Make a Day of It
True spas, with saunas, steam rooms, and a whole lot more, these are places you wouldn’t mind building a day around.
There’s a lot going on at the swanky Argentta. A lengthy menu includes such treatments as “sleep-encouraging” massages, Icelandic moonflower scrubs, and happy-hour manicures that include a cocktail and 15-percent discount at the handsome Kingbird Bar. (Gratis bubbly is offered regularly in the lovely relaxation room.) Yogis can book Sunday sessions on the stunning rooftop followed by brunch and bottomless mimosas ($60). Unfortunately, the activity flows over to the saltwater pool, Jacuzzi, and locker rooms—all shared with hotel guests and their kids. So if it’s privacy you seek, especially at the indoor pool, consider going at off-peak times or, if money is no object, booking an after-hours couples package—a mere $850 gets a massage for two and exclusive use of the pool.
Good to know: Frequent Travelzoo deals include 35-percent discounts on treatments (for example, $119 for a 50-minute massage) and valet parking. 2650 Virginia Ave., NW; 877-510-2689.
This spacious spa is very much a place where you could happily spend a few hours. In fact, on a recent visit, I saw fellow spa-goers doing just that—including one lost in a book in the relaxation lounge. The massages were similarly transportive. (I can vouch for Callie Dingee.) There’s a small but inviting hot tub in the well-appointed locker room, as well as steam and sauna. Afterward, you can extend the relaxed vibe over a drink or a meal at one of the resort’s bars or restaurants, or by visiting nearby vineyards.
Good to know: Watch for deals; my 50-minute massage, normally $155, was $105 thanks to a Travelzoo voucher that included a glass of Prosecco. 44050 Woodridge Pkwy., Leesburg; 703-729-8400.
Perhaps the best part of this earth-toned spa is its location, connected to Tysons Galleria. Spa date and lunch? Check. Spa date and shopping or movie? That’s possible, too. Besides a snug relaxation room, there’s a steam room, sauna, pool, and fitness center clients can use.
The offerings are fairly traditional. I went for a custom facial ($150 for 50 minutes), which was soothing and gentle, blessedly free of up-selling, and even educational. According to the aesthetician, my dry, redness-prone skin was a bad match for Cetaphil, the drugstore cleanser dermatologists love to recommend. “It tends to make my clients ruddy,” she said. I walked out with skin that felt ultra-clean and smooth. Even better, it was welt-free and presentable enough for the second part of my day.
Good to know: The spa offers massages geared toward shoppers, including a cooling 80-minute mall-recovery massage ($215) and a few 20-minute express rubdowns ($85 each). 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean; 703-506-4300.
“You’re checked in for the day,” said the receptionist at this harbor-facing spa. And oh, what a day. This is easily the region’s most lavish, thoughtfully designed spa. Thick robes in the posh locker rooms. A snack bar holding green tea and wasabi peas, among other refreshments. (You can order wine and cheese boards from a separate menu.) The relaxation rooms that let you curl up on a cushioned lounge chair with a magazine and a blanket and gaze out at the water. The heated stone chaises next to the relaxation pool, aromatherapy steam room, and sauna. And that’s before you even get to the service you’ve booked. The menu offers a slew of unusual treatments, including bio-freeze pedicures, midnight massages, and facials geared to cancer patients. My deep-tissue massage ($155 for 50 minutes) was wonderful, and I walked away with tips on how to manage a few everyday aches and pains. Yes, it’s a schlep if you live in DC, but even spending a few hours here can feel as restorative as an actual vacation.
Good to know: At the end of the day, head to the top-floor Bygone, a cocktail bar/restaurant with stunning views and plenty of places to keep lounging. 200 International Dr., Baltimore; 410-576-5800.
Great For Groups
These spas all have more than eight treatment rooms, so they can provide multiple services at the same time. Some, such as Nusta, also have group-visit coordinators.
For all the glitz you might expect from the MGM brand, there’s nothing particularly splashy about the spa on the property’s fourth floor. Guests check in at a desk topped with a tray of oils named for their desired effect. (I chose “chill.”) Down a hall of treatment rooms await both unisex and single-sex relaxation areas featuring lounge chairs with soft blankets, fruit-infused water, and tea. During my midweek, late-afternoon visit, the place was empty, suggesting that with the right timing, you could gather your gang and have the place to yourselves. (The spa has customizable group bookings.) On my visit, there was no steam to be found in the eucalyptus steam room, and the water in the Jacuzzi was lukewarm, but the space was immaculately clean. Locker rooms, just down from the sauna, include a spin-dry machine for wet bathing suits.
