Spectacular Spa Getaways
Six stellar spa destinations, all just a drive away. Prepare to be pampered.
Stunning, Stellar, Spas
Recuperate, rejuvenate, and relax at some of the Northeast’s most luxurious spas.
By Anitra Brown
Maybe you can do without golf. Or gambling. Or nightlife. But a first-rate spa with steam rooms, plunge pools, and expert therapists is your one must-have amenity. We’ve scoured the region to find the newest, hippest, and most luxurious spa getaways, each of them offering a dramatically different experience. Depending on your mood, you can listen to the crickets chirp, lounge in five-star luxury, or party ‘til dawn with the Lindsay Lohan set.
The Spa At Mohonk Mountain House
1000 Mountain Rest Rd, New Paltz, NY
(800) 772-6646; www.mohonk.com
The Spa: Fashioned to look 100 years old the day it opened, the spa at Mohonk Mountain House is the epitome of Victorian elegance and the latest addition to one of the country’s last great 19th-century mountain houses. The original National Historic Landmark dates from 1869 and is a big sprawling Adirondack-style lodge with fanciful turrets and towers perfectly set on a glassy mountaintop lake. The new spa may fit the Mohonk’s mission of recreation and renewal of mind, body, spirit, but it’s probably not quite what its founders had in mind. You can spend your every waking hour here getting pampered—and skip the great outdoors. But that would probably be a mistake. With 85 miles of wilderness trails from its doorstep, Mohonk is a mecca for serious hikers. The places they head to after a cardio-rich hike—or on rainy days—are the spa’s spectacular pool on the first level of the spa wing, its outdoor heated mineral pool, or the roomy steam room and sauna. There’s also a brand-new fitness center offering yoga, Pilates, meditation, and aerobic classes, plus a spa store. Sink into Victorian-style wicker furniture next to a fireplace fashioned from the mountain’s white quartz stone.
The Treatments: The Signature Mohonk Red Massage uses a witch hazel grown on the property—and yes, it’s red—that’s infused into steaming hot towels, preparing your muscles for a global medley of massage techniques including Swedish, acupressure, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, and Thai stretches. The treatment ends with a guided power nap—for those who don’t know how to do so on their own.
Amenities: Balconies with rocking chairs give you plenty of opportunity to enjoy the views of The Catskills or the lake, and warm up with that resort rarity—a real wood-burning fireplace. In the late summer and early fall months, go outside to golf, play tennis, horseback ride, or to view magnificent local gardens. You’ll find more than a touch of “Grandma’s house” in many rooms—brass bedsteads, floral wallpaper, and matalassé spreads. The Mohonk isn’t sleek—and that is its charm. Another old-fashioned touch? All meals and afternoon cookies and tea are included in the price, along with most resort activities. The food in the soaring turn-of-the-century dining room rarely sends gourmands into swoons of delight, but it’s good honest fare and there’s plenty of it (that new gym should come in handy). Lunch is known for its carving stations of prime rib, while dinner might feature guinea hen with sweet-potato gnocchi and sage.
Insider Info: Newly renovated rooms in the “Stone Building,” made of—what else—stone, have Egyptian cotton sheets and real wood-burning fireplaces dating from the late 1800s.
The Bottom Line: The Mohonk Red Massage is $170 for 80 minutes. A 50-minute Swedish massage is $105. Rates include three meals, exercise classes, and most resort activities (including those for children), and start from $445 (double-occupancy). Rooms with a fireplace start at $560. Children 4 to 12 are an additional $82. Just 77 miles northwest of White Plains.
The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental
80 Columbus Circle (at 60th St), New York City
(212) 805-8800; www.mandarinoriental.com/newyork
The Spa: Floating with Zen-like reserve above the world’s most intense city, this tranquil, ultra-luxurious Asian retreat is one of just two spas in America awarded five-stars by Mobil Travel Guide. Located on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle, the spa’s silver-leaf ceilings, crystal-lined hallways, and sweeping cityscape views give it an otherworldly beauty. It is simply drop-dead gorgeous—and soothing as a silk pillow. Therapists exude warmth that melts the CEO and celebrity-studded clientele, many of whom stay here while in New York City. Couples vie for the VIP spa suite, with an Asian black-lacquered canopy bed where romantics linger privately after their treatments.
The Treatments: It’s no surprise they’re good at massage here: the Mandarin Oriental flagship is in Asia where massage is a venerated craft. The most interesting (and expensive) treatments in its New York location are dubbed “Journeys” and begin with a ritual foot washing in a bowl filled with warm water, sea minerals, and semi-precious stones. Here, you’ll experience unusual techniques like a Hawaiian massage called Lomi Lomi that has been mastered only by the spa’s most experienced therapists. A new Thai massage targets overworked shoulders in a $300,000 treatment room in which the walls glow with real gold leafing and richly exotic teak.
