By Sandra Ramani
At first look, New York City might not seem like the ideal spot for a wellness getaway – it’s fast and frenetic, more concrete than green, and bursting with indulgent dining options.
Ask a local, though, and you’ll hear that living in this high-octane, competitive environment makes it more important than ever to find balance.
As a result, the city is often at the forefront of health and fitness trends (think hot yoga, spin classes, or juice cleanses that deliver), and is replete with day spas and holistic wellness practitioners.
Fall and winter are particularly good times to explore the “wellness” side of NYC: after the summer crowds (and humidity) have gone, the city is awash in changing leaves, the Union Square Greenmarket is full of farm-grown bounty, and the weather is perfect for a run through the park.
And, when the snow comes, there’s the option of a cozy hot stone massage.
Where to Stay
Ink48, A Kimpton Hotel
Set in a converted printing factory along midtown Manhattan’s west “coast,” with views of the Hudson River and New Jersey on one side and the city skyline on the other, the comfortably-stylish Ink48 at the Kimpton Hotel caters to wellness-minded travellers in several ways.
As with all Kimpton hotels, guests have access to complimentary bikes and in-room yoga mats, as well as a Runner’s Amenity Kit for exploring the West Side jogging path. The cozy spa boasts a small Zen garden and treatments using Kerstin Florian products.
Standout treatments include the Jet Lag Recovery, with a Turkish-style body scrub infused with organic lavender or ginger oils.
Because the city can be a minefield of culinary temptations, the hotel has also established a Wellness Wiz program, through which employees will help guests find foods that are delicious and healthy—say, the best avocado toast in the area, or the best kale juice—as well as restaurants that will cater to gluten allergies, cleanses and such. A sustainably-focused lobby restaurant rounds out the experience.
The Plaza Hotel
As the much-loved children’s book character, Eloise, would tell you, there’s a lot of history at The Plaza, from its famous Oak Bar and Palm Court afternoon tea service to the countless celebrities and heads of state who have checked in over the years.
Since handing the management reins to Fairmont Hotels, the Central Park-side icon has undergone extensive renovation, and now offers updated, sophisticated guestrooms with decorative touches such as wall mosaics, 24-gold-plated custom sinks, and amenities such as iPads that let you do things like control the temperature of your room and print boarding passes.
For fitness-minded guests who want to pack light, The Fairmont Fit program delivers new Reebok workout apparel and footwear, an MP3 player and a yoga mat with a stretch band to your room. (Available for a small fee to members of Fairmont President’s Club, which is free to join.)
In addition to a well-stocked gym and a Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa (featuring wine-themed services like a Crushed Cabernet Scrub and Barrel Baths), the hotel offers a few wellness-themed packages throughout the year.
Next up: available on select dates in January 2016, the Scent & Senses package gives guests after-hours access to a Le Labo fragrance boutique, where they will learn about perfume making and help create their own bottle of Rose 31 (The Plaza’s signature scent) and leave with tons of goodies.
Where to Eat
“Hidden health food” might be one way to describe this acclaimed Lower East Side spot, a favourite with models, actresses, workout warriors and hipsters alike.
While the focus is primarily on the use of healthful ingredients and probiotics, the menu is flavorful and satisfying, featuring things such as grilled chive flowers and loaded salads.
Breakfast, lunch and brunch draw crowds for the signature bowls, made with different kinds of acai (lavender, carob or strawberry), mango pitaya, chia, black rice and more. Even the margaritas have a shot of wheatgrass—hiding the “healthy” once again.
Whether you’re staying at the Ink48 hotel or not, it’s worth heading west to this Hell’s Kitchen restaurant—set in the lobby of the hotel—for its sustainably-sourced, farm-to-fork menu served with water views.
Operating with the slogan, “If it’s grown in the region, we eat it in season,” PRINT employs a full-time forager to help source the best products and produce directly from local farmers, markets, winemakers, craft brewers and artisan purveyors.
