Considering a cooking school vacation but don't want to spend all day eating? Check out these fantastic foodie destinations. You'll have gourmet-cooking adventures but thanks to ample time outside the cooking classroom you'll get a side of fitness too. Whether you want to learn the basics or master a new cuisine, one of these six healthy cooking adventures is for you.
Cooking Adventures for Fit Foodies: Italian Cooking in… Italy!
The Awaiting Table; Lecce, Italy
At this weeklong cooking school foodies learn by doing (with no more than six students per class). Your cooking adventures begin at a local market where you'll buy the day's ingredients. Silvestro Silvestori, the Awaiting Table's founder and instructor, guides you through two daily sessions (lunch and dinner) of group cooking classes. The recipes you'll learn—including orecchiette with broccoli rabe—were collected from the people of Lecce and the surrounding villages.
Get outside: Use the morning hours to explore the more than 2,000-year-old town of Lecce on foot. Speed walk (you'll torch up to 400 calories an hour) through the area, taking breaks to check out the Church of San Matteo and the Basilica di Santa Croce. Rent a bike from Lecce's public fleet and pedal past Greek and Roman ruins.
Details: A private room in the cooking school's bed-and-breakfast is included in the fee (approximately $3,060, including meals; awaitingtable.com).
Cooking Adventures For Fit Foodies: Master Basic Cooking Technique
Culinary School of the Rockies; Boulder, Colorado
Don't have any basic cooking skills? It doesn't mean you can't be a foodie! Improve your cooking confidence at the Culinary School of the Rockies' five-day Basic Cooking Techniques Vacation ($645). Each day begins with the chef-instructor introducing a new skill—such as blanching, braising, and sautéing—and going over the day's menu. Classes are limited to only 14 people, so every student gets hands-on experience with all the basic cooking techniques.
Get outside: When you're dismissed from cooking class at 2:30 p.m., get outside at the ice rink at One Boulder Plaza ($6 for admission, $3 to rent skates). You can also take advantage of any fresh powder by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in nearby Eldorado Canyon State Park. The REI store (1789 28th St.; 303-583-9970) rents snowshoes.
Details: The school doesn't provide lodging, so book one of the 201 rooms at the nearby St. Julien Hotel & Spa. The property is a block away from many shops and restaurants on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall (from $229; stjulien.com).
Cooking Adventures For Fit Foodies: Who Are Also Wine Connoisseurs
Gourmet Retreats; Calistoga, California
Located in the northern Napa Valley, the sleepy-chic town of Calistoga is bordered by the Napa River and several vineyards. And that's where you'll find the professional kitchen and gardens of Gourmet Retreats. During the five-day Culinary Vacation ($1,150), expect field trips to local foodie hotspots (including the Culinary Institute of America and local wineries) sandwiched between five hours of afternoon and evening cooking adventures. You'll learn how to make stocks and sauces, improve your knife skills, and pair wine with meals.
Get outside: Use the hours before cooking school to explore the town of Calistoga. On a day when cooking classes start in the late afternoon, sign up for the Healdsburg Kayak Tour ($155) in the morning. During the four-to-five-hour trip, you'll paddle on the Russian River, which borders many vineyards. Expect to see snowy egrets and blue herons, as well as other wildlife, along the way.
Details: Gourmet Retreats doubles as a charming two-room bed-and-breakfast called Casa Lana (from $229). If Casa Lana is full, stay at the nearby Solage Calistoga, an eco-friendly luxury hotel that has 89 guest studios and a 20,000-square-foot spa (from $325).
Cooking Adventures For Fit Foodies: Personal Cooking ClassesHidden Pond; Kennebunkport, Maine
Hidden Pond's 800-square-foot organic garden located in its 60-acre pine and balsam forest is a foodie's paradise. Visit in the summer (Hidden Pond is open mid-May through October) and you can grab a pair of shears and a basket from the farm shed and pick as many vegetables and herbs as you can carry. The inn offers a three-hour interactive healthy cooking class ($125). The chef cooks a meal of your choice in your cabin; you can participate hands-on in the preparation or watch and learn as he does all the work.
Get outside: Borrow one of Hidden Pond's cruisers and bike to nearby Goose Rocks Beach. Or take one of the inn's complimentary daily classes, which include yoga, tai chi, and watercolor painting.
Details: Different local designers decorated the 14 clapboard cottages at Hidden Pond so each has its own distinctive feel. Every morning, baked-on-site breakfast goodies are delivered to your front door (from $495; hiddenpondmaine.com).
Cooking Adventures For Fit Foodies: Healthy Gourmet
Rancho La Puerta; Tectate, Mexico
Rancho La Puerta was among the world's first destination fitness retreats when it opened in 1940. Its newest addition is the 4,500-square-foot La Cocina Que Canta, a cooking school set amidst an organic farm that hosts classes ($75 each) several days each week. Guest chefs work with visitors to make healthy gourmet signature dishes, such as Indian dahl with ginger-peanut sauce, salmon and mushrooms in a napa cabbage purse, and flourless chocolate cake (some of the butter and sugar is replaced with yams and bananas).
Get outside: Cooking classes last three hours, leaving fit foodies plenty of time to check out La Puerta's 11 gyms, four pools, and 10 different exercise classes available every hour. Or start the morning with the daily 6 a.m. guided hike. When your muscles need a break, head to one of three health centers for a full menu of spa services, as well as chiropractic and acupuncture treatments.
Details: The casitas at Rancho La Puerta have folk art on the walls and no televisions or Wi-Fi to distract you. Guests are encouraged to stay for a week (from $2,715 for seven days, including transportation to and from San Diego International Airport, meals, and use of fitness facilities; rancholapuerta.com).
Cooking Adventures For Fit Foodies: Spa Food
Miraval; Tucson, Arizona
At Miraval's four-day Creative & Mindful Cooking workshop ($600), chef Chad Luethje teaches you how to re-create all sorts of delicious spa foods, including soups, salads, and entrées. During each two-to-four-hour session you'll learn a different cooking technique. Cooking classes also include tips for planning menus, shopping for healthy foods, and substituting fattening ingredients in your favorite recipes—key for ensuring you use your new healthy cooking skills when you get home!
Get outside: Thanks to its location in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Miraval offers guests a variety of active options on and around its 400 acres. Hike, mountain bike, rock climb, or try a fun new workout class like Zen Boot Camp. Then recharge for your next day in the cooking classroom with a soothing treatment at the 35,000-square-foot spa.
Details: Stay in one of Miraval's casita-style rooms and you'll enjoy a private balcony (from $425 per person per night, double occupancy, including meals and a $130 resort credit you can use toward relaxing spa services; miravalresorts.com).