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Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

When the Lake Austin Spa Resort went shopping for a 25th-anniversary gift for guests, it aimed higher than traditional silver and picked treatments that incorporated gold, diamonds, and caviar. As a result, the dreamy destination spa now offers some of the most opulent, exclusive, and — at upwards of $1,000 — most expensive facials in the world.

In anticipation of its milestone anniversary in 2022, the Lake Austin Spa Resort’s LakeHouse Spa partnered with Swiss luxury skincare brand Valmont to introduce the new facials, which are as cutting-edge as they are indulgent.

Creme de la creme among them is The Regal by Valmont, which costs a jaw-dropping $1,050. The Regal was designed in Switzerland exclusively for LakeHouse Spa, and Austin is the only place in the world to get it.

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of people,” says Becky Bence, Lake Austin Spa Resort lead esthetician. “And it’s definitely worth it.”

The 135-minute facial begins with the high-tech deep cleanse of the HydroFacial and proceeds with seven masks, including four collagen masks, a papaya enzyme, and a medical-grade LED light mask. Every single product from Valmont’s ultra luxe “masterpiece collection” called l’Elixir des Glaciers is used; some products are made with an uber anti-aging essence of gold sturgeon fish. All are applied using a Valmont signature “butterfly” motion that helps to lift and sculpt the face.

What puts the Regal over the top, though, are 35 minutes of choreographed massage, including a 500-year-old technique called “kobido,'' developed for the empress of Japan. Touted as a “surgical facelift as a massage," Bence says, kobido was once reserved only for nobility and the empress, then later handed down from masters to disciples.

So rarified is the Regal facial, that just six of the 21 LakeHouse Spa estheticians are trained to perform it. They learned at a weeklong “bootcamp” conducted by two Valmont experts who flew in to Austin from Switzerland.

“It was kind of like the Navy Seal program of facials,” Bence says. “It was kind of like being handed down something from a true master.”

The $1K price tag hasn’t kept people away. Since the Regal was introduced several months ago, guests have come from all over the world — and from all corners of Texas — to experience what the spa calls “the ultimate in anti-aging perfection and cellular renewal.” (After all $1,000 is still far less than an actual facelift or even regular nick-tuck-plump-ups by a cosmetic surgeon.)

Why reach all the way to Switzerland for the palatial new treatments? After emerging from COVID shutdowns, Bence says, LakeHouse Spa personnel “auditioned” just about every single skincare line out there. The estheticians voted, and Valmont won.

“We wanted to add something really special, something luxurious but yet something out-of-this-world amazing that truly benefited the skin,” Bence says. “Something almost to replace Botox and fillers …that gave you basically a natural face-lift without being invasive but still being relaxing.”

In addition to the Regal, other new Valmont facials introduced in this 25th anniversary year include:

  • The 150-minute Gold & Diamond Trifecta Facial that involves three massages, four masks, infra-red LED, and a hydrogel mask with micronized gold and diamonds, which costs $990.
  • The Golden Aura Rose & Caviar Facial, a 100-minute treatment that incorporates marine products containing caviar extract and Diamond Collagen, costing $790.
  • Energy of the Glaciers, a 90-minute facial that features rare ingredients from Switzerland and deep, structural massage of the face, stimulating muscles to tone and lift; $750.
  • Luminosity of Ice Facial, a 90-minute treatment described as a “toxin-flushing, facial reflexology-inspired facial” that uses a cocktail of seven plants organically cultivated at high altitudes; $650.

The spa also has a complete menu of non-Valmont facials and dozens of other signature treatments.

Luxe but laid back
Lake Austin Spa Resort’s Dallas-based co-owner, Mike McAdams, says the new facials are indicative of how high the spa wanted to aim for its 25th anniversary.

“Our guest demands a luxurious, more refined experience, and Valmont helps us deliver on that objective,” he says.

And yet, Lake Austin Spa Resort remains a place where robed guests can emerge from a $1,000 facial and step over geckos skittering along the sidewalk while a speedboat whizzes by pumping Beyonce through the speakers. It’s upscale but unpretentious, luxurious but laid-back — almost like “spa camp.”

“We never wanted to create the ‘zen’ spa with stark lines and absence of color – we aimed to create just the opposite,” McAdams says. “Your surroundings absolutely have an impact on how your wellness journey can unfold and influence your daily life. The colors and textures that surround you mimic the vibe of the Texas Hill Country and pay homage to nature.”

