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Create a relaxing retreat for family and friends this fall

by Tribune News Service | September 17, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
No matter where you happen to fall on the map, there is something in the wild outdoors to inspire simply “being.” (Dreamstime/TNS)

There's something about the transition from summer to fall that stirs up a feeling that it's time to slow down. Maybe it's the hope of cooler temps, the leaves turning color, or maybe it's simply the adrenaline crash from activity-filled vacations and back-to-school madness that makes many of us want to hit the pause button.

Whatever the reason for turning down the dial, some of the nation's most notable specialty, experience-driven hospitality experts have found a way to help us all take a step back and slow down, and share it with the ones for whom we care.

If you're wondering how you can treat family and friends to a slower yet creative and memorable gathering, take the lead from Audrey Huttert, general manager of Aman Resorts' ultra-luxury property Amangiri in southern Utah, and Matt Cooley, co-founder of unique-experience-driven Cloth & Flame. Both are virtuosos in curating exceptional experiences that encompass the art of slowing down.

"The beating heart of our experiences is their ability to slow down and encourage connection between the people present and the place being visited," Cooley said. "Take the party somewhere new. If you are two to four people, it's a picnic. For larger groups, most parks allow some kind of private event reservation, but the trick is to ask about the spaces that they aren't thinking of."

Rather than settling for the park's gazebo, for example, Cooley suggests asking about dining/gathering spots off the beaten path -- think a gorgeous field, dock or forested clearing.

"For parties at home, turn off the Wi-Fi, and put everything on the table at once so people can linger and aren't in and out of their seats," he said.

One of the ways to promote a seamless, slowed-down experience for your guests, according to Huttert, is to take clear and focused measure of what would be most beneficial to them.

"We welcome guests as friends in our own home," she said, "so the whole experience really is seamless from time of booking all the way to time of departure. They really have absolutely nothing to worry about. They just need to guide us a little bit on what the purpose of their visit is and the experience team takes over."

Relaxation opportunities abound at Amangiri, consisting of anything from yoga out on the desert rocks and crystal sound baths in the spa, in addition to wildlife workshops and jewelry-making classes.

As your own "experience team," consider narrowing your relaxation retreat to one major activity and allow the rest of the entertaining time to entail less activity.

"After participating in some of the workshops, like creating custom-made dream catchers to take back home and place in their bedroom," Huttert said, "people tend to hang around the fireplaces and enjoy their afternoon tea and dive into a beautiful book."

Taking Huttert's lead, you could invite a certified yoga instructor to lead a more relaxing type of yoga practice -- such as a yin class -- and either precede or follow it with a guided meditation. You could even lead the meditation on your own if the spirit moves you.

"Set the intention for the event," Cooley said. "Memorize a simple breathing exercise from Headspace or YouTube and have everyone breathe for one to two minutes with each other at the start of the event."

Added Cooley, "If it's chilly out, serve warm drinks, provide blankets and start a fire. Have a way to keep the food warm at the table (even a lid over the serving plates) so everyone stays close."

Going back to Cooley's notion of using the natural environment whenever and wherever possible, simply ushering friends and family to the backyard to take in the night sky can create a collective sense of wonder and well-being.

"We've got stargazing nights every Saturday," Huttert said. "And of course the sky is precious, but it also helps to be able to glimpse up at one of the most grandiose skies of the Southwest."

No matter where you happen to fall on the map, there is something in the wild outdoors to inspire simply "being."

"We've found that compelling or unusual locations impact and augment every part of the event, especially when remote or rarely accessible."

To learn more about Amangiri, visit To learn more about Cloth & Flame, visit www.Cloth&

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