Spas run deep in human history, possibly even predating their formal origins in ancient Greece and early Rome. One possible root of the name is the acronym of salus per aquae, or the “health from water” taken by exhausted and wounded Roman soldiers. The Belgian village of Spa gets credit for introducing the hydrotherapeutic health resort, in the early 1300s.
Today’s road warriors find comparable modern comforts from diverse practices and treatments at meetings-capable hotels and resorts around the globe—part of an ever-expanding product set that includes programs creatively integrated into group activities outside of the spa walls.
From yoga on horseback to pre-meeting meditation, here are some exceptional “out of spa” experiences at group properties around the U.S.
From the Source
The American spa story officially began at New York’s Saratoga Springs. Gifted with the only naturally carbonated mineral waters east of the Rockies, Saratoga’s 19th century legacy as “Queen of the Spas” flows on at The Gideon Putnam Hotel. Named for city founder and spa visionary Putnam, this stately 1935 resort in Saratoga Spa State Park offers 124 rooms and 22 suites, alongside 12,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space. The property also houses the historic Roosevelt Baths & Spa.
Celebrating its 80th anniversary last summer along with the hotel, the storied spa came courtesy of its namesake, Franklin D. Roosevelt. With Saratoga’s waters being over-exploited at the time, the president’s local experience with hydrotherapy while battling polio inspired his funding of new bathhouses under the Works Progress Administration.
Originally “Bathhouse No. 1,” the Roosevelt Baths & Spa features 42 original treatment rooms and comprehensive services that include baths in naturally effervescent waters and nature-inspired therapies, plus a full-service salon.
“Specialized options include acupuncture, wellness workshops, private yoga and meditation instruction, and consultative sessions on remedies such as Bach Flower Essence, for emotional healing,” says Roosevelt Spa Manager Jared Taisey, who consults with planners on regular and customized programs for clients and attendees staying at the hotel.
“We can bring these outside or to the conference rooms,” Taisey adds. “We are also looking at expanding our spa and wellness retreat programs.”
Originated in ancient India, yoga is another venerable practice offered in uniquely transporting ways throughout the U.S.
Two hours south of Saratoga in the Western Catskills, fabulous group favorite The Roxbury, each of its 28 units styled after films and TV shows such as Star Trek (The Final Frontier) and Indiana Jones (Archaeologist’s Digs cottage), is available for buyouts for around 50 guests. Complementing in-house services at the sibling Shimmer Spas (one in each wing), groups can also go off-site with local partners Wild Walks. Led by a New York State-certified guide, programs include “yoga hikes,” which end with yoga sessions on mountaintops or by waterfalls.
At Mirage Las Vegas (also see “Well-Placed Bets,” page 34), the Dolphin Habitat’s underwater viewing area is the hypnotic backdrop for “yoga with dolphins.”
Yoga on horseback defines the exceptional appeal of Salamander Resort & Spa, some 40 miles west of D.C. in the heart of Virginia’s horse and wine country. Offering multiple indoor conference rooms, ballrooms and event spaces, including the Chef’s Garden and 110,000-square-foot Grand Lawn, this luxurious 168-room resort is a planner’s paradise.
With a 23,000-square-foot spa and wellness center that includes a tree-house treatment room, Salamander has partnered with a renowned D.C.-area medical center on wellness and fitness programs such as group walks, bike rides, multi-level yoga classes, Pilates, Zumba, Barre ballet and personal training.
Also home to a full-service equestrian center, the resort’s most distinctive offerings include the aforementioned horseback yoga, and EquiSpective, a guided horse-whispering program that “unites horse and human while exploring relationship awareness, communication style and leadership techniques.”
Heavenly rejuvenation awaits at the aptly named El Monte Sagrado (“Holy Mountain”) in Taos, N.M. This luxurious property, offering 7,000 square feet of flexible space and an 84-room mix that includes premium suites and historic casitas, is also home to the award-winning Living Spa.
Amid exquisite gardens, this eco-conscious oasis (“Sagrado” also means “sanctuary”) offers comprehensive spa, wellness and fitness treatments, including remedies based on ancient rituals and oxygen therapy.
Outdoor spaces include The Sacred Circle, a relaxation area surrounded by willow and cottonwood trees and long revered by local Taos tribes.
“We perform yoga and stretch classes here, and also in the meeting rooms,” says Spa Director Heidi Gates. “For example, I recently provided a 30-minute morning warm-up for a group before their meetings began,” she says. “It was very well received.”
At Your Service
Mindful of busy schedules and work stress, the spa team at North Carolina’s historic Pinehurst Resort offers therapies to keep the work flowing along with the mind and body, starting with five-minute chair back and shoulder massages at the registration desk or function area. Fifteen-minute “Awaken” deep breathing and stretch exercises help attendees relax before or after the meeting, while the trainer-led Golfer’s Stretch Program readies delegates to hit the resort’s famed links.
In Arizona, comparable services await attendees at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. Against the backdrop of Camelback Mountain and the Sonoran Desert, this luxurious 293-room retreat, inspired by Spain’s exotic Andalusia region, offers more than 27,000 square feet of indoor space and 74,000 square feet of outdoor space.
Featuring a rooftop pool and Scottsdale’s only Hammam spa, the resort’s award-winning, Moroccan-inspired Joya Spa pampers delegates with services like early morning neck and shoulder massages, registration desk chair massages and mid-meeting “Zen breaks.” Groups can also hear expert advice on health and wellness with the De-Stress Seminar, or take the scenic “5K Fun Run” in local Paradise Valley.
Offering 297 guest rooms, suites and cottages after a recent expansion, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is a four-season, full-service conference facility featuring newly expanded space, including 14 meeting rooms and a 10,000-square-foot ballroom.
Adjacent to Yosemite National Park, this Central California oasis also holds the Ascent Spa. From massages and other pampering during breaks or break-out sessions, the venue flexibly brings spa and wellness into group programs, such as customizing treatments aligned to a visiting group’s theme or purpose. Also beyond the spa walls are wellness classes, teambuilding adventures in the Sierra National Forest and the successful “Spa-Go-Round.” Here, multiple spa stations are set up in the banquet space, allowing delegates to freely flow through the space and services.
Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Fla., Diplomat Resort & Spa is the region’s premier conference resort, with 209,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Within easy reach of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the resort’s chic Diplomat Spa offers a range of customized group packages, including access to beachfront pools and amenities.