Places for pampering
Nothing says pampering and relaxation like a spa vacation. Here are 7 top picks for the savvy spa traveller, according to Anne Dimon, spa industry journalist and editor of TraveltoWellness.com.
BEST COUPLES’ SUITE
Elmwood Spa Toronto, Ontario
Toronto’s Elmwood Spa has been recently upgraded and their two couples’ suites – the Royal and Sapphire Suites – have two treatment tables draped in luxury linens, in-room fireplaces and showers tucked under gabled ceilings. In between treatments, couples can enjoy a swim, sauna, steam bath or lunch for two in the dining room.
BEST FOR ROMANCE
Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa Wakefield, Quebec
Situated next to a 28-foot waterfall in Gatineau Park, the Wakefield Mill offers guests fine dining and an outdoor spa lounge with a great view of the falls. Some bedrooms are equipped with fireplaces and exposed beams, brick and stone from its days as a working mill. Many guests visit the spa to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, engagements and honeymoons or for a romantic getaway.
BEST FOR MOTHER/DAUGHTER GETAWAYS
The Briars Jackson’s Point, Ontario
Located an hour’s drive north of Toronto on Lake Simcoe, this family-operated resort has been a refuge of relaxation for over 165 years. In addition to the spa, the resort offers an 18-hole golf course, live summer entertainment in the Red Barn Theatre, and recreation programming. See the website for Mother’s Day promotions.
BEST DETOX PROGRAM
The Millcroft Spa Centre for Well-Being, Alton, Ontario
The four-night, naturopathic spa detox getaway at the Millcroft Inn & Spa is designed and managed by a local naturopathic doctor – and the good news is that you still get to eat. Meals and snacks are of the gourmet variety, but prepared without wheat or refined sugar.
BEST OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE
Le Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain, Ontario
Take in the fresh air and fabulous views while you soak in therapeutic waters. The spa’s outdoor water circuit is a collection of Scandinavian baths and water features that takes you from hot to cold to hot, which can be as stimulating as climbing Blue Mountain itself. Saunas, steam rooms and relaxation solariums enhance the experience.
BEST MEDI/ANTI-AGING TREATMENTS
Sante Spa in Calgary, Alberta and at Bear Mountain, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Both Sante Spas have resident doctors to administer anti-aging treatments including Botox and fillers.
BEST FOR EXOTIC
Sunmore Ginseng Spa Kamloops, B.C.
Locally grown ginseng is used in a selection of treatments and at the spa’s Tea House includes exotic teas as well as a dishes made with ginseng. In addition to it being the only ginseng-based spa in Canada – perhaps on the continent – it also holds the distinction of having the most spacious treatment rooms each beautifully furnished and decorated in Asian style.
BEFORE YOU GO
Here are some tips to get the most of your spa vacation.
Research your destination. These days the term “spa” has become almost generic, referring to anything from a single treatment room and a jacuzzi to an expansive spa destination complete with specialty treatments, workshops and guided fitness classes. Look on the spa’s website for photos and a description of the facilities, including the number of treatment rooms. Finally, be sure to select a spa that suits your tastes, budget, interests and the occasion, be it a romantic rendezvous, a just-girls getaway, or a relaxing solo sojourn.
Book your treatments when you make your reservation. If you wait until you get there, you may not get the times or treatments you want, and on weekends you might have difficulty getting in at all. Note: To get the most pampering and relaxation out of your spa retreat, try to book yourself for a least three nights.
Ask about packages. When you book treatments, ask about any available packages. Often spas offer a better deal if you book two or three treatments together – for example, a massage, facial and pedicure.
What about the food? Many top spa destinations offer gourmet cuisine, but make sure it offers food that will help you meet any goals you might have for losing weight or detox. Some destination spas are entirely health-focused and do not offer wine or spirits.
What is the spa ambience? There can be a huge difference between a destination spa, which offers guests an all-inclusive spa experience, and a resort spa, which allows you to sample as much or as little of the spa experience as you want. Ask if the spa ambience is carried over into other parts of the inn, hotel, or resort.
Look for experienced therapists. Make sure you select a spa with experienced therapists. A therapist who is knowledgeable and passionate about his or her work can make all the difference. If you feel more comfortable with either a female or male therapist, be sure to say so when booking your treatment. And be sure to discuss with your therapist any special needs or preferences before starting the treatment. Note: If you are pregnant or have any other medical condition, let the spa know so they can suggest proper treatments.
Don’t try to do everything. If the spa offers a wide range of programming and treatments, remember you can’t do everything. Focus your treatments on what you need or desire most from the experience whether it’s pampering and pleasure, health and wellness, spiritual rejuvenation or weight loss and fitness.
Once you’re there… stow away the BlackBerry and the cell phone! Try to arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes before any scheduled treatment so you aren’t rushed. In between treatments, be sure to take full advantage of the pampering facilities that most destination spa and resort spas offer, including saunas, steam baths, and hot and cold plunge pools..
Sources: TraveltoWellness.com; about.com Spa
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Steve Dibblee