Until recently, I had never been to a destination spa. To be honest, I only had a vague idea of what went on at them and wasn't quite sure if I would even like what I imagined. But after a fabulous 24 hours at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, PA, I know exactly what goes on at a spa and I like it very much. I can easily see how people get hooked on them and keep coming back.
A spa is first and foremost supposed to be a retreat and The Lodge at Woodloch definitely fits the bill. Even the locker room is called a retreat (pictured right), and justifiably so as it looks like one found in an upscale country club but with a far more serene vibe.
Located between Milford, a ritzy town favored by the second-home set, and Scranton, the small city that's home to The Office, the Lodge (pictured left) is only about 90 miles from New York City. But it feels far more remote — and I'm not just saying because my blackberry/cell phone didn't get reception there, although that certainly added to the away-from-it-all feeling. (Some people's cell phones did work, so it seems that it all depends on your service provider.)
The remote feeling truly emanated from being surrounded by trees (pictured right). From every window, you have a beautiful, peaceful view of trees. And, of course, if you go for a walk or a run on one of the paths through the trees, so much the better.
In many ways, the spa reminded me of sleepaway camp — albeit an adult version of one with luxurious accommodations and delicious healthy food. Like camp, there are a ton of activities (mostly from the yoga/workout genre, but also outdoorsy ones too) to choose from. My inner child wanted to do every single activity that time would allow. But I reminded myself that part of the point of going to a spa is to relax so you come home rejuvenated, and doing activity on top of activity would make it more difficult to achieve that goal. If possible, it's best to stay at The Lodge at Woodloch for a few days so you can try everything and still have time to rest.
As I was only staying for one night, I sampled what I could: a pilates mat class, a kayaking class, a gym workout and an outstanding Swedish massage that relaxed me enough that I actually walked back to my room in my robe. (Walking around in your robe is a very spa thing to do.) I was sad to miss out on the watercolor class, but that's just one more reason to return.
I loved the morning kayaking class, which was done at the lake (pictured at top) that's right on the property. I especially enjoyed gliding through the channels behind the main lake area, as I had never rowed among lily pads before or even seen the spatterdock variety, which has bright yellow flowers. For those who want a more strenuous kayaking experience, the Lodge also offers a fitness class that goes through a course marked by decoy ducks.
While I didn't know very much about destination spas before this trip , I certainly knew of their popularity. Growing up in Manhattan, I constantly heard of mothers going to and coming home from Canyon Ranch, which has locations in the Berkshires and Tuscon. As that was the name I always associated with the word "spa", I was excited to learn that The Lodge at Woodloch's owners, John and Ginny Lopis, used to run the one in Arizona. John was the executive director and Ginny was the director of human resources and program development.
That said, The Lodge at Woodloch is not the women's weight loss spa of the 80s. First of all, John and Ginny only opened it in 2006. Second of all, there are no calorie counts on the menu and no weigh-ins. The food is very healthy — think lots of whole grains and creative use of fruits and veggies, although there is plenty of meat and seafood too. You can have as much food as you want; there are hot and cold buffets as well as an a la carte menu. Third, there's alcohol available, which is a nice touch.
Another element that makes this a progressive spa is that it was designed so men would feel comfortable too. It doesn't feel overly feminine — it's called a lodge after all — and men would like most of the activities. They'd also like most of the spa treatments, although getting them to admit that may be another story.
But getting me to admit my conversion from a spa skeptic to a spa enthusiast? Quite easy as you can see.