Good to know: Figuring out which garage entrance to use can be confusing. If you succeed in parking yourself, it’s free. Or pay $25 to valet at the hotel entrance and you’ll be steps from an elevator that takes you to the spa. 101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill; 301-971-6115.
If your favorite part of going to a spa is the chance to chill pre- or post-treatment, this may be your place. While other spa lounges had little or no reading material, this one offered plenty of escape-worthy magazines. It also had sparkling wine for the pouring, snacks such as chocolate-covered pretzels and cheese crackers, and a terrific selection of teas (including ones for skin, muscles, and “detox”). My $155 hourlong facial was expertly done, though there was some gentle up-sell. (Care to add microdermabrasion for $50? Care for skin-care recommendations? Turns out that one meant a basket of suggested products, such as a $58 vitamin-C lotion, waiting at checkout.)
Good to know: The eco-conscious will love that the products are organic and the interior green, with such elements as tile, carpet, and even pedicure chairs made of recycled materials. 1129 20th St., NW; 202-530-5700.
As you walk in, you’ll be greeted by four enormous check-in desks, behind which flow dual floor-to-ceiling waterfalls. The sprawling interior is outfitted with oversize furniture and abstract art in soothing tones of teal and deep cobalt blue. The relaxation lounge could seat dozens, and the spa features all the amenities you’d expect of the high-end price (coffee, lockers, slippers). Best of all: My classic facial by Lauren Merrill, on a heated bed, was masterful ($110).
Good to know: Sundays are reserved for parties of ten or more. 8171 Maple Lawn Blvd., Suite 100, Fulton; 301-776-6948.
—Hayley Garrison Phillips
All the thoughtful little details are what make this place so memorable—the “host” who greets you at check-in to give you a personal tour of the facilities (mine was so nice I thought she might hug me when we parted), the gratis salt scrub available by the showers, the robes so plush you’ll feel as if you’re wearing a teddy bear. By the time I was ushered from the lounge into my spacious treatment room, I could already feel the stress melting away. The excellent 80-minute hot-stone massage ($255) with Rebekah Johnson was among the best I’ve had anywhere. And the fun didn’t end there. Once the treatment was over, I was offered my choice of Champagne or a mimosa and shown to a different lounge—this one with a wall of windows overlooking the Potomac River—to unwind for as long as I wanted.
Good to know: Bring a swimsuit to take advantage of the whirlpool. 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor; 301-965-4400.
—Marisa M. Kashino
It’s easy to make a day of it with friends by heading to Salamander Resort & Spa. You can start a visit by hitting the steam room and whirlpool, then wait for your treatment in the elegant relaxation lounge. While I thoroughly enjoyed my expert massage, the highlight came afterward, when my friends and I blissfully whiled away time on a spa-only terrace with an infinity-edge pool and hot tub. Later, we treated ourselves to lunch at Salamander, then a stroll through downtown Middleburg. Although I’d been gone only from midmorning to early evening, it felt as if I’d gotten away much longer.
Good to know: Watch for Travelzoo and other specials for Salamander—our 50-minute massage, currently $170, cost $89. 500 N. Pendleton St., Middleburg; 844-303-2723.
The Woodhouse brand of day spas has quietly built a mini-empire, with locations in North Bethesda, Gaithersburg, and Leesburg as well as 20 other states. A true day spa, it offers body, massage, and facial services along with waxing, manicures, and pedicures. Indulge in the Woodhouse Escape ($275 for 110 minutes), a signature service combining dry brushing, hot-stone massage (with extra attention to the neck and shoulders), reflexology, and acupressure. Before or after your treatment, you can unwind in a robe in the spacious and fireplace-adorned relaxation room.
Good to know: You can have a healthy lunch delivered from nearby Seasons 52. 2 Paseo Dr., North Bethesda; 240-317-3114. Also in Gaithersburg and Leesburg. Spas are individually owned franchises.
Great to Go Alone
Intimate and pampering, these spas are good for treating yourself—or someone else.
Sure, you can sip herbal tea or infused water while you wait, but the bite-size brownies in the lounge of the W Hotel’s sleek spa are so much more fun for kicking off an afternoon of indulgence. Follow those with a signature “Blissage” treatment and you may never want to leave. The Swedish-style massage comes in a super-long, 105-minute version—at most places, massages top out at 90 minutes—that’s worth every penny of its $230 price. Mine began with an incredibly soothing warm-paraffin foot wrap that left my soles baby-soft, and it ended with a drool-inducing scalp rub. Somehow, when it was time to get up, I still felt it was over too soon.
Good to know: Bliss Body Butters and other products are available to try in the locker room (and to buy at the reception area). 515 15th St., NW; 202-661-2416.
