1000 Places

5 Spas to Visit Before You Die

Got the wintertime blues? A spa weekend could be just what the doctor ordered. Pamper yourself with a trip to any one of these 5 unmissable spas, excerpted from the revised edition of Patricia Schultz’s 1,000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die.

Mohonk Mountain House

New Paltz, NY

For well over a century Mohonk Mountain House has looked much the same—an other-worldy castle sitting on a pristine glacial lake at the top of the Shawangunk (pronounced by locals SHONG-gum) mountain ridge. Often confused with the nearby Catskills, “the Gunks” have their own unique geologic makeup, with white quartz cliffs that offer the best rock climbing in the Northeast.

One of the country’s few remaining great 19th-century mountain houses, Mohonk has been owned by the same family since Albert Smiley, a Quaker, made his original purchase of 280 acres and a ten-room inn in 1869. The emphasis is still focused on slowing down, and the rocking chairs lining the great porch with its mesmerizing views of the tree-rimmed lake are prized as are afternoon tea and homemade cookies. Supreme relaxation can be found at the lavish addition of the 30,000-square-foot spa wing that blends seamlessly with the Mountain House’s 19th-century air. Built for Mohonk’s loyal clientele, who requested an indoor pool, it attracts those who make the easy drive up from New York City to soothe body, mind, and spirit.

Monhonk Mountain House: Tel 855-764-6950. Cost: from $646 for two, includes all meals. Best times: 1st half of Oct for peak foliage; winter for the open stone-and-wood skating pavilion with 39-foot fireplace.

Ten Thousand Waves

Photo © Conde Nast Traveler

Santa Fe, NM 

New Mexico is brimming with places to indulge the pleasure of soaking in hot water, from natural sandy-bottom pools deep in the woods to spas that seem more Kyoto than Four Corners. One of the latter can be found in the pine- and juniper-covered hills above Santa Fe, at Ten Thousand Waves, a well-known and much-loved Southwest version of a Japanese hot spring resort. It is a longtime favorite whose peaceful, down-to-earth ambience and wooden outdoor pools, both private and shared, promise to treat both your body and your mind. Those elemental joys, available year-round, are especially welcome in the winter on the way back from a hard day of skiing or just a long day exploring the art galleries of Santa Fe. Aesthetically spare Zen-style rooms invite you to spend the night, and a full menu of spa treatments offers everything from a deep-stone massage to a Japanese Organic Facial Massage.

Ten Thousand Waves: Tel 505-982-9304. Cost: rooms from $209 (off-peak), from $249 (peak); shared tubs $25 per person.

The American Club

Photo © Conde Nast Traveler

Kohler, WI  

Sure, it sounds odd to build an exclusive resort around a plumbing factory, but that’s exactly what happened in the village of Kohler, a name known for its fashionable, high-end plumbing fixtures. In 1918, company president (and later governor of Wisconsin) Walter J. Kohler built an impressive, block-long redbrick Tudor building directly opposite his factory, as a dormitory for his immigrant workforce, believing “a worker deserves not only wages, but roses as well.” Today, one of Kohler’s favorite quotes is etched in stained glass, radiating from the soaring windows of the handsome Wisconsin Room restaurant, once the workers’ dining hall: “Life without labor is guilt; labor without art is brutality.”

The Kohler attention to detail is evident throughout this tidy property, which at every turn feels as perfect and photogenic as a movie set. Few guests leave without exploring the Forbes Five-Star Kohler Waters Spa, where they can choose from more than 50 treatments, many showcasing Kohler’s plumbing marvels, such as the RiverBath, featuring a waterfall and river currents. For a nuts-and-bolts look at Kohler’s namesake business, visit the Kohler Design Center, where the “Great Wall of China” fills one end of the showroom with a vast display of plumbing fixtures.

The American Club Resort: Tel 800-344-2838 or 920-457-8000. Cost: from $200 (off-peak), from $385 (peak); greens fees from $161. Kohler Waters Spa: Tel 920-457-7777. Cost: RiverBath treatment $122. Best times: Oct for the Kohler Food and Wine Experience; Feb for In Celebration of Chocolate.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

Photo © Ojai Valley Inn and Spa

Ojai, CA

When filming Lost Horizon in 1937, Frank Capra was looking for a sunny paradise to be Shangri-la, the mythical land of eternal youth. He chose the mystical, oak-covered Topa Topa Mountains that ring Ojai (pronounced OH-high), a Spanish Colonial-style village north of Los Angeles. The ancient Chumash Indians (whose word for “the nest” gives the town its name) revered it as a place of healing, and over the years it has drawn many spiritual seekers and those merely looking to decompress.  Sunsets, when the mountains take on a warm, rosy cast known as the Pink Moment, are its most special time.

