Is there any vacation more synonymous with relaxation than a trip to Canyon Ranch? I think not. My hubby and I were in need of an actual vacation–one where we actually could relax and unwind. Now, I know many of my friends out there think that being a travel writer is a great gig–and it is! But, it is WORK. Most of my vacations consist of me running endlessly from one meeting to the next, one photo shoot to a property tour with little down time in between. Now, many of those meetings consist of fabulous meals and activities but sometimes a girl just needs to rest.
I had heard great things about Canyon Ranch and after a 5 night stay there (we paid by the way) I am happy to report that it was everything I thought it would be. I had been to Canyon Ranch in Miami when it existed (the space is no longer affiliated with Canyon Ranch) and I loved it there so I was excited. Though I did have a few concerns–the hotel was only a 4 star property unlike its sister in Tucson. It also has a strict no alcohol policy–be still my heart. But it was only a three hour drive from the city so we decided to try it out.
If you’re going, get ready for an active vacation sweetened with endless activities and a sense of serenity that will follow you home. No matter what time of year there are indoor and outdoor activities year-round, including dozens of daily fitness and mind-body classes, guided hikes, bike rides, indoor tennis, canoeing, stand-up paddle board, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, a High Ropes Course, croquet on the great lawn and much more. It is a great place to experiment with new activities that you might not try elsewhere. You can do Barre classes, spinning, boxing, yoga, meditation and everything in between. It’s a great place to learn new things you may never have tried before.
Here is a taste of what I found during my experience…
The drive to Lenox, Massachusets where Canyon Ranch is located is just a few minutes over 3 hours–as long as you don’t hit any traffic. When you pull in a valet takes your luggage and shuttles it straight to your room or into storage if you arrive befoe 3pm (check-in time).
Canyon Ranch offers complimentary pickups from Albany International Airport and Bradley International Airport (Windsor Locks, Connecticut) and the Albany (Rensselaer, New York) train station, or the Lenox bus stop.
Welcome Amenity? Upon check-in you’re given a Canyon Ranch bag, t-shirt and water bottle. There is also wild berry tea in the lobby and fresh fruit available.
Canyon Ranch in Lenox, is located in the heart of the Berkshires. The centerpiece of the property is the century-old Bellefontaine mansion. Built in 1897, Bellefontaine had been a private home, seminary and then a boarding school, but when the owners of Canyon Ranch saw it, it was empty and gutted by a fire. The mansion was restored and there were also New-England-style buildings added in keeping with the local surroundings. Ooh and fun fact, the spot has always been a classic vacation destination– it was once home to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edith Wharton and Norman Rockwell. So you’re in good company when you come to stay!
Canyon Ranch’s architects worked to ensure that their restoration of the Mansion was fully authentic, using materials and techniques consistent with the turn of the last century. Success! In addition, they meticulously restored the beautiful Library, the only room that had not been destroyed by fire, to its original dignity. It’s absolutely gorgeous! This was one of my favorite spots to hang. In the winter I would just LOVE to come here and sit by the fire.
Bellefontaine Mansion is where you’ll find the Media and Billiards Room, Fieldstone lounge (complete iwth fireplace), Cafe, main dining room and Cafe Jardin are housed (seasonal). This is also where the integrative Health Center is (you come here for Physical Therapy, sleep medicine, acupuncture, etc.). Then one building over is the Spa Complex, which of course houses the spa, gym, beauty salon, tennis courts and also the Yoga Studio and Pools (indoor and out). Then finally is the Hotel Complex where you’ll find guest rooms, the main hotel lobby and guest services as well as many of the rooms where the seminars are held.
Fitness Center? Everything you can imagine, new machines, great equipment. There are also 3 indoor tennis courts and 3 outdoor Har-Tru courts as well. There is a racketball court, a squash court and they offer wallyball too. I’ll get more into this later.
Classes? Most of the instructors were fabulous. Some weren’t my cup of tea but that’s because they have lots of different styles and techniques. Everyone can find someone that fits their personal preferences, which I liked.
Adults Only Pool? Only supervised teenagers are permitted at Canyon Ranch so don’t worry about a rowdy pool scene or anywhere! Yay!
Pretty basic, this isn’t really a hangout like it is at most hotels. It houses guest services and this is where you check-in. While there is a small sitting area, you don’t spend much time here. They do though have a movie library of over 1600 DVDs and several board games that guests can borrow for no charge.
Probably one of your first questions is what is included. The price of your stay includes food, non-alcoholic beverages, classes, complimentary access to spa facilities and lots more. When it comes to the classes, the VAST majority of them are included in your stay. I was concerned that I would feel the need to sign up for extra classes like stand up paddling or the ropes course but found that I was completely satisfied with the inclusive offerings. The additional classes in my opinion are quite overpriced and not necessary. In fact, we had so much to do that we found it hard finding time to schedule spa treatments. Oh, it’s also worth noting that it is a non-tipping facility. That means, tipping is included in all of your classes, services and meals. Of course if someone is exceptional you can do as you wish but it makes things very relaxing not having to bring a wallet anywhere. (I emailed the hotel about this because I’m never sure what that means exactly. I was assured that employees are compensated to take this fact into account so you can feel comfortable not tipping, or at least not tipping a full 20% because they are receiving something).
