On hot steaming suddenly summer days my thoughts inevitably turn to New York City day spas; cool, dark caves where I’ll be offered pitchers of lemon scented water or chamomile tea, where I will get the painful knots massaged out of my back and give my skin its own personal spring cleaning. Places where the estheticians and massage therapists will be polite, warm and friendly, ready with their magic so that I will emerge calm, relaxed, feeling clean, no longer in discomfort, and my body aligned correctly.
Oasis Day Spa at the Affinia Dumont Hotel
One of the best, I think, is the Oasis Day Spa at the Affinia Dumont Hotel. The Affinia Dumont is a lovely hotel, and the spa within it is similarly luxurious. For me, it’s the gold standard.
Oasis Day Spa at the Affinia Dumont is calm, especially on a weekday. The staff is low key and friendly. Clad in a white terrycloth robe, I wait in a dim, cool room where there were pitchers of lemon scented water, trays of dried fruit and nuts, and fashion magazines My esthetician, a young Chinese woman, came out to lead me to the treatment rooms.
Briskly, but kindly, she informed me that my skin needed a lot of work, and that I don’t get enough calcium so my nails fracture. I agreed meekly. That said, I got the business. Multiple facials, mud packs, facial and hand massages, extractions (ouch). And long spells of quiet – no chatter. When at length I had been kneaded and pummeled, wrapped and scrubbed, she brought me back out to the waiting room urging me to drink water. I gratefully complied.
When I finally get a look at my face I’m delighted—it looks and feels moist, clean, and very healthy. I thank her profusely.
My massage therapist is equally fine—a young English man, very gentle and considerate. In fact, the massage is one of the best I’ve ever had. I am plagued with a bad back, ever since an elevator accident eight years ago. Massage is the only thing that seems to relieve it. The therapist agrees to focus on the most painful areas and sets to.
And amazingly, it does help. The knots in neck and shoulders and across the back vanish. After some intensive but blessedly brief manipulations the larger, more painful stretches of muscle loosen up. When I stand my mobility has increased dramatically; I seem to be standing straight now—I have been realigned. The pain is never going to go away completely. But this massage has helped dramatically.
Oasis offers some amazing bargains: An $89 Massage or Facial, Monday through Friday. A 60-minute Swedish Massage or 60-minute Signature Facial for just $89 each when you book Mondays through Fridays at Oasis at the Affinia Dumont Hotel. Regularly $110 each. Another, a package favorite for harried midtown folks, is the Oasis Express Package- A 30 -Customized Mini Facial and a 30-minute Swedish Massage for $115 Very much worth a try.
Oasis at the Affinia Dumont Hotel
150 East 34th Street
Monday–Friday 10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sava Spa, in Washington Heights, is a tiny, vest pocket business, but it boasts a very talented trained, gracious and charming staff. And its prices are wonderful. It is luxurious—cappuccino is served. While you wait for your treatment, you are given a cashmere blanket to cover yourself with.
Sava Spa offers what many think is the perfect facial, indeed the best facial in the five boroughs. There is a reason why stars like Gwyneth Paltrow will brave the uptown George Washington Bridge traffic to get this far uptown. The atmosphere is calm, tranquil, cool, and dim. While you wait you can browse 50% off designer winter fashions and sip more chamomile tea.
The facials ($85 to $175) can’t be over praised. They are essentially a series of powerful facial massages with layer upon layer of cleanser, exfoliant, cream, but most importantly, at least to me, applied with a swooping, smooth, gentle hand that leaves the face feeling wonderful after every application. The facials are as relaxing as the massages- one is in danger of falling asleep on the table.
The estheticians are generally Eastern European, intent, serious, treating the process as though it was medicinal and they were the doctors or high priestesses– and indeed, it is and they are.
The massages ($65 to $145) are also fantastic, enlivened by the therapist- a very funny but gracious guy- with a strong, sure approach that helped me to loosen up tight painful muscle groups and to realign myself so that I could get back to sitting at the computer and banging out the next story. He sternly warned me to get a new bag or even better, a backpack so as to relieve muscles strained by carrying a heavy bag on one side of the body, and he was quite right.
After the two treatments I felt like a new woman.