The downtown’s picture-perfect signature is its tall stucco and red-tiled bell tower, one of many similar buildings commissioned in the ’teens and ’20s by Edward Libbey, a Toledo glass magnate who wintered here. Libbey was also the impetus for what is now the most perfect place to stay, the 220-acre Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. In 1923 he built a private Spanish-style clubhouse and 18-hole golf course, designed by George C. Thomas Jr. to be one of the country’s most beautiful and challenging golf experiences, with scenic vistas and sharp angles. At the far end of the resort, cars are banned to maintain the peace of a walled 31,000-square-foot Spa Village, complete with a Mediterranean-style bell tower and outdoor courtyard with fountain and fireplace. Inside, the spa offers impeccable services that include a Himalayan warm salt stone therapy and detox massage.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa: Tel 855-697-8780 or 805-646-1111. Cost: from $400 (off-peak), from $600 (peak); greens fees from $180.

Enchantment Resort and Mii amo

Photo © Mii amo

Sedona, AZ 

Only a ten-minute drive from downtown Sedona, the Enchantment Resort and Mii amo, a destination spa, sit at the mouth of dazzling Boynton Canyon, surrounded by red stone spires. At 4,500 feet (and thus not subject to the desert’s ovenlike summers), the 70-acre resort blends perfectly with the area’s fabled high-desert scenery. It is an ancient, peculiarly eroded landscape that varies from pink and orange to sienna and vermilion, depending on the day’s mood and the sun’s position. Enchantment proposes to be your cocoon in this environment—to lavish upon you exquisite offerings in food, accommodations, and recreation until you choose to return to the real world.

Overlooking the resort is a set of stone spires said to be one of Sedona’s revitalizing energy vortexes—electromagnetic fields that ancient Native Americans considered sacred. The resort’s sumptuous Southwest-themed rooms and suites have an outdoor deck for basking in the sun and soaking up the dramatic surroundings. Suites boast log-beamed ceilings, beehive fireplaces, soaking tubs, and in some, full kitchens and outdoor gas grills.

The hotel’s affiliated Mii amo Spa is a classically Southwestern experience, specializing in treatments inspired by Native American and other healing traditions. It excels in metaphysical treatments, such as psychic massage, aura-soma color readings, and energy work to take you on a journey within. There are also hard-to-find offerings, such as watsu, neuromuscular therapy, and Thai massage, along with the usual roster of spa treatments. Don’t miss a session in the Crystal Grotto, a meditation room with a skylight in its domed ceiling. Mii amo has its own gorgeous rooms with private patios, a health-conscious restaurant, and indoor and outdoor pools.

Enchantment Resort: Tel 888-250-1699 or 928-282-2900. Cost: from $325 (off-peak), from $425 (peak); dinner at Che-Ah-Chi $70; dinner at Tii Gavo $40. Mii amo Spa: Tel 888-749-2137 or 928-203-8500. Cost: spa treatments from $160; all-inclusive 3-night packages from $2,850 per person (off-peak), from $3,330 (peak), single-occupancy, includes 2 spa treatments per day (6 total). Best times: spring and fall for weather.

About the Book:

Covering the U.S.A. and Canada like never before, and for the first time with full-color photographs, here are 1,000 compelling, essential, offbeat, utterly unforgettable places. Pristine beaches and national parks, world-class museums and the Just for Laughs festival, mountain resorts, salmon-rich rivers, scenic byways, the Oyster Bar and the country’s best taco, lush gardens and coastal treks at Point Reyes, rafting the Upper Gauley (if you dare). Plus resorts, vineyards, hot springs, classic ballparks, the Talladega Speedway, and more. Includes new attractions, like Miami’s Pérez Art Museum and Manhattan’s High Line, plus more than 150 places of special interest to families. And, for every entry, what you need to know about how and when to visit.

“Patricia Schultz unearths the hidden gems in our North American backyard. Don’t even think about packing your bag and sightseeing without it.” —New York Daily News

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