EAST COAST SPA AFICIONADOS WHO NORMALLY MAKE the long trek out West to enjoy a destination spa experience are waking up to a new brand of relaxation at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, PA, just a few hours from both New York City and Philadelphia. This luxe spa resort, created by industry veterans John and Ginny Michel Lopis, founding members of the International Spa Association (ISPA), is a divine nature-inspired retreat that offers the comprehensive benefits of a traditional destination spa infused with a modern, luxurious twist. "Our theme of 'Awakening' focuses on each person becoming more conscious and skilled at deciding what is right for him or her," says Ginny Michel. "We do not teach right or wrong behaviors but rather help our guests to determine what is right for them. For some guests, relaxing can be more important than exercising at certain times."
Relaxation is easily achieved at the Lodge, which is set on 75 acres that offer sweeping vistas of woodland gardens, ponds, and even a pristine 15-acre private lake. The Lopises worked to bring the outdoors in, as well. Walls of windows, natural colors, nature-inspired artwork, and leaf, wood, and stone motifs are incor-porated throughout the lodge and spa. Terraces and porches also abound, offering guests the opportunity to meditate outdoors in a natural serene setting. Plus, each of the 58 guest rooms has its own private veranda overlooking the lake or the rock garden waterfalls. "We intended to design a more elegant resort facility than many of the destination spas currently have, with more luxurious guest rooms, sophisticated dining, and more," says Ginny Michel.
Clockwise from top left: Meditation walks along the Nature Trail are popular; cooking demonstrations in Tree restaurant teach healthy dining habits; bubbling ponds with natural waterfalls can be found throughout the property; guests enjoy tasty organic cuisine; flowers offer fragrant seasonal beauty; the Lodge entrance brings the outdoors in.
This plan, which was 25 years in the making while the Lopises worked as principals of their company JGL Spa Design and Consulting, seems to have succeeded. Ginny Michel says the clientele is mostly made up of well traveled, sophisticated spa-goers looking for relaxation, romance, renewal, luxury, and nature available in close proximity to home. "We knew that the Northeast was in need of a spa of this caliber and that we could be most successful if we were a very convenient drive-to destination for clients living in the Northeast corridor," says Ginny Michel. "The Northeast is the largest market for nearly every spa in the country."
The Acqua Garden's co-ed soaking pools feature four- and eight-foot hydromassage water walls.
Aside from its location, one of the most distinctive elements of the Lodge revolves around its cuisine. While some destination spas cut caloric intake, prohibit alcohol consumption, and often promote drastic dietary changes, the Lopises envisioned a more realistic plan. "We have taken a more moderate approach to our cuisine guidelines, preferring to be at twenty-five to thirty percent fat rather than the usual twenty percent at many spas," says Ginny Michel. "We believe the joy of dining and the community spirit has been a bit lost in the frantic effort to count calories and fat grams on spa menus, so we have chosen not to list this data on our menu and instead to focus on a genuinely entertaining and elegant dining experience."
The outdoor horizon-edge whirlpool offers picturesque views of nature that can be enjoyed year-round.
The resort's restaurant, Tree, offers wholesome, organic cuisine that includes naturally raised meats and fish and vegetarian selections at every meal. The Tapas Bar provides an ideal dining option for more casual dining or for single guests who may not want a three-course dinner experience. Also available are beer, wine, and cocktail selections, a bit of an anomaly for a destination spa. "We believe that a moderate amount of alcohol is healthful and relaxing and can be integrated into a healthy lifestyle," says Ginny Michel. "Most of us enjoy a glass of fine wine with our dinner when we return home from a spa, so why not offer it to those who choose, as part of what we are teaching is making conscious choices."
Top: Manicures and pedicures are available in the Lotus Salon. Bottom: An on-site spa concierge helps guests plan the perfect retreat.
Popular activities revolving around cuisine include cooking demonstrations and chef-hosted dinner and wine pairings. Ginny Michel says that guests also love to gather around the outdoor Fire Circle after dinner to get to know each other and share stories.
The natural light-filled indoor pool is the site of aqua classes and water volleyball.
Along with fine dining options, the Lodge also offers an array of activities, many of which take advantage of the resort's outdoor surroundings and which encourage a positive mind-body connection. Meditation walks occur along the mile-long Nature Path, and myriad outdoor adventure activities like hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, golf, and tennis are popular. Seasonal offerings, such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, are also available. Several studios located in the fitness area of the spa offer aerobics, kickboxing, spinning, stretching and body contouring, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, Pilates, and Qigong classes, among other options. Also available are a variety of classes designed to inspire creativity, such as photography, watercolor painting, floral design, journaling, drumming, bonfire storytelling, and cooking classes. Guest speakers and themed workshops are offered throughout the year.
The Lodge at Woodloch
The Lodge is also a haven for spa-goers looking to experience powerful, effective treatments. Nature-inspired therapies using Astara, Davines, Kerstin Florian, and SpaRitual products abound in the 27-treatment-room spa facility. Massages and facials are the most popular offerings, according to Ginny Michel. Locally inspired treatments, such as the White Oak Soother ($180, 75 minutes), a body treatment that uses native white oak bark, are also embraced by clients.
Other highlights of the spa facility include private men's and women's lounges that feature fireplaces, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, and screened-in porches with rocking chairs, all featuring picturesque natural views. An indoor pool is the site of aquatic fitness classes, and the one-of-a-kind Aqua Garden co-ed therapeutic soaking pools with four and eight-foot hydromassage water walls is another popular guest retreat. A full-service salon offers hairstyling, manicures, and pedicures overlooking the private lake, while the charming Great Things Boutique allows guests to purchase homecare products and retail offerings such as books, tapes, jewelry, and elegant casual sportswear.
As for the future, the Lopises and their 250-person team are hoping to cement The Lodge at Woodloch's place as the premiere destination spa on the East coast by constantly growing and changing to meet the needs of their clients. "As far as we know, we are the first luxury lodge on the East coast and perhaps in the country to offer such a comprehensive destination spa experience," says Ginny Michel. "The program will be evolving and dynamic, with new offerings continuously being created and fresh classes, activities, and presenters each year." Sounds like the perfect East coast spa wakeup call.