Everythingspa’s Blog

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Spa Review: Skana Spa and The Lodge at Turning Stone (Verona, NY) August 22, 2011

Guest Suite at THe Lodge at Turning Stone

In Verona, thirty miles and just a few Thruway exits east of Syracuse, The Lodge at Turning Stone is a haven among the dizzying array of activity at The Turning Stone Resort Casino. The Lodge squashes the notion of what a typical casino hotel is like. With its separate entrance, complementary valet parking, and refreshingly smoke-free environment, you just might forget that it’s connected by attached walkway to the rest of the bustling casino resort. This is super convenient if you want to take in a show at the Showroom, dine in one of the abundant restaurants, attend an event at The Events Center or if you can’t resist the lure and excitement of the gaming opportunities.

My sister and I are overnights guests at the resort – no husbands and kids allowed.  It’s our first sister’s getaway and it’s so convenient – halfway between our homes in Syracuse and Utica – that it just might not be our last.

Double queen guest suite, The Lodge at Turning Stone

The glitz-free guest rooms at The Lodge have a subtle masculine feel. They have quite possibly thought of every amenity: there is even a full-sized golf umbrella in the closet. All 96 suites are spacious – the smallest at 550 square feet – and many feature balconies or terraces.  Frosted glass French doors separate the bedroom from the invitingly spacious living room with cozy seating options.  The smart layout of the pass-through bathroom features a dual-headed shower, soaking tub, a trendy vessel sink and a full spectrum of heavenly scented bath products from L’Occitane. Plush bedding, warm woodwork and pops of rich crimson create an inviting respite you’ll look forward to returning to each evening.

The welcoming open design of the great room is almost completely surrounded by windows, creating a sense of airiness and grandeur.  Beautiful views overlook the golf course and the pristinely manicured garden in all of its spring glory. This is the heart of The Lodge where you’ll find nooks for reading, lounging, casual conversations or relaxing by the fireplace.

At turn down, soft music plays (The Only Real Thing, by Mark Kelso), slippers are placed bedside and the ice bucket is filled. Instead of traditional chocolates, our bedside table contains a dream catcher, said to move freely in the night air and grab dreams as they pass by; the bad dreams get tangled in the netting and perish with the first light of day.

If you’re staying at The Lodge, Skaná Spa (skah-nah) is just a short stroll from your guest room.  If you’re staying at one of the resorts other three lodging options, it’s an easy walk from anywhere on the property.  Day guests are welcome at the spa too.

Skaná is the Oneida word for “peace” and peace and tranquility are exactly what you’ll find. Prepare to be spoiled here: the spa attendants are among the friendliest in the industry. They will take excellent care of you and nurture you throughout your entire visit.  Plan to spend the good part of a day at Skaná – sauntering from the herbal infused steam room to a cooling shower, to the sweat-lodge inspired sauna and light-filled whirlpool in a prescribed five-step circuit that detoxifies, opens pores and relaxes you before or after your treatment.

The beauty of visiting Skaná on a Friday afternoon is that I have it mostly to myself.  It’s a busy graduation weekend at local colleges and multi-generational families are taking full advantage of all that the resort has to offer, proof-positive that luxury can be family friendly.

Inspired by the natural surroundings and the Oneida Nation culture, not a single detail at Skaná deviates from this theme. Nature is evident everywhere you look:  In the botanical print fabric on the lounge chairs, in the artwork adorning the walls, in the frosted glass embossed with leaves and the botanical print wallpaper and curtains.

Skana Spa

Even the chandeliers represent blossoming florals. The centerpiece of the bright and airy spa lobby, surrounded by windows, is a spectacular circular fireplace.  Everything is designed circularly and curvy to mimic nature.

Amenities are first rate: Okab spa sandals – loved for their comfort, fit and superior slip-protection in the wet areas of the spa, spa robes the color of golden-hued sand and the nourishing healthy spa snacks.  The infused spa water changes with the seasons; if you time your visit right, you might get to try the strawberry water (recipe below) served in conjunction with Strawberry Festival, an annual event in the Oneida Annual Calendar of Thanksgiving.  Hungry spa goers can refuel on dried fruit & nut mix, fresh fruit, bottled water and Native American teas.

