By Deigna Bernard
As the summer of 2020 comes to a close, I felt a bit suffocated. My trips to Miami, Los Angeles, and Greece were canceled. The adventures I had were the fantasy novels I vicariously lived through and my excursions to the supermarket. Fast forward two weeks into my fall semester of school, and every day is the same as the last; the only difference is now I’m glued to my computer screen 24/7. My desperate longing for a change of scenery was so apparent my mother took action and declared I should accompany her to a spa where she and my dad went on their anniversary.
And so a few days hence I found myself on the road to the SoJo Spa Club in Edgewater, New Jersey, a secluded castle-like getaway decorated with engraved marble, flowers, plants and an overly polite and helpful staff. As an added attraction it has stunning views of a busy New York City at a stress-free distance.
For under $100, or the price of a nice dinner for two, my aches and tensions soon began to ebb thanks to the variety of mineral baths on the premise. Each bath had a maximum capacity of six, but since there were not many people about when I arrived, I mostly had them to myself. A good rule of thumb for safety; masks are required when not in water.
First on my list was the Carbon-Rich warm bath enriched with a high concentration of natural carbon dioxide, which is known to increase blood oxygen levels and improve circulation. I can’t swear by the scientific evidence, but I am 100% sure that after I reluctantly jumped out of that warm 80° bath, my skin was buttery smooth and glowing as I felt strong enough to take on the world!
Next, I moved over to the “Silk Bath,” a Japanese white ionization technology that infuses hot spring micro-bubbles directly to the water. Say goodbye to dry crackling skin with the Silk Bath. If you are looking to nourish your body tissue, improve your skin elasticity, and have soft subtle skin that’s infused with nutrients, then this is the bath for you! It’s so easy to lose track of time in these heated mineral baths, and honestly, I felt like I could relax all day, but my mother wanted me to try more.
While most of the baths and pools were heated, I did attempt to take a dip into the ice-cold waterfall to experience the feel of hot and cold therapy. The water definitely shocked my senses, and I did not try and stay for more than a minute.
Eager to get back into warm water, we headed for the hydrotherapy pools. Now I wasn’t exactly sure of the difference between the mineral baths and the hydrotherapy pool because they both just look like bodies of water to me. Cue the overly polite staff who informed me that the hydrotherapy pools do not have minerals but rather serve as an underwater massage as they are filled with jets all over. Hopping into the warm pool, I opted for the individual stalls where several water jets propel fast-moving therapeutic water to various parts of your body. It felt like an all-over massage. Just put your hand over the button and it continues until you say stop. Interestingly enough, even though it is named a hydrotherapy pool, you’re unlikely to see people actually swimming. Most prefer to relax in the heated water and talk about their day while enjoying the pulsing jets.
The next and favorite part of my day was the Himalayan heated hot stone massage. This was not originally a part of my plan, but my mom decided to gift the treatment since this was my first trip to Sojo. Stepping into the spa services area, I was greeted by my therapist, Alice, who led me to a room where she explained the hour-long treatment would release my upper back tension. Slipping out of my bathing suit, I laid under a modest blanket and experienced a stone massage that -pun intended- rocked my world. The combination of their fitness oil and hot stones massaged into my back and legs kneaded out tension, I didn’t even know I had, and before I knew it, I drifted into a light nap.
The experience sent me into a virtual dreamland where I was the focus of attention and the whole goal was to make me feel free and happy. It was an amazing “dream,” but unfortunately, I had to wake up after an hour and get back on track. Luckily that track was still in Sojo, so I had more amenities to explore.
After my massage I reunited with my mother and we went for food in the dining hall. The menu was filled with basic items like cheeseburgers and chicken wraps. But why eat junk food in a spa? So I selected a vegetable soup filled with a ramen noodles, boiled egg, scallions and chicken.
We decided to end our day trip on the rooftop infinity pool that featured an unforgettable view of the New York City skyline. While most guests in the pool were trying to get their photo taken (who wouldn’t), I just sat back and admired the breathtaking view while reminiscing the successful day I had. This escapade to the spa was one that was truly memorable even though I did not experience all of the amenities. I did not have to go far to feel like I’ve been on vacation to the Caribbean island or Disneyland. Relaxation and Rejuvenation were right in my backyard, and I cannot wait to plan my next visit.
There is a vast array of spa daycation experiences similar that exist in our local neighborhoods. Here are some spa opportunities in different parts of the country.
