Best Downtown Getaway: Red Door Spa at the Willard
Treatment we had: Swedish massage, $120 for 50 minutes.
What we loved: Not much has changed other than the name of this serene urban oasis, formerly known as I Spa. Additions include a small boutique and hits of Elizabeth Arden’s signature red: red glass vases on a counter, a textured red rug and red tapestry pillows in the lounge, and red roses on cafe tables where you can order a spa lunch ($25) or one from the hotel’s room-service menu. In warm weather, doors open onto a large patio with chaises and umbrellas for lounging and dining, adding to the getting-away-from-it-all-in-the-middle-of-the-city feel.
Contrasting with the spare white backdrop is a warm, professional staff that always seems at the ready when you need water or a towel.
My Swedish massage began with a couple of deep whiffs of lavender for relaxation. Given a choice between lotion and oil, I opted for the former because I hate sticky post-massage skin. Using smooth, broad strokes, my massage therapist, Susan Groger, paid special attention to neck and shoulders as well as the oft-ignored wrists, ankles, hands, and feet. She pulled my leg to stretch my hamstrings and used her thumbs to work stubborn kinks. At various times, my neck, back, and feet were swathed in warm towels. Enhancing the overall feeling of luxury and comfort were a well-padded and heated massage table and a cashmere-soft, charcoal-gray blanket. Because I had time to linger afterward, I grabbed an apple from the ceramic bowl on the counter and made for the lounge with its tea bar and snacks.
What you should know: At some spas, massage therapists mix it up with a variety of techniques including shiatsu or deep-tissue and Swedish. Red Door’s spa menu is specific, distinguishing between a Swedish and deep-tissue massage, which is a more targeted technique. The spa doesn’t validate parking at the hotel, which runs $16 for up to two hours, $20 for two to four.
Bottom line: More intimate than many hotel spas, this is a luxurious and lovely, though pricey, option. But besides the great service, an added value is the private outdoor patio, which makes the whole experience a relaxing downtown getaway.
Red Door Spa at the Willard InterContinental, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-942-2700; reddoorspas.com.
• • • • • • •
Good One-Stop Spot: Aveda Georgetown
Treatment we had: Body massage, $105 for 60 minutes.
What we loved: A bustling hair salon with Aveda products gives way to a subterranean spa with Asian accents—a gong, planters with “lucky bamboo”—as you head downstairs to the spa. Candles bathe spacious treatment rooms in a rosy glow and heated tables and soft blankets add to the cozy feel. My massage therapist alternated between various techniques—the sweeping strokes of Swedish and a technique targeting deeper pressure points. At one point, she twisted my arms into a stretch to work shoulder muscles, borrowing a bit from Thai massage.
What you should know: Other than a couple of hard wooden benches, there isn’t much of a sitting area, and the only sustenance offered is serve-yourself herbal tea. Parking is on the street.
Bottom line: With hair-care, beauty, and spa treatments and even hair ornaments and jewelry for sale for big-night primping, this is a good one-stop spot. Treatment rooms are far away from the hair dryers, and the eco-conscious approach attracts a male as well as female clientele.
Aveda Georgetown, 1325 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-965-1325; avedageorgetown.com.
• • • • • • •
Great Facial for Sensitive Skin: Sugar House Day Spa & Salon
Treatment we had: Organic facial, $110.
What we loved: I’ve never walked out of a facial feeling as if I could go anywhere but straight back to my apartment: My dry skin is so sensitive that I usually look blotchy and blemished for the rest of the day. But the organic facial here was different.
Although Lely Tenakhoune, my aesthetician, said that the organic fruit-and-herb-based products by Hungary’s Eminence line can be a little more potent than other skin-care products, she tailored the regimen to keep my skin calm. A rose-imbued cleanser felt immediately relaxing, and she applied a mask made from Tokay grapes—the kind used for ice wine—that she said was full of antioxidants. Extractions were quick—too bad they’re never painless—and Tenakhoune gave me a quick lesson in doing it myself at home. Save for a spiel on the benefits of Retinol, there was no product pushing. Most thoughtfully, when Lily felt knots of tension while giving me a hand-and-arm massage, she finished the facial with a mini-deep-tissue back massage. When the treatment ended, my skin felt dewy and supple.
What you should know: With its eggplant carpeting and brass chandeliers, this feels like someone’s home. The dressing rooms are small—though nicely appointed with Phyto hair products—and the waiting area has just two upholstered chaise longues. In other words, it’s not the best place for lingering.
Bottom line: Although my welcome felt rushed, I was well cared for in the treatment room.
Sugar House Day Spa & Salon, 111 N. Alfred St., Alexandria; 703-549-9940; sugarhousedayspa.com.
• • • • • • •
Best On-the-Go-Facial: The Spa at Mint
Treatment we had: Tranquil Tuesday 30-minute facial, $49.
What we loved: Unlike at some gym spas, the Spa at Mint feels a world away from the whirring of treadmills and the clang of dumbbells in the adjoining workout area. Bamboo plants, flickering candles, sage-green walls, and abstract art give the space a modern Asian feel.
What you should know: Every Tuesday, the spa offers 30-minute facials and massages for $49. Aesthetician Shirin Rahmataolhi gently cleansed, exfoliated, and rehydrated my skin. After applying each product, she wrapped my face with a warm mint-scented towel, and had time to rub my shoulders, upper back, hands, and arms. Although there wasn’t enough time for extractions, I left feeling relaxed, my skin plump and tingling.
Bottom line: Because this on-the-go facial forgoes extractions, the treatment didn’t irritate my skin. If you live or work near Adams Morgan, the spa’s Tranquil Tuesdays are great for a quick pampering.
The Spa at Mint, 1724 California St., NW; 202-328-6468; mintconditionyourself.com.
—Mary Clare Fleury
• • • • • • •
Best for Celebrity Watching: The Spa at the Sports Club/LA
Treatment we had: Deep-tissue massage, $129 for 50 minutes.
What we loved: Spa patrons who book a 50-minute treatment can use the huge and luxurious fitness center—where visiting celebs like George Clooney and Britney Spears have been spotted breaking a sweat. The workout area has rows and rows of sparkling cardio and weight machines as well as a basketball court, pool, and squash courts. The locker room’s sauna and steam room are a great spot to linger after a treatment.
What you should know: Much of my 50-minute treatment was devoted to the knots along my neck and shoulders. Because deep-tissue massages can be painful, my therapist, Kelley McCaleb, explained what she was doing and checked in periodically to make sure the pressure wasn’t uncomfortable. She finished by rubbing my feet and wrapping them in warm towels. I felt rejuvenated—and extremely relaxed.
Bottom line: Resort-like amenities help justify the steep prices at this posh spa.
The Spa at the Sports Club/LA, 1170 22nd St., NW; 202-974-6601; thesportsclubla.com.
—Mary Clare Fleury