Light-filled whirlpool at Skana Spa

For an over-the-top experience, schedule time in the ultra-private VIP lounge at Skaná. You’ll enjoy access to a gated herb garden, a lounge area with a hidden flat screen TV, side-by-side deep soaking tubs, a shower à deux, your own steam room and sauna and treatment room for two.

I’m wondering how my therapist, Michael, will react when I tell him that I won’t be joining him in the hallway outside the treatment room.  After all, he did tell me to relax and take as much time as I need before hopping off the treatment table and slipping back into my robe.  I’m going to recommend that he just wheel the warm and cozy massage table right into the relaxation lounge, with me still ensconced in it’s many layers of plush comfort.  I’m not trying to be difficult, but the eighty-minute poultice massage I just experienced has left me completely relaxed and quite possibly incapable of carrying on with my day.

The prior afternoon, my strong and intuitive therapist, Valerie, escorted me to a spacious two-room treatment suite for a White Pine Foot and Body Treatment.  My treatment began with a foot soak in Bourbon Vanilla Foaming Bath Milk. A medley of heated towels was placed over my eyes, under my neck and on my feet.  I was spritzed with cooling lavender and honey mist and then scrubbed from fingertips to toes with Kerstin Florian’s Turkish Scrub with Eucalyptus. A full body massage with Deep Forest oil followed, formulated with pine and a luscious blend of other essential oils. The Oneida people honor the pine tree as the Great Tree of Peace and the oil is valued for alleviating fatigue and mental exhaustion. At Skaná Spa, one treatment is more luscious than the next.

Our eight-course dinner at Wildflowers was an extravagant indulgence.  It’s an extraordinary dining experience the caliber of which is normally only found in large cosmopolitan cities. The delightful company of Loretta Taylor, Spa Director at Turning Stone, enhanced our meal. A personalized scroll menu, steamed hand towels between courses and an intermezzo of lemon sorbet created a dining experience that we won’t soon forget. Service is crisp and efficient with a welcome lack of formality, pulling out all the stops to ensure that every element of this culinary event is at it’s finest. Our dinner server, Jason, entertained us by reciting the menu as if performing a monologue on stage, pausing at all the right moments for questions.

Soft Shell Crab at Wildflowers Restaurant, The Lodge at Turning Stone

Diners can expect the freshest available local ingredients on a menu that changes rapidly with the growing season. The five pepper crusted bone in filet mignon is buttery tender; the asparagus & morel mushroom salad meaty and earthy. The sweet and subtly briny flavor of the at-the-moment, delightfully in-season soft shell crab can only be found a few weeks out of the year.  The menu describes the Wildflowers Salad as beets, beets & more beets with chicory salad.   A combination you probably hadn’t considered: beet ice cream, beet glass, and brilliantly colored beets in white, red and purple is part culinary theatre and part cinematic performance by the chef and wait staff.

Other highlights from our dining experience:

  • Amuse bouche course, fried steelhead over risotto
  • Foie Gras Torchon with infused rhubarb, Melba toast & fresh berries.  The foie gras had an extraordinarily rich and smooth texture with a creamy mouthfeel
  • Five pepper crusted bone in filet mignon with asparagus & morel mushroom salad
  • Sweet and succulent scallops
  • Gifts from the chef that kept on coming, like short ribs over polenta

You’ll be too full for desert, but order it anyway.  The childhood memories tasting is five bites of sweetened bliss: banana split, peanut butter gelee mousse, raspberry rice krispy treat, cookie dough truffle and S’more truffle.  At Wildflowers, one dessert course isn’t enough. The second dessert course, a final gift from the chef, includes a chocolate surprise (we won’t give away the “surprise” element – let’s just say it’s a combination I hadn’t considered) and a rich liquidy cheesecake shooter.

Stay midweek for the best deals on room rates.

