Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spa Day in Chicago at Balance Spa

The other day, I treated myself to a spa day when I received a Travel Zoo email. The coupon - half off a 90 minute massage at Balance Spa at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel and complimentary use of the fitness facilities - seemed like a good deal, and it was local! I bought the voucher and made my appointment for a Wednesday morning.

After taking the Blue Line el train downtown, I entered the Palmer House Hotel from Monroe Street. I was pleasantly surprised. The last time I'd been at this hotel was in the early 1990s and I was unfavorably impressed by the outdated and stodgy feel to it. It seemed like someplace my Dad's friends would like (no offense, Dad!). But the property was completely remodeled in the early 2000s, and when I entered on this cloudy, cold March morning, I was greeted by smooth, ambient music and a beautifully designed interior that fed off the historic lobby - a must-see space which is stunningly gorgeous!
The lobby of the historic Palmer House hotel in Chicago.
 Designed in the 1870s by John M. Van Osdel, the decor is the epitome of opulence. After a bit of gawking, I made my way up to the 5th floor. A few feet off the elevator, the spa entrance is graced with an arrangement of illuminated columns that gradually change color in rythm with soothing, new age music.
Color changing columns of light in the reception area of the spa.
The receptionist was warm and gracious - not at all snobbish. I was offered a robe and some water, then escorted back to the waiting room. The room was like a small living room, with plush white and grey furniture and big windows facing onto the street. I used the ladies' room while I waited and was jealous of the decor. The entire room was tiled with large, marble tiles and the fixtures were lovely and elegant. There was even a steam shower available. The only negative was that the spa was a little on the chilly side, and I shivered a bit in my robe.

My massage therapist game in a few minutes later to get me. Her name was Alma, and I will definitely book an appointment with her again. Her technique was firm but also very relaxing, and I could feel the caring in her touch and manner. The next day, I really felt much less tension and soreness in my shoulder area.

The massage rooms are toward the back of the spa and felt very private. They were quiet, warm and dimly lit. It was very soothing.
The spa and salon space, where you can get a full range of services.
After my massage, I went to the 8th floor and enjoyed the fitness center. There were free classes, a free weight room and an exercise machine room. I felt a little shy about working out because the rooms were pretty crowded with fit 20 and 30-somethings, so I instead decided to swim some laps. I was able to use the nice, small locker room and then was thrilled to see I had the pool all to myself. I loved looking up through the skylight as I did backstroke laps. There were pool chairs, floaty toys, and large beach towels available. All of this was included with my massage. I felt like I'd really gotten a good deal.
The pool on the 8th floor featured a huge skylight. It was not large, but also not crowded, so it was very relaxing.
After my swim, I decided to have lunch at the hotel restaurant, Lockwood. While I appreciated the luxe decor and hush atmosphere, I unfortunately did not receive good service while I was there, and the food was kind of mediocre. Next time I go, I will try one of the many good restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.
Lockwood Restaurant

Since my first trip to Balance Spa, I have purchased three other Travel Zoo vouchers. I almost hate to tell people about it because I really enjoyed having the pool all to myself, but it was such a wonderful experience, and a lovely, relaxing day. Highly recommended, (and ask for Alma!).