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The Seasoned Traveler: Try a learning vacation

Created date

February 3rd, 2009
Twenty-first-century vacationers have a hunger for the culture and taste of the places they visit, where they can engage different styles of living and pick up new skills. It s a travel mindset that s replacing mere rest and relaxation, and learning vacations are one of the ways that the travel industry is satisfying this demand. For prices ranging anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, learning vacations offer travelers an array of experiences that suit just about any interest imaginable. Here are a few examples of what s out there. Cooking in Wisconsin If you re looking to brush up on cooking techniques or you just want to try something new in the kitchen, Wisconsin is a fine destination, and the Savory Spoon Cooking School ( is a good place to start. In a farmhouse lined with gingerbread woodwork, the school s chef, Janice Thomas, leads three-hour cooking classes where guests chop and saut their way through the preparation of a meal consisting of native Wisconsin or world cuisine. Of course, a trip through America s Dairy Land isn t complete without a stop devoted to the art of cheesemaking. At Sauk City s Carr Valley Cheese Cooking School (, you can step into the world of artisan cheeses, which includes everything from aged cheddar to original creations like cocoa cardona. In addition to sampling more than 50 varieties of cheese, you can also take part in two-hour cooking classes where chefs from around the country demonstrate how you can put these dairy creations to use in the kitchen. Learn from the Grand Canyon Out West, you ll find that there is no shortage of opportunities for the traveler to see and learn something new. In Grand Canyon, Ariz., the Grand Canyon Field Institute ( takes visitors beyond the sights themselves and shows them why this natural wonder is so special. You can choose from dozens of courses that include day- or week-long guided hikes where experts will introduce you to prehistoric fossils, ancient rock art, and native plants and animals like the endangered California condor. If you re the more creative type, the Institute offers photography workshops that take visitors to the canyon s North and South Rim for lessons on how to capture the natural world through a camera lens. California s wine country For the traveler in search of a more luxurious experience and the secrets behind a great vintage, the vineyards of Napa Valley are a safe bet. Companies like Viviani Destination Management ( allow you to customize how you experience the culture and tastes of Northern California. On one day you may be shopping in San Francisco, the next, perusing the grape vines of a Napa vineyard. You can even take part in the actual winemaking process, participating in a five-hour activity where you have lunch or dinner with the vintner and blend your own wine. This experience is total immersion in the winemaking process, which you finish off by creating a formula of the blended wine that is bottled, corked, and labeled for you to take home and enjoy. When combined with the knowledge that you gain, the entire trip is an active and productive one, and that s what learning travel is all about. It allows you to take home an expanded view of the world.