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Neighborhood Retreats

I’m in dire need of total-escape pampering, but I don’t have time for a three-day getaway. I’ll pay for the privilege, but where can I get a spa experience within cab distance?

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It may not feel quite like a trip to Miraval, but every halfway decent hotel in Manhattan has pushed its spa offerings beyond the banal and basic massage options into exotic scrubs, personal-trainer sessions, even early-morning treks across Central Park—and in most cases you don’t even have to check in to use the facilities. Anyone can sign up for the Peninsula’s half-day “Retreats’’ ($395), held on Sundays and Mondays twice a month (212-903-3910). After a brisk 8 A.M. “Nordic Walk” class in Central Park, followed by a rooftop yoga session, a protein-shake break, pool time, and a one-hour massage (plus full use of the spa facilities for the entire day), the Fifth Avenue crowds won’t even faze you.

If that’s more rugged than you’d like, consider the Zen-like, orchid-strewn peace of the Mandarin Oriental’s spa (212-805-8880). If you’re a guest, you can book a private yoga lesson ($180), and follow it up with a leisurely swim in the 75-foot lap pool with its city vistas; for another $50, you can hang out in the “Heat Experience” room, which includes, among other things, a “vitality” pool that’s essentially a supercharged Jacuzzi. Non-guests can book services like the two-hour “Time Ritual” ($465), which includes a foot soaking and a choice of various scrubs and massages. Prolong the illusion of serenity with a bento-box lunch of fish, fresh fruit, and salad ($60).

The Four Seasons Hotel (212-350-6420) will set up sessions in the park; for 80 minutes ($265), a trainer will take you running or Rollerblading, or just stretch you under the linden trees. You can follow those fresh-air exertions with one of the hotel spa’s new facials, like the microcurrent instant lift ($255) or the oxygen cellular renewal ($220), or opt for the 50-minute “Signature Therapy” massage ($180), which combines four techniques—Swedish, shiatsu, Thai, and reflexology—to reduce you to a puddle.

The Ritz Carlton has the country’s only La Prairie spa (212-308-9100); the latest treatment from that tony Swiss skin-care company is called “Essence of Energy” ($170). It starts with a full-body mask and citrus scrub, followed by warm and cool stones placed on the lower back and shoulders. The feet, meanwhile, are doused with aromatic oils and wrapped for extra softening. If that doesn’t work the kinks out of your system, get a one-on-one Pilates session ($150 for one hour) to untwist any lingering knots.

Even the stalwart Waldorf has spiffed up its health and beauty amenities. The Plus One spa (212-872-4970) has added treatments like the 80-minute “Lime Butterfly” ($195)—a blend of avocado, macadamia nut, hazelnut oils, wild lime blossoms, ginger, and sandalwood are stroked on the scalp, neck, and shoulders, followed by a full body massage. The “Peppermint Foot Fantasy” ($135) may be the ultimate treatment for sidewalk-weary New Yorkers: A cooling scrub/wrap/reflexology combo refreshes the feet, while a simultaneous head and neck massage undoes at least some of urban life’s daily damage.


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