News & Politics

Great Spas 2011: For Gym Rats

End an endorphin session with a muscle-relaxing massage

Aura Spa offers massage-gym combination packages—perfect for the gym rat in need of pampering. Photograph courtesy of Aura Spa

Aura Spa
999 Ninth St., NW; 202-742-1940

By summer’s end, Aura Spa will have four DC locations, all inside Vida Fitness centers—including one near Logan Circle, one on U Street, and one near Mount Vernon Square. This one, its flagship, is inside the Renaissance Hotel.

Having been to the small Logan Circle spa, which was noisy when we went—we could hear pumping music from the health club—we expected the “flagship” to be more different than it was. It wasn’t big, either: four treatment rooms and a two-chair sitting area. At least it was soundproof—this spa was peaceful and quiet.

Finding it was tricky. From the hotel lobby, you take an elevator to the third floor and follow signs down a hotel corridor.

The massage was nice but not relaxing—the therapist asked at least half a dozen times if the pressure was okay. What made the 60-minute, $105 massage a better value is that any service over $100 allows you use of the gym. All spa-goers can use the sauna and steam room as well as the luxe locker room. The rainfall showers, equipped with lemongrass body scrub, were a highlight. Another relaxing touch: Valet parking is just $4.

Bottom line:
If you live or work close by and you like nice locker rooms, this is a good option.


Soma Spa

2121 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-965-2121

Formerly called SomaFit, this spa and fitness center was bought by Balance Gym last spring. Despite the change of ownership, the contemporary orange-and-blue spa is still as sleek as ever.

An appointment at Soma Spa grants you access to the workout center and locker room, which means a plush robe and unlimited time in the steam room, sauna, and showers.

Away from the whir of treadmills and the clanking of weights, the low-lit spa area upstairs has a waiting area with orange chaises, orange-scented water, snacks, and magazines. Our tester had signed up for the 50-minute Swedish massage ($110). Massage therapist Rosanna Casu had an expert touch and was knowledgeable—after the massage, she showed our tester some useful lower-back stretches.

Bottom line:
Stunning design and ritzy amenities make it worth the price.


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.


The Spa at Mint
1724 California St., NW, 202-328-6468; 1001 16th St., NW, 202-638-6468

At the boutique gym Mint, health for the whole body is a focus. So it’s no wonder that it boasts an equally popular spa.

The chic relaxation room offers tea and a good selection of magazines. Spa-goers can also enjoy the gym’s steam and shower facilities (on California Street, there’s also a sauna). You have to pay $4 to $20, depending on the spa treatment, to use the gym itself.

We recommend booking one of Mint’s Tuesday specials: a half-hour massage or facial for only $49. Or try the sports massages ($105 for 50 minutes, $150 for 80 minutes), in which therapists who have worked with WNBA players work out all the knots.

Just remember that you’re in a gym—while the treatments are good, there’s some ambient noise. You might want to book during non-peak times for a more relaxing experience.

Bottom line: Tuesday specials are a good value.


The Spa at the Sports Club/LA

1170 22nd St., NW; 202-974-6601

Perhaps the poshest of all Washington gyms, the Sports Club/LA is also the area’s largest, at 100,000 square feet. Located just off the gym’s changing facilities, the spa offers a quiet and calm oasis.

Spa-goers enjoy full access to the gym’s spa facilities, including a sauna, steam room, and pool.

We suggest one of the spa’s reasonably priced seasonal specials, usually a 50-minute wrap or facial for $99. The specials change every few months and may involve peppermint in winter, cherry blossoms in spring.

Bottom line: Reasonably priced specials and that impressive fitness facility make this a winner.

This article appears in the July 2011 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.