Who doesn't love a schvitz? DC and Philadelphia Hotel Edition
September 27, 2017 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I am exhausted. I need to get away (though alas probably not until November). I am a very special heat-and-water-loving snowflake. I'm looking for hotels in Philadelphia and/or DC that are not Kardashian-level expensive, are located in the city centers, and feature really nice wet areas (sauna, steam room, hot tub, indoor pool) that are available to guests without also having to pay for other spa services. (I'd be cool with a small additional fee.)

While I do enjoy a massage, I don't want to have to shell out $300 for one just to get access to what I am really after: heat, water and quiet, in large quantities. I want to spend a couple hours a day dunking, sweating, and lolling on a chaise, and then I want to stumble back to my room for a nap. No manicures, facials or massages necessary or even desired.

What I have encountered so far that I don't want: saunas that are part of nearby health clubs that have contracted with the hotel to provide fitness facilities for guests; hotel pools that exist mainly to entertain children (enough of those in my life already, I'm trying to get away from them!). Basically I want the spa atmosphere but with no one touching me.
posted by soren_lorensen to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't exactly what you're looking for, and it's a little bit outside the D.C. city center area, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Spa World. The website doesn't confirm, but I've been told by those who have been there that you're able to rent a bed, and since it's open 24 hours, it's kind of like being able to sleep there? I'm sure there are hotels or AirBnbs nearby though. It looks kind of incredible. It is on my "I want to go to there" list.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:12 AM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know the Rittenhouse in Philly has a nice spa and pool complex -- indoor, which is an important consideration given it's going to be November. It does have a fitness center but it's part of the hotel. No guarantees re: children or other guests, and people do come in from outside for services, but maybe worth a look.

I have mixed feels about Spa Castle / Spa World mega-spas... I can't speak for the one in DC but the one in NYC felt a lot more like a water-oriented theme park than a relaxing experience. Very crowded, not super-clean, and yelling kids kept opening and slamming the sauna door. Also they make you dress in gendered uniforms, which I was Not Into. But that may not be true in DC.

This would be a longer trek than you want right now, but if you ever have an opportunity, you owe it to yourself to visit Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe, NM. It's basically a heaven constructed expressly for you.
posted by halation at 8:55 AM on September 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think your price limits will make this difficult for downtown DC, frankly. What is your upper limit per night? If it were me I would probably go to some place like the Watergate Hotel, but it is definitely not cheap!
posted by gudrun at 9:00 AM on September 27, 2017

Response by poster: I'm thinking $200/night or under. The Mandarin Oriental is juuuuust over my comfort limit for expense. I just didn't want recommendations for, like, the Four Seasons or the Ritz.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:28 AM on September 27, 2017

So, it's not in the DC area (although I live near DC and share this desire basically all the time), but my go-to for this particular need is actually the Qua Spa at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. I have literally orchestrated short hops to Las Vegas for no reason other than to go to that spa. It is my happy place. It sells day passes, and I have spent entire days there moving from the heated stone lounger to the four different pools (cold, scalding, hot, and tepid) to the dry sauna to the wet sauna to the ice cave, then breaks on the sofa for tea and infused water and snacks and naps. The locker room is an attraction unto itself. They have a robe-heating closet near the pools and stacks of chilled cucumber-infused wash cloths and warm towels everywhere. Sometimes you get a chatty hen party cycling through, but the vast majority of people only use it for an hour before their massages.

It's not hard to find decent flights to Las Vegas and also not hard to find last-minute hotel deals, especially if you can go between major conventions, so unless the Mandarin Oriental appeals (wet facilities are not quite as nice and I don't know if they still do day passes), I can highly highly highly recommend that particular escape route.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 9:46 AM on September 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Along the lines of what bowtiesarecool mentioned, a stay along Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Arkansas, might be up your alley. You could fly into Little Rock, rent a car, drive just about an hour, and have all kinds of options. It's a quiet, contemplative place to take a few days away.
posted by limeonaire at 10:07 AM on September 27, 2017

Hmm, with your price constraints, I would suggest staying in Old Town Alexandria, VA. It's a pretty place, walkable, and with some great restaurants, is within an easy Metro (subway) ride to downtown DC, and the prices will be more in line with your needs. The Embassy Suites might be one possible place.
posted by gudrun at 10:24 AM on September 27, 2017

The actual warm pool/hot pool/super-hot-pool/cool pool/frigid pool/sauna complex at Spa Castle in Queens is nude in the way Korean spas. So there are gendered uniforms in the co-ed sauna area, but the actual bathing complex is lots of naked old Korean ladies chatting away and splashing in the communal showers in the same room.

If you're looking for something a little more fancy, Aire Ancient Baths is not in a hotel, but is pretty damn perfect in ever regard except that they sell tickets in two hour blocks, and the heated rock loungers are not strong enough and populated by chatting people.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:29 AM on September 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was so excited about bowtiesarecool's tip that I did some digging around. Looks like the Caesar's in Atlantic City has one, though it's smaller than in Vegas. $50 if you aren't staying at the hotel, and may be included if you've got a room and are paying the resort fee.

A coupon good for Sunday through Thursday.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:34 PM on September 27, 2017

The Korean day spas in the area (Spa World mentioned above, and also Seoul Spa) are both very good for the atmosphere you are seeking, especially if you go on a weekday. Either would be great combined with a local hotel nearby.

If you are set on the hotel combo but could be flexible on location, check out options in Berkeley Springs WV.
posted by veery at 7:00 AM on September 28, 2017

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