New York has been known for its spas since the late 1700s, when travelers descended upon the village of Ballston Spa for its healing waters. (Insider scoop: our editorial director, Mary Bemis, traces her roots to this New York village. In the mid-1890s, her family owned a spa resort at Ballston Spa, advertised as having the best water in the world.) Saratoga Springs soon followed—this was the beginning of the US health resort industry. Over time, for a variety of reasons, the popularity of the healing springs and waters waned . . . today, there’s not only renewed interest in the healing benefits of hydrotherapy and hot springs, but in the wonderful benefits of a good solid spa experience. This month, we shine our spotlight on the best of New York spas. From swanky city hotel spas to no-nonsense day spas to wellness retreats and more, there’s something here for newbies and spa divas alike. We encourage you to get your feet wet.
Our Panel of Expert Spa Judges: Ann Abel, Diana Anderson, Mary Bemis, Bernard Burt, Becca Hensley, Heather Mikesell, Shari Mycek & Rima Suqi
Best Day Spas
Pratima Spa, 110 Greene Street, #701, 212-581-8136. Run by Dr. Pratima Raichur, who is credited with bringing Ayurveda to the United States, this beloved Soho day spa offers a holistic approach to skincare. It’s worth booking a consult with the esteemed doctor herself who has a magical way of restoring inner balance. One of our judges raved about the Rudrashka room and the energy-focused treatment. Want to learn more about Ayurveda? We highly recommend Absolute Beauty, the comprehensive tome by Dr. Raichur.
The Red Door, Union Square, 200 Park Avenue South, 212-388-0222. “It’s got a fun and fabulous design, a beauty bar, and a host of treatments for quick beauty fixes and longer, more relaxing signature services, “says our expert spa judge Heather Mikesell. The central location doesn’t hurt, either.
Townhouse Spa, 39 West 56th Street, 212-245-8006. Spa owner Jamie Ahn always has her finger on the spa pulse, offering some of the best skincare lines available, state-of-the-art equipment (Oceana Hydro Capsule, anyone?), and new therapies. There’s a dedicated and thoughtfully designed Men’s Lounge for the guys, and the Townhouse Spa Lounge where you may sample light fare after your treatment. Fun place to socialize, so bring a friend or work colleague.
Best Hotel Spas
Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf Astoria, 100 East 50th Street, 212-872-7200. This swanky spa is located on the 19th floor of one of New York’s most iconic hotels. Great views add to the elegant crystal- and marble-enhanced space. Nice touch: Each treatment room is adjoined by a private bath and changing room. The spa “puts a perfect period to a fun day of shopping, museum-hopping, or just chatting with a friend. Follow with a glass of Champagne,” advises our expert judge Becca Hensley.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York, 80 Columbus Circle, West 60th Street, 212-805-8880. Many spa-goers believe that this 5-Star spa has the prettiest VIP Spa Suite in the city. Graceful Asian-inspired décor, a 75-foot lap pool with city views, and topnotch wet-room facilities, this award-winning spa doesn’t disappoint. “It feels like such an oasis above the city (whereas most hotel spas are shoved into the basement) and has innovative treatments that draw on Asian traditional medicine and cutting-edge skincare alike,” says our expert judge Ann Abel. “It’s expensive, but your get your money’s worth, especially if you come early and stay late to use the indoor pool upstairs, relax in the pre- and post-relaxation rooms, and partake of the drinks and snacks.”
Spa Nalai at the Park Hyatt New York, 153 West 57th Street, 646-774-1210. High atop the 25th floor, this new luxury spa is quite simply a knockout. A seasonal spa menu inspired by Park Hyatt spas around the world, a killer design, and more make this property truly stand apart from the crowd. “This spa puts all the others to shame,” says our expert judge, Rima Suqi. “Natural light, gorgeous design, and a quartz bed make this a stand-out.”
Best Spas for Solo Escape
Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa, The Plaza Hotel, 1 West 58th Street, 212-308-3550. Step into this wine-centric spa, made even more soothing with its warm wood and dark stone decor, and say goodbye to the outside world for a while. Opt for one of the signature barrel baths, or excellent facials (the Vinoperfect), then relax in the wine lounge with a complimentary glass of wine. “Feels like you’re heading to a vineyard in Bordeaux, and all you have to do is take the elevator up for some wine therapy,” noted one of our expert spa judges.