A good 90 percent of ingredients used by the kitchen team are sourced this way, with just a small amount of non-indigenous items (such as citrus fruit and coffee) sourced responsibly from other areas.
With the seasonal focus, the menu changes often, but typical fall items might include goat cheese gnocchi, pumpkin soufflés and roasted chicken breast with truffle butter and black trumpets.
Where to Shop
Live Live & Organic
Stocking everything from Moroccan Argan oil, bee pollen creams and organic eye shadows to raw snacks, kitchen gadgets and air purifiers, this East Village shop has earned a reputation as one of the best places in town for products that support all your organic, raw, vegetarian and holistic needs. While the website offers pages of products, it’s worth visiting the shop to browse the packed shelves and grab some raw treats to go.
Originally opened on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, this pioneer in the “slow fashion” movement now operates out of a larger space on Brooklyn’s booming Atlantic Avenue. All the fashion-forward clothing and accessories here were crafted by designers who used organic textiles or reclaimed materials, and who support local producers and fair trade or zero waste principles. The pieces also demonstrate that you don’t have to sacrifice style to be sustainable.
How to Stay Active
The Rink at Rockefeller Center
Enjoy both fitness and fun at this long-standing New York attraction. Open from mid-October through the arrival of spring, the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center offers two options.
General Admission skating, available on a first-come, first-served basis; and the VIP Igloo experience, which gets you a reserved skate time, Skate Concierge to assist with gear, complimentary skate rentals and refreshments (such as hot cocoa and espresso), plus in-and-out access for your session. Special packages, such as Nighttime Skates, are also offered throughout the season.
PUNCH Fitness Center
Get your gloves up for this innovative workout that goes beyond kickboxing to tone, strengthen and condition the body and mind.
Led by expert trainers known as Sokumasters, each session features an hour of planks, squats, jumping rope, resistance bands, shadow boxing, pad work, sprinting and sparing (with a punching bag or trainer.)
It’s intense, but founder/owner Adelino Da Costa explains his three-step philosophy – Unity, Struggle and Progress – offers support every step of the way. Classes are available at three NYC locations.
Where to Spa
The Peninsula Spa
European, Asian and Ayurvedic wellness traditions come together at this serene spot atop The Peninsula Hotel, which, with over 10 treatment rooms, is as close to a resort-style spa as you’ll find in the city.
Guests await their therapists in the Asian Tea Lounge, where they’ll be served their choice of aromatic blend, before being whisked away for services like the two-hour Peninsula Ceremonies, incorporating Ayurvedic massage techniques and herbal ingredients.
Afterwards, simply fall into a cushy, down comforter-topped bed in the relaxation lounge, don a pair of provided headphones, and enjoy a nap.
Therapy Day Spa
This intimate day spa near the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park is known for its results-oriented rubdowns, available in styles from Swedish and Deep Tissue to Four Hands, Shiatsu, Thai and Hot Stone.
Organic facials, body scrubs, waxing and private, guided meditation sessions are also on offer. The spa is also known for offering regular discounts and deals, so be sure to check their website for any current promotions.
One thing NOT to miss
This offshoot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art focuses on the art and architecture of medieval Europe—fitting, since it is set in a monastery-style building created using 12th-to-15th-century structural pieces brought over from the old country.
Set in Fort Tyron Park in far-northern Manhattan, the cloister and grounds house over 2,000 works of art. The serene medieval-style gardens host events and an alfresco cafe during the warmer months, while in winter, there are guided tours, lectures and concerts. It’s easy to forget you’re anywhere near a major city at this meditative spot.
A resident of New York City for over 20 years, writer/editor Sandra Ramani covers travel, spa/wellness and lifestyle topics for a number of national U.S. publications. She is the senior contributing editor of Organic Spa Magazine, and the author of Day Trips from Dallas/Fort Worth now in its second edition.