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Posted by on Oct 30, 2007 in Spa Reviews | 0 comments

The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg

The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg

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The theme of wellness through the centuries is carried out with such programs as The Williamsburg Regimen, a 50-minute guided walk inspired by the 18th century. It includes a brisk morning walk in the fresh air of the adjacent Audubon sanctuaries and the environs of Colonial Williamsburg s Historic Area.


With spa travel gaining in popularity with every passing year, it can be difficult for a new spa to distinguish and brand itself. The 20,000-square-foot Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, which opened in the spring of this year, had no such problem. Located as it is in a place where America s early history lives, the spa had a veritable timeline of healing methods and specific cures from which to draw.

The result: a splendid menu of services anchored by spa experiences inspired by each of the past five centuries.

From the 17th century and the wellness techniques of the Powhatan Indians, who heated their bodies in sweathouses and then plunged into cold water– is the Cleansing Hot Stones Experience (two hours, $265; couples, $525). This modern interpretation warms the body with hot stones, then wraps it in her-infused steaming linen to encourage the natural release of toxins. Aromatherapy clothes are applied to refresh the brow. The experience concludes with a full-body hot stone massage using oil infused with lavender, cypress, juniper and rosemary.

During the 18th century, doctors noted the relationship between cleanliness and health; they realized that dirt on the skin prevented the essential process of perspiration. And so people began mixing baths of herbal and apothecary, a ritual adapted for today s spa patrons in the Colonial Herbal Spa Experience (two hours, $265; couples, $525). This begins with a cleansing foot bath, followed by an orange-ginger body scrub, an herbal body wrap (using a variety of colonial herbs) and a signature Williamsburg massage.

African American traditions during the 19th century focused on the use of herbs for healing. In the Root and Herbal Spa Experience (two hours, $285; couples $565), the Spa translates this by incorporating body exfoliation and an herbal bath with a strengthening full body massage. The exfoliating High Road Powder helps to boost spirit and energy before a soak in an invigorating herbal bath steeped in Ritual Bath Tea and an invigorating massage.

The 20th century saw developments in medicine, health care, fitness, wellness and technologically advanced spa equipment. This latter development, coupled with the history of bathing rituals inspired the Williamsburg Water Cures Spa Experience (90 minutes, $245), which consists of a full-body dry-brush exfoliation, followed by a hydrotherapy Vichy shower rain massage, concluding with a traditional Aqua Latte bath to seal in the skin s moisture.

Late in the 20th century and continuing into the present day is the popularity of laser treatments and microdermabrasion. These inspired the Skin Rejuvenation Spa Experience (90 minutes, $165), which I chose during my visit. .I had experienced microdermabrasion just once, some years ago when the treatment first appeared on the spa scene. At that time, the treatment blasted particles at the skin to cleanse and exfoliate. Not only was it uncomfortable, it left my face an unsightly bright red color. When I learned that this version was particle-less, I was eager to try it. First, my esthetician Tanya performed a deep pore cleansing and skin analysis (dry, except around the nose) to prepare my face for a particle-free ultrasonic exfoliation. This was followed by an enzyme-rich mask that was specific to my skin type and an oxygen treatment to brighten my skin. For the final step, Tanya applied an antioxidant serum and vitamin-rich moisturizer. The results: similar to but much more gentle than the old-fashioned microdermabrasion. My skin was fresh and bright and I felt no need for makeup.

williamsburg-4After this hi-tech treatment, I chose a Colonial Manicure ($30) and Pedicure ($70). My esthetician, Shannon Kee explained that she would be using vegan nail products. Vegan? I asked. What did that mean? Apparently, most nail polishes and such use animal by-products; vegan meant that no such by-products are used. As it is the by-products that are used to make the polishes last longer, there is a trade-off here, one that I was willing to make. (Though the polish on my nails did not last as long as usual, the color on my toes did last, probably due to the fact that I do very little work with my toes.)

Shannon s nail techniques were gentle and thorough; she soaked and moisturized both hands and feet, then softened and conditioned cuticles instead of cutting them. I chose a pale beige polish for my hands and a sassy gold for my toes. My time in the nail salon virtually flew by. And while I was drying, Shannon thoroughly scrubbed and sanitized everything she had used for my mani/pedi. I like to prepare for the next client while you re here so you can see how careful we are. She added that everything was also cleaned regularly with bleach all of which was very reassuring, as there are many instances of unpleasant, even dangerous infections following nail treatments in unsanitary conditions.