Turning Stone Resort

5218 Patrick Road

Verona, NY 13478

315-361-8525

Strawberry Water Recipe, courtesy of “Skana” the Spa at Turning Stone

“Skana” the Spa at Turning Stone means “peace” in the Oneida language, and combines modern treatments with Native American healing principals to create peace and harmony within.  We offer our guests spa water based on the Iroquois Annual Cycle of Thanksgiving.  Our Strawberry Water celebrates the Strawberry Ceremony which signifies thanksgiving for all berries and new life birth, and the Maple Ceremony signifying the coming of the life giving season after the harsh winter.  The power of maple is highly regarded and considered to be both preventative and restorative. This recipe is simple and refreshing.

Ingredients:

1 lb of strawberries

8 oz. of maple syrup

10 cups of water

2 quart pitcher

Instructions:

Wash, hull and cut the strawberries into chunks, place in the pitcher

Mash the strawberries with a potato masher to a chunky consistency; not smooth

Add the water, and the maple syrup and stir.

Refrigerate and stir before serving.

As is common in the travel industry, this writer was provided with accommodations, two spa treatments, dinner at Wildflowers Restaurant and breakfast the next morning.  While it didn’t influence this review, Everythingspa believes in full disclosure.

 

Spa Review: Mirbeau Inn & Spa (Skaneateles, NY) April 13, 2011

Club Room at Mirbeau Inn & Spa

I’ve just arrived at Mirbeau Inn & Spa again after a several year hiatus.  As soon as I drive through the gates onto the 12-acre property, I ask myself, “Why don’t I come here more often?”  To continue reading the article, click here to be directed to my National Spa Examiner column on Examiner.com.

 

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Willow Stream Spa blend family friendly atmosphere and zen spa experience March 1, 2011

 

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

 

 

Come out and visit and bring your son”, my cousin’s wife from Scottsdale has been saying for years.  I took her up on the offer in the spring of 2009 and traveled solo to Scottsdale to spend time with family and to visit some of the acclaimed spas that The Valley (as the locals call it) is known for.  There are so many to choose from and one is better than the next; it was easy to fall hard for the spa culture and to begin plotting a return visit.  So this year, when school let out for February break, my eight-year old and I hopped a plane to Phoenix for some quality time with our extended family and some quality spa time for me.

We’re staying at the AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for 6 nights.  The sprawling 65-acre resort manages to seamlessly blend a classic Southwestern exterior setting with delightfully modern interiors. More than once, I gazed at the pink-hued Spanish colonial-style architecture with its expansive plazas and flower-drenched gardens and imagined it could easily be mistaken for a Mexican beach resort. Arizona’s McDowell Mountains rise and fall in the distance creating a stunning setting.

The resort features 649 oversized guest rooms, suites and casitas.  Our 525 square-foot deluxe guest room (3130) with two oversized double beds is designed like an apartment (minus the kitchen). The room is decorated in neutral shades of rich brown, mushroom and earthy greens. Walk to the end of the hallway to the main area that contains the bedroom, wet-bar, workspace and entertainment area. But what I really love about the unique layout of these guest rooms is the walk-in closet, entryway with abundant storage shelves and the oversize bathroom with double sinks, walk-in shower, soaking tub and separate water closet. Our private covered balcony overlooks one of the lushly landscaped tropical pool areas.

 

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Double Double Room

 

 

Adults and kids alike are drawn to the five heated swimming pools:  The fun and flirty South pool, the sporty East pool, the ultra kid-friendly Sonoran Splash pool with dual 200 foot long waterslides and zero-entry splash zone, the private casita pool and the rooftop spa pool.

 

South Pool at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

 

The near-perfect service is positively, can’t-get-enough addictive. On our first night, I opted to utilize the valet parking service since we arrived past midnight.  I had every intention of using the self-parking lot the next day. But I found myself being unable to resist the unfailingly friendly “welcome back” from the ever-smiling valet staff every time I drove up the circular drive and stopped under the porte-cochère.  I slipped into full relaxation and vacation mode and never came out until we drove off to a dose of reality – that is, the airport. There is nothing like air travel to undo every bit of good that was done from our week at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

At the informal LV Bistro, you’ll never feel like you have to rush through your meal because you’re dining with children.  It parents want to linger over dessert and coffee or a glass of wine, the kids can play in the specially-designed elevated play area with comfy couches, a flat screen TV and an impressive selection of toys geared towards kids of all ages.  Serving favorites for the whole family and fresh twists on reinvented classics like savory BLT pizza and shrimp Cobb salad, it’s a family-friendly bet for any meal or for an adult-only occasion at the fiery outdoor seating area overlooking the South pool.