I recommend meetings with a program coordinator at the beginning of your stay. They’ll discuss what you hope to get out of your stay and help you come up with a loose schedule–but you don’t want to be too regimented. Make sure you find some time to relax around the stunning property. I highly recommend doing as many of the classes as possible. I loved every single one that I went to. I thought I hated meditation but it turns out I just never had a good teacher. Also, the seminars and cooking demonstrations are really wonderful.
I was also concerned that classes would fill up or that I wouldn’t be able to to everything I wanted to do. Unless it says so on the schedule, everything is on a first come, first serve basis. During our stay, we never had a problem with anything. Most classes were relatively small and it was never even close to shutting people out.
At check-in they’ll give you a schedule for the week, I highly recommend taking some time to see what you want to do at the beginning. Time flies when you’re having fun! Oh and be sure to take the hiking trails around the property! It’s stunning!
We were in the West Wing in room 176. We had a deluxe suite. This is the lowest class of rooms offered and it was still very nice–a very high quality four star property. There are also executive rooms (which are a little bigger and have a more convenient location) and luxury suites, which are another step up.
The rooms have quaint New England decor. It feels almost as if your room could be in a modest B&B. The rooms are very lovely, they feature Mascioni Italian linens, a DVD player, mini-fridge, in-room coffee and tea, umbrellas and an iron/ironing board. The alarm had a docking station but for iPhone 4 connection but you could plug in a USB.
There were also terry cloth robes, which are a must at a spa resort but then they had two very special amenities–they had a pillow menu and a sound machine. You could also order body pillows and satin pillowcases (which you know I did!).
I would say that the rooms could definitely use a refresh but they were still comfortable and very clean.
Closet/Dresser Details? There is room in the closet for storage but there weren’t any drawers to unload your suitcase.
Turn-Down Service: Yes or no, you can choose at check-in.
Bottled Water? There are water machines all over the property. They also give you a reusable bottle at the beginning that you can refill (BPA free)
Coffee maker? Yes.
Reading Material in the Room? Yes, Berkshires magazine.
White Glove Inspection: Everything was very tidy. Nothing gave me the ick factor at all. Linens were very clean had no marks from previous guests. I felt at home in no time.
The bathroom was lovely. It felt very spa-like to me. The lighting was very low and soothing. This was probably my favorite part of the room. There was one sink in the bathroom and plenty of counter space. There was also another sink in the foyer of our room. Made things very quick in the morning when getting ready.
Shower? Regular showerhead, good pressure.
Makeup Mirror? Yes, and it lit up. My favorite hotel amenity! Also necessary because the room and the bathroom were not super bright.
Hairdryer? There were two actually. A small one that was connected to the wall and another larger more high-powered one. Neither were too great but they got the job done.
Designer Toiletries? Special bamboo brand they have throughout the property and spa.
Towel quality? Good.
Amenities? There was shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash, face soap, shower cap and floss. There were also Q-tips and Cotton Balls. They were in a large open container, this kind of freaks me out because I don’t think they empty the entire thing in between guests.
The Food & Drink
Not going to lie, people, I was worried about what the food would be like at Canyon Ranch. Was I going to be just eating lettuce meal after meal? Nope! I can’t tell you how impressed I was. And the dining experience at Canyon Ranch is just as thoughtfully designed as the food itself. I was so impressed by the quality, variety and incorporation of local and seasonal ingredients. Oh and don’t even get me started on dessert! I actually gained weight here, which is a feat because we played 3 hours of tennis a day in addition to doing several workout classes. I think we ran into trouble when our waitress offered to wrap us up blueberry cobbler to eat in bed! By the way that’s the best dessert.
The first thing that is important to know is that all meals – with as many courses as you want and whatever sides and helpings as you wish – are included in your stay. So you never need to consider the price or even wait for a check when you’re finished. I was also somewhat worried about judgmental employees if my husband and I ordered the whole menu. As you probably know by now if you’re a regular, I LOVE to eat! LOVE it. One of my best friends calls me a skinny fat girl. We found that the waitstaff was excited for your dining experience and wanted you to try everything that they considered to be the best. However, if you tell them that you’re there for weight loss they were also very supportive, helping choose the best healthy choices.
You’ll also find nutritional information in place of prices. Healthy snacks are always available. They had options like almond butter and carrots, crackers, granola, and even a couple of smoothies. Including a green smoothie! Hooray!!!!!!! And you could add protein powder to it! I was in heaven. There was also an espresso bar for your latté lovers out there!
And whether you choose to enjoy a meal in the Dining Room, Demonstration Kitchen, Cafe, or, weather permitting, in the idyllic, outdoor Café Jardin, you’ll find knowledgeable servers and tons of tempting options.
