It all started with the Mayflower Inn & Spa, now The Mayflower Grace. As soon as we heard that Grace Hotels had taken over the property in October, we wondered what would become of the impossibly perfect spa created by the mother-daughter team of the Mnuchin family back in 2006. We headed to Washington, Connecticut, to find out. Shortly after, we visited the spa at Topping Rose House, a recently restored 1842 Greek Revival mansion in Bridgehampton, New York. And John Graham, managing partner of Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont, told us the sprawling, woodsy property had updated its three-room spa, with plans for further expansion because “guests are dictating it. They need to connect again with themselves and each other and let go of the virtual world.” Then there was the historic town of Middleburg, Virginia, an hour outside Washington, D.C., with its new Salamander Resort & Spa on 340 acres of what was formerly Pamela and Averell Harriman’s estate. We visited them all and found truly singular experiences at each, with an emphasis on local, natural and organic, whether it be the exceptional cuisine or the therapeutic treatments. All the properties are great year-round, but each has its own special season.
Of Wine and Horses: Salamander Resort & Spa, Virginia
Though Salamander felt the least like a “home away from home” because of its size (168 rooms) and newness (all the buildings and stables, except for a 100-year-old stallion barn, were built from the ground up), its spa-suites concept made it feel surprisingly private. Guest suites closest to the spa have been designated as wellness rooms and outfitted with yoga mats, spa robes and amenities that relieve stress, detoxify and promote sleep. You can duck out in your robe for a treatment and not pass through large public areas. But the best part of the resort, which is meant to mimic an equestrian estate, is its horse theme. “You drive up and you can see the stables in walking distance,” says company president Prem Devadas. “But this is not a ranch. It’s like a high-end polo club.”
Treatment to book: The Riders’ Relief (from $150) deep-tissue massage was created with input from the equestrian staff; even if you don’t ride, the therapist kneads out knots you never knew you had.
Standout products: Zents soaps and pure essential oils from local apothecary The Laboratory of Flowers, exclusive to the D.C. area.
Fitness focus: Yoga at sunrise in the stables, with the smell of hay and the sounds of horses neighing, makes for a unique sensory experience, followed by further instruction on bareback.
Worth noting: A spa therapist and an equestrian staff member can synchronize a massage for you and your horse. (Horses, and dogs, are welcome at the pet-friendly property.)
When to go: Best in fall, to view the vibrant autumn leaves on the horseback-riding trails and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia wine country. Rooms start at $275; 500 N. Pendleton St., Middleburg; 866-938-7370; salamanderresort.com.
Peace and Privacy: The Mayflower Grace, Connecticut
Eight years on, time and new owners have not diminished the spa-cult favorite. The enveloping shabby-chic furniture is not tired and worn. The cornflower-blue-and-cream color scheme remains fresh and current. Whether it’s the strictly enforced no-shoes requirement (even slip-on sole covers are supplied for walking through to the gym) or a hyper maintenance schedule, the Spa House, with its majestic relaxation room and Thermal Sanctuary, still has that just-opened feel. But only in the ambiance. Every employee we spoke to has been working there for at least seven years, and that consistency and experience come through in everything from the treatments to the service. The consensus, it seems, from the locals in town is that Grace Hotels is doing a good job continuing the legacy of the Mnuchins.
Treatment to book: The Thai massage (from $175) with therapist and energy healer Sarah Rotella, who takes it beyond physical therapy to an unexpected emotional release.
Fitness focus: If you’ve ever wanted to try a ballet workout, here is the place to do it. The Body Barre class is intense, focusing on conditioning and strengthening. And the instructor is mindful of each student’s ability.
Worth noting: Feather-bed tops make it too cozy to wake up.
When to go: In the spring, to enjoy the lush greenery and antiquing in nearby Litchfield. Rooms start at $575; 118 Woodbury Rd., Washington; 860-868-9466; gracehotels.com.
Back to Nature: Twin Farms, Vermont
Massages here can be done in guests’ quarters, out on the porch in the summer or by the fireplace in a candlelit room. The spa, we were told, was more of an afterthought. But the recent enhancements to the small, three-treatment-room building, originally dug out by the bridge with little natural light, have brightened it up with white wainscoting and beadboard. Plans for an entirely new space are in the works. Still, we enjoyed the private feeling of having a spa all to ourselves.
Treatment to book: The 90-minute Honey Bliss ($270) uses a boutique line, Lunaroma, made in Burlington in small batches with organic botanicals. Another local but well-known brand is Tata Harper, which is used in facials and manicures and pedicures.
Fitness focus: It’s all about the outdoors, with yoga instructors and personal trainers on call.
Worth noting: The deliciously thick soufflé pancakes may look dense but are light and fluffy.
When to go: In the winter, to take advantage of the outdoor ice-skating rink, the snowshoe and snowmobile trails, and the skiing, just 40 minutes away in Killington or on the property’s six, less-challenging runs. Rooms start at $1,450; 452 Royalton Tpk., Barnard; 800-894-6327; twinfarms.com.
Personal Comfort: Topping Rose House, New York
The spa’s location underground, with a tunnel to the main house, was at first disconcerting, but the treatments are so good and the ambiance so cocoon-like that we quickly got comfortable with the idea. “If this were your home,” says Elisabeth Rogoff of Champalimaud Design, who did the interiors, “and you were going to put a spa in it, you would have a small space for your treatments, then go to your room to relax. Here, your room is your sanctuary for ultimate privacy. You want to enjoy your downtime; it’s what having a property in the Hamptons is all about. The people who stay here are used to having therapists and trainers come to their home.” And if you stay in a Cottage Suite with roof access, you can be privately pampered outdoors.
Treatment to book: The Natural Face Lift facial (from $220) uses East Hampton-based Naturopathica’s Plant Stem Cell Booster serum. Our therapist was an expert in microcurrent and ultrasonic facial techniques, leaving us feeling firm and toned.
Fitness focus: Customized yoga classes are held in a studio overlooking the pool.
Worth noting: The owners dedicated a lot of prime real estate to growing a farm as a commitment to the quality of food they want to serve at the property and at Tom Colicchio’s in-house restaurant.
When to go: In summer, for the beaches, the boating and the Hamptons social scene. Rooms start at $395; 1 Bridgehampton Sag Harbor Tpk., Bridgehampton; 631-537-0870; toppingrosehouse.com.
Up Next: Mirbeau Inn & Spa, Massachusetts
The 14-year-old French-country-style retreat in Skaneateles, in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes wine region, has just opened a second location in Plymouth, 47 miles from Boston and 27 miles from Cape Cod, in the posh Pinehills community. Though at press time we hadn’t yet visited, the residential-like, 50-room resort, we are told, features exclusive access to the members-only Old Sandwich Golf Club and a 14,000-square-foot spa with a state-of-the-art fitness center and yoga and spin studios. Beyond Mirbeau’s reputation for top spa services, its signature landscaped ponds dot this property as well. “Water is everywhere,” says owner Linda Dower. “Hearing it, sensing it, smelling it.” Rooms start at $200; 35 Landmark Dr.; 877-647-2328; mirbeau.com.