The top-rated spa and resort is a far cry now from the place McAdams purchased on January 1, 1997. Located along the shores of scenic Lake Austin in the Texas Hill Country, the property had lived previous lives as a fishing camp, nudist enclave, rodeo ranch, and diet camp.

McAdams — at the time a commercial real estate developer for Dallas-based Trammell Crow — experienced a personal work-life-balance crisis that's wholly relatable in today's post-pandemic, "great-resignation" world two-and-a-half decades later.

“I was living on a plane, traveling a lot. It was high stress, and high energy and I loved it,” he says. “In 1984, I found a place that changed my life — the Ashram in Calabasas, California. It was a true bootcamp, with physical activities and dietary restrictions that were very intense… This experience forced me to come down from my hectic lifestyle of traveling, eating, drinking, and not exercising."

After adopting healthier habits in his own life, he and an LSU fraternity brother, Billy Rucks, seized an opportunity to buy and transform the Lake Austin Spa Resort; they still co-own it today. “It was a diamond in the rough," McAdams says.

More 25th anniversary offerings
One of the biggest challenges running the spa the last 25 years (besides navigating a global pandemic), McAdams says, has been continually evolving in an industry dominated by fleeting fads and headline-grabbing gimmicks.

“The changes in the last 25 years in the spa industry have been monumental,” McAdams says. “The global wellness industry is now a $4.5 trillion economy, with ‘spa’ being one small part of the bubble. We are all seekers looking for ways to look and feel our best, and I think the growth is due to a demand in wanting to take our health into our own hands.”

One of the resort’s newest touts (proudly stated on their home page) is that they’re Texas’ only destination spa on a lake. Recently they’ve introduced a full range of water activities, including a water taxi that transports guests to the spa and back.

“When we bought Lake Austin Spa Resort in 1997, our guests would put a toe in the water — but we’ve also evolved and now understand the power of being near a moving body of water and how it affects your health, happiness, and even alleviates depression,” McAdams says.

Along with the new fancy facials and lake programming, the resort has also added new classes and activities and upgraded amenities for its 25th anniversary. Befitting its location in the “live music capital of the world,” Austin-area musicians now entertain guests nightly around s’mores pits. There’s new artwork around the campus, too.

“My favorite part of celebrating our 25th anniversary this year has been to watch a very special piece of commissioned art be installed in the first few months of the year,” McAdams says. “A local Austin artist created a 64-foot long, 400-square foot abstract mural of stone, glass, and tile designed to honor our magnificent natural location on Lake Austin.

"Within the creation, I wanted to honor all of the amazing past and present people who helped get to where we are today. Their names are included in this mural, discreetly placed within this homage to nature. Because of these special people, Lake Austin Spa Resort has enjoyed many wonderful accolades through the years.”

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To mark its 25th anniversary, Lake Austin Spa Resort is offering 25 percent off stays of at least two nights or more, through January 31, 2023. Reservations must be booked by October 31. Some packages include generous spa credits, but sadly, the $1,050 Regal facial is not 25 percent off. Find more information at www.lakeaustin.com.

Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

A red light mask is part of the $1,050 Regal by Valmont facial.

Photo courtesy of Icon Global

NFL legend Terry Bradshaw's ranch north of Dallas-Fort Worth listed for $22.5 million

Celebrity listing

An Oklahoma ranch around 70 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth that’s owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw is back on the market for $22.5 million.

Bernard Uechtritz, owner of Dallas-based real estate agency Icon Global Group, says the 744-acre ranch was relisted after a deal with a would-be buyer fell through. Cancellation of the purchase followed a series of contract extensions, along with repeated assurances from the potential buyer and their representatives that the deal would close, according to Uechtritz. It’s unknown how much that buyer was willing to pay for the ranch.

Over the years, Uechtritz and Bradshaw have been “inundated” by inquiries about selling the ranch, where the E! reality TV series The Bradshaw Bunch was filmed, according to an Icon Global news release.

Terry Bradshaw ranch The E! reality TV series The Bradshaw Bunch was filmed here.Photo courtesy of Icon Global

Bradshaw says in the news release that he and his wife, Tammy, are “sad to leave this great big ranch and our wonderful home, which has been our idyllic retreat of so many years; however, it is time that we slowed down a little, freeing us up to travel more, as well as enjoy new grandchildren, family, and other interests.”

The Bradshaws now live on a smaller farm in Texas where they continue to operate their Quarter Horse breeding business. In conjunction with the sale of the ranch, the Bradshaws are selling 150 Quarter Horses at an October 22 auction.

