Culture / Travel / Wellness

A New Era for Canyon Ranch, the Original Wellness Resort, is Kicking Off in Texas

With New Membership Clubs in Fort Worth and Houston That Are Something Like Equinox Meets Soho House

BY // 03.02.23

Considered the original wellness resort when it launched in Tucson 43 years ago, Canyon Ranch is expanding its national footprint with new membership-based urban clubs. Texas will be the first state to join the Canyon Ranch microcosm, with two such clubs, and a 600-acre resort on the way, thanks to the new owner, Fort Worth-based real estate tycoon John Goff.

At the Tucson, Arizona Canyon Ranch Resort, a guest met with one of the staff’s medical doctors to address his persistent back pain, which had started five years before.

“Well, what happened five years ago?” the doctor asked. News of a traumatic personal event came to light, and the physician referred the guest to the resort’s mental health team. His therapist soon discovered much of the pain was actually attributed to the emotional blow, and so, the real recovery began.

Legends like this are not uncommon at Canyon Ranch, where visitors pay an average of $900-plus per night to reset their physical, mental, and spiritual health. That fee includes activities, lectures, unlimited meals and snacks at the property’s restaurants, dozens of wellness experts and practitioners, and luxe accommodations. The staff prides itself on the resort’s personalized and integrated system: Your team — which could include a physician, dietitian, mental health therapist, acupuncturist, exercise physiologist, aesthetician, spiritual wellness provider, massage therapist, and others — is in constant communication to develop your tailored program from multiple points of view.

“It’s hard for us to say there’s a Canyon Ranch way of doing things,” said Mike Fulkerson, chief marketing officer. “It’s really about meeting you where you are. We say it’s this idea of inquire, listen, and guide.”

Now, Canyon Ranch is taking its philosophy and guidance a step further, by launching membership-based clubs that will allow you to continue your expert-led progress once you’ve returned home. The first of these will debut in Fort Worth (late 2023) and Houston (2024), with memberships likely becoming available this spring for Fort Worth and next year for Houston. A 600-acre full-amenity resort is also coming to Austin in 2025.

 

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A hiking group at the original Tucson Arizona location. (courtesy of Canyon Ranch)

The History of Canyon Ranch

Before there was Goop, before medicinal psychedelics were on their way to legalization, before celebrities detailed their shaman-led retreats, there was Canyon Ranch.

Opened in 1979 by Melvin “Mel” and Enid Zuckerman, it was born out of a personal desire to live a healthier lifestyle. Mel, then in his 50s and 40 pounds overweight, feared he was heading down the same path as his father, who had just died. But after an exercise- and diet-fueled stint at a California spa, the land developer felt invigorated. His wife urged him to open a sort of community for healthy living — something greater than a spa. They settled on a 150-acre property named the Double U Dude Ranch in the Sonoran Desert of Tucson and began to plot out their risky endeavor.

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Double U Dude Ranch Pool (circle 1950s) in Tucson, Arizona. (Courtesy of Frashers Fotos Collection & Pomona Public Library, Pomona, California)

It was the era of fat farms, where retreats virtually starved and over-exercised guests to help them lose weight. There was no wellness industry, and no market research that proved their holistic concept would succeed. But passion pushed them forward. A year and a $6.8 million renovation later, the Zuckermans welcomed their first guests (eight in total, but only one paid the $85 per night fee) to Canyon Ranch. Within three years, the place took off, with celebrity bookings, magazine features, and TV specials. A decade later, they created an East Coast offshoot in the wooded Berkshires of Lenox, Massachusetts, in the 1898 Bellefontaine Mansion built by Carrere and Hastings.

Since then, Canyon Ranch has continued to trailblaze in the wellness industry. When Mel and Enid stepped down in 2017, John Goff partnered with New-York based entertainment firm and casino operator VICI Properties. He opened a third resort in Woodside, California, and expanded the services offered at the existing ones.

 

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Double U Dude Ranch (in the 1970s), which became Canyon Ranch Tucson. (courtesy of Canyon Ranch)

A New Texas Era for Canyon Ranch

The Austin location opening in 2025 will mark the first time a Canyon Ranch resort is built from the ground up; Goff partnered with New York-based entertainment firm and casino operator VICI Properties to secure the $200 million in capital required for the development. Goff’s most lucrative contribution to the brand, however, may well be the introduction of membership-based clubs and a digital app for those members who won’t have an urban club nearby.

“The resort is somewhere that people visit once, maybe twice a year. So, we wanted to give them a place to practice daily what they learned,” Fulkerson says. “We know one of the things that drives behavioral change is having the right community around you. So, we’re building a really strong community element into the clubs.”

Something like Equinox meets Soho House meets The Ritz Spa.

At the Fort Worth club — located in the new Crescent Hotel development in the Museum District — members will receive personalized coaching and progress benchmarking, with an ongoing social support system; they’ll also have access to the restaurants, rooftop bar, office space, events courtyard, 200-room boutique hotel, residences, and state-of-the-art spa and fitness center. The app will offer additional wellness insights and round-the-clock guidance to guests, wherever they may be.

In Houston, the club will be located at 4411 San Felipe Street, near Loop 610.

Picture it: You feel rejuvenated and determined after a week at an idyllic Canyon Ranch resort. There won’t be post-resort blues, though, because you’ll be checking into your local club tomorrow … and the next day, and the next, and the next.

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