—Marisa M. Kashino
The bright-pink door of a yellow rowhouse welcomes you to this homey day spa. A wide range of services spans hot-stone and bamboo-stick massages to more than a dozen types of facials. In particular, the staff touts skin treatments using heated electrodes that they claim help cleansing gels deeply penetrate pores. But the draw of this nearly 40-year-old salon is less the fancy equipment and more the experienced staff: Expert aesthetician Francis Zergara has been with Fountains about 19 years.
Good to know: You won’t find a lounge to linger with some cucumber water, but the spa does have two rooms that small groups can rent by the hour. 422 S. Washington St., Alexandria; 703-549-1990.
An ordained interfaith minister and certified Reiki master, Ladan spa co-owner Shirin Rahmatollahi aims to bring “light and energy” to clients through Integrated Energy Therapy, or IET ($125 for 60 minutes), which can be combined with a facial or massage. The experience was relaxing: After a brief massage, Shirin stimulated various pulse points—which she said would call up the energy in my body. At the end of the treatment, I drew a tarot card to offer me “guidance” for the rest of the day. I will say that I left feeling lighter and less stressed. The strip-mall spa has small but well-appointed rooms with heated beds and cheerful goddess and nature art. After your treatment, you can enjoy an earthly treat: complimentary organic chocolate.
Good to know: Treatments use only natural and organic products. 108 E. Fairfax St., Falls Church; 703-763-0703.
Say you work in downtown DC and need to get away, fast, to unwind. Consider this gem of a spa. The relaxation lounge alone—with its comfy chaise longues and herbal tea—should elicit a sigh of relief. (In nice weather, there’s a secluded outdoor terrace, too.) To really unclench those muscles, add a steam or sauna, a lavender-scented face rest during a massage, and attendants who are unobtrusive but keep the facility fastidiously tidy.
Good to know: Sign up for the Avenue deal and, for $100 a month, get one facial, massage, or body treatment monthly—a significant savings. 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-942-2700.
As hotel spas go, this one packs a lot into a small space—the relaxation lounge and locker room are both compact, not made for lingering. (Just as well, because on our visit the only tea was caffeinated and black, the only snacks packaged granola bars.) The best reason to go? If you’ve been wanting to try a Peloton bike, here’s your chance—the small fitness center, free to spa-goers, has two of them. Take a spin before your spa indulgence—mine was a nice 50-minute $165 relaxation massage by Jocelyn Placktor—and you’ll feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
Good to know: The spa visit includes free valet parking, and you can leave your car there for hours after your treatment to enjoy an afternoon or evening in Georgetown. Also, Washington-area residents get 10 percent off midweek appointments. 3100 South St., NW; 202-912-4175.
On a quiet side street in a charming 19th-century house, this spa offers an experience that’s the definition of cozy. Upon arrival, I was shown up the staircase to the changing rooms, where an attendant greeted me warmly and offered lemonade, tea, or water. Spa services are on the upper levels (the hair salon is on the first floor), still divided into rooms and corridors as they’d be in an old home. As a result, there are a few small waiting areas rather than a single lounge. My facial with Emmy Vu was so relaxing that I dozed off a bit. Though I’d booked a “deep-cleansing” facial ($132), she suggested that the “vitamin C” version ($142) would be better suited to my skin. Though there was a small up-charge, my complexion looked and felt great when it was over.
Good to know: This place has a lot of stairs and snug spaces, so people with mobility issues would probably be happier at a different spa. 11 N. Alfred St., Alexandria; 703-549-9940.
—Marisa M. Kashino
Worth the Splurge
Treatments that may be pricey but can scream special occasion.
This hotel oasis may be the most private and elegant spa in all of Washington. The first sign of its exclusivity: You’ll need to be escorted up from the lobby—you can’t wander in. Once there, you’ll find just two treatment rooms—one set up for facials, one for massage—and a small sitting area with two chairs. My massage, by a lovely Australian named Rosemary, was fantastic. It also wasn’t cheap, at $165 for a full hour. But it’s less expensive than an overnight at the Jefferson, and you could pretend you’ve checked in: The massage room’s bathroom is stocked like a luxe hotel bath’s, right down to toothbrushes and combs.
Good to know: With two massage beds in the room, it’s ideal for a couples treat. 1200 16th St., NW; 202-448-2300.
Yes, if you’re a liberal denizen of Washington, you’ll feel conflicted about lining the pockets of the President with a visit to his daughter’s spa. But succumb to curiosity (or temptation) and you’ll live out the ultimate guilty pleasure. While the amenities aren’t numerous, they are sumptuous—especially the relaxation room, where I all but melted into one of the ergonomically magical, cushioned chaises, each positioned behind a sheer privacy curtain. Satin sheets, heated massage tables, tasteful nibbles (Brie, nuts, dried fruit) and attentive but not overbearing attendants were among the other thoughtful details, but the best part was forgetting where I was as I blissed out during an extra-long, 90-minute massage ($225).
