I hadn’t been back to Providence Rhode Island in quite some time since leaving the East Coast. When I lived in Boston of course, it was an easy trek to Providence or Newport, great summer and fall weekend getaways, and we made those frequently enough, particularly during my first few years in the Boston area.
It was a fun filled trip in April making that NYC — Providence – New Haven loop and given that our time was mostly focused on family adventures, getting to a couple of spas was more than just a relaxing and welcome retreat.
We stayed at the Marriott Downtown in Providence and sometimes a Marriott experience is outstanding and other times a little more average depending on the location, but the Providence location was definitely a stand-out (see my write-up)!
I was astonished by how many on-site services they offered that especially catered to families — pool, gym, adjoining rooms, high end multimedia system in the rooms, etc etc. What I didn’t expect above and beyond that was a full service spa (and salon) on the grounds, where you can pretty much sign up for any treatment you’re craving at a particular time.
G SALON & SPA
Let’s start with my salon experience inside the Marriott, where owner Gina Gabai (below) is behind the curation of the salon itself, both from a design and offerings perspective. Her hires are top notch! While this may sound like an odd thing to say, her staff are joyful happy people who not only take great pride in what they do, but go above and beyond to make you feel pampered. Let’s be honest — not everyone in the service industry is joyful or happy.
It’s amazing how many high end spas simply don’t get that it’s not just about the treatments they offer or the relaxing lounge chairs centered amidst a waterfall and candles.
Stand-out spas understand that it’s entirely experiential, from the moment you walk through their doors. I was in for a haircut and later a facial, but when Gina saw the state of my hair (okay, so I’ve been traveling quite a bit this year and doing my own color – let’s just say that the color streaks were more than just a little uneven), she had a fix to make my natural hair color blend.
And so, as we uncovered the perils of the world, and told stories from Israel and Africa to everywhere in between, I had my hair colored and cut while overhearing conversations from other chairs. This is where I discovered that her staff were genuinely happy people — I wasn’t surprised to learn that they get so much repeat business from locals as well as travelers passing through.
If you’re not after a color or cut, you can also get a Keratin treatment, hair extensions (how fun — wished I had the time), manicures, pedicures, nail gels and enhancements, or a hydrating head and scalp massage — oh please, bring it on!! They do anti-aging body treatments for women, classic hot shaves for men, Yonka facials, lash and brow tints and something they refer to as threading as a way to remove unwanted hair, an option that apparently many women are now choosing over waxing. Who knew?
I hadn’t heard of it but decided to give it a try. Sure, it’s a little painful at first, particularly when you’re not used to having it done, but let’s be honest, so is waxing. Apparently threading lasts a little longer and you can be more precise making it a preferred way to shape the eyebrow as you remove bushy eyebrow hair. Ahhh yes, the things I learned in Providence!
The entrance to the salon from within the Marriott.
The treatment areas.
Divya, who originally hails from Nepal of all places, did my facial and eyebrows. Because of her “natural” upbringing, she prefers to use more down-to-earth techniques, which included not using a steamer before doing white and blackhead removal. Amidst her using natural enzymes and masks to exfoliate, we chatted about Nepal (was there in my early twenties) and the differences between Asia and the states and how that impacts what products you use and food you eat. It’s much harder to stay away from chemicals and processed food here than it is in Southeast Asia in particular.
She’s also trained in threading, so I was able to learn a lot about the technique before signing up for it. Two thumbs up and Bravo to Gina and her fun-filled team who ultimately get the pampering thang!!
Also a nice addition to know – even if you’re not staying at the Marriott, you can go here for a treatment — highly recommended — and parking is free.
The G-SALON & SPA (inside the Providence Marriott Downtown)
1 Orms Street
Providence RI 02904
401.272.8778 ext. 7040
THE BILTMORE SPA
The main thing to note about the Biltmore Hotel and their on-site spa is its historical significance. While I felt like I was woven into a family at The G Salon & Spa, the ambiance at the Biltmore is a bit more formal given that it’s part of its upscale elegant hotel property. In fact, there wasn’t even a receptionist at the front when I entered the spa itself, however it was fairly easy to navigate your way behind the spa’s walls and find the locker room and relaxation area.
The G Salon & Spa didn’t have a centralized area for this since the salon and spa area was separated, however the Spa at the Biltmore was mostly about more traditional massage and facial treatments. Less integrated if you like, once you signed up for your treatment, like many high end spas, you wait in the relaxation area until your therapist arrives.
The lounge area itself is quite relaxing with dimmed lights, magazines, candles, a nearby lemon-infused water tank and decaf organic teas. It was unfortunately a little too dark for me to get photographs on-site but let’s just say that albeit small, the room was a lovely meditation oasis.
A little more hands off, this is the spot to come if you know what kind of massage or facial you want and simply want a high end relaxing atmosphere to have it done. While I couldn’t decide between a traditional massage and a hot stone massage, and ultimately went for a more traditional one, the therapist was kind enough to add a sample of hot stone massage into the treatment at the end, so the most painful part of my shoulder could absorb and benefit from the deep heat. It was beyond heavenly.
The above photo of the hotel lobby will give you an idea of the hotel decadence, which has been all about luxury since it started in 1922, during an era of Louis Armstrong jazz, prohibition, speakeasies and Rudolph Valentino. When it opened, celebrated by a grand event, papers predicted it would be “the most elaborate social event ever to be held in the city.” Over 1,000 people attended the party, including local officials and several prominent New York City hoteliers, the building illuminated from top to bottom with more than 25,000 lights.
The original owners, New York entrepreneurs John Bowman and Louis Wallick, envisioned the Biltmore as a state-of-the-art luxury hotel. Almost twice the size of the Marriott Downtown where we stayed (more suited for family travel), the original 600-room hotel included a drugstore, printing shop, carpentry, rooftop gardens, chicken coops (yes really), an upholstery shop, and a photo lab. The Biltmore of the 1920s also had a choice of six different restaurants. And, in its heyday, the dance floor was once turned into an aquarium, complete with live fish, for a performance by Esther Williams. For Sonia Henie’s ice show, the floor was frozen solid.
Today, the 5 star property may not be quite as extravagant with as many bells and whistles as its 1920 version and certainly doesn’t have 6 restaurants on-site, but luxurious it remains, not to mention the fact that it is the most architecturally significant hotel in the city. Having a spa service here is more than just having a spa service….
Below is the bathroom/locker room area.
You can choose from natural oils – although I typically go with lavender, I went with eucalyptus to feel a bit more invigorated afterwards given that were slated to review a restaurant immediately after my treatment.
The Biltmore Spa does go beyond massages and facials for those after nail treatments, and state-of-the-art hair and makeup before a nice dinner or special occasion. The make-up and creative hair work is the result of so many brides and wedding guests who celebrate at the hotel each year.
I’d recommend signing up for your favorite “go to” treatment and then breathe in the grandeur of the hotel lobby. You can grab a drink at the Biltmore or dine at McCormicks & Schmicks, an upscale traditional restaurant on the main floor.
The Biltmore Spa
11 Dorrance Street
Providence, RI 02903
Complimentary valet parking is offered to all day spa guests.
PHOTO CREDITS: Photos not noted as Renee Blodgett in watermark are from the hotel property except for the threading photo. Threading eyebrow photo courtesy of Examiner.com.
Note: My services were hosted by the spas, but opinions are my own.