Terry Bradshaw ranch The ranch sits on 744 acres.Photo courtesy of Icon Global

The ranch, just east of Thackerville, Oklahoma, and a few miles west of the Texas-Oklahoma border, will keep operating until the new owner takes over. The property, overlooking the Red River, sits within the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation, which is home to the massive WinStar World Casino and Resort.

“The property and facilities are a turnkey-ready proposition for a major equestrian player in the horse business, or continued use as a cattle or private recreational ranch,” Uechtritz says.

Highlights of the ranch include:

  • Rustic 8,600-square-foot home with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, and four fireplaces
  • 2,600-square-foot manager’s house
  • Four-bedroom bunkhouse
  • Outdoor patio encompassing about 1,000 square feet, with a full kitchen, bar, fireplace, hot sauna, and fire pit
  • Eight lakes and ponds
  • Outdoor pool
  • Two-story doghouse made of stone
  • 12-stall stallion barn
  • 20-stall show barn
  • 50-stall mare barn with a laboratory, breeding facility, office, and covered arena
  • 20-stall barn for weaning horses
  • Hay barn
  • Show-pig barn

The property has been on and off the market for a number of years. At various times, it’s been priced at $11.9 million, $10.8 million, $10.6 million, and $9.9 million, according to media reports.

Terry Bradshaw The Bradshaws are selling 150 Quarter Horses at an October 22 auction.Photo courtesy of Icon Global

As quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s and ’80s, Bradshaw led the team to four Super Bowl victories and twice clinched Super Bowl MVP honors. The Louisiana native, who celebrated his 74th birthday earlier this month, retired from pro football in 1984 after a 14-year stint with the Steelers and then joined CBS Sports as a football analyst. He’s been a Fox Sports football analyst since 1994.

Photo by Brianna Caleri

The top 11 Texas boutiques for plus-size fashion featured at Austin's Le Garage Sale

Plus Eleven

Le Garage Sale feels illicit in a great way: Austin's Palmer Events Center rippled on August 27 and 28 with visitors systematically breaking down this massive semi-annual boutique sale vendor-by-vendor. With more than 140 of them spanning clothes, jewelry, shoes, backpacks, and home goods, that may have taken some thorough shoppers the full two days. And somehow, people in Austin don’t seem to know much about it.

Visitors on the first day or VIP presale get the first pick, but visitors on the second day get dramatic price advantages as vendors slash them and become more open to bartering, especially in the final hours. Ticket prices often drop 90 percent. Unfortunately, shoppers looking for extended sizing are competing for limited stock; but it may not be as bad as they’d expect.

Unlike a sample sale, which usually maxes out at size 6, this event is for boutiques bringing their regular wares and overstock. When CultureMap went to investigate, there appeared to be 41 vendors carrying at least one plus-size item, which we defined as starting at extra large or 12. A few vendors carried up to 3X, and 2X was not uncommon to find. A list compiled by the sale includes every vendor carrying extended sizing, although without seeing the items, this may lead to disappointment (one-size kaftans that run small, for example).

Shoppers looking for plus sizes shouldn’t be relegated to Shein. Although the selection at Le Garage did not include much of the hyper-trendy design of the fast fashion company constantly recommended to bigger shoppers, the sale overwhelmingly avoided those styles in straight sizes, too. These stores may not carry all your needs, but a haul of few great pieces from Texas sellers sounds like a win.

CultureMap went to every vendor on the first day, starting at 11:30 am and picking through as many offerings as possible in five hours. We made a note of every plus size we could find, narrowing down to the top 11 based on availability and quality. It is not only possible, but probable that we overlooked some harder-to-find vendors with larger sizes, or vendors whose larger stock was gone by the time we arrived.

Our goal was to discover which vendors are available year-round, somewhere in Texas. This list includes 11 recommendations to shop online, visit in person, or look for during the spring sale. These are all Texas businesses that don’t just claim extended sizing — they actually bring it. So, let’s go shopping.

11. Holley Clothier — Austin
A new vintage project from Austin interior designer Erica Holley curates a small number of unique pieces in a wide range of sizes. Holley says she grabs bigger waist sizes when she sees them, knowing typical vintage shortcomings, which recently included a “3X or 4X” corset.

10. Blur Boutique — Hutto
This boutique was somewhat limited in range, stopping XL and 14 dresses, but it had a notable selection within those sizes. These designs are boho style — still drapey and colorful without dipping into the more folksy, amorphous styles that overtook the sale.