 

La Hacienda - Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

 

It’s not often that fine dining and kid-friendly can co-exist in the same restaurant experience, but our dinner at La Hacienda, a modern Mexican restaurant by Richard Sandoval, did just that. Wood-beamed ceilings, tile flooring, roaring fireplaces and candles on every wall and surface created a cozy, casually elegant atmosphere. And yet, I was incredibly comfortable dining with my eight-year old son.  A reasonably priced kids menu with kid-friendly options, kids cups with lids and straws, and a dining server who took my cues to move the service along at a good pace and yet never made us feel like we were missing out on attentive service. With energetic Spanish music playing in the background, a décor of black and earth tones and ambient lighting, La Hacienda is a sophisticated and comfortable dining venue that blows traditional hotel and resort dining out of the water.

I couldn’t resist ordering a mango maraschino margarita after our savvy server shared that the cocktails were handcrafted with fresh juices and premium tequilas.  Queso fundido with chorizo was oozing with a blend of warm, salty and gooey cheeses. Be warned: Tacos will never taste the same again after you savor the lobster tacos with their chunks of the buttery crustacean, creamy avocado and black bean puree over petite corn tortillas.

You won’t have room for desert and coffee, trust me. But go ahead and order the warm cinnamon churros anyway. My son declared the rich, melt-in your mouth pillows of sweetened dough “scrumptious and delicious” after devouring half the plate.  The deal was sealed for me with an accompanying trio of dipping sauces: cajeta (sweetened caramelized milk), a slightly spicy chili chocolate fondue and cream cheese natilla (vanilla infused soft Spanish custard).  But the pièce de résistance of the meal was the flaming coffee prepared tableside to an appropriate chorus of oohs and aahs from intrigued nearby diners.  My choice was the Café 1921: Tequila de Créma and coffee in a fiery goblet rimmed with crusty caramelized sugar and topped with whipped cream and chocolate. It was the perfect ending to a very special and memorable meal.

I’ve been at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for five days now and haven’t had a chance to check out the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont.  I check my son into the National Geographic Explorers Camp for kids ($35 for half-day including lunch) and head over to the spa in plenty of time to enjoy all the amenities and facilities before my treatment.  In the women’s wet area, the domed ceiling rises to a circular skylight and I can see just a tease of bright blue sky.  Red rose petals seem to float on top of a bowl of chilled washcloths.  And while it’s simply beautiful inside – all marble and tile in earthy shades of mushroom, taupe, khaki and chocolate – where I really want to be is outside, especially after the severe winter we’ve had in the Northeast.

 

Rooftop Spa Pool - Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

 

I climb many stairs to reach the infinity edge rooftop spa pool, and it’s worth every single step.  When I reach the top, I’m treated to awe-inspiring 360-degree views of the mountains that surround this valley.  It’s a blue-sky day here in Scottsdale in late February; the morning air is still brisk, but it warms quickly as the sun rises in the sky. Steam gently rises off the water, and it’s not hard to imagine claiming a thickly cushioned lounge chair under a cabana and camping out until the sun begins to set. But instead, I have a 44,000 square foot spa to explore including a fitness facility, salon services, 25 treatment rooms, meditation gardens with waterfall, and men and women’s spa and lounge areas.

The exploration will have to wait until later. Now it’s time to meet my provider, the capable and confident Danielle, who is about to guide me to peace and tranquility over the next two hours during the spas signature treatment: The Havasupai Body Oasis Experience ($319, 120 minutes). In NYS, estheticians can perform body treatments, so I’m delighted to learn that Danielle is a licensed massage therapist. At the end of my treatment, the application of warm massage oil will be performed by someone who is an expert in the craft of massage, a bonus I don’t expect but am thrilled to discover.