Amenities: You’ll find orchids on your pillows, plasma TVs (even by the soaking tub), and splendid views (Central Park is the most coveted) in the hotel’s soothing, sexy guest rooms. Some of the city’s best French-Japanese fusion cuisine can be found at Asiate, where the views compete for your attention with a 1,300-bottle wine cellar and dishes like muscovy duck with red-wine plum and black-bean purée. Great luxury shopping and some of New York City’s most exclusive dining experiences—Per Se (make reservations months in advance and begin to save up now) and Café Grey—are just an elevator ride away.
Insider Info: Get to the spa well in advance of your treatment to enjoy the amethyst steam room and Tea Lounge river views, at their most splendid at sunset.
The Bottom Line: A one-hour and 50-minute-long “Journey” costs $430. An 80-minute Thai massage is $305. Standard rooms start at $895 a night.
The Spa at the Hotel Gansevoort
18 9th Ave (at 13th St), New York City
(212) 206-6700; www.hotelgansevoort.com
The Spa: This subterranean retreat in the sleek glass tower that dominates New York City’s ultra-hip meatpacking district is spa by day, lounge by night. Even during the day it blurs the line, with red lights drenching the relaxation lounge (not the kind of spa where you hang out all day), and treatment rooms and a suggestive nickname: G Spa. But at night, a DJ and small, celebrity-studded “guest list” take over. The curtains are pulled back on three white marble and red glass treatment rooms, which become private cabanas for celebrities (Lindsay Lohan and Ashlee Simpson have both been spotted) and big-spenders. You’ll fork over at least $500 but have the best view of the action—dancing over the plexiglass-covered plunge pools.
The Treatments: The spa makes the most of its small scale, with shiatsu and Thai massage given on a padded floor mat and a special Indian facial that can only be found here. For a basic “Hit the Spot” full-body massage, my highly skilled therapist noticed a strain in my left foot that might be causing a problem—something my regular masseuse never mentioned—and made suggestions for at-home body care. But what makes for a fun night is less than ideal for a spa. Sounds may drift through the airy curtains. If you’re noise-sensitive, bring earplugs.
Amenities: During the day and into the evening, the party set heads for Ono. The Japanese restaurant’s outdoor garden is Miami-esque in its pillowed cabanas and billowing white curtains, lounge music, and gorgeous people. A close second is the heated rooftop pool, where you can drink in the expansive Hudson River views year-round. Cool, quiet, and modern, the guest rooms have beds so lush you’ll never want to leave.
Insider Info: The best way—perhaps the only way—to possibly get into G-Spa Lounge (if you’re not a celebrity) is to stay in the hotel. The party officially starts at 10 but doesn’t really get going until midnight and carries on until dawn.
The Bottom Line: Doubles start at $425 in low season and $575 in high. A “Hit the Spot” massage is $130 for 60 minutes. Just 32 miles miles south of White Plains.
155 Alain White Rd, Morris, Connecticut
(860) 567-9600; www.winvian.com
The Spa: Connecticut blueblood living has gone profoundly eccentric at this ultra-luxurious inn in the Litchfield Hills owned by Maggie Smith, whose in-laws were Win Smith, a founder of Smith Barney, and his wife, Vivian. Long since passed, the couple named the estate Winvian when they lived in the historic, then 2,700-square-foot, 18th-century home that is still furnished with their belongings. The original home has been expanded to 11,000 square feet to provide a clubhouse and dining area for guests, who mostly stay in the few new cottages brainstormed by Maggie and her favorite architects. Just 75 miles northeast of White Plains, the new spa is traditional on the outside but dreamily modern on the inside, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking grassy, tree-lined fields. A magnificent stone fireplace in the sumptuous suite for couples adds spark to your side-by-side massage.
The Treatments: Besides the usual hot-stone massages, salt glows (a body polish, which includes exfoliation with salt and oil, shower, and body lotion application), and calming bath treatments, you’ll find the Ultimate Eve Lom Facial, 90 minutes of luxury that includes a warm paraffin mask instead of the usual steam, a facial massage that also goes between your breasts (but is less racy than it sounds), and hot chamomile tea towels draped over your back and arms. If you’re tempted, be sure to ask for an esthetician (there are five) since Connecticut laws allow massage therapists to give facials.
Amenities: Eighteen truly original cottages scattered over 113 rural acres indulge the architect’s wildest dreams—and yours. A real 1968 Sikorsky dominates the interior of Helicopter Cottage (for big boys who haven’t grown up and their indulgent wives); Beaver Lodge lets you feel like you’re holed up in a cozy, well-made den; while Treehouse floats 30 feet off the ground. Traditional folks can stay in The Hadley Suite in the elegant original farmhouse where the Smiths once lived. Dinner is a leisurely fireside affair by Executive Chef Chris Eddy that might include foie gras and grilled white peaches to start, duck with creamy polenta, braised lettuce and tomato chutney for the main course, and chocolate soufflé as a final flourish. Hike in the adjacent 4,000-acre wildlife sanctuary, shop in nearby Litchfield, or relax in the clubby games room.
Insider Info: During the week, you can usually indulge your very human desire to snoop by asking for a home tour. Staff will take you into up to six guest cottages, if they’re unoccupied.
The Bottom Line: Cottages range from $1,450 to $1,950 a night, which includes meals and open bar. A Winvian tailor-made massage is $130 for 60 minutes. An Ultimate Eve Lom Facial is $260 for 90 minutes.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
One Borgata Way, Atlantic City, New Jersey
(609) 317-1000; www.theborgata.com
The Spa: As lavish as Las Vegas without the flight time, Spa Toccare at Borgata is a splashy retreat inside Atlantic City’s most luxurious hotel. The billion-dollar, 2,000-room facility, located on the marina, away from the day trippers drawn to the less opulent Boardwalk casinos, is Bellagio-esque in its scale and lavishness, down to Dale Chihuly’s colorful, Medusa-like chandeliers of blown glass in the lobby. The spa itself is a sprawling 31-treatment room affair where you can plunge into a hot tub, inhale eucalyptus in the steam room, or watch ocean waves roll in on a giant plasma TV in the orange glow of the spa lounge. For those who like fantasy (and hydrotherapy) with their massage, themed rooms like the Zen Bath Suite and the Couple’s Suite let you enter your own private world of indulgence.
The Treatments: Jade is said to bring good luck, which comes in handy when a 161,000-square-foot gambling floor is an elevator ride away. Employing cool and warm jadestones, The Jade Stone Facial is twice as long as the typical facial with lots of attentions to hands and feet. By the time it’s over, you’ll be melting off the table. For deep-tissue massage, the Albanian-born, Italian-trained Giovanni has hands that are worth the drive.
Amenities: Modern, capacious guest rooms with marble bathroom floors and Egyptian linens provide a quiet getaway from the clamor of the casino floor. Time your visit to performances by legendary entertainers like Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, or restaurant hop to try the latest from Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Michael Mina, or Luke Palladino.
Insider Info: A five-minute jitney ride to the Boardwalk lands you on the six-mile cultural icon that combines retro pleasures like arcades, saltwater-taffy shops, and rolling-chair rides with up-to-the-minute shopping at The Pier at Caesar’s.
The Bottom Line: The Jade Stone Facial is $260 for 100 minutes; a deep-tissue massage is $140 for 50 minutes. Rooms start at $179 year-round. (FYI: The hotel is known for its heavenly beds, so much so that it sells its mattresses.) One-hundred-sixty miles south of White Plains.
Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa
220 North Rd, Milton, NY
(845) 795-1310; www.buttermilkfallsinn.com
The Spa: Brand-spanking-new, this modernist spa on the banks of the Hudson River has angled rooflines that contrast sharply with the historic clapboard inn that dates to the American Revolution. Light pours into the elegantly designed spa through a galvanized copper “volcano” that juts out the top. It’s small at six treatment rooms but has the region’s only thalassotherapy pool, which uses healthful salt water (and as little chlorine as New York state will allow). Do laps in the 35-foot-long pool or just lounge and enjoy the views out a great wall of windows.
The Treatments: Most of the massages and facials here are a satisfying 60 minutes, not the 50 minutes typical of most spas—barely enough time to get in and out of your robe! If you’re not feeling especially perky, tell the therapist how you’re feeling, she will mix up a special blend of essential oils for an aromatherapy massage that the spa’s staff maintain will help lift your mood, dispel fatigue, and reduce stress. (And you can take what’s left home with you.)
Amenities: An ideal place for people who want a quiet, bucolic retreat, Buttermilk Falls Inn has 70 acres on which you can stroll past ponds, organic gardens, and a small barnyard that includes goats, llamas, and chickens (which supply eggs for breakfast). The inn itself has 10 rooms decorated with Oriental carpets and antiques as well as three carriage houses and a small cottage—all with gas fireplaces. Culinary Institute of America-trained chef and general manager Jodi Cummings prepares breakfast, light and low-fat spa lunches, afternoon tea, and special Wednesday night dinners. For interesting excursions, pop over to Dia:Beacon, visit the Culinary Institute of America, or go hiking in the nearby Minnewaska State Park.
Insider Info: Two of the best places to dine are Locust Tree Inn and Beso, both in nearby New Paltz.
The Bottom Line: Rooms start at $225. Swedish massage is $95 for 60 minutes. Seventy miles northwest of White Plains.
Anitra Brown writes about spas for About.com and is a contributor to Spa Magazine and 1000 Places To See in the USA and Canada Before You Die (Workman, June 2007). She is also a licensed esthetician who works part-time in a spa.