Combine the “oohs” of fall foliage with the “aahs” of some well-deserved R&R at a duo of Northeast wellness retreats, set up in the optimum fall foliage meccas of New York's Hudson Valley and the Berkshires, Massachusetts – each primed for a perfect Spa Weekend getaway from NYC or Boston. Opt for the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York (just over a 2-hour drive from NYC, or 3.5 hours from Boston), or the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (about 2.5 hours from Boston or 3 hours from NYC) – both centers offer wellness “R&R” retreats or more specialized, educational and experiential workshops (led by notable spiritualists, authors, etc.), not to mention a peak fall foliage spectacle set to burst forth on the scene in the coming weeks.
Head to the Hudson Valley, where the Omega Institute's charming campus of architecturally notable buildings and natural splendors unfolds on 195 scenic acres. Experience their mission of providing a wellness and personal growth experience firsthand by signing up for an R&R Retreat – you'll be granted access to daily classes in yoga, tai chi, movement, and meditation, as well as to the grounds and amenities, including tennis and basketball courts, nature trails through the heart of the foliage-speckled woods, a meditation sanctuary, and a 7,000-volume library. Opt for signature treatments at the Wellness Center spa like the Heart of the Lotus, a full-body dry exfoliation, followed by a massage, body wrap, specialized head, face, and scalp massage, and a short foot reflexology treatment (extra fees apply); just note the adjoining sauna is already closed for the season. Don’t miss taking a canoe, kayak, or rowboat out on Long Pond Lake – this recreation and wildlife haven (look out for the endangered northern cricket frog and the Blanding's turtles, a threatened species) is rimmed by a particularly brilliant foliage display, which is magnificently mirrored on the lake surface. Omega serves as a model for environmental stewardship; check out the free tour on Wednesdays and Saturdays of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, a state-of-the-art environmental education center and water reclamation facility – it’s the first green building in America to earn both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certification, the highest green building standards possible.
R&R rates also include three vegetarian meals per day in the dining hall, as well as basic, yet comfortable accommodations in cabins or dorm-style halls (just note, in the spirit of unplugging from life’s demands, there are no phones, TVs, or WiFi connections in rooms – though those jonesing for some web surfing time can catch a free signal in the Omega Café).
Accommodation packages start at $106/night (per person) for a weekend R&R Retreat; note that some rooms require appointed roommates if not traveling in a pair, while others lack heat/AC or require sharing baths; splurge on the fully renovated Green Rooms for the plushest digs on campus. Camping and day commuting options are also available. Note that the normal supplemental R&R retreat rates of $38/day on weekends or $25/day on weekdays are waived for the month of October, as part of a current promotion. Just hurry – the Omega campus closes for the season on October 31, and won't reopen again until late April (though winter programs are held in Costa Rica). 150 Lake Drive, Rhinebeck, NY; 877-944-2002; 150; www.eomega.org
Alternatively, leaf peepers looking to leave it all behind should make way for the Berkshires, where the Kripalu Center crowns a hilltop overlooking 300 scenic acres. R&R retreats here are filled with robust daily offerings, with daily schedules overflowing with workshops, guided outdoor activities (hiking, biking, kayaking), and yoga and meditation classes (among others). Ground highlights include a meditative labyrinth, men and women's whirlpools, a fitness room overlooking a Zen garden, walking and hiking trails, and private lakefront beach at serene Lake Mahkeenac. The Healing Arts center features some of the best practitioners in the business – sample some of their magical handiwork with the back-to-back 50-minute aromatherapy massage and energy balancing or Reiki treatments for just $135.
Bunk down in simple, but comfortable lodgings, where, like at Omega, you’ll be devoid of such distractions as TVs and telephones. We recommend the eco-friendly lodging in The Annex building. Completed in 2010, it's noted for its sustainable design elements, which allow the structure to consumes 40 percent less energy than a conventional building of its size. Included meals of tasty “natural-foods cuisine” are served buffet-style at the main dining hall; note breakfast is for silent dining only. (Tip: Don’t miss a splurge on a bag of Kripalu’s freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, available for purchase at the Kriplau Café – they're hands-down, amongst the best we’ve ever had). Rates for R&R weekend retreats start at $181/night (per person) for the most basic dormitory style lodging and $315/night for lake-side “standard plus” rooms (based on a share), and include all meals and R&R programs. While you’ll miss the foliage, budget-minded visitors can find discounted pricing packages during select periods later in the season from November through March. 57 Interlaken Rd., Stockbridge, MA; 866-200-5203; www.kripalu.org
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