Cornelia Spa at The Surrey, 20 East 76th Street, 646-358-3600. Small and secluded with expert therapists, this spa received high marks for its understated, elegant design and its personalized treatments. “The lovely and intimate space at this upper eastside spa provides the perfect escape,” enthused one of our judges, who added that the customized treatments are another highlight. Complementary Champagne at the end of any treatment is a welcome treat.
Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, 290 Old Montauk Hwy, 631- 668-2345. Unique for many reasons—it’s the only true thalassotherapy center in the continental US—Gurney’s is off to a fresh start with a new owner and much-needed renovation. Immerse yourself in the indoor heated seawater pool, healing Roman bath, and more. Fresh spa cuisine, plenty of indoor and outdoor fitness options, and a spectacular natural location make this one of our top spa getaways.
Best Spas for Hydrotherapy
Aire Ancient Baths, 88 Franklin Street, 212-274-3777. A sleek and stylish hydrotherapy haven, Aire offers baths of varying temperatures—97 degrees F, 102 degrees F, and our favorite, the cold bath at 61 degrees F—in addition to steam room, flotarium, and more. Now, you may even sign up for a yoga class amidst the baths. The candlelit underground setting is home to a twice-weekly Flamenco Acoustic Concert experience, that one judge felt “transported her to Spain.”
Great Jones Spa, 29 Great Jones Street, 212-505-3185. The water lounge, spacious sauna, and cold plunge at this day spa garnered top ratings from our spa judges. “Friends can spa together here and then kick back in the wet lounge, which features a three-story indoor waterfall, sauna, and more,” says our spa expert judge, Shari Mycek.
Roosevelt Baths & Spa, 39 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga, 518-226-4790. An authentic bathing experience, this historic bathhouse opened its doors in 1935. It’s part of the Saratoga Spa complex—which also includes the Gideon Putnam Resort (518-584-3000) for accommodations. A must-experience in one of America’s renowned spa towns.
Best Value Spas
Oasis Day Spa, 1 Park Avenue, 212-254-7722. An award-winning day spa that delivers, Oasis on Park Avenue is a great way to take a mini-break. We like the friendly service and the variety of skincare brands used, including Eminence, Dermalogica, and Kneipp. “This is my go-to recommendation when people are looking for a treatment that won’t break the bank,” reveals our expert spa judge, Heather Mikesell.
Jeniette New York Day Spa, 58 East 13th Street, 212-529-1616. In business since 1982, this East Village spa was founded by Jeniette Melamed, who moved to the US from her native Iran in 1979. Notes one of our spa judges, “It’s inexpensive and thorough, and Rosa is the best waxer!”
The Mermaid Spa, 3703 Mermaid Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-462-2166. Many believe this to be one of the best Russian bathhouses in New York. A serious dry sauna, Turkish bath, and more (including a restaurant that serves, yes, you guessed it, traditional Russian vodka) make this an authentic cultural spa experience and one of the best spa bargains around. Try the authentic Platza massage. Note: the spa will be closed for yearly maintenance from July 9th to July 16th.
Best Spas for Wellness
Copperhood Retreat & Spa, 7039 NY-28, Shandaken, 845-688-2460. This peaceful destination spa offers a variety of no-nonsense packages that are customized to your needs, including a 3-Night Detox Plan, 7-Night Detox & Slim Down Plan, and the (we should all be so lucky) 21-Night Break Your Old Bad Habits Plan. Located in the Catskills with plenty of outdoor options. Make sure to pack your hiking boots.
Exhale, New York Upper East Side, 980 Madison Avenue, 212-561-6400. This is the brand’s original location and it offers a good selection of services and classes for mind and body. If you haven’t already tried one of the CoreFusion classes, you’re missing out. The spa menu includes a Healing Eastern Modalities section, offering acupuncture, cupping, reiki, and vibrational therapy, as well as Nutrition and Wellness Coaching.
Maha Rose Healing Center, Green Street G3, Brooklyn, 718-757-2758. “It offers a calendar full of workshops, such as Spiritual Speed Dating, Crystal Breathwork, Healing with Roses, and more,” explains one of our expert spa judges.
Best Spas for a Weekend Getaway
Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa, 220 North Road, Milton, 845-795-1310. This eco-friendly spa is set on 70 gorgeous acres along the Hudson River—think wildflower fields and waterfalls—and gets points for using solar and geothermal energy to heat its pool, sauna, and steam room. There’s a 40-acre working farm and rescue sanctuary, as well as a lovely spa with a solid selection of treatments. Try the Millstone Farm Massage that uses fresh lavender from the farm and luscious lavender oil from Red Flower. Fresh and delicious farm-to-table food is on the menu, as well.
Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, 845-765-3286. This Hudson Valley resort is a Historic Hotel of America with a fascinating history that dates back to the 1870s. It has thankfully managed to stay in the Smiley family since it opened, and it plays a large part in American spa history. Enjoy downtime in the award-winning spa, or strolling outside amidst the formal gardens. There are tons of activities here, including rock climbing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and more—as well as some excellent mindfulness programs. A longtime favorite family destination and best-friend getaway.
Whiteface Lodge, 7 Whiteface Inn Lane, Lake Placid, 518-523-0500. Relax in the pristine natural beauty of the Adirondacks at this all-suite resort spa that was built from the timbers of the region. This property received high marks from our judges for its spa treatment choices (plenty of options for the guys), as well as its cuisine. Cozy fireplaces and comforting homemade cookies at turndown are just a few of the welcoming details here. If you’re into adventure, try a little whitewater rafting on the Saranac River.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage, Shibui Spa at The Greenwich Hotel, 377 Greenwich Street; 212-941-8900. Ask for Wafa, advises our expert spa judge, Shari Mycek. “She works one day a week at The Greenwich, but otherwise is independent and will go to clients’ homes.”
Deep-Tissue Massage, Fishion Herb Center, 107 Mott Street, 12-966-8771. “Fitness pros love the no-fuss deep-tissue massages from therapists who really know their anatomy and technique, “ says our expert spa judge Ann Abel.
Trump Platinum Massage at The Trump Spa at the Trump International Hotel & Tower (AE), One Central Park West, 212-299-1000 Intended to “encourage complete reset and renewal,” this 75-minute service includes welcome ritual, aromatic oils, relaxing scalp massage, hot towel compresses, and a foot treatment. As our judge Diana Anderson attests, “The minute I hit the table, I was out.”
Triple Crown by Joanna Vargas, 501 Fifth Avenue, 212-949-2350. “This micro-current facial is customized to clients’ individual skin, and it’s both preventative and restorative,” notes our expert spa judge Heather Mikesell.
Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa, 22 East 66th Street, 212-249-2230. “I’ve been a client for more than seven years, and at forty-one, I’m routinely assumed to be in my 20s,” says our expert Ann Abel. “I think the prices are fair, and they go into great therapists, products, and technologies, not lavish waiting rooms or changing areas that you don’t really need. There’s a DIY scrub bar, too.”
La Prairie at the Ritz-Carlton Spa, 50 Central Park South, 212-308-9100. A favorite of our expert spa judge, Bernie Burt, the 90-minute La Prairie Signature Facial at this cozy, luxe spa is well worth the $325-price tag. Expert estheticians and great customer service make this a favorite urban respite.
Paintbox, 17 Crosby Street, 212-219-2412. There’s no need to fear shoddy sanitation at this Soho studio, claims our expert judge Heather Mikesell. “Focusing only on manicures, Paintbox offers a curated nail lookbook each season. A great HVAC system also means clients and nail techs aren’t breathing in toxic fumes.”
Tenoverten, 112 Reade Street, 212-406-1010. This boutique nail salon located in Tribeca, scored high points. “Beautiful apartment-like setting, 5-free products, and rates that allow them to treat technicians fairly and pay them a living wage,” enthused our expert spa judge Ann Abel. Tenoverten.com
Vanity Projects, 99 Chrystie Street, 646-410-2928. What began as an art pop-up soon evolved into one of the hottest high-end nail-art ateliers. Founder Rita de Alencar Pinto created the innovative nail-artists-in-residence program featuring international nail artists and contemporary video artists.
Most Unusual Treatment
Fanny Facial at Smooth Synergy Cosmedical Spa, 139 East 57th Street, 212-397-0111. Said to improve the appearance of bumps and lumps, this unique facial involves a scrub and having your derriere hooked up to micro-current therapy to lift and tone.
Geisha Facial at Shizuka NY Day Spa, 7 West 51st Street, 212-644-7400. An ancient Geisha beauty secret, this facial is often referred to as the “Bird Poop Facial.” It uses powdered nightingale droppings to help brighten and nourish complexions.
Synaesthesia at Lush Spa, 783 Lexington Avenue, 212-207-8151. This signature service is based on a neurological condition whereby specific senses are experienced as a different sense. “Clients choose the feeling they want to experience and the sensory massage then incorporates various scents, sounds, pressure, etc., to elicit that desired feeling,” explains one spa judge. Lushusa.com
Editor’s Note: This feature was published June, 2015.