glow's annual spa guide 2010

The country's top relaxation retreats and treatments as chosen by the editors at glow


The best spa treatments transport you – mind, body and soul – and that’s exactly the criteria we used for choosing this year’s winners of glow’s annual spa guide. Let’s face it, we all work hard for our money, so the inverse of that should also be true: Our money should work hard for us. If you’re going to invest in an hour or a day at the spa, it should do its utmost to take you away from the stresses of your life. You want to walk away feeling rejuvenated, revived and ready to take on the world. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, whether you want to treat yourself to a mini wellness escape, your guy to some romantic pampering or your best friend to the ultimate bonding experience, use our guide to ensure you get the best bang for your buck!

Most Decadent Pedicure

Millcroft Inn and Spa
55 John Street, Village of Alton, Caledon, ON

Step right up for your low-cal chocolate treat. Does that sound too good to be true? Let me assure you, it’s very real. The spa at the Millcroft Inn has fine-tuned the richly indulgent service of its Deluxe Organic Chocolate Pedicure for the ultimate in luxurious foot care. Start with a hot soak, then move on to a scrub made of cocoa, brown sugar and sweet almond oil that wakes up your skin and your senses. After the usual clipping, filing and massaging, get ready for your feet to be covered in chocolate paste and wrapped in heated booties to let the antioxidant goodness of chocolate soak into your skin – decadent in every sense of the word. Round out this organic treatment with SpaRitual lacquers – which are vegan and free of formaldehyde, toluene and DPB – for a guilt-free finish that will keep for weeks.

Service: Deluxe Organic Chocolate Pedicure, $90
Duration: 85 minutes

Most Revitalizing Treatment

Healthwinds Health and Wellness Spa
650 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto, ON

A week after my appointment at Toronto’s Healthwinds Spa, I was still basking in the afterglow of my treatment. “Healthwinds has been part of the Toronto health and wellness scene since 1993,†says Kailee Kline, founder and president. “Our signature is our approach: It’s the depth of knowledge we have about our clients and their histories and our commitment to care. We look at the whole history – all the indications that make you who you are.†That’s a nice bit of continuity in an industry that can feel random and fleeting at times. I try out the Thalassotherapy Bath Cure Deluxe treatment, which begins with an invigorating full-body scrub using natural sea granules. It completely wakes up my dull winter skin and primes me for the hydrotherapy bath to follow. After a long soak in water enriched with algae and essential oils, I move on to a full-body massage, which is a good choice for cleansing and revitalizing the circulatory and lymphatic systems. I have a bounce in my step for weeks, and my energy levels are up. The lingering good effects are what Kline strives for. “We are completely dedicated to helping clients live healthy lifestyles,†she says. “We create the ambience and have the level of professionalism to help people successfully make changes in their lives.â€

Service: Thalassotherapy Deluxe, $200
Duration: Two hours

Best Massage Therapy

Chakari Spa
1800 Victoria Avenue E, Regina, SK

A few years ago, I had a hot-stone massage and wondered what all the fuss was about. That all changed when I found myself in the very capable hands of the therapist at the Chakari Spa in Regina. Her smooth and effortless style transports me to a place of calm within minutes. The spa’s signature service is actually a dynamic duo: Warmed stones are used to massage African oils into your skin, while healing crystals from Africa are placed on your chakra points (where they stay for the duration of the treatment). For instance, a blue sodalite crystal is placed on your throat chakra to open “spiritual perception,†while citrine is placed on your navel to balance stress, anxiety and emotion. It’s a beautiful experience that leaves you feeling relaxed and optimistic. Finish off the service with a steam bath or sauna, or just enjoy the African-themed decor over a cup of hot tea.

Service: Chakari Signature Crystal Massage, $110
Duration: 60 minutes

Best New Spa

CHI, The Spa
Shangri-La Hotel
1128 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC

Prepare for a spa experience unlike any other. CHI, the ultimate in luxury, is a West Coast hot spot wrapped in an aura of Eastern philosophies. The treatment suites (including a couples suite) have their own fireplace and private bathing area. Warm wood and glowing lights create a tranquil atmosphere, and the staff speak in hushed tones. Your experience begins by relaxing in the lounge while filling out a simple questionnaire to discover your personal element sign, based on the Chinese philosophy of the five elements: metal, water, wood, fire and earth. Once determined, your treatment is customized accordingly. (Tip: You can take the fun questionnaire online, too!) The spa menu includes the usual offerings of pedicures and facials, but if you really want to escape, sign up for one of the many exotic packages. For instance, The Enchanted Ritual, which takes you on a 2 1/2-hour spa journey, includes a Himalayan Bath Therapy, an Element Vitality Signature Massage and a Mountain Tsampa Rub for $295. If you really want to absorb the B.C. vibe, try the four-hour West Coast Path, which offers a Sea Kelp Soak, a Seaweed Body Polish, an Alaria Sea Wrap and a Wild Seaweed Oil Massage for $495.