211 Pinehurst Avenue
New York, NY 10033-1825
Open Mon,Thu 10am-10pm; Tue-Wed 11am-8pm;
Fri 10am-7pm; Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 11am-6pm
Graceful Services Spa
Graceful Services bills itself, irresistibly: “No gimmicks, just an ancient tradition passed down from emperors and kung fu masters to tired New Yorkers.”
They do offer a great massage at excellent prices for midtown ($80 – $100) and a pretty good facial ($60 – 180). But they are way short on ambience- a tiny waiting room, no locker room, (you stash your belongings in a plastic tub that goes under the table). We are not talking about a calming, relaxing time—we’re talking a workout.
You’re also not getting into a long dialog about your aches and pains. The young Asian masseuse/esthetician has her set routine, and she delivers it, very well. Both facials and massages are hard, vigorous, medical/deep tissue massages, digging deep into the most knotted and painful places. (Fantastic if you have a headache or eye, neck and shoulder strains). It is kind of like an athletic workout for face and body. The young women are strong, very competent, and determined.
It is fair to say that the process can hurt a great deal (well, more for the back than the face) but it usually feels great when done. And your pocketbook isn’t killing you either.
Either way when done, get moving! Clients are waiting! They tend to rush the next one in while you are still struggling to get your clothes on.
And I should note that the tip routine is uncomfortable.. You pay for the services up front before you get them, but the tip is left up to you. As I left, I was met by a forlorn young woman blocking the exits and holding out her hand insistently saying “Tip? Tip? Service!”
1095 2nd Ave 2nd Fl
New York, NY 10022
Hours: Daily 10am-10pm
The Spa at Chelsea Piers
The Spa at Chelsea Piers bills itself as a location for an athlete’s escape- sports massage, spa parties & bachelorette parties. Located within the Sports Center’s health club, the Spa at Chelsea Piers specializes in treatments to support the active lifestyle—or to relive the stress of the beleaguered office worker. With a $75 minimum purchase, Spa clients may enjoy full use of facilities at the Sports Center, including group fitness classes, an indoor swimming pool, or get a relaxing treatment instead of (or after) a punishing workout. Services include waxing, manicures and pedicures, massages ($80 – $200) and five facial options. ($80- $240).
Many of the Spa’s Clients give the treatments four or five stars, as I did on my first visit. Given its location, the Spa’s prices are pretty reasonable. It’s an efficient place to deliver treatments and services. But it is not a calming relaxing “day at the spa.” It is, after all, housed in a sports facility. You can’t hang out in your robe and sip chamomile tea. Or nibble on dried mango. If you want to calm down, chill, kick back, it is a good idea to go elsewhere.
The Spa at Chelsea Piers
Pier 60 (West Side Highway) at 23rd Street
Mon-Tue 4pm-9pm (massage only)
ETTIA Holistic Day Spa
ETTIA is a bargain spa that sometimes delivers superbly on its promise, but sometimes exemplifies the motto “You get what you pay for”.
The website subtly warns you that you should be ready for a new experience. “Devotees of the work at Ettia Spa come from all walks of life, across ages and genders, knowing that they will continually get the most effective treatments available. At Ettia, our philosophy is our way of life, and we know if you try it, you will make it your own as well.”
More truth in advertising. My masseuse, a powerful tattooed lady, delivered a rock salt scrub/massage that nearly took the skin right off my back. It was followed by a “gentle” back massage – gentle, that is, for a boxer prior to entering the ring. She told me brusquely that my bones needed to be realigned. I’m sure she was right.
After I had recovered from my “gentle” massage, I was assigned to a facial therapist. ($75- 175) A sweet, gentle young woman, she did an excellent job, truly soothing, expert touch, pleasant conversation. But then, alas, the chat ceased and the pitch began. The esthetician vigorously urged me to try all the spa’s facial beauty products. Wanting to show gratitude, I foolishly said, “That sounds very good… “
And indeed it did! Until I emerged, and saw that my esthetician had lined up 10 products on the front counter for me to purchase, and that each cost $33.00. Given that I had thought this was a bargain spa, this seemed a bit steep.
I felt pretty bad about turning down the products at the last minute. It had been a wonderful facial for me; not a happy experience for the esthetician who didn’t make the sale after all. But I knew that after a couple of hours to recuperate from the massage I would feel the benefits, I’d be standing straighter and feeling fine. So it was a bargain and a win in the end, at least for me.
ETTIA Holistic Day Spa
239 West 72nd Street