The “Ah” in Spa

After long deliberation, today I finally decided to make use of an awesome spa certificate I was given for last Christmas. It’d been a while since I’d gone to a spa, but with the aches and pains I’ve had in nearly every nook n’ cranny, I was ready to be kneaded and to be a tad spoiled Manhattan-Fifth-Avenue style @ Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa.

Although it is a luxury for sure, a few deep tissue massages a year has almost become a necessity in my life since the dancing/ art days of CMU years ago. I find it hilarious how certain massage therapists will go over my back thinking I’m some sort of delicate flower, then realizing I’m pretty much nothing but solid rock back there. (That and since discovering the joys of reflexology, it’s become the expensive treat I indulge in. Some people buy gadgets, some buy shoes, some like a big splurge at the bar or pretty pennies showered onto a great steak dinner. Me? I love steak too, but really, I hold out for massages.

However, I will say that like any purchase out there, one has to be wary of the try-it-on policy. As many great massages and spas that I’ve been lucky enough to try, there have been so many crappy ones that frankly should have never been granted permission to handle anyone’s personal comfort. That said, my only advice really could be in the age of the Internet the D.Y.R. policy = Do Your Research. Honestly? a lot of the reviews you hear from your fellow man can be really, really useful in helping you not only decide where you want to go, but where the hidden gems might be in and around your area.

From my own take on it, I can tell you that there are two things to remember about finding the “Ah” in Spa. 1) Pricing Can be Tricky. Just because you pay more doesn’t always mean you’re going to get everything you want, but most likely the places that cost more will offer you more accomodations. And 2) If you didn’t like it the first time, unlike what everyone used to say? Do NOT Try Try Again. Take your hard-earned $$ and fly off elsewhere to see if there’s anywhere else that can give you what you need. Me? Here’s really what I need from a place: a great massage from a person who listens (and doesn’t talk too much, thanks!), a QUIET place I can enjoy it in, and walk away knowing it was a time well-spent.


That said, here’s a few places that I can suggest in the New York area:

– Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa: The one I went to is in NYC, but there are MANY around for sure (as far as the website says, there are 31 locations nationwide). Well, obviously I’m a tad biased here since this morning, but I will definitely say one thing about it: Expen$ive but you definitely get what you pay for. Their staff was majorly, MAJORLY attentive from the moment I walked in. I nearly fell asleep on the chaise-lounge in their relaxation room, and since it was my first time there, I decided to opt for their Signature Massage. Hey, it’s a “Signature”. I gotta vary it up from time to time.

Long story short, it is definitely a spa that seems very “elite NYC ladies’ lunch”. However, even though I am quite a joe-schmoe sneaks-n’-jeans chick, I found myself giving in to feeling crazy pampered and laying on the chaise-lounge with my lemon water wondering how I could reform my living room into the amazing comfort zone this place was. If you ever get a chance, definitely try to check it out. Like good food, I think anyone needs to get a nibble of the high end at least once to see how it tastes!


– Oasis Day Spa: Had the opportunity to check this one out as a birthday gift a few year ago. It’s so interesting how these are the hidden places you find that you’ve walked by many times. (the one I went to on Park Avenue is a downstairs ordeal. They recently just opened one in Westchester as well)

The experience at Oasis is pretty comfortable, and despite a stupid unprofessional who decided to answer her phone while I was getting my massage (??) They understood my complaint and comped me for 50% of my next visit (and that one was much more pleasant). Other than a massage, I highly recommend getting a Vichy shower body treatment. Lying there having a shower with several nozzles and someone doing the work for ya? It’s heavenly!


– Bliss Spa: My very first spa treatment in life was at Bliss Spa in SoHo (thanks, sis). There are a few around and their product distribution sure has spread since that time around 10 years ago, but still, Bliss Spa is a place I still like to think is a go-to for someone who would like to do along the way of a day out. The girl I had did wonders for working out the tension in my neck!



– Graceful Spa 56: Formerly Crystal Spa (when I used to go here) I discovered this place in a promotion for Spa Week in NYC while I was in grad school. It was the very first time I was exposed to a situation where the room was separated by curtains (so no one was gonna run screaming from there thinking it was a shady “happy ending” joint.) But most all, it was my first time experiencing the ultimate greatness of Chinese Tui-na massage. Greatness being: a person walked on my back and found all the places that were bothering me, nipping them in the bud. Don’t get me wrong, you MUST be willing to endure what might be compared to tenderizing meat (which I totally need). Not for the ones who seek long-stroke comforts with lotion! I highly recommend this to anyone who has a tough back like myself. Ps, get a reflexology massage after your regular. I was on cloud 9 all the way home, and was amazed and how they did that for me. And totally a bang for your buck!!!!!!! check out the prices!!

*However, take note: If you’re looking for a quiet place, this is NOT where to go. You can hear everything on the street, in the room, and in the waiting room. But if you’re looking for major comfort from your aches, train yourself to block it out if you can. I’m not sure if they still do this, but the massage therapist usually stood there while you were paying, waiting for their gratuity. Just something to be aware of.

– Gong-Fu Tui-Na: (Yep, this was the biggest image I could find for it and somehow it’s very fitting. The place itself? is also small.)

Another place that practices Tui-Na, but no one has walked on my back here. Instead, they will literally climb onto your back and use their body weight for certain techniques, so don’t be alarmed! It’s a small gem hidden on Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria, very reasonably priced, and they even give you a frequent card where for every 10 massages you get, the 11th one counts for a free 60-minute session.

*However, take note: Again, this is NOT a quiet place, but a place you go when you need a rubdown. Ps, the staff is only a staff of about 3-5 people and although they are very sweet, they still sometimes double-book and I’ve asked them once to please tell people to talk on their phones in another area other than their waiting room.

– SpaCastle: Open now in College Point, Queens since 2009, it’s been somewhat considerably a getaway asset to New York City. Not only as a spa you can treat as an all-day affair ($35 on weekdays, $45 on weekends, free for members) but because it can be treated as a family affair by taking the children as well.

Though if you are a child-less person such as myself, there is still much that can be said about the joys of SpaCastle: the cleanliness for sure, the various saunas, the great food & comfort lounges, a shower room with several temperatures for the available baths, and most of all, the comfort of indulgence in a water zone upstairs. Massages and personal treatments are separate entities to choose from of course, but everything else you can definitely say can be exercised into your own individual needs. PS – come wearing a swimsuit underneath your clothes when you arrive. You will be given a uniform to wear and everything will be safely locked away with the use of a waterproof watch you will be given upon your arrival (this will also keep track of your expenses for the day).


– Bellagio Nail & Spa: A gem in the Flatiron District and right across the street from Madison Square Park, if you don’t want to get undressed and wanna commit only an hour or so, head over here. Not only will they do your nails, a fabulous pedicure job in a massage chair, but they also offer acupressure chair massages. Though the prices have climbed a bit, I still manage to see this place busy all the time. PS! MEN AND WOMEN ALIKE ARE SHAMELESSLY HERE TOGETHER! No joke, everytime I’m here with some girlfriends, there will be a group of business guys who come in to be pampered. (coincidence that CSFB is right across the street?)  It’s great!

Ps – When you’re done being pampered, head on over across the street onto the B-Line for Shake Shack and treat yourself to a frozen custard!!


Life is short, but sometimes we have to stop, take a deep breath and say “Ahh”. So if you ever get the chance, try to get that fresh breath of air at a spa. Hopefully you will be able to walk away good as new. 🙂


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