485-A Carlisle Dr., Herndon; 571-323-1088
Good luck trying to get a quick appointment with Calvert Thompson, owner of this charming, hard-to-find day spa located five minutes from Reston Town Center. Thompson is typically booked three weeks in advance thanks to her growing reputation as a massage therapist and certified technician for Accent XL, a device that promises skin tightening and cellulite reduction.
Luckily, the talent pool on staff is deep. Aesthetician Barbara Mead has a soothing manner and magically soft hands. She gave our tester the spa’s hourlong Signature Facial ($128), which included a tingling chemical peel and easier-than-expected extractions that left her skin noticeably softer and glowing. We can’t wait to return for an upcoming appointment—Mead can supposedly administer a lightning-quick bikini wax that rivals anyone’s best in Rio de Janeiro.
Bottom line: An unexpected treasure—for superior facials, waxing, and massage—hidden amid leafy suburban sprawl.
Lorien Hotel & Spa
1600 King St., Alexandria; 703-894-5130
Though it’s small, the spa at Old Town’s Lorien Hotel has a following for a reason. The spa is as relaxing for visitors as it is for hotel guests—all spa-goers get access to the changing facilities, steam room, showers, and fitness center.
You can relax pre-treatment in the softly lit waiting area, which has the same clean, modern lines as the hotel. Enjoy snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, and tea.
The only area Kimpton property with an in-house spa, the Lorien specializes in relaxing treatments that match the hotel’s “dream menu” concept. We suggest the aromatherapy massage ($110 for 50 minutes), which uses 98 percent organic products and a custom-selected scent to help you drift off. We hear the facials are great, too.
Bottom line: Infinitely relaxing, the Lorien has the feel of a destination spa.
1745 L St., NW, 202-466-8900 Tysons Galleria, McLean, 703-288-0355
The Grooming Lounge is a “guy’s guy” kind of place, and it manages to be neither informal nor stuffy. While you wait for your treatment, you can relax in leather seats and enjoy coffee, ice water, soda, or something more potent such as beer. At the Tysons location, we got the Super Stoner Massage ($150 for 90 minutes), which is less intense than a Swedish or sports massage but also more relaxing. We drifted away as the therapist did a thorough back rubdown and then massaged individual muscles while palming heated, flat rocks. She also offered helpful tips for avoiding muscle tension and back pain.
Bottom line: A spa that lets men be men.
Spa at Equinox Tysons Corner
8065 Leesburg Pike, Vienna; 703-790-6193
Equinox is a gym first and a spa second. In a corner of the gym near the locker room, the spa is easy to miss, with just a small desk marking the entrance. It has a no-frills, minimalist feel—low-slung furniture, a potted orchid or two, a bowl of apples. Soothing music plays, but the sounds of the gym can be heard in the waiting area.
The 50-minute, $110 Swedish massage was the escape. Before beginning, Yulia Zolotayko learned that our tester was training for a half marathon, then targeted problem areas such as legs, feet, and upper back. She guessed (rightly) that our tester wasn’t stretching enough before and after workouts. After the massage, she offered an armload of pamphlets and printouts showing simple stretches to do at home.
A spa appointment gets you a day pass to the gym; the facilities include a saltwater pool and spacious locker rooms stocked with Kiehl’s products.
The gym is across from Tysons Corner Center, and parking is confusing. The spaces in the front of the building are reserved for other businesses. But you can park in the garage; the gym validates parking.
Bottom line: This spa includes top-notch facilities for a good workout as well as expert hands to help you iron out the kinks.
8212-B Old Courthouse Rd., Vienna; 703-506-8401
We weren’t expecting a luxurious entryway with a chandelier or a spa lounge with modern art at this townhouse spa just minutes from Tysons Corner. This is Dr. Nicky Singh’s vision—a medical and holistic spa offering luxury and results in equal portions.
Our Epicuren facial ($45) with Natasha Smith was as relaxing as any we’ve had, and our skin glowed afterward. But the true gem was the Abhyangam massage ($150). The Ayurvedic treatment involves anointing the body with warm scented oil. Warning: You’ll want to shower off before leaving.
You can also book private sessions of yoga.
Bottom line: Unusual Ayurvedic treatments by experienced practitioners make this spa worth the trip.
13830-A10 Braddock Rd., Centreville; 703-815-8959
Spa World has a growing following among local spa-goers, thanks to its sprawling size and bang-for-the-buck value—you can stay up to 24 hours for a $35 entrance fee. Why would someone stay that long? Spa World is more like a traditional bathhouse in Seoul or Istanbul than an American spa, where quiet and solitude reign. A few hours at Spa World can be rewarding, but only if you leave at its front doors any hankering for the kind of posh, overly pampered visit that you’d get at the Mandarin Oriental or Four Seasons.