My final spa treatment was unplanned. Shortly before I traveled to Williamsburg, I had been suffering with really nasty allergy symptoms, including nasal congestion and a hacking cough. Hoping to ease my symptoms so I could enjoy the historic district, I booked a detox massage (one hour, $110) and asked my therapist, Nicole Carson, to focus on the appropriate areas. I asked Nicole if we could do most of the work with me facing up, as the face-down-in-the-cradle position was really difficult with extreme nasal congestion. She assured me that would be no problem and began what was a soothing and relaxing Swedish massage that used warm herbal towels and blends of aromatic oils. Though she did work on my arms and legs, she directed most of her efforts to my head and upper body, where it was most needed. When we were finished, I felt quite relaxed, and in the hours that followed, there was a notable improvement in symptoms, with the cough coming on less frequently and with the congestion easing.

williamsburg-5All in all, my experience at the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg was both healing and pampering. The spa has 12 treatment rooms and a menu that was designed by Sylvia Sepielli, recipient of the 2006 International Spa Association (ISPA) Visionary Award. It not only draws on the healing techniques of America s past, it also includes a full complement of facials, body treatments, baths and skin and nail care and spa packages.

The adjoining Fitness Training Quarters (daily fee $20) offer a fine selection of state-of-the-art equipment, including elliptical machines, stair steppers, treadmills, weight training stations and free weights. Group exercise classes are also available.

The theme of wellness through the centuries is carried out with such programs as The Williamsburg Regimen, a 50-minute guided walk inspired by the 18th century. It includes a brisk morning walk in the fresh air of the adjacent Audubon sanctuaries and the environs of Colonial Williamsburg s Historic Area. Maps are available for guests who wish to take their own walks.

Another option is the 50-minute Training Club Exercise Class, inspired by the 19th century. Training club swinging, best described as circular weight training, was introduced into American physical fitness culture in the early 1860s and enjoyed immense popularity. The classes here pair traditional exercises with music and training techniques from yesteryear to build strength, coordination, endurance and patience.

The spa facilities, which include private lockers, steam rooms, signature shower and whirlpools are immaculate and inviting. The spacious relaxation area is so comfortable, it s difficult to leave.

The Spa is located steps from the hotels of The Resort Collection of Colonial Williamsburg. It is open to day visitors as well as to resort guests.

For information and reservations, call 800-688-6479 or visit:

During my spa getaway, I stayed at The Williamsburg Inn, the crown jewel of Colonial Williamsburg Hotels. The landmark property, conceived and built by John D. Rockefeller Jr., opened in April 1937. It remains, as it was in his day, a place rich in tradition created by an accomplished team of architects, craftsmen and artisans–a hotel that has not only welcomed royalty from all over the world, it has also served as a second home to generations of guests.

williamsburg-1Though my room was as spacious and comfortable as the suites in some hotels (guest rooms average 500 square feet) and my bathroom a sybaritic study in marble, the knockout accommodation at the Inn is The Queen s Suite, named in honor of the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, who stayed in the suite for her 1957 visit for the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. The furnishings are typical of the Regency period, and most are handcrafted reproductions, some designed specifically for this suite. The drapery fabrics are documented reproduction silks from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Dining at the Inn is a pleasant and satisfying experience; the food, whether a light snack, room service or a full meal in the Regency Room, is beautifully prepared and presented. In keeping with the spirit of Williamsburg, I had one dinner at the King s Arms Tavern, an 18th century style chop house where the wait staff is dressed in period clothing and the menu includes drinks of the period and such delectables as Peanut Soup and Collops of Pork.

If I had been a golfer, I would undoubtedly have headed straight for the 18-hole Golden Horseshoe Gold Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and ranked consistently as one of the best in the nation. As it was, I spent much of my free time in the historic district, watching the colonists debate, incite revolution and carry on with the business of living in their various shops and enterprises. One evening, I was part of a very convincing one hour re-creation of an event that occurred in Williamsburg in 1727: the trial of two accused pirates, John Vidal and Martha Farley. I won t reveal how the verdict went, but I will say that we, in the courtroom, voted correctly.

And on the day I had to leave for home, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, a veritable treasure trove that including three centuries worth of portraits, furniture, musical instruments and other objects that perfectly complemented the history in which I d been immersed for the past three days.

For more information about the Williamsburg Inn as well as general visitor information, call 1-800-HISTORY or check:

Note: Other accommodations are the Williamsburg Lodge, Colonial Houses, Governor s Inn and the Woodlands Hotels & Suites.

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