9. Be. — Cuero
The selection advertised online for this boutique in Cuero (Southwest of San Antonio) is more folksy than what they had at the sale, which included lots of stripes, sweaters, and contemporary basics. There was a good selection of 2X items, and jeans up to 31.

8. Jenn Lee — Houston/Bali
This “eco-luxury resort wear” designer works with Balinese artisans to produce beautiful cotton and rayon cover ups that look as great over a regular brunch outfit as a bathing suit. The shirts are one-size and can be worn unbuttoned. Shorts and drawstring pants are marked L/XL.

7. Spring Frost — Austin
Spring Frost operates one of the sale’s best selections of contemporary designer clothes that look the part. The size range at the sale is limited and only seems to reach 14 with some digging, but the online selection is varied and interesting, and includes a good number of XLs.

6. Man Outfitters — Austin
Le Garage Sale is lacking in men’s options, but Man Outfitters had a great distribution of sizes, with about as many XL and XXL shirts as any straight size section. This outdoorsy seller carries recognizable high-quality brands including Howler Brothers, the North Face, and Cotopaxi.

5. The Gift Solution — Austin
This shop carried a wide variety of styles up to 3X, which mostly included the embroidered peasant style blouses that are popular at this sale, especially in larger sizes. This was also one of the most affordable shops, and included a larger stylistic range than shown on the website.

4. Good Company — Austin
This designer-owned Austin boutique operates three locations catering to women. Styles are varied, but include mostly business-casual neutrals with collars or draping. At Le Garage Sale, Good Company carried some one-size items, some XL items, and shorts marked 42XL.

3. Diamonds & Rust at Side Kitsch Vintage — Austin
A vendor from one of Austin’s wackiest vintage stores — for both furniture and clothes — brought a range of styles up to XXL to the sale. Side Kitsch always has bright prints, sparkles, cool leathers and suedes, and unique cuts. It also carries fun men’s and unisex styles, and lots of accessories.

2. Bizzy Lizzy — Houston
Bizzy Lizzy knows its niche, which is that ubiquitous embroidered peasant blouse. However, in a sea of sort-of-awkward floral chaos, pieces from this vendor show a lot of restraint in color and pattern without leaning on neutrals. These were some of the sale’s highest-quality 3X clothes.

1. Alana Kay Art — Fort Worth
This creative store is run by resin artist Alana Kay, who prints her works on dresses, activewear, accessories, and home decor. The wrap dresses in particular are joyful, unique and go up to XL. Kay says the manufacturer is working on restocking up to 3X. These are true statement pieces.

Courtesy of Hai Hospitality

3 hot Austin restaurants make Bumble's top 100 date night destinations

It's A Date?

There's still something romantic about meeting someone you really click with over a meal, and it looks great to suggest a cool, delicious restaurant for that first get-together. But it also adds to the pressure: According to a press release, an OpenTable and YouGov survey found that the top “stressor” for people going on first dates is “picking the right spot/activity.”

To address that unfortunate idea gap, OpenTable and Bumble teamed up to create a dining guide in 2021, listing the 100 Best Restaurants for a Date in America. This year, they reprised the popular list across Bumble’s three verticals — romance, friendship, and business — and three of those standout restaurants are in Austin.

“At Bumble, we’re fueled by bringing people together to build genuine connections across every stage of their life: dating, making friends and professional connections,” said Olivia Yu, Bumble’s global vice president of partnerships, in the release. “We saw great feedback from our community following our partnership with OpenTable last fall … [and] couldn’t wait to partner with OpenTable again.”

On the Best Restaurants for a Date list, Uchiko charms as always, and Trattoria Lisina (technically out in Driftwood) transports visitors to Italy. Both restaurants are often cited as must-tries, and have earned their popularity in large part because of atmosphere.

Uchiko, a slightly more accessible offshoot of one of Austin's — and America’s — best sushi restaurants, Uchi, is dark and chic inside — almost entirely covered in rich, stained woods and earthy tiles. Trattoria Lisina couldn’t be more different except for the white tablecloths, built like an Italian villa, letting light splash in on the interior stones through gigantic arched windows.

One other Austin restaurant, Steiner Ranch Steakhouse, made the list for Best Restaurants for a Friend Date (although there’s no obvious reason it couldn’t be on all three). The big stone house has an airy patio overlooking Lake Travis, with a fire pit in the center. There were no Austin picks on the Best Restaurants for a Business Meeting list — a surprising coincidence for the Capital City.