Good to know: There’s a tendency to up-sell, with various “enhancements” offered—but not necessarily disclosed as added costs—at check-in and during treatment. Also, gratuity is added automatically. Trump International Hotel, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-868-5180.
Clear your afternoon: This serene, light-wood-clad oasis begs you to linger—and with a 50-minute massage starting at $165, you’ll want to take full advantage. A grand breadth of amenities includes bed-filled relaxation lounges, a spacious gym, and a glassy pool room overlooking the Washington Channel. (Visit the last one early or late in the day to avoid noisy kids.) But it’s the little luxe details in the 10,500-square-foot facility that make the experience: Jing tea, cleansing towels, and sumptuous loungewear upon arrival; ice chips to cool you down between the whirlpool and amethyst-crystal steam room; and top-notch products such as Espa skin care and custom-blended essential oils for one of the best massages I’ve tried.
Good to know: Separate men’s and women’s lounges and heat-and-water treatment rooms make this a good destination for ladies/lads spa days. 1330 Maryland Ave., SW; 202-787-6100.
Open just since October, this pretty spot on the third floor of the InterContinental hotel is the best new spa in Washington. Those who love the French beauty brand L’Occitane will thrill to find its body washes, lotions, and other products for use throughout the chic locker room. The spa itself is done up in sophisticated neutrals with pops of yellow, evoking sunny Provence. My hourlong “cherry blossom” massage ($185) was expertly done; Sheena Morris left no kink unkneaded. But the best feature is the coed lounge, where expansive windows frame the Potomac. Help yourself to aromatic lemon-verbena tea or citrus water, plus some almonds and candied ginger, then relax and watch the boats and people at the Wharf below.
Good to know: Sign up for e-mails from L’Occitane and, as I did, you may get a coupon that discounts a treatment at the spa. 801 Wharf St., SW; 202-878-8486.
Spas where you won’t break the bank.
There’s nothing soothing about this place’s location—on a congested stretch of upper 14th Street, next to a 7-Eleven—and don’t expect a robe or a lounge to unwind in with the latest InStyle. But once I was in a treatment room, the comfortable massage table, candlelight, and soundtrack of calming ocean sounds helped me forget the commotion outside. My Swedish-style massage felt a bit more like therapy than a spa treatment—my therapist, for instance, worked hard to loosen my IT bands and shoulders, periodically explaining what she was doing and making suggestions, such as different sleeping positions, that might prevent future tightness. Maybe not the most relaxing experience, but for the price—$90 for 60 minutes—my body did feel significantly better when it was over.
Good to know: Consider taking Lyft or Uber, because parking is tough. 3705 14th St., NW; 202-882-2355.
—Marisa M. Kashino
In a quiet apartment building off Clarendon’s main drag, this spacious and modern spot offers affordable yet pampering services. You can book one of 17 massage rooms, including five couples suites, online. Choose from Eastern and Western massage techniques, plus facials and waxing. I recommend the signature stretch-based Thai massage, known as “lazy man’s yoga,” as well as the deep-tissue (each $119 for 60 minutes) with my favorite therapist, Ratda Mongkoltis, to get out all the kinks. You can relax post-service with hot tea in front of the fireplace.
Good to know: Regulars can take advantage of monthly memberships, which offer discounts of 50 percent. 925 N. Garfield St., Suite E, Arlington; 703-527-3019. Also in Sterling.
First-timers to this Korean spa are often anxious that the single-sex water areas—which feature “bade pools” with jets to massage feet, shoulders, and other body parts—are nude only. You’ll get used to that. Like me, you may prefer the unisex dry area anyway—where “poultice rooms” are heated to different temperatures and promise to increase energy, rid the body of pollution, or improve circulation, depending on the room. (Although I didn’t buy all the claims, I did find the Charcoal Room, Salt Room, and Red Clay Ball Room relaxing.)
You may be surprised to see visitors doing their own thing—meditating, studying, watching Asian videos, napping while wearing peel-off face masks—as they lounge on mats in a common area. Admission to this 24-hour spa—$40 per adult, but almost always possible for less thanks to constant deals on sites such as Groupon—allows you to spend 12 hours. It’s worth it, if only to experience this other world.
Good to know: The sprawling place also includes a juice bar and Korean restaurant. 13830 Braddock Rd., Centreville; 703-815-8959.
This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Washingtonian.