Learning + Vacation = Best Trip Ever
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Located in pretty Folly Beach, a barrier island just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, the Low Country Writers' Retreat offers a few options for aspiring authors. There are three-day writing workshops for both beginners and more advanced writers led by the director, Mary Ann Henry, who's been teaching creative writing for 13 years. Her workshops range from short-story boot camp for novice writers to seminars on how to refresh your skills in fiction writing. You can also choose to work directly with Henry if you just want one-on-one guidance. The area provides plenty of outdoor inspiration as well: Walk the pristine beaches or swim and kayak in the calm waters on the island's bay side.
Three-day workshops start at $175, not including lodging, which starts at $100 a night for a cottage or suite. lowcountrywritersretreat.com
I Tried It
"I had a lifelong dream of writing fiction, so as soon as I found this retreat, I registered for a workshop before I could change my mind. I've been back twice and I feel so inspired every time I go."
- Jessica Winternheimer, Omaha
The three-day Wine Camp at Veramar Vineyard -- a family-run estate in the rolling hills of Virginia's wine country -- gives you all the fun stuff as well as a real appreciation for the hard work of running a vineyard. You'll get lessons on wine appreciation and winemaking, learn all about the winery's daily operations, and perhaps even help with testing the soil, sampling the grapes, or bottling and labeling the wines. Sessions are held throughout the year, but campers who attend in October -- harvest season -- will also get to help pick, crush, and press grapes. Another bonus for fall visitors? The winery is in the Shenandoah Valley, so the foliage is especially stunning.
The program is $900 per person for three days and two nights, which includes daily meals, lodging at the winemaker's residence, samplings and tastings, and all camp activities. 540-955-5510; veramar.com
I Tried It
"I took my husband because he'd been talking about making his own wine, and we both learned a ton about the process. Now we're even trying to grow our own grapes at home."
- Pam Giganti, Damascus, Maryland
The Rocky Mountain School of Photography is based in Montana, but it offers weeklong photo workshops for varying skill sets led by expert photographers in some of the country's most beautiful national parks, like Wyoming's Grand Teton and California's Yosemite. The workshops can be strenuous -- the one in Montana's Glacier National Park, for example, includes high-altitude hikes to the park's most picturesque spots, so it helps to be in decent physical condition. Not into hiking? No worries! The school also offers intensive weekend photography courses throughout the year in cities like San Antonio, Nashville, and Portland.
Weeklong workshops start at $1,295, not including meals or lodging (the group arranges discounts with local hotels). Two-day courses are $139. 800-394-7677; rmsp.com
I Tried It
"I've taken two RMSP workshops and I've loved both of them. The courses are a great way to improve your skills, plus they put you in environments you might never get to go to otherwise."
- Trudy Wright, Nashville