Relax in Orlando: Open Up and Say 'Spa-aaah'

A visit to the spa is nothing less than a life enhancer. If you're stopping by after work, it's a way to decompress. If you're going while on vacation, it's almost "enjoyment insurance," a surefire way of getting your mind and body to a place where you'll be able to squeeze every last ounce of joy out of your time off. Whether you're fond of fancy facials or mad about mani-pedis, the Orlando area is rife with options that suit every taste and every budget. Some, like the Mokara Spa, located within the golf-centric Omni Resort Orlando at ChampionsGate, are ideal for sports-related treatments. Others, like Thornton Park's Spa Orlando or Winter Park's Pia Esthetics, are not only local favorites, but well-located for exploration of some of Orlando's funkiest neighborhoods. Whether you're looking for expert hair and makeup services for a once-in-a-lifetime event, a deep-tissue massage to render stiff muscles into wet noodles, or an expert manicure so beautiful it will reawaken your long-lost dreams of international hand modeling, Orlando - undoubtedly - has a spa to suit.



Welcome to Bali by way of the Sunshine State. Mandara, known throughout the world for their soothing opulence, provides a quiet respite for meditation away from the chaos (fun though it may be) of the theme-park capital. Indulge in sensory delights via facial, mani-pedi or signature massage with room for meditation in one of their lovely interior gardens. Also on tap, signature therapies such as the Elemis Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Facial, Mandara Hot Stone Therapy, Elemis Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage and Ionithermie Cellulite Reduction Treatment. Though any of the above will prove useful in de-stressing after a few days of theme park madness, that last one might offer you a little leeway when it comes time to order dessert.

From body scrubs to Brazilians, prenatal massage to mainstay mani-pedis, the Spa always gets it right, which is why they're consistently ranked among the locals' favorites. The massage menu includes aromatherapy, Swedish, hot river stone and reflexology, the latter concentrating on pressure points in your feet to promote circulation and healing. Enjoy complimentary coffee, tea and vino as you luxuriate and unwind, either during your treatment or in between several. Additionally, The Spa's location in fun and funky College Park gives visitors access to an area exploding with prime, local to-dos, which makes planning drinks, meals or shopping before or after your treatments a breeze.

The cozy-quaint vibe of Orlando's Thornton Park neighborhood follows you right inside the Spa Orlando, where sumptuous treatments await your body and mind with minimal sting to your wallet region. From basic mani-pedis to full-body massages to spa parties where five or more guests can enjoy a couple of half-hour treatments along with refreshments and camaraderie, this local business serves up relaxation and luxury with a side of friendly and fun. Clean and quiet confines and quality staffers (strong, soothing therapists' hands are a bonus) are the heart of the operation. Enjoy your serene experience, then head out into charming Thornton Park for a drink, a bite or even a stroll around lovely Lake Eola.


Neroli is an oil produced from the flower of the bitter orange tree, but there is little doubt from the moment your Neroli Hot Stone Massage begins that they named this lovely citrus varietal all wrong. In fact, the entire Eforea Spa experience at the Hiton Orlando is one of bliss, whether you pop in for an unplanned pedicure or are going "full honeymoon" with the $425 Poolside Cabana Package â€" a daylong experience that includes two custom 50-minute massages â€" this is a place where we'd say memories are made .... except the excellent staffers here have a way of inducing relaxation-based amnesia. Better bring a friend and take selfies. You might think you were just having a wonderful dream.

A favorite of Orlando locals, Pia Esthetics Day Spa (a Florida-based operation with additional locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg) offers a diverse menu of services, from massages to makeup, manicures to microdermabrasion. Pia has won a couple of local "best of" awards in recent years for their waxing services (they specialize in Brazilian and Completely Bare) and is also popular for their gel manicures and pedicures using Shellac, OPI gel and Gelish products. Pia also features spray tanning by SunFX, which means you can go home with a guilt-free Florida tan your dermatologist will okay.

Doctor Phillips

The very first Woodhouse Day Spa opened just outside downtown Victoria in 2001 and since then its nimble fingers have worked their way across North America with much success. Orlando's outpost, located in the upscale Dr. Phillips neighborhood, is locally lauded for its sumptuous services, which include everything from hand, foot, body and facial treatments to waxing and even sleep treatments designed to help guests make the most of their much-needed rest. Luxurious treatment rooms are inviting, couples offerings romantic and packages are available to help those in need weed through all the offerings to find the perfect respite for proper rejuvenation.

Mokara recently ranked among Conde Nast Traveler's top 10 Spa Hotels in North America and its installation at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate will do wonders for your golf game, whether that means a pre-tee off massage to limber you up or a post-play soak to soothe the sting of all those mulligans. This property is home to 36 holes' worth of serious championship play, so why not indulge with a sports massage. Designed to ease areas of muscle tension and soreness with a variety of techniques, this massage helps increase range of motion and flexibility. That can't hurt when you're on the par-4 14th hole of ChampionsGate's International course.

Though this beautiful spa has been catering to the special needs of cancer patients since 2008, it welcomes everyone, making it an ideal place to bring a loved one whose body, mind and soul could really benefit from a menu of sumptuous treatments and state-of-the-art equipment, all of which is physician-approved. Treating the body along with the self-image is part of what makes Eden and its highly trained therapists so effective, and whether that means something as ubiquitous as a mani-pedi or waxing or specialized, like lymphedema therapy or a boutique showcasing fashionable headwear, Eden delivers that priceless boost. Additionally, most of the products used here are either organic or vegan.

The Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain is a 24,000 square foot facility that includes 22 treatment rooms. Body therapies, massages and other treatments geared toward rejuvenation, cleansing and overall well-being aid melt away the stress of the weary traveler and help leisure travelers sink deeper into the magnificent melt known as "vacation brain." Go a la carte or indulge in one of their half-day spa packages and if you're going to visit the expansive fitness center, or perhaps enjoy an hour-long yoga class, do so beforehand. Once you're appropriately tenderized you'll be better suited for a pre-dinner nap than a treadmill 5k.

Three levels. Forty treatment rooms. Forty-thousand square feet. Oh, and it's the Ritz-Carlton, so you know they pull out all the stops. Go alone or for a girls' or couple's day, begin in the co-ed relaxation room (where you can meet up and compare notes between treatments) or go whole-hog and get yourself a pampering cabana for poolside service by the outdoor, heated lap pool. The Spa Cafe, which you might hit up before, after or even in between treatments, strives for health and balance on its menu as much as its namesake. Well, except maybe the "Indulgence Burger," but spa means different things to different people and an hour-long foot massage definitely classifies as an indulgence.


Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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