A visitor to Spa World, which is in a strip mall, can have two separate but equal experiences. The spacious coed common area is occupied by whole families, groups of friends, and solo patrons, all of whom wear loose-fitting shorts and shirts—supplied by the spa—and use the large and airy lounge to sprawl out on straw mats, play board games, or read books. This area is surrounded by seven poultice rooms, which are similar to saunas except that they’re heated by radiant heat, not hot air. Each room has walls covered in minerals, such as amethyst and blue onyx, said to imbue therapeutic properties. Spa World also has a beauty salon, a cafe (try any of the tasty noodle soups or bulgogi with rice), a game room, a fitness center, a gift shop, and hostel-style sleeping rooms.
But the gender-segregated Bade pool areas are where Spa World’s uniqueness shows itself. Leave shyness at home; everyone is naked as a jaybird in the Bade area. Being part of relaxing communal activities—hot tubs, a steam room, a sauna (no children allowed), aqua-therapy jets pools, and a cooling tub—with babies, 90-year-olds, and everyone in between can be surprisingly liberating. After enjoying the pool room, try a shiatsu or deep-tissue massage—administered by Spa World’s team of strong, assertive robe-clad massagers—for $100 to $120 an hour, tip included. A warning to those who don’t like semi-public nudity: The excellent body scrubs and some massages are taken side by side with other naked folk who will likely be too blissed-out to consider sizing you up.
Bottom line: The enormous facility is a great place to retreat into another world.
Sugar House Day Spa & Salon
111 N. Alfred St., Alexandria; 703-549-9940
Located just off King Street in a pretty rowhouse, Old Town’s Sugar House Day Spa has long been a local favorite. With hair and makeup done on the lower level and manicures, body treatments, massages, and facials on the second and third, Sugar House makes it easy to while away the day.
While the spa doesn’t have a sauna or steam room, amenities such as complimentary wine and a separate area with robes, a private changing room, and a locker attendant are nice. The treatment rooms are spacious, and our tester’s most recent massage worked out all of the tough kinks in her neck and shoulders at a good price—$90 for 50 minutes.
Afterward, in the downstairs boutique, our tester bought a lovely candle by Voluspa and a face wash by the organic line Éminence after a free consultation from the spa’s makeup expert, who was happy to answer questions.
Bottom line: Old Town’s best spa is still a great place to spend a day.
Toka Salon & Day Spa
4907 Brenman Park Dr., Alexandria; 703-370-5133
The newest location of Toka, in Alexandria’s Cameron Station—it has salons in Georgetown and DC’s Penn Quarter as well—is also a surprisingly relaxing spa.
On the ground level of a townhouse, the sun-filled salon offers amenities the other locations can’t, including free street parking. Five treatment rooms include a hamam-inspired wet room with a Vichy shower for body scrubs and wraps. The reception area, separate from the hair salon, is quiet and welcoming, with a large seating area, plenty of magazines, and a wall filled with top-notch product lines such as Phyto and Olavie.
Our favorite part? The quiet manicure/pedicure area, which features dim lighting and comfortable massaging chairs. The spa treatment rooms are spacious and almost homey, with plush beds and silky-soft sheets.
This spa would be perfect for a bridal party: Besides offering everything from hair and makeup to nails and spa services, it’s small enough that it could be partially reserved just for your group.
Bottom line: Great for bridal parties and spa days with friends.
Amenity Day Spa
44365 Premier Plaza, Suite 120, Ashburn; 703-726-8100
Massage therapist Rafael Rehac asked lots of pertinent questions about pain, stress points, and pressure-level preferences before explaining the aromatherapy oils used in the Deep Tissue Massage ($120 for 75 minutes). Once the massage began, he inquired if our tester has had problems with carpal tunnel syndrome in the past (she has), then spent several minutes giving an assertive yet helpful rub to her neck, shoulders, arms, and upper legs to ease that discomfort. The overall massage was terrific: relaxing and well paced.
Staffers at this nicely decorated spa were friendly and informed—the young woman at the front desk gave detailed explanations about the makeup and skin-care lines sold there—and the sitting area was comfortable. The atmosphere is peaceful and serene.
The spa can be hard to find, and even when you’re in the parking lot, you’ll still wonder if a top-tier day spa can possibly reside in a lonely, stark office park in Ashburn. It can.
Bottom line: Service is the key here, and well-trained staffers will ensure a good appointment each time you visit.
Bella Donna Spa
7025-H Manchester Blvd., Alexandria; 703-313-7945
We’ve been loyal to Bella Donna for years. So have its therapists: Most have been on staff for more than a decade.
Visitors are greeted by co-owners and sisters Mary Powell and Lisa Brown; customers can then relax with a magazine in the sunny waiting area. The treatment rooms are basic but quiet, clean, and spacious.
We’re fans of Chris Swingler, whose deep-tissue massage ($85 for 60 minutes) completely works out the kinks. The spa’s LaStone therapy ($125 for 75 minutes), which uses hot and cold stones, is also relaxing.
Bottom line: No frills, but great service makes us return again and again.
This article appears in the July 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.