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Photo courtesy of Foster Farm & Ranch.

Have you ever wanted to buy a retreat or say you own a slice of Utopia? Now’s your chance – the Utopia River Retreat, a remarkable 12-acre property on the Sabinal River in Utopia, Texas has hit the market for $2.5 million.

The secluded, tree-filled, riverfront estate boasts nine guest cabins and "the Fortress," a historic lodge that can sleep 12 guests.

Each cabin has its own full kitchen, living space, and covered porch. Three cabins have two bedrooms that can host up to six guests, and six cabins are single-bedroom that can sleep up to four guests.

The property has been a sought-after wedding destination since the first wedding ceremony took place there in 1861. The only structure on the land at the time was a stone fort, which has since been converted into the Fortress.

Other features of the Fortress include:

  • Two master suites
  • Three semi-private lofts
  • A full kitchen
  • Fireplace
  • Wrap-around porch
  • Original stonework on display

Another highlighted feature of the property is the renovated hay barn. The previous owners turned it into a bespoke event space with an open floor plan, wood beam ceilings, a stone fireplace, and attached deck. Also around the barn is a large green space and a covered gazebo with a breathtaking view of the Sabinal river.

The Utopia River Retreat sale is facilitated by Chad Foster, the founder and broker of Uvalde-based real estate group Foster Farm and Ranch.

“With its current amenities and space for expansion, Utopia River Retreat provides potential buyers with a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Foster in a press release. “The event space, cabins, and renovated fort make Utopia River Retreat a great addition to any real estate portfolio.”

As investors are snatching up properties left and right for the next wedding venue or event space, the Utopia River Retreat is touted as the next hidden gem in a booming wedding industry. The Knot estimates a Texas couple’s average wedding budget is between $24,000 and $30,000. Texas couples are also more likely to put 30 percent of their wedding budget towards a perfect venue for their special day.

Even outside of wedding season, the estate can host family vacations, reunions, and corporate retreats, and more.

The town of Utopia is located 90 miles west of San Antonio and 350 miles southwest of Dallas.

More information about the property can be found at the Utopia River Retreat website, and more information about the listing can be found at Foster Farm and Ranch’s website.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Here's the income it takes to live among the top 1 percent in Texas

ISN'T THAT RICH

Wondering how "the other half lives" is so outdated, especially when we can easily peek into what life is like for the "one percent." A new report from SmartAsset reveals how much money you'll need to be considered the top one percent in Texas.

With one San Antonio suburb and two Austin suburbs landing among the richest cities in Texas in a recent report, it's obvious that the Central Texas landscape is dotted with pockets of wealth. But how much do you actually need in your pocket to have a top one percent income?

In Texas, an annual income of $641,400 will land you at the top, while $258,400 only gets you to the top five percent.

To come up with those numbers, SmartAsset analyzed 2019 data from IRS tax units and adjusted the figures to 2022 dollars using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For comparison, "the average American household earns a median income of under $70,000," according to the study. And per the latest figures from the U. S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Texas (in 2021 dollars) is $67,321. That leaves plenty of us with a long way to go in our financial striving.

So now we know how we compare to our neighbors, but where does that put the affluent population of Texas in comparison with other states?

For starters, Texas claimed the 10th highest income required to reach top income levels.

The one percent income threshold is hardest to meet in Connecticut ($955,000), Massachusetts ($900,000), New Jersey ($825,965), New York ($817,796), and California ($805,519). Only these five states have thresholds that exceed $800,00, and it's a pretty steep drop down to Texas ($641,400) in 10th place.

The five states where it's easiest to attain one percent status (even though that doesn't seem like good news) are Kentucky ($447,300), Arkansas ($446,276), New Mexico ($418,970), Mississippi ($383,128), and West Virginia ($374,712).

The SmartAsset report also included average tax rates for top earners in each state. There was surprisingly little variance in the top 10 states, with Washington state having the lowest rate (25.02%) and Connecticut collecting the highest tax rate (27.77%).

Texas was in the middle of the pack with a tax rate of 25.71% levied on top one percent incomes.