I personally recommend dinner at the café at least one night during your stay. While you need reservations for the main dining room, you can just come on into the café. We sat at the bar where we could oversee the very talented chef (Kyle Nottingham) handmaking his brick-oven pizzas, fresh salads and seafood. The food here was totally on par with a NYC restaurant. In fact, I told him he could fit right in in Brooklyn! And he could. We loved it here, and even though the menu didn’t change we ended up eating here 3/5 nights during our stay.
Alcohol Policy? Canyon Ranch is an alcohol-free facility. However, you are free to bring your own booze. You can keep it in your room and consume it there. However, I found it kind of depressing to do– to be locked away in private. So instead we just put it in coffee cups and stayed away from other guests. We got board games one night and sat in the lounge, sat on the lawn one night and watched the sunset. I think that as long as you’re discreet about it no one will mind.
Specialty Cocktails? At the cafe they’ll make you this gorgeous little non-alcoholic spritzer with sparkling water, pomegranate juice and orange and lime! There are also tea and coffee stations all around the property, which I loved. Stocked with fabulous, high-quality organic tea.
The 100,000 square-foot Spa is one of the main events at Canyon Ranch. Work hard, play hard, then relax and stuff your face! The Spa is home to saunas, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gyms, exercise studios, and indoor tennis, racquetball, squash and basketball courts. Here is the lobby here.
All the buildings by the way are linked to one another by climate-controlled, glass-enclosed walkways, so you have convenient access year-round to spa and fitness facilities. Here is a list of all the rooms:
- State-of-the-art cardio & weight rooms
- Dance & yoga studios
- Pilates/Gyrotonic® studio
- Indoor cycling studio
- Indoor racquetball, squash & basketball courts
- Indoor tennis courts
- Indoor running track
- 75-foot indoor pool
- 50-foot outdoor pool (seasonal)
- Gracefully appointed locker rooms with saunas, steam rooms & whirlpools
- Spa treatment rooms
And here is what is provided in the locker rooms:
- Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, hand lotion, combs, hair ties and other sundries (Please check with locker room attendants for other amenities like razors and shaving cream.)
- Curling irons and flat irons (in the women’s locker room)
- Hair dryers
- Moisturizer and body lotions with 25 SPF and waterproof
- 30 SPF sunscreen (also available in pool areas)
- Plastic tote bags
- Rubber sandals
- Terry cloth robes
The relaxation area is very nice with two very beautiful jacuzzis (each a different temperature). There are a variety of high-quality teas available but there are not any snacks (I still dream of the cookies at Acqualina Spa). You can sit on the comfortable chairs and read magazines while you wait for your treatment. Guests can also use the facilities at any time.
I had a Thai Muscle Melt for Road Warrior massage during my visit and it was incredible! Very authentic, they used the same herbal pouches that they did on my honeymoon in Thailand (which you can take home). The massage was $175 and it was 50 minutes. A little on the pricey side but the therapist definitely was very professional and skilled. You get what you pay for!
The Little Things
Did I feel truly welcome by the staff? Many staff members are incredible–warm, welcoming and great at what they do. But then there is a small percentage of the staff that seems to suffer from the same weird attitude problem. It’s a mixture of snarkiness and irritation. We noticed this unfortunately in a few staff members. However, we did meet many more fabulous people than the bad. The majority of staffers went out of their way to help but we did encounter some strange ones on more than one occasion so just be prepared. Our favorite teacher was Antoinette. Take spinning or meditation with her. She is the picture perfect Canyon Ranch staff member you would envision. We heart her. Here I am dead after her class!
Wi-Fi? Yes. Complimentary.
Mini-Bar? No alcohol but each room does have a refrigerator. They stock cream in these for coffee but it isn’t fresh so not quite sure why they put it in the fridge haha. Our first one did not work but they brought another in the next day.
Where do Most Guests Hail From? Most of the guests were from the East Coast. Lots of people from Boston, Philly and New York.
The Property is Gorgeous: That is all! You need to wander its gorgeous grounds to appreciate every detail!
Room for Improvement
I think that the rooms could be updated (which I believe they are in the process of) but what the rooms lack, the grounds and facilities make up for. and perhaps the staff could undergo some customer service training. At check-in we asked where to get smoothies and were told by two different staff members that they didn’t have a smoothie bar–but they do–it’s in the Café FYI. Oh and I wish the restaurants served dinner just a little bit later. I know they want you to go to sleep early but I wish the café stayed open until at least 830 or 9 (it closes by 8).
The Wow Factor(s):
My most memorable experience was the program. I loved every class I took and the seminars were incredible. I learned so much and truly have never felt so relaxed in my life. And this comes from a New York City girl who is always running around and thought she hated meditation and anything having to do with slowing down. I stand corrected and have emerged with a much healthier attitude on life.
The Bottom Line: Would I recommend it? Am I coming Back?
Absolutely. I hope to come here often in the future. It’s the perfect relaxing getaway for people from New York in my opinion.
Canyon Ranch Lenox Massachusetts Information
Address: 165 Kemble St, Lenox, MA 01240
Cost: Rooms start at $345 during off-season and about $1200 during high season.
*Disclaimer* I was given a small media discount but paid the majority of our stay. I was also given a free massage for review purposes. All opinions herein are my own. You can’t buy the love here, people! Just ask my husband!