A spa getaway is always a good idea and as a winter break shared with a good friend, even better. For Foodie Traveling Mom Connie Walsh, the cuisine is always a key factor on any trip. She found that the Spa at Norwich Inn ticked all the boxes and the food was as terrific as the treatments. She’s already thinking about returning.
A Delightful Girlfriends’ Getaway at the Spa at Norwich Inn
When February rolls around, visions of palm trees and white-sand beaches dance in the heads of the heartiest New Englanders. My bestie and I were no exceptions. Alas, neither of our schedules permitted that dreamy 7-night stay in some Margaritaville. What to do, what to do… We decided on a spa getaway and booked two-nights at Connecticut’s Norwich Inn and Spa and our treatments. Perfecto. We looked forward to unwinding and catching up on each other’s busy lives.
About the Norwich Inn
As spa aficionados, we were familiar with the property. It’s received many write-ups and awards, but we hadn’t been. Located in the historic town of Norwich, Connecticut—halfway between Boston and New York, it’s an easy drive from my home. A classic Georgian Colonial revival structure, it sits on 42 acres amidst gorgeous gardens, century-old oak trees and spring-fed ponds. It’s a member of the Historic Hotels of America.
A little history
Built in 1929, the Norwich Inn has a storied past. Its guests included the rich-and-famous of the day. George Bernard Shaw and Charles Laughton, presumably between Broadway gigs, old Blue Eyes and even the Prince of Wales. No word on Wallis Simpson though – but maybe.
Over the years, the property changed hands and fell on hard times, as we say in Boston. In the early ‘80s, it caught the eye of Edward Safdie, a major player in developing and renovating spas. He did just that, adding an oversized sumptuous spa and a plethora of villa condos. A decade ago, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (owners of the nearby Foxwood Casino) bought it. They treated it to a $15 million renovation that included redecorating the 49 rooms and suites.
Exploring and Discovering
We arrived at the Norwich Inn mid-day on a Monday amid a gentle snow-fall. We liked it at first glance. It offers a warm New England ambiance without overdoing the “Ye Olde.” Our check-in went smoothly, and we found our room more spacious than we expected, and nice enough. The beds were comfy.
Ready for lunch, we decided on the formal dining room. Kensington’s gives a nod to its 20th-century beginnings and is elegant enough that we could imagine the Prince and Wallis dining there—pinkies raised. It sits at the end of a broad window-filled corridor lined with bistro tables called the Palm Court. (Good to know – self-service urns of coffee are set out here at 7 am and there’s tea, hot cider, and scones from 3 pm until 4:30 pm).
The other dining venue is Ascot’s Pub. Just off the lobby, it’s a cozy-as-can-be knotty-pine paneled snug with a crackling fire.
To our surprise, we were the only guests wearing street clothes. Everyone was wrapped in an extra-large floppy white robe—and sporting flip flops. The robes are the uniform everywhere until 6 pm. It took us just a New York minute to get into ours.
The Spa at Norwich Inn
The Spa is well-laid out and spacious. (There are 37 treatment rooms tucked away off the corridors.) At its center, an atrium with a lap pool is banked by comfortable seating. On one side there is a well-equipped gym, and a room for fitness classes; on the other, a Relaxation Room. No cell phones or conversations above a whisper allowed in this candle-lit sanctuary. Pre and post treatments, guests curled up or stretched out on jumbo upholstered chaises with fleecy throws and pillows, dozing or immersed in their Kindles.
The locker room fills-the-bill, with a sauna, a hot tub and a eucalyptus-scented steam room. There’s a separate mani-pedi area and a full-service hair and make-up salon.
The Spa at Norwich Inn has its own sunny lobby where couches and chairs are grouped around a fireplace to toast your newly-manicured toes. A handful of dining tables sit around the perimeter. And—wait for it—a bar. One can belly-up for a smoothie or a green tea but don’t let its name, the Juice Bar, fool you. Wine, mimosas, Bloody Marys and Skinny Girl Margaritas are all on the menu. The Juice Bar also serves snacks and lighter fare.
French doors open to the manicured grounds when the weather is nice. During our stay, they framed an Instagram-worthy winter scene. The brochure shows smiling white robe-clad ladies nestled in Adirondack chairs on a summer’s day, drinks in hand. Note to self: book a warm-weather getaway.