The 10 states with the highest earnings required to be a one-percenter and their tax rates are:

  • Connecticut ($955.3K, Tax rate 27.77%)
  • Massachusetts ($896.9K, Tax rate 26.4%)
  • New Jersey ($826K, Tax rate 27.36%)
  • New York ($817.8K, Tax rate 27.48%)
  • California ($805.5K, Tax rate 26.78%)
  • Washington ($736.1K, Tax rate 25.02%)
  • Colorado ($682.9K, Tax rate 25.24%)
  • Florida ($678.8K, Tax rate 25.23%)
  • Illinois ($666.2K, Tax rate 26.23%)
  • Texas ($641.4K, Tax rate 25.71%)

If you're on your way to being a top earner and want to do a deeper dive on those numbers, you can view the full report on the SmartAsset website.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

River Walk hotel swoons with romantic tango series this November

A Night in Argentina

The last tango in San Antonio has not yet been danced, as the ballroom series returns to Hotel Valencia Riverwalk. The ornate riverside hotel offers an annual “Tango in the Courtyard” series, now in its third year, aiming for romance above all.

Weekends in November bring professional tango dancers to the courtyard, an intimate, old world space surrounded by arches, plants, and a decorative waterfall. This ticketed event offers an excuse to visit the hotel as a non-guest, enjoying the atmosphere even without an overnight stay. (Those who do decide to stay overnight may watch from their courtyard balcony if they book the special package.)

Atmosphere is everything for this series, which comes with a bottle of Malbec (a varietal tightly associated with Argentina), an unnamed “traditional Argentinian cheese dessert,” and a red rose. (No one seems to know, definitively, how the red rose between a dancer’s teeth became a tango cliché, but handing it off to your date to remember the night is a classy flourish nonetheless. Perhaps the series, which offers some history with the dancing, has a theory.)

Tango hasn’t always been such a posh pastime. Almost everyone, regardless of dance history knowledge, can recognize the dance that became a sensation thanks to immigrants and lower classes in Argentina during the mid-to-late 19th century. The modified salon dance, European in origin and African and Cuban in alteration, gained a florid reputation as most lower class movements do, as art forms practiced for passion rather than for the eye of high society.

The tango in particular emphasizes close bodies and stiff elegance juxtaposed with moments of high drama. In one of dance history’s most overt gentrifications, the tango made it back to Europe, was reportedly banned by several notable members of 20th century European high society (which always seems to add fuel to the fire of public interest), and a century later, is the height of poise and romance.

The “Tango in the Courtyard” series runs from 7:30-9:30 pm on November 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, and 26. Tickets ($129 for two) are available at hotelvalencia-riverwalk.com. Valet parking is included.

Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

Texas' dreamiest destination spa unwraps exclusive $1,000 Swiss facial for 25th anniversary

Palatial pampering

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.

Red light mask, facial

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 at Texas-Oklahoma border 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 ranchThe 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 ranchThe 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 BradshawThe 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 Werner Segarra Photography

San Antonio resort splashes onto list of best hotels with water parks

Making waves

Anyone who’s stayed at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa knows it’s a water wonderland. Now, the property is getting national recognition for its oasis status.

Today.com has named the 600-acre resort one of the 22 best hotels with water parks. And the JW Marriott offers one heck of a water park.

The resort features the 9-acre River Bluff Water Experience. It includes a 1,100-foot-long lazy river, a rapid-river ride, three waterslides, two body slides, a sandy beach, a children’s pool, an adults’ pool, and an activity pool.

Other highlights of the JW Marriott include:

  • 1,002 guest rooms
  • Seven restaurants
  • Full-service spa
  • Hike-and-bike trails
  • Two 18-hole PGA Tour golf courses
  • Two Topgolf practice “suites”

“The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa is a premier destination for explorers, foodies, and those looking for a serene getaway,” the property boasts.

On September 9 and 10, the JW Marriott served as the host hotel for the 2022 Golden Ticket Awards, sponsored by Amusement Today magazine.

One other Texas property made the Today.com list: the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine. The Paradise Springs Water Park features a 10-acre outdoor pool, two horseshoe-shaped pools, toddlers’ pool, 6,000-square-foot family lagoon, giant water playhouse, 600-foot-long lazy river, 25-foot-long zip line, and four winding waterslides.

The Gaylord Texan opened Paradise Springs in 2011; it cost $13 million to build. The property unveiled a $5 million expansion in 2016.

“Always a blast,” a reviewer writes on Google about Paradise Springs. “Our family pays extra to get a cabana, and we make a day or weekend out of it. The kids wear themselves out with all of the fun.”

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Bask in local artistry with the inaugural San Marcos Studio Tour in April

WHERE CREATIVITY FLOWS

A new way to interact with local Central Texas artists is debuting at the end of March. The inaugural, self-guided San Marcos Studio Tour will feature more than 50 artists all across San Marcos and the surrounding area.