Gangnam Spa — Houston Texas
Get ready to lavish your body with over 30,000 square feet of healing specialty baths, saunas, and treatment rooms. Rooted in Korean culture, your day vacation will rub away tension, soothe and nourish your skin, and, above all, relax your mind, body, and soul. Spoiling yourself with a premium oil Korean body scrub will rid your body of the built-up toxins and impurities weighing you down. Don’t stop there. Bask in the topaz stone cave containing minerals that are said to ‘promote brain activity, improving memory and concentration.” If you’re a student, like me, subjected to a bazillion zoom meetings, the topaz cave will reboot your focus factor.” To replenish your strength, enjoying a delicious Korean. The cost to step your big toe into this luxurious wellness paradise is $50, with additional fees for massage treatments and meals.
King Spa and Waterpark — Dallas, Texas
If true relaxation is what you seek, introduce yourself to “Jil Bang,” a unique Korean inspired spa that aims to deliver the highest level of relaxation and stress busters. This family-friendly delight offers 9 healing sauna rooms, acupressure massage for the whole body, soothing massages, a movie theatre, and refreshing beverages to keep hydrated. While you are welcome to plunge right into any of the previously mentioned “wellbeing” offers, the luxurious themed water park is currently closed due to Covid-19. However, the saunas, massages, movies, and family fun will definitely satisfy your day vacation needs. By the way, your pocketbook will love the cost.
Glacier Cave & Spa — Juneau, Alaska
Clear those sinuses and breathe! Reduce snoring and sleep well! Take advantage of the healing effects of Salt Therapy, aka Halo Therapy, specifically Himalayan salt. It has a wide variety of benefits, including relief allergy, sinus, and respiratory conditions. Halo Therapy can also heal skin ailments like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Just lay back, surrounded by beauty, relax and breathe in to introduce yourself to pure crystal, a holistic approach to alleviating your symptoms and conditions. The therapeutic and healing properties of the salt will improve your quality of life in a safe way. More importantly, you’ll feel great!
Chena Hot Springs Resort — Fairbanks, Alaska
Put some adventure in your day vacation, with 60 miles of scenic rides and soul inspiring views. The pool house in Chena hot springs offers daily admission of about $15 which grants access to their hot spring’s lake (adults 18+ only), indoor heated pool, and all hot tubs. Soak in natural hot springs or soothing warm water and show stress who’s boss. Then, if you’re itching for something more to do head over to visit the Ice Museum (also $15) which stays cool even when the temperatures jump up to 90 degrees!
Betty’s Bath and Day Spa — Albuquerque, New Mexico
Retreat! Retreat! Runaway from demands, headaches, and strains of life and retreat to a tranquil, inviting safe haven. Enjoy a compassionate community, oozing with kindness. Rejuvenate yourself with a deep tissue massage, wipe away tension with mask relief facials, and indulge in one of the many private therapeutic steam rooms or hot tubs. Individuals, couples, and groups can create customized packages. This refuge is an opportunity to focus on “you” so get ready to invest in yourself as well.
Ten Thousand Waves Spa — Santa Fe, New Mexico
Talk about social distancing! This Japanese inspired spa is the closet facility to a traditional Onsen in the United States It has given new meaning to social distancing by setting the concept of communal bathing on the back burner. It offers massage packages and a private a hot tub experience. You receive your very own shower, bathroom, vanity and changing area. The perks are fit for royalty. All you’re missing is a crown.
Jeju Sauna — Atlanta, Georgia
A traditional Korean Bath House spa focusing on your total well-being. Offering a wide selection of treatments guaranteed to pamper you from head to toe. From acupressure and aromatherapy to body scrubs, Jeju will convince you that it’s time to take a break. Great news: It’s an affordable place to relax and pamper yourself into the new you. They operate on a first come-first served basis, so arrive as early as possible.
Spa Land and Sauna — Duluth, Georgia
Another affordable spot in Georgia where you can de-stress and be pampered. Check out their selection with hot and cold tubs, dry and steam saunas, treatment stations and showers. It is designed to give the body and exhilarating “awake” sensation. Mineral saunas are also not to be missed for the added qualities they bring to the body. It is recommended that you savor your experience by doing all your treatments in the sequence suggested on their website.
I’m a convert. Spas are the best daycation option because you get to invest in your wellbeing without having to travel to an exotic island. There are many unique destinations currently open for fun, safe use. Most importantly, they provide a way to pamper yourself and get rid of all the tension you built up during quarantine! All it takes is a little research and a couple of phone calls to arrange a self-indulgent experience. Happy Travels!
Deigna Bernard is a Syracuse University student at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication