Chilling out at a cozy spa: Where to bliss out, warm up, and get your glow back
“I always look and feel my best in winter!” said nobody ever — except maybe Olympic ski star Mikaela Shiffrin. For the rest of us cold climate-dwellers, winter is the cruelest season. Even the latest Kylie Jenner Lip Kit can’t cure the winter plagues of chapped lips, static-y hair, and itchy, flaky skin — not to mention the perma-slouch you get from braving wind and weather. The fix: Step away from those half-price Valentine’s Day M&Ms and hit the spa. New England’s inn-based spas offer the perfect two-fer — a change of scenery and a big hit of Feel Good. Here are some places to escape into a cocoon of cozy, featuring luscious seasonal treatments that will warm you up, smooth you out, and make the long road to summer a bit more comfortable.
“Everything about this treatment is warm,” said Arleen Sweeney, our therapist at Gurney’s Seawater Spa, as we settled onto a heated massage table for our Detoxifying Herbal Wrap. (Outdoor temp: Nine puny degrees.) You may not think of Newport, R.I., as a winter getaway, but the views are stunningly blue-on-blue at this Goat Island property; in fact, we had ocean views from our treatment room. Not for long, though. Sweeney had an eye mask on us in short order, and proceeded to whisk away our dead skin cells with a boar-bristle brush. We were definitely purring as Sweeney massaged us with locally sourced lavender oil. Next, she swaddled us in hot sheets of unbleached muslin soaked in an herbal potion. “People who are claustrophobic aren’t big fans of this,” she said, wrapping our arms to our sides. “This seems very mummy-like,” we responded. “If you come in here with a jar and a pair of tongs, we’re out of here!” we said, referencing ancient Egyptian burial customs. “Oh, that’s a different treatment,” Sweeney quipped.
We left the room with our organs intact and our skin feeling super-silky. You can dry-brush and oil up at home, for sure, but you won’t get those hard-to-reach spots unless you shower with a buddy. And all of the spa accoutrements (gentle music, soft lighting) are nice. Day guests of the Seawater Spa can use the saunas (located in the men’s and women’s locker rooms), steam shower (women’s locker room), and the indoor pool. (An outdoor pool opens up in the summer, available Monday through Thursday for spa guests.) Coming as a couple? Up the cozy factor with a spin around Gurney’s outdoor ice rink, and settle into an “igloo” for a warm beverage.
Detoxifying herbal wrap, $75 (25 minutes); $130 (50 minutes). www.gurneysnewport.com
Two good reasons to go to Chatham in winter: 1) A long walk along Cape Cod National Seashore, when it’s just you and the seabirds and maybe a plump seal or two. 2) The soul-satisfying luxury of a soak in The Spa’s outdoor Jacuzzi. Yep, we said “outdoor.” But you don’t have to hit the hot tub to enjoy this gray-shingled oasis of healthy-slash-happy.
During the Cape’s slow season, the spa offer wellness weekends with cooking classes, massages, and cocktail making, plus seasonal spa treatments. Homegrown is the theme here: They use botanicals grown on Chatham Bars Inn’s farm, honey from their beehives, and salt from the sea. Unfortunately, they haven’t found a local source for dried organic cranberries for their signature Cranberry Crush body treatment. (“We need too much,” spa director Majka Kendall told us.) But that didn’t stop us from trying it, once we established that the treatment wouldn’t stain us bright red.
We could’ve lounged all day in the spa’s relaxation room, with its curvaceous settees and enticing array of snacks (dried fruits, nuts, fruity water) but our treatment awaited with the promise of a “true Cape Cod escape.” No ocean views here, but we quickly settled into relaxation mode after a thorough scrub with a grainy paste of organic cranberries, essential oils, and sugar that made us crave a Cape Codder. Our post-scrub shower was a revelation: baby-soft skin, even on our pointy-boot-ravaged feet. But the best was yet to come: Esthetician Darla expertly massaged us with cranberry-infused oil, as we melted into the table. When she worked her way to our face and neck, we moaned with joy — and our sinuses squeaked in approval. This one felt like two fab treatments in one: scrub + massage. Best use of cranberries ever.
Cranberry Crush Body Polish, 60 minutes, $190. www.chathambarsinn.com
Getting a facial = awesome. Deciding which facial is right for your particular face = befuddling. Before you get one, most spas give you a form to fill out, asking about your skin concerns. Do you want to brighten? Yes! Reduce lines? Hells yes! Plump and moisturize? Who doesn’t? But each skin woe seems to have its own particular facial, so which one to choose? You can skip all that at Sanno Spa at the Saybrook Point Inn in Old Saybrook, Conn. “Every treatment we offer is customizable. It’s too much stress to have to choose which facial is targeted to you,” says esthetician Angela Catapano. Here, they’ll take a long, hard look at your dermis and decide what you need.
Catapano could’ve made a smoothie with the ingredients she chose for our Eminence Organic Facial, including Arctic berries, tropical vanilla, and citrus. She also applied a potion made with . . . kale. “This might smell kind of funny,” she warned. So what? She could’ve slathered us with stinky cheese and we wouldn’t have budged, warm to the bone on the heated table, our Shea-buttered hands and feet sheathed in warm booties and mittens. Outside, windswept rain was freezing into a deadly glaze; inside our treatment room (one of 11 at Sanno Spa), heat and serenity reigned.
With 40-plus different treatments, Sanno Spa is a haven for locals as well as hotel guests. Those who spring for a 50-minute spa service can use the health club amenities, including indoor and outdoor heated pools, a hot tub, steam room, and sauna. This time of year, prices for a night at the AAA four-diamond-rated Saybrook Point Inn are reduced, so you might want to stay overnight. Many of the guest rooms in the main inn and guesthouses have fireplaces, and most offer sweeping views of Long Island Sound. The on-site restaurant, Fresh Salt, is a local favorite — and it has a fireplace, too.
Note to movie buffs: The late actress Katherine Hepburn’s sprawling seaside home is less than 2 miles away, and the cultural arts center named after her, locally known as “The Kate,” is located nearby in Old Saybrook’s downtown. Naturally, Sanno Spa offers treatments in Hepburn’s honor, including “The Kate” Rose Wrap. If being wrapped in European rose clay mud can help us capture even the tiniest essence of Kate’s russet-haired, high-cheek-boned fabulousness, count us in!
Eminence Organic Facial, 50 minutes, $119; “The Kate” Rose Wrap, 75 minutes, $159; www.saybrook.com
Here are a couple more places to get your glow on this winter.
Up in northern New Hampshire, they know about extreme weather and how it sucks the moisture out of skin. To combat this, The Spa at Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, N.H., offers a winter-only Moisture Drench Facial. This super-hydrating treatment replenishes the skin with botanicals, including a hibiscus enzyme peel, a gotu kola (herbal) healing balm, and a white tea antioxidant mask. 50 minutes, $190; www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington/wellness
You won’t get toasted, but you’ll feel warm and toasty after a Hot Toddy for the Body scrub at The Spa at the Francis in Portland, Maine. This spicy-scented body scrub smells amazing, and feels even better, once you’re coated in calendula oil and cocooned in a warm blanket. Could we stay like this until, say, May? $165; also included in the Hot Toddy for the Body winter package ($299 per night, includes an overnight stay, the body treatment, and two Hot Toddy drinks by the fire). www.thefrancismaine.com