, lodging, and extras aren't included, but the website lists discounted rates for several hotels, hostels, and dormitories in the Chicago area. secondcity.com
I Tried It
"I'd never taken an acting course before, but once I tried the Second City workshops I was hooked. They are an absolute blast! I feel like a kid at summer camp every time I go back for another workshop."
- Heather Anne Beach, DeWitt, Iowa