The tour will be led by women-owned and operated MotherShip Studios, an up and coming studio and gallery located between San Marcos and Martindale. MotherShip aims to facilitate community development by providing an affordable, welcoming studio space for local artists.

A special event will kick off the tour on the evening of March 31 at the MotherShip warehouse. The evening celebration will feature a group exhibition, live music, a giveaway, an artistic demonstration, and more. Attendees can also try one of the specially crafted complimentary drinks by local breweries such as Middleton Brewing, Still Austin Whiskey, and Austin Beer Works, who are sponsoring the event.

The studio tour will take place the weekend of April 1-2. Tour maps will be provided with numbers assigned to each artist’s studio, and signs will be posted to help tour-goers find their way around. During the weekend, visitors can also check out different group showcases at the warehouse in between their studio stops. While at the warehouse, they can also browse a catalog by the tour’s artists that will be available for purchase.

One of the goals of the tour is to showcase the “raw spaces” each local artist creates their work in, according to a press release. From their paint-splattered or photo-covered walls, these creative environments are where an artist feels most comfortable to create their work.

The San Marcos Studio Tour is free and open to the public. The tour’s kick off event will begin at 7 pm on March 31, and the self-guided tour will take place from 12 to 6 pm on April 1-2.

More information about the tour can be found on MotherShip Studio’s website.

New clinical trial for lumbar spinal surgery begins in San Antonio

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH

A new clinical trial is underway for an alternative method to lumbar spinal fusion surgery. Orthopedic medical center Ortho San Antonio and orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Anton Jorgensen announced the BalancedBack Total Joint Replacement trial using a “first-of-its-kind” technology called the 3Spine MOTUS device.

3Spine is a healthcare company focused on integrating development, research, and execution of lower back total joint replacement. The combination of the 3Spine procedure and the MOTUS device aim to address leg pain, back pain, and spinal instability. The surgery implements reconstruction of the functional spinal unit to treat degenerative disease.

Dr. Jorgensen was trained by fellow orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Hodges, the co-founder and medical director of 3Spine. Dr. Jorgensen said in a press release that he is proud to be the first Texas surgeon to participate in an important clinical trial of this type. He encouraged the community to keep in mind the challenges that come with spinal fusion surgery while searching for “new and innovative solutions to improve patient care.”

“This is something new I had to learn and practice, but I am convinced that MOTUS has the potential to fundamentally change the way I treat degenerative lumbar disease,” he said.

The first surgeries in the trial were completed at the Foundation Surgical Hospital of San Antonio. 3Spine Inc. is seeking certain patients with single-level lumbar spine disease and lumbar degeneration to participate in the study. Patients interested in the clinical trial in San Antonio can email brouk.gebreab@christushealth.org for more information.

Popular San Antonio doggy daycare opens new location in Alamo Ranch

PAWS-ITIVELY PAMPERED

Even dogs deserve a little pampering. Dogtopia, an innovative doggy daycare and spa in San Antonio, is growing their reach with the grand opening of a new Alamo Ranch location, with a fourth new location planned for Alamo Heights later this month.

The award-winning facility has gained so much love from the local community thanks to its thoughtful design approach and programming. All aspects of Dogtopia centers around providing the utmost care for your furry best friends. Dogs are separated by size and temperament into one of three playrooms to ensure the best daycare experience without causing any stress.

In addition to their daycare, Dogtopia also has boarding and grooming services for your companions. They have a firm belief that all dogs can benefit from doggy daycare, because it increases their socialization skills and lessens any repressed anxiety.

Every dog goes through an intake process consisting of a meet-and-greet session to view the dog’s paperwork, behavioral history, and their health. Thorough assessments are also made to distinguish any physical sensitivities a dog could have. The intake process is necessary for the safety of all dogs under Dogtopia’s care.

Dogtopia’s team members, dubbed “Canine Coaches,” are more than just playroom attendants. Every coach is required to complete a curriculum program designed by a registered canine behaviorist, all with the goal of the animals receiving the proper care and attention they need. The curriculum has been approved by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). That’s not all of their training; team members also complete canine behaviorist-designed training on body language, behavior, and health.

Dogtopia’s new Alamo Ranch location is now open at 11726 Alamo Ranch Parkway. Other locations in San Antonio include one in Stoke Oak and one on De Zavala Road. A fourth location in Alamo Heights is expected to open later in March.

More information about Dogtopia’s services can be found on dogtopia.com.