When we heard that esteemed wellness brand Canyon Ranch was celebrating some milestone anniversaries, we knew it was time to plan a trip. A few weeks ago, we packed a bag and headed to Canyon Ranch Lenox, in the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts, for a long weekend ‘girlfriend getaway’ to reset, recharge, and review this historic property now celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Not familiar? The Canyon Ranch brand has been around for more than 35 years. Founded by Mel Zuckerman in the 1979, the resorts aim to educate on a whole health philosophy, treating mind and spirit as well as the physical body. Guests enjoy healthy living advice, full access to medical professionals, and a mix of Western and Eastern medicine. Today, the brand has properties in Tucson Arizona, Lenox Massachusetts, Miami Florida, and spa facilities in Las Vegas and on select cruise ship lines.
What to Bring:
Our pre-arrival ‘advisor’ counseled us that the dress code was casual, and we’re glad we took her literally. Workout wear is perfectly acceptable and practically ubiquitous during the day, and even dinnertime dress code consisted of casual slacks, sweaters and jeans. Bring a pair of hiking boots for the outdoor activities, and plan on at least one swimsuit for the indoor and outdoor pools. Robes, spa slippers and a tote bag are provided for your stay. You can even leave the makeup at home — there’s a full-service salon to do a pre-departure touchup, but it’s nice to spend a weekend fresh faced and au naturel.
Before you go, be sure to schedule services and activities in advance. The weekly schedule is posted at least a month in advance, and scheduling your preferred services and times lets you best plan out your day and secure the exact treatment or therapist you prefer. The staff makes this simple, thanks to a dedicated reservations line.
What We Loved:
Focus on Whole Health
Canyon Ranch doesn’t just treat the body with pampering spa services, they address the mind too. Thoughtful lectures from professionals address everything from addiction to the importance of mental fitness, and a full health facility allows for visits with top doctors, nurses, and nutritionists to design a custom program with individualized attention far beyond what you’d get at your doctor’s office back home. We can completely understand why some guests return each year for a full medical workup.
With the exception of alcohol, ask and you shall receive just about anything you desire when it comes to food at Canyon Ranch. The meals, mainly a la carte offerings, don’t skimp on flavor or real ingredients.
We ate everything from pizza and pasta to fresh fish on our stay, and never once felt deprived. Full nutritional information is provided with each dish, and help-yourself fruit and salad bars are always available in addition to on-the-go fruit baskets and tea/coffee stations during the day.
We loved the choice of a casual cafe setting or the more formal dining room for our meals, depending on our mood. Many of the items offered are Canyon Ranch signature dishes, meaning that you can find the items at more than one property, and recipes are often posted on-line to encourage you to try at home.
Don’t miss the regular lunch n’ learn (or dinner n’ learn) sessions — we discovered several fun tips for cooking healthy, including using a spray bottle to oil our veggies to limit calories and recipes including a ginger salsa that we’ve been recreating again and again since our return. You’ll find foods to meet almost every dietary restriction, including gluten-free, low sodium, diabetic and paleo options.
Had we had time, the hands-on cooking classes (an extra charge) would have been on our must-do list as well.
Serious Spa Services
The spa menu at Canyon Ranch is often imitated but never duplicated. We’ve yet to see a more extensive menu of well-executed services. Hands down, these therapists are top-notch, offering treatments worthy of the high price tag. Sample everything from traditional cleansing facials to Ashiatsu, a massage where therapists hang on bars above the treatment bed and get deep into the muscle with their feet. Reiki, acupuncture, scrubs, wraps and even special sleep-focused treatments ensure that guests never get bored.
We sampled the deep tissue therapy as well as the traditional Canyon Ranch massages. Both were among the best we’ve had. Spa rooms are small, yet well-appointed, although if you can, request one of the gorgeously-renovated spa suites, which offer private showers.
The Berkshires are definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in New England during the fall season. The small town is just a few minutes from the New York border and has long been known as an exclusive escape for New England’s well-heeled. Bellefontaine, the historic home that houses Canyon Ranch, was designed by the same architect who did the New York Public Library. It’s an enclave for the elite – people like James Taylor and Yo Yo Ma call this beautiful area home, and notable historic figures including the Astors, Edith Wharton, and Nathaniel Hawthorne have lived here.
We love that the property kept much of its historic charm. The library, at right, was the perfect place to curl up with a book in front of a roaring fire.
Fun ‘Extras’ and Theme Weeks
Canyon Ranch is one of the few all-inclusives worthy of the ‘luxury’ title. All meals and most activities are included in the cost of your stay, including more than 30 fitness classes daily. A spa allowance, generally permitting one 50-minute service per day, is also built into the cost as a credit. Weekly themes, ranging from sleep health to happiness to ‘intuition,’ add on extra activities to the already robust list. On the week we visited, we learned about everything from tarot card reading to makeovers to an overview of the metaphysical arts, plus fun regular activities like lunch n’ learn cooking demonstrations.
The guests themselves are one of the best parts of life at the Ranch. We met women of all walks of life — from young couples on babymoons to solo vacationers taking a break from stressful careers. For the most part, guests are friendly and welcoming, happy to share their tips and tricks for navigating a stay, and almost all eager to talk about past trips or planned returns.
What We’d Do Differently:
Depending on your age and fitness level, Canyon Ranch may be just what you need. But as a devotee of places like Soul Cycle and Orange Theory, we’re used to a bit more, shall we say, intensity in our daily workouts. Even the classes flagged as ‘difficult’ felt like an ‘easy day’ at our typical workout studios, and classes like “Restorative Yoga” felt at best like a relaxing hour spent laying on the floor. Of course, you’re probably taking several classes per day, and can always amp up the intensity on your own, so some of this is self-directed. When factoring in the average age of the guests we saw (mostly late 40s and above) though, we’d say that the level felt mostly right.
We were shocked by the lack of FitBits and FuelBands we saw on guests as well. It seems in our citified life that nearly everyone wears one of these trackers to the gym. At a wellness institution such as Canyon Ranch, we thought we’d see most, if not all, guests wearing such devices. Canyon Ranch could easily help guests quantify their experience if they provided these devices to guests at check-in, allowing them to measure steps taken and calories burned throughout their journey.
We’ve visited two other Canyon Ranch Spa locations before (Las Vegas and Miami Beach) and found Lenox’s facilities to be less than extraordinary — just a sauna, steam, aromatherapy steam and two heated jacuzzi-style pools. While the treatments were nothing but first rate, we’d say that the spa facilities themselves felt rather spartan compared to some of our more lavish spa experiences.
Here’s where Lenox falls. We understand the whole ‘you’re here for the experience, not the room’ pitch, but rooms resemble a Marriott more than they do a luxury hotel charging $1,000 a night. This is definitely the most spartan of the properties — Miami’s rooms felt decidedly more luxe. That said, the beds were comfortable, and we loved the extra touches like a sound conditioner, which helped us drift off to sleep during every night of our stay.
Why We’d Return:
Canyon Ranch did much ‘right’ in our weekend-long visit. The staff, for the most part, was friendly and welcoming, and we loved the opportunity to disconnect, unplug, and focus on ourselves and wellness.
Lenox is particularly attractive for its convenience — it’s a mere hour’s flight from our home in Washington, DC and a simple train ride away from major cities like New York and Boston.
It’s an ideal place for anyone looking indulge in a weekend away with friends or a significant other, to reflect alone, to re-set their wellness goals, start a fitness or workout plan, or recover from a traumatic event like divorce or an illness.
We’re happy to say that Canyon Ranch lives up to its reputation. We’re already planning our next visit — to the Miami property — for a few months out.