Danielle leads me outdoors to the co-ed cave-like waterfall and gives me a few minutes to soak under the varying strengths of warm cascading water.  When she returns, she hands me a towel and my robe and we head to the treatment suite where my journey will take place.  “There are a lot of steps to this treatment”, she explains, “but they flow together wonderfully”.

 

Havasupai Falls Water Feature - Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Willow Stream Spa

 

We arrive at my treatment suite that has all the amenities I’ll need for my experience without having to shuffle from room to room. We begin with an aromatic footbath and foot scrub and Danielle offers me hot or iced Ayurvedic tea with hints of cinnamon and cardamom. Next is a gentle Chamomile body polish and body wash.  I step under the rain shower to rinse off the scrub while Danielle freshens up the room.  Already waiting for me is an inviting thermal bath, which I soak in for 15 minutes after Danielle steps out of the room.  She leaves me with lavender soaked iced washcloths and a bottle of neroli water (extract of bitter orange) to use as a cooling and hydrating mist.  When Danielle returns, the treatment resumes with a soothing warm oil massage application before I’m wrapped up to allow the oil to penetrate the skin. During my wrap, I experience a massage of the face, neck, scalp, shoulders and décolleté.  As Danielle removes the oils being from my hands and feet with warm cloths, I have just one worry:  After two hours of warm bliss, would I physically be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk to the relaxation area under my own power?

Miraculously, I’m able to float back to the National Geographic Explorers Camp to pick up my son.  He is happy and content, chattering about the photo safari and fishing adventures of the morning. Miss Janey, the camp’s no-nonsense but fun-loving manager, runs the program like a well-oiled machine. She hands me a digital photo disk, bids us an affectionate goodbye and we’re off.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a dream for families traveling with children: abundant pools with fun water amenities, family-friendly dining, a fishing pond, the kids camp, a sports court, and flexible room accommodations for families of every size at many price points.  The staff went out of their way to create a special experience for us at every opportunity with professional and unobtrusive service.  Business travelers, spa lovers and couples looking for romance can all peacefully co-exist within the same beautifully manicured peaceful resort.  And the fresh-baked, best ever chocolate chip cookies are worth mentioning too!

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

7575 E. Princess Drive

Scottsdale, Arizona 85255

480.585.4848

Toll Free: 1.866.540.4495

www.scottsdaleprincess.com

As is common in the travel industry, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess provided the writer with a complimentary spa treatment, dinner at La Hacienda for two, lunch at LV Bistro and a half-day at the National Geographic Explorer’s Camp for the purpose of writing this article. While this did not influence this review, Examiner.com believes in fulldisclosure of any potential conflicts of interest.

 

Spa Review: Stillwater Spa at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino (Lake Tahoe, NV) September 17, 2010

Swim out area that leads to outdoor pool

It’s late August and I’m on an epic Northern California adventure with my husband and our eight-year-old son.  Lake Tahoe is the third leg of our sensational 12-day journey, right on the heels of San Francisco and Yosemite National Park.  We’ve chosen to stay at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino for the private beach and to check out Stillwater Spa.

To read the rest of the article, click here to be directed to my National Spa Examiner page on Examiner.com.

 

Spa Review: The Spa at ARIA (Las Vegas, NV) May 25, 2010

Filed under: hotel spa,Spa Reviews — everythingspa @ 4:31 pm
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The Spa at ARIA - Co-Ed balcony with therapy pool

To read the article, click here to be directed to my National Spa Examiner page on Examiner.com.

 

Spa Review: The Spa at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa November 15, 2009

 

Topnotch Resort and Spa Room 137 and The Esex - 68

Women's gathering room at The Spa at Essex, photo by Michele McIntyre

 

 

To read the article, click here to be directed to my National Spa Examiner page on Examiner.com.

 

Spa Review: The Spa at Stoweflake (Stowe, Vermont) November 4, 2009

The Spa at Stoweflake - Aqua Solarium  (Photo courtesy of Stoweflake Mountain Resort)

Stoweflake Aqua Solarium - Photo courtesy of Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa

It’s October and I’m visiting Stowe, Vermont for an annual girlfriend getaway spa weekend. Click here to read the rest of the article.