Best City Spa

Sweetgrass Spa
111e Queen Street East, Toronto, ON

Need a quick escape from city life? Look no further than the Sweetgrass Spa, one of Toronto’s best-kept secrets. Its assortment of menu offerings, all provided by senior staffers, makes for a first-rate experience every time. Opt for a Working Girl mani/pedi ($80 for 60 minutes) or indulge in one of the signature treatments, like the Lomi Lomi (“loving handsâ€) massage ($125 for 60 minutes). Originating in Hawaii, this unique massage is based on flowing movements that mimic the ebb and flow of waves. The provider uses her forearms and hands to knead and stroke your body for a thoroughly relaxing experience. But, really, it’s the Sweetgrass extras that let you indulge in a luxurious escape without the price tag of a full-on getaway: The decor is warm and inviting, the locker rooms are spacious, and guests can enjoy champagne and cocktails in the lounge or order from the award-winning George Restaurant from the comfort of their cozy robe. Ahh, what hustle and bustle?

Best Anti-Aging Treatment

Santé Spa
508, 24 Avenue SW, Calgary, AB

The Santé Spa has locations in Calgary and Victoria. I checked out the recently renovated Calgary spot to try its anti-aging facial – an experience I won’t soon forget. From the moment you enter, you get a sense that you matter. There’s a balanced treatment plan that offers both clinical and aesthetic approaches to your services, and your provider talks you through every step. “People respect our commitment to excellence,†says marketing director Heather Greene. “Customization is a trademark of the spa, and we work with clients to find the best programs for them.†My facial is 90 minutes of pure bliss. It starts with a cleansing, followed by several treatments that are deftly applied by skilled hands, including an alpha and beta hydroxy peel for deep exfoliation and an anti-free radical mask to soothe stressed skin. My skin is literally glowing and so evenly toned at the end of the treatment, I really do feel younger.

Service: Santé Signature Anti-Aging Facial, $190
Duration: 90 minutes

Most Innovative Treatment

Jane’s Skin Care and Day Spa
2323 Smith Street, Regina, SK

Truth be told, I don’t know what to expect when I walk up the steps of Jane’s Day Spa to experience the Indian Head Scalp Massage, but I walk away very satisfied. Before we begin the treatment, my provider and I breathe in unison, inhaling eucalyptus oils to soothe the senses. Few words are exchanged as my provider explains that she’d rather search out my problems with her hands rather than hear about them from me. This unique treatment is essentially a massage with soulful undercurrents: It begins at the shoulders and ends at the scalp and skull. Repetitive rubbing and stroking and gentle pressure at key points add up to a tension-releasing session. It is a transformative experience: Initially, my breathing is rapid and shallow, but 60 minutes later, it is deep and long. Take it from me, you’ll have imaginative, colourful dreams. Very cool experience!

Service: Indian Head Scalp Massage, $69
Duration: 60 minutes

Most Unique Spa

Inn on the Cove & Spa
1371 Sand Cove Road, St. John, NB

A view of the sea, inviting hosts and well-packaged spa services combine to create a unique experience that you won’t get elsewhere in Canada. You’ll find this little treasure on the outskirts of Saint John, on a rolling bit of property that overlooks the Bay of Fundy. Innkeepers Ross and Willa Mavis are a friendly and enthusiastic couple who want only one thing: for guests to enjoy themselves. Whether you’re experiencing the spa, spending the night or just staying for dinner, they aim to please. Mother Nature plays along: Everywhere you look, you get the same intoxicating sights of sea, sand and cliffs. Most rooms offer this exquisite view, and once your treatment is over, you can relax with a cup of tea and be lulled by the rhythm of the waves or close your eyes and just listen to the wind sing through the trees. If you plan ahead, you can make reservations and stay for dinner, where unique menus are created using local ingredients. As for the spa, there’s a good selection of services – the usual mani, pedi and massage – with nicely packaged options to extend the experience. I try out The Stress Buster (dubbed the “scrub, tub and rubâ€), which starts with a full-body exfoliation, followed by 30 minutes in an oversized, jetted tub filled with Oligomer Lyophilized sea water for an energy boost. My treatment ends with a soothing smoothing of hydrating body lotion. The spa uses Phytomer products – a lovely treat!

