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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.

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