Treatments and Services
The Spa offers as robust a list of services and treatments as one would expect, with the addition of some signature offerings. There’s always a few unique to the season, like the Cashmere Body Blitz—an exfoliation for dry, winter-weary skin and a springtime Blueberry-Lemon and Verbena Manicure. Treatments average 50 minutes but can be lengthened to 80 minutes upon request. Tips are added to the cost.
I enjoyed my hot-stone massage and adored the Body Blend—an invigorating scrub with coffee grounds mixed with oil that ended with rich shea butter massage and a body wrap. My therapist, Jamie, shared that it was one of their most popular treatments. A word about Jamie—she was one of the best therapists I have ever encountered and has been with Norwich Inn and Spa for almost 30 years. That says something about them both.
The Spa offers a complimentary daily morning walk and a meditation session. A rotating selection of classes including a cardio blast, yoga, stretching and water aerobics for an additional fee. It was just $18 each when we visited in February 2019. Deal. I did the Guided Meditation which was lovely, and Mat Pilates. Personal training is also available.
Food and the Norwich Inn
I checked out the menu online before pulling out of my driveway. I have nothing against quinoa and flaxseed, but I don’t hold with say, a bowl of kale and shaved brussels sprouts masquerading as a Caesar Salad. No siree.
The menus looked good and didn’t disappoint. Chef Lee Masten has achieved his goal of pleasing varied palates and vegetarians and carnivores alike. His riffs on a range of cuisines, Italian (Lamb Bolognese mmm) Asian and Middle Eastern were interesting and delish. And that included his old-school clam chowder. Gotta have that in a New England inn.
For those who want to eat healthier, the Norwich Inn offers choices such as sesame tofu with a bok choy and mushroom stir fry, and a Quinoa and Basmati Rice (etc. etc.) Dream Bowl. Each dish lists the calories, fat, protein, carbs and fiber.
My favorite lunch was a Raspberry Whole-Wheat Grilled Chicken Wrap, with tomato, raspberry pickled onions, avocado, and green chili Yuzu aioli. Yum. And at 425 calories, not too bad. That count didn’t include the sweet potato fries and a glass of vino. But I did mention I took that Pilates class.
Kensington’s is open for breakfast lunch and dinner and brunch on Sundays. Ascots serves lunch and dinner and you can also just pop in for a fireside drink and some of the house-made potato chips served with a trio of dips. We had dinner there on our 2nd evening.
Tuesday night is Ladies’ Night with half-priced appetizers and $5 martinis. (Don’t mind if we do.) We tucked into the Firecracker Calamari appetizer, ordered the signature Black and Bleu Burgers and just hung out, gabbing away. Why not? Wednesday’s agenda was a sleep-in, breakfast, and a pedicure.
Who was there
There were mother-daughter duos of varying ages, couples—more on the younger side — and gaggles of girlfriend getaways, including a bachelorette group. They happily indulged in post massage two-martini lunches – clinking glasses and all.
Traveling Mom Tip: Check out the Spa at Norwich Inn website for packages and promotions and the class schedule. Pre-book your treatments as soon as you can to ensure you get the times you want—especially if you are visiting on a weekend as it can get busy.
Beyond the Spa
The Foxwood and Mohegan Sun Casinos are nearby, and shuttle service is available. There’s a golf course practically next door, outlet shopping, and terrific antiquing in the adjacent towns of Mystic and Stonington. For a little ‘80s nostalgia plan a stop at Mystic Pizza. Yes, it really exists.
Read More: Fun Things to Do in Mystic, Connecticut
The Kid Factor
No one under 14 can enter the spa and partake of treatments or in fitness classes. Guests 14-16 years old must be accompanied by a parent and proof of age is required. The spa menu includes special services for teens.
Thoughts for a Family Trip
The Spa at Norwich Inn can work well for a family vacation. Book a villa condo—each has a galley kitchen and access to an outdoor swimming pool and tennis courts. All good to keep kids busy and entertained while Mom enjoys spa time. The outdoor and interactive Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime museum, and hugely popular with kids. A visit to the stellar Mystic Aquarium, home to beluga whales and one of three U.S. facilities holding Steller sea lions, is a must. The Connecticut shore begs to be explored.