Before going any further, it’s time to acknowledge any weirdness in categorization. The methodology compared user ratings on OpenTable to determine the “best” restaurants, and then sorted them based on tags indicating whether each was "romantic," “good for groups,” and “good for business meals.” Although Bumble and OpenTable teamed up for this, the data is all automated. So, no one knows who to blame for this next one.

For San Antonians, according to these lists, daters should head to Brazilian steakhouse Chama Gaucha; friends should try Brasao Brazilian Steakhouse. (Some crossover is probably permissible, but the OpenTable hive mind makes the rules). Business contacts should meet up at J-Prime Steakhouse. So hopefully San Antonians enjoy steak. In any case, they’ll all make a good impression — to meat eaters, anyway.

“People are craving connection, and partnering with Bumble to debut curated diner guides means skipping the dreaded ‘where should we go’ question and instead focusing on nailing that first impression,” said OpenTable chief growth officer Susan Lee in the release. “The win-win is that this movement for in-person socialization also supports the still-recovering dining scene.”

Now through August 18, these lists will pop up for users in Bumble, who can swipe for a link giving recommendations. Those who would like to browse more intentionally can view the lists on OpenTable. All can book, and if they don't agree with this year's lists, feel free to leave the reviews that build next year's.

Photo courtesy of Origin Hotel Austin

The 10 best Austin hotels to book for a full ACL Fest experience this fall

Night Moves

Ready or not, for travelers, Austin City Limits Festival is right around the corner, and things are booking up fast. The October event brings approximately 400,000 people to Zilker Park over two weekends, many of them Austinites, but many who have to make their way en masse to hotels, perhaps not knowing that P. Terry’s is a great move for a late-night snack well below festival prices.

As one might imagine, hotels around town offer ACL deals, but they’re not very well publicized. Frankly, they don’t need to be, because people will find them. And fast. There are two long, official lists of hotels with vacancy on the festival website, for plucky travelers who love to scroll.

For everyone else, here are 10 great hotels and deals to springboard the search, from budget finds to music industry favorites. Since rates are slippery with all the different room sizes and dates available, CultureMap compared the lowest prices from each hotel on the same four nights, and assigned a dollar-sign rating:

$ — $250 or less
$$ — up to $500
$$$ — up to $1,000
$$$$ — above $1,000

At the end of the day (literally), as long as a hotel is safe and comfortable, it’s auxiliary to the ACL experience. But why not have a little extra fun?

Hampton Inn — $
The lowest priced of the entire ACL-sanctioned list, the Hampton Inn at 4141 Governors Row in South Austin will likely still require a paid ride to Zilker Park, about seven miles away. But it’ll be worth it to save hundreds with a few exclusive rate offers remaining. Even if those run out, it’s a reasonable option that’s very close to South Congress. It’s a mile-and-a-half from Cosmic Coffee, an excellent place to wake up before a busy day.

Origin Hotel — $
Origin Hotel, a four-city boutique hotel that just opened in Austin's Mueller neighborhood in June of 2022, is offering a special ACL rate. This deal gives a great opportunity to stay somewhere buzzworthy and unique for roughly the same price as a status-quo national chain. Origin also contains an all-day diner called Blue Lacy, something a little hard to find in Austin. Almost six miles from Zilker, it’ll require a drive, but the more residential area will be a great escape near locally loved restaurants.

Colton House Hotel — $$
Colton House Hotel on South Congress, a new boutique hotel as of January 2021, makes a special offer for ACL guests of four nights, with one night at half off and free parking for anyone with tickets. In addition to its stylish, neutral rooms, the hotel maintains a private yoga studio, great for working on those hamstrings after lots of walking; Zilker Park is about a mile from end to end. Use promo code ACL2022 when booking online.

Hyatt Regency — $$
The closest of the official ACL partnerships is the Hyatt Regency at 208 Barton Springs Road. This is a straight shot to Zilker, with only about a mile-and-a-half of walking. With great views and accessibility to Auditorium Shores and all of downtown, this is a great option for guardians, partners, or friends coming along for the ride who haven’t bought a wristband or tickets every day.

Moxy Hotel — $$
Moxy Hotels have a fun, young vibe in their many locations, with smart, space-saving room designs that help keep prices relatively low for their downtown locations. This one at 2552 Guadalupe St. is just over three miles from Zilker, but because of its West Campus location, it’s very accessible to buses. Moxy doesn’t appear to offer any ACL discounts, but check-in comes with a free cocktail (and sometimes other perks).

