For the artsy traveler, what better way to get acquainted with a destination’s culture than to learn a local craft? Participating in a workshop can be a daylong venture or even a weeklong retreat. Plus, whether you’re making moccasins or birch boxes or farmstead cheese, you’ll end up with a handmade souvenir to take home. Here, four immersive programs that let you do just that:
Life in the Adirondacks, in the past, was characterized by farming and logging. Get a glimpse of how people adapted to their surroundings and took advantage of the vast natural surroundings at Adironack Folk School, which offers more than 250 courses in Lake Lucerne, NY. Here, transform a gourd into a stylish purse ($95), make a pair of leather moccasins that keep your feet warm and dry in the winter ($95), or learn 19th century tinsmithing basics as you create a candle stick and wall sconce ($100). Through spring and summer, the school also hosts free evening programs like spinning, forging, and other lectures and demos.
The North House Folk School in the harbor town of Grand Marais is all about preserving Minnesota’s Scandinavian culture. Classes cover everything from the Norwegian painting technique known as rosemaling, to crafting Scandinavian/Russian birch bark boxes, to woodworking and furniture craft. Sample early-bird tuition rates: $45 for a half-day, $150 for two days, and $195 for three days of instruction, excluding material fees. Of course, this varies by class – metalsmithing, jewelry making, and others that involve special equipment or materials tend to be pricier.
Moving beyond the decorative arts, CedarRoot Folk School hosts one- and two-day classes that explore everyday farm life. Rather than gather on a campus, the classes are held throughout the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, generally less than a 90 minute drive from Seattle. Visitors can indeed make and take home the spoils, including cheese ($85), longwood bows ($170), and rawhide crafts ($95). But for something a little different, you can also dive – and we mean deeply here – into farm design with more advanced classes like solar hot water systems ($45), permaculture ($200), and scythe 101 ($135).
Want to take your cultural education to the next level? Appalachian arts-focused John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC offers 5- or 6-night programs in what feels like summer camp for grown-ups. A typical day includes a morning guided walk, six hours of class time, afternoon activities like artist visits and poetry readings, evening entertainment like craft demos and folk music, plus three meals in between. For classes, bamboo fly rod making, miniature glass ornament crafting, iris paper folding, scroll dyeing, and 850 more are on offer. Weeklong programs start at $530 and lodging and meals at an additional $452. Those might look expensive, but it comes out to less than $200 per day – not bad for room and board, meals, and excursions.