Learning new skills that enrich your life is one of the best incentives to travel—and most importantly, can make us feel even more connected to the places we visit.
See below for nine creative skills you need to travel to learn—and the destinations you’ve got to visit in order to fully immerse yourself.
Known as the “Porcelain Capital” of China, Jingdezhen in the southern Jiangxi province has been producing ceramics for over 1,700 years. Visitors can take classes in throwing and trimming, on-glaze painting, molding, and more at The Pottery Workshop, which is the site of the city’s finest master craftspeople and a large ceramics market. Jingdezhen is a perfect stop between mountain hopping in nearby Yushan County (for the renowned and sacred Taoist Mount Sanqing) and Lushan National Park.
Sure, you can take banjo lessons just about anywhere, but what if you honed your 5-string instrument skills in the place where country music was invented? Recognized by Congress in 1998 as the Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol, Virginia, plays a momentous role in music history with the recording of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, where the Carter Family and several other original country music stars got their start. Guests staying at The Bristol Hotel, a charming and recently opened boutique property, can immerse themselves in this history with on-site banjo lessons courtesy of award-winning local musicians. Enjoy seasonal cocktails and light bites at the hotel’s rooftop bar, offering panoramic views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.
If you really want to lean in to the slow fashion movement, Rome is a great place to do it. On top of the excellent vintage shopping scene, you can also get hands on with your fashion consciousness by taking a shoemaking class at leMastro. Create a personalized pair of Roman sandals at the family-owned workshop in a single afternoon with old-school cobbler materials (glue, a hammer, your own sweat) and come away with a Roman souvenir and an appreciation of what it takes to make high quality shoes without the crutch of mass production.
Travelers looking to immerse themselves into Japan’s historical heritage and culture of the Samurai sword should head to the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum in the Okayama Prefecture of the Setouchi Region. Located in Osafune, a town that once flourished as a major producer of Japanese swords, visitors can experience the expert craftsmanship of these artfully constructed weapons up close as artisans are at work. Sword enthusiasts can take a workshop class to make their own metal paper knives (which make perfect letter openers) at the museum by hammering, twisting, filing, and polishing iron nails into shape for a personal souvenir to return home with.
Asheville may be known as Beer City, but this lively Appalachian town is quickly growing its spirit culture. For the quintessential Asheville liquor experience during a stay at the The Foundry Hotel, a steel foundry-turned-boutique property, become a distiller for the day courtesy of a collaboration with local distillery Cultivated Cocktails. Guests can learn the distilling craft from start to finish with an exclusive, high-touch experience complete with mixing ingredients, running the still, and bottling the finished product.
This one’s for the foodies. Through French Quarter Inn’s Immersive Culinary Experience, guests can embark on a private, hands-on culinary journey led by renowned Gullah Chef Benjamin Dennis (previously featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown) in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the most unique American cuisines, learn what sets Gullah-Geechee food apart from the rest of the Southern genre. Chef Dennis will guide guests to local farms and fishing docks to select fresh ingredients before heading to a beautiful Charleston home to lead a private cooking lesson and preparing a traditional Gullah meal.
Have you always wanted a behind-the-scenes peek at the world of thoroughbred horse farms? The best place to acquaint yourself would be Visit Horse Country’s exclusive horse farms tours, right in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky, otherwise known as the “horse capital of the world.” Only recently available to the public, learn about the anatomy of the horse, best grooming practices, and more insights to take with you into racing season all while exploring the rolling hills of the Bluegrass (and the famed Bourbon Trail while you’re at it). You’ll also have the opportunity to meet the only two living Triple Crown winners alive!
Want a crash course in DIY culinary gardening? The Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Garden is home to rare and hard-to-find seeds from around the globe including Oca, Yacon, Oyster Leaf, and more. Visitors can enjoy exclusive, behind the scenes tours of the impressive on-site microgreens greenhouse, where these rare crops are grown and curated by Master Culinary Gardner Tucker Taylor(formerly of The French Laundry) before being supplied to San Francisco’s Michelin-starred restaurants. After fully immersing in the Culinary Gardens, guests can enjoy Kendall-Jackson’s $55, four-course wine and food pairing featuring the Culinary Gardens produce, where Taylor, Winemaster Randy Ullom, and Executive Chef Justin Wangler teach guests everything there is to know about DIY culinary gardening, grape growing, and the coveted art of food and wine pairing.
There’s no better place than New York City to understand the vast and seemingly unapproachable contemporary art scene. But Merrily Kerr has been showing art newbies the ropes for over a decade, with expertly curated gallery tours that capitalize on her expertise as an art critic and educator. This is the perfect experience for art enthusiasts and would-be collectors looking to get a leg up on the competition.