Hotel Indigo — $$
Airbnb is not the only option for festival-going pet owners. ACL partner Hotel Indigo accepts pets of up to 50 pounds ($75) and is located on one of Austin’s busiest streets for nightlife Red River. This area is full of live music venues (great for a musical nightcap, which are sure to be raging during the festival), and the hotel is right next to one of Austin’s quintessential bars, Cheer Up Charlies. Intrepid festival-goers could technically walk the two-and-a-half miles to Zilker.

Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt — $$$
A special deal (weekends one and two) from the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt combines a three-night stay with merch and two festival wristbands, for those who haven’t splurged on them yet ($2,850). Even if you have, the Rainey Street hotel is a unique place to extend the musical experience to the point of breaking sanity. Geraldine’s, the excellent rooftop restaurant and bar, has jazz brunches, a “record society,” daily guest artists, and monthly artists in residence.

Soho House — $$$
Don’t count this South Congress members-only option out yet — a Soho Friends membership ($14 per month or $130 per year) is much more affordable than the whole shebang, and allows visitors to book hotel rooms, bring guests, and save on dining and spa packages. Soho House’s ACL special includes welcome cocktails at the very cool Dante’s HiFi vinyl bar, plus a luxurious Sunday brunch for two. And just imagine the rainforest showers after a long day.

Hotel Zaza — $$$
This boutique hotel can offer something priceless during such a crowded time: mobility. Hotel Zaza’s free three-mile shuttle brings guests wherever they ask to go within its downtown radius. Between the ACL shuttle that stops on the same block as the hotel, and the hotel’s shuttle starting at 3 pm, guests may not have to pay for a rideshare throughout their entire trip. Visitors for three nights or more receive a percentage discount.

Hotel Saint Cecilia — $$$$
It doesn’t offer any ACL-specific deals, but it would be a crime not to mention this musical hotel for visitors who really want to commit to the bit. The famous Hotel Saint Cecilia, tucked behind South Congress, played host to the Foo Fighters during their 2015 headlining ACL run, who then recorded a five-track EP there. The rooms are music-themed and have Gibson guitars on loan. Even though there is no ACL discount, there are four-night and pre-booking deals.

Photo courtesy of Compass

Woodsy Texas ranch with ties to Von Erich wrestling family listed for $17 million

Animals included

A large ranch for sale in East Texas comes with its own animal kingdom, of sorts — 36 cows, six Quarter Horses, and one donkey.

The more than 600-acre Hickory Wind Farm in Chandler, 22 miles northeast of Athens and seven miles west of the Tyler airport, is owned by an unidentified Dallas billionaire and his wife. The East Texas ranch is listed at $17 million.

Aside from the 40 critters included in the sale, the property features a main home and three other houses.

The main house was built in the late 1970s for the Von Erich wrestling family. Members of the family practiced in a wrestling ring set up inside a shed on the property, according to local legend.

The property also includes two barns, a covered shooting range, an eight-acre lake with a boat dock and fishing pier, a boathouse, three boat slips, five ponds, and a high-fenced area geared toward animals.

The barn, the staircase in the main house, and bridges at the ranch were handcrafted from cedar trees harvested on the property.

Bonus: Tools, two trucks, two tractors, and other equipment accompany a more than 1,100-square-foot workshop.

The 7,341-square-foot main house, whose renovation was conceived by Tyler architect Mike Butler, comprises five bedrooms, six bathrooms, and two half-bathrooms. Amenities at the main house include an infinity-edge pool, an enclosed wrap-around veranda, and an array of furnishings selected by Dallas designer Cathy Kincaid.

A 1,597-square-foot guest cottage complements the main house; Butler and Kincaid worked on its update. Two other houses are designated for ranch managers.

The current owners bought the ranch in 1992.

“The current owners have enjoyed the ranch for many years and have hosted many … gatherings,” says Compass real estate agent Michelle Wood, who shares the listing with Bryan Pickens of Republic Ranches. “The farm reminded the husband of where he grew up in Virginia, and the homes are elegant and refined, but meant to be lived in casually, in dusty jeans and boots.”

The more than 600-acre Hickory Wind Farm ranch is in Chandler, Texas.

Photo courtesy of Compass
The more than 600-acre Hickory Wind Farm ranch is in Chandler, Texas.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.