Living history, spa treatments and roller coasters

BySTACEY MORRIS, SPECIAL TO THE JERUSALEM POST
March 7, 2010 02:22

Colonial Williamsburg has something for everyone.

williamsburg spa

williamsburg spa 311. (photo credit:Courtesy)

WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – There are history books, and then there’s living history, a far more interesting mechanism for learning. And in the United States, historical tourism’s gravitational center is the town of Williamsburg.

The heart of the town, also known as Colonial Williamsburg (www.history.org), is a snug nucleus that pays homage to the United States’ early history with dozens of original buildings, including homes, shops, and public buildings scattered over 301 acres – most on their original foundations.



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Visitors can march with fife and drum troops, take part in a witch trial, or fire questions away at historical characters such as Thomas Jefferson, who walks the streets attired in powdered wig and period dress. Events and activities are plentiful and change weekly, but visits to Colonial Williamsburg will likely entail a combination of walking tours, military exercises, trade demonstrations, musical performances, and political speeches.

The heart of Colonial Williamsburg is Merchants Square, a brick-lined, 18th century village filled with retail shops and restaurants.


One of the square’s crown jewels is the Kimball Theatre, a nearly 300 year-old brick building that is home to plays, live music, and the annual Virginia Peninsula Jewish Film Festival. Each year the festival features a diverse set of award-winning films tied to the universal themes of individuality, family, community, and cultural conflict.

Also nearby are the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

For those with a taste for thrills, there’s the 350-acres of Busch Gardens (www.buschgardens.com), a playground for all ages featuring 50 rides and attractions.

Perhaps the most famous is the Griffon, the world’s tallest roller coaster. There’s also a Sesame Street village, water rides, concerts, and plenty of dining and shopping choices.

But Williamsburg is becoming known for more than just being ground zero for Colonial history. It’s also the perfect place to choose the option of pampering, and only a few miles from Merchants Square is the secluded oasis of Kings Mill Resort (www.kingsmill.com).

Set at the edge of the James River, the resort sprawls out over hundreds of rolling acres that include a marina, fishing pond, four golf courses, tennis club, five restaurants, a ballroom and convention center, and world-class spa and sports club.

After a day of tooling around Colonial Williamsburg, a pampering respite at the hands of the professional massage therapists, facialists, and manicurists is the perfect way to unwind.

Every detail at the spa induces an altered state of relaxation: from the décor’s soft palate of colors to the plushness of the recliners in the lounge, where fresh citrus water and herbal teas are sipped in between treatments.

Start out the experience by melting away the tension in the steam room or massive sunken whirlpool, and soon you’re being summoned to a private, dimly lit room for a massage. One of the most thorough is the Changing Season Sampler, which blends Swedish massage, aromatherapy, hot stone massage, reflexology and steaming warm compresses into a treatment so relaxing, you’ll think you’ve just indulged in a six-hour nap.

The Anheuser-Busch Company owns Kings Mill Resort, so it’s no surprise that the spa makes its own line of hops-infused lotions and creams.

Hops are climbing plants that are native to Europe, Asia and North America . Typically used for flavoring beer, hops is also known for having therapeutic qualities because of its 1-3 percent volatile oils which produce a sedative effect and promote sleep.

Spa staff members say that hops also has a calming effect on the nervous system and has been used to relieve muscle spasms and nerve pain, which is why it has been incorporated into massage oils and creams.

For those who prefer to forego shopping or sightseeing, full and half-day treatments of services are available, with healthy spa lunches served poolside or on the spa’s stone terrace overlooking the James River.

Also just outside the Colonial district is the Williamsburg Salt Spa (www.williamsburgsaltspa.com), a small but inviting custom-made cave crafted filled with salt blends from around the world.

According to owner Agnieszka Adamska, it’s the first salt spa on the east coast, and the third in the United States. Opening a salt spa stateside, it seems, is no small investment.

Adamska, a native of Poland, spent nearly a year transporting salt varieties from mines in Pakistan and Poland, where she said salt caves are common.

“In Poland, people have been using salt caves for centuries to improve their health and mood,” explained Adamska. “The secret of the salt is that it contains 84 different minerals. It also produces healthy negative ions, which purify the air naturally. It’s the opposite of unhealthy positive ions from computers and televisions.” Not only are the walls and ceilings made of salt, the floor of the cave is covered in a sandy carpet of soft, granular salt and branches of Polish birch are dipped in salt and placed in front of air vents to imbue the air with a gentle salt breeze.

“People love to visit the salt spa because they feel better after sitting in the cave and simply breathing,” she said. “For some it improves their sinuses and allergy symptoms. Others say they feel more energized. And it’s for all ages: men, women, even babies come and enjoy.”
 
Stacey Morris is a travel writer based in Lake George, N.Y. Her Web site is www.staceymorris.com .
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