Best Downtown Getaway

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;

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