Service: The Stress Buster, $159
Duration: 90 minutes

Best Boutique Spa

Wedgewood Hotel and Spa
845 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC

Looking for a more intimate spa experience? Call the good folks at the Wedgewood, a boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Small in size only, this spa – which opened its doors in 2003 – is full service, offering everything from facials and massages to manis and pedis. I opt for the Chocolàt Vanilla Decadent Body Treatment – and I’m not disappointed by the sweet treat. It begins with a brown-sugar-and-vanilla scrub. Once your skin is buffed, a warm, silky Chocolate Crème Mineral Mask is applied, limb by limb. You are wrapped in this silky smoothness and pass the time with a head and scalp massage. Hot towels cleanse away the mask, and a chocolate-scented lotion seals the deal. Not only does it feel good but it’s also good for you: The magnesium and zinc in the chocolate relax your muscles and soothe away inflammation. It’s 90 minutes of pure nirvana.

Service: Chocolàt Vanilla Decadent Body Treatment, $195
Duration: 90 minutes

Best Medi-Spa

Glow Medi Spa
70 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON

You had me at hello.… Cosmetic physician Diane Wong is the owner of Glow Medi Spa – an established business in the heart of Toronto – and she’s engaging from the get-go. There are a couple of things I love about this spa, and they both revolve around Wong. She’s a walking advertisement for natural-looking beauty, and she personally performs all injections for Botox and fillers herself, so you know that you’re getting the best service. And her mission is simple: Help women look their best, not different. To that end, each treatment plan is tailored. “We take pride in how we educate our clients on all available options,†she says. “We work closely with you to build a trusting relationship so that you can make the decision on what best suits your needs, budget, schedule and desired results. I don’t want to give anyone that scary Hollywood look; I just want to help women look better. If you look better, you’re more confident and happier.†And, because she is a physician, Wong’s range of services offer higher concentrations of active ingredients than you would find over the counter or at a cosmetic spa (for example, her glycolic chemical peels are 30 percent or higher versus the under-10 percent you’d get elsewhere), and that means more dramatic results for you. Glow’s well-rounded menu includes Fraxel laser treatments and skin resurfacing, photorejuvenation (intense pulsed laser), laser hair removal, laser spider-vein treatments and sclerotherapy.

Best Girls’ Getaway

Vintage Hotels
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

Shop, Shaw and spa – what more do you need to make the perfect weekend escape? Well, maybe a few great meals and a couple of wine tastings. The experience is ready and waiting for you in Niagara-on-the-Lake. For a little town, there sure is a lot going on here. For starters, there’s the internationally acclaimed Shaw Festival, which runs from April to November. In addition, there’s a myriad offering of wine tours, festivals, museums and art galleries. For shopping, an eclectic mix of contemporary shops and old-time bakeries dot the main street. If you come, stay at one of the Vintage Hotels: Pillar and Post, Prince of Wales or Queen’s Landing. They’re all award-winning hotels, each with a signature style and a slate of amenities. If one doesn’t have what you want, a complimentary shuttle is waiting to take you to your next desired spot. Highlights include high tea at Prince of Wales, a hot-springs soak at Pillar and Post and barbecue lunches overlooking the Harbour at Queen’s Landing. Each hotel boasts its own fine-dining restaurant, with a four-diamond rating from the CAA/AAA. At Prince of Wales’s Escabèche, chef Andrew Dymond’s menus are a mix of Niagara’s fresh flavours served with European flair. At Queen’s Landing’s Tiara, chef James Olberg puts a West Coast spin on French traditional cuisine. At Pillar and Post, chef Randy Dupuis likes to create “food without attitude†– old-country charm with a modern edge in the Cannery. There are two spas – a recently renovated Secret Garden Spa at Prince of Wales and a larger space at Pillar and Post called 100 Fountain Spa – and a plethora of traditional treatments to choose from, but we recommend the vinotherapy treatments at 100 Fountain Spa. There are four different selections, and each is created using grapes from local vineyards. A delicious treat – and no hangover to deal with!

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