THE SPA WEEKEND: Atlantic City
Imagine warm coconut milk poured over your entire body, followed by a gentle coconut scrub, a pineapple-lotion massage, and a cocoon of soft sheets and hot towels to envelop you. Then comes a full facial, the type where you lose track of all the pleasures: the wash, the brush exfoliation, the toning, the steam, the eye contour treatment, the mud mask, the lotion, the blue-algae head mask/massage. Maybe you didn’t think anything in Atlantic City could be this relaxing, and feel this clean — but with the recent influx of luxe spas scattered about the upscale A.C. hotels, the place has become a serious sybarite’s retreat, and it’s just a (hot) stone’s throw away. The aforementioned coconut treatment is a specialty at Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars (which opened in May), and it’s heavenly — but there’s also the transcendent four-handed massage at the Immersion Spa at the Water Club, the impressive brightening facial at the Tropicana’s Blue Mercury, the poolside cabana massages inside the soaring glass dome that houses the Pool at Harrah’s Red Door Spa. … Bonus: Most spas include access to their pools, saunas, steam rooms and fitness centers in the cost of their treatments — so there’s plenty to keep you occupied all day, before you pad up to one of the cushy rooms in whichever hotel suits you. Blue Mercury, the Quarter in Tropicana, bluemercury.com. Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, reddoorspas.com. Immersion Spa, the Water Club, thewaterclubhotel.com/spa. Qua Baths & Spa, Caesars Atlantic City, harrahs.com/qua. Spa Toccare, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, theborgata.com.
Expect to pay: Hotel rates in Atlantic City vary wildly by the hotel and the time of year at which you book, but we’ve seen them as low as $199. (Conversely, the sky’s pretty much the limit on some rooms on certain dates, especially if you book last-minute.) The real trick to a spa getaway is to look into packages and deals — for example, the Water Club’s Serenity Package, which includes an overnight stay in a Club Room and a personalized facial or any 80-minute massage (excluding the four-hand), plus access to Immersion’s pool and gym, from $358 per night. Harrah’s Total Rejuvenation Package offers two nights in a deluxe room, $100 toward food, $250 toward spa treatments, and free admission to the pool and gym, and starts at about $439 a weekend. Travel costs are limited to a tip for the valet and a tank of gas — or, even better, an $8 NJ Transit ticket. Meals vary (see below).
Be sure to: Lose yourself during an 80-minute “Mystic Journey” treatment at Qua Baths & Spa ($300). It’s simply the best of everything: body scrub, exfoliation and wrap, and full facial, plus access to the Roman baths, sauna, steam room, fitness center and outdoor roof-deck pool (plus pool bar) all day long. Come June, you’ll also be able to check out the Sea Spa at the Chelsea, which will boast a behemoth Jacuzzi surrounded by heated stone benches, complete with sauna, steam room, and an outdoor heated saltwater pool that’s open year-round (111 South Chelsea Avenue, 800-548-3030, thechelsea-ac.com).
Eat at: Get away from the casino-crowd congestion at the Knife & Fork Inn, an upscale (but congenial) stand-alone spot. (And don’t miss the melt-in-your-mouth braised short ribs served over Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.) It’s also a great place for half-price apps at happy hour on Fridays (Atlantic and Pacific avenues, 609-344-1133, knifeandforkinn.com). Craving comfort food? Go to Stephen Starr’s Teplitzsky’s at the Chelsea for a ramped-up diner breakfast (all day!), lunch or dinner. (We like the hefty mac-’n’-cheese side for $6.) Or keep it light with fresh sushi at Izakaya, the Borgata’s chic new Japanese spot.
Take this advice: Be sure to book a room with a view: Our favorites are at the Water Club, where each of the 800 rooms overlooks the water, and in the newly renovated Centurian Tower at Caesars, whose luxury suites offer both skyline and ocean vistas.
Want to really get away from it all at the spa? Try this! The gorgeous Nemacolin Woodlands Resorts sits on 3,000 acres of quiet, rolling Western Pennsylvania land (which includes two championship golf courses) — far enough away from home that you won’t see anyone you know, but close enough that you can get back and forth via an hour-long plane ride and an hour-long drive. The spa has every service you could dream up and beauçoup packages, while the resort houses an award-winning restaurant and rooms that start in the neighborhood of $229 per night (1001 LaFayette Drive, Farmington, 724-329-8555, nemacolin.com). There’s also Vermont’s recently renovated Equinox, in adorable Manchester Village (about an hour’s plane ride from Philly, plus a two-hour drive from the airport — like we said, really get away), where rooms start at about $289. Spend whatever time you’re not in the spa hiking in Vermont wilderness (3567 Main Street Route 7A, Manchester Village, 800-362-4747, equinoxresort.com).