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The Umstead Hotel & Spa — Cary, NC

We’ve loved The Umstead Hotel and Spa ever since its 2007 opening. This five-star property is a truly luxurious getaway in the Research Triangle Park area of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC.

Our first visit, we were wowed by the elegant décor, the incredible museum-quality artwork, beautiful imported woods used on walls, floors and in furniture pieces — all of which came from the visionary team headed by Ann Goodnight, the hotel’s creator and wife of SAS founder Jim Goodnight.

Now, five years later, our second overnight stay at the standout property lived up to that initial memory and more. Umstead is one of only two five-star Forbes Travel Guide (formerly Mobil Guide) properties in the entire state.

The spa sits neatly at one end of the hotel with its own unobtrusive entrance, convenient if you’re popping in for a treatment but not staying on property. (There’s a Spa Elite membership package for area residents.) Of course, there’s an entrance from within the hotel, as well, down a quiet. padded hallway lined with more of that terrific art described online as “modern and minimalist, adding to the contemporary, clean design of the hotel.”

You approach the spa outside down white-slab pavers lined by crepe myrtles, white flowering ground cover and grasses, all contributing to the original designers’ careful intent to embrace this setting within nature, not disturb it. The hotel takes its name, incidentally, from neighboring William B. Umstead State Park, named for a former governor. There, 22 miles of hiking and biking trails await visitors, and activities include camping, picnicking, canoe rentals, fishing, and nature study.

The spa embraces the nature theme as does the hotel. When you step inside, the aroma of essential oils and the spa’s own branded products welcome you even before your eyes fully take in the décor. Just like the hotel, the spa features beautiful wood hues (seen in spa lobby photo above) plus special lighting and yes, more art.

Inside awaits a lovely meditation courtyard (the top photo) with a dramatic sculpture in its center grass surrounded by loungers.

Our 50-minute Couples Swedish massage was in a beautiful couples room, (left) best described as a retreat with his-and-hers massage tables, separate bath and a balcony for post-treatment wind-down to take in the wooded view beyond — an added bonus we loved.

I loved that my masseur, Jeff, paid attention when I mentioned I suffer from plantar fasciitis. He knows that pain first-hand, he shared, so he offered special attention for my aching feet. I was also won over by the complimentary warm stones, which felt great on my back. Jeff looked quizzical when I complimented his “pancake move.” I laughed and said it was when he pressed my shoulder blades firmly so I was “flattened” onto the table.

Also while face down, Jeff delivered a great long stroke from one foot, up the whole leg, then hip and back, over the shoulder blade, then down the arm before returning to the hip and leg. This was a first time I’ve been on the receiving end of such a broad movement, and it was really well done. Great technique.

Fletcher liked how the tables were not only adjustable electronically, as many are, but that the upper half of the table tips up for additional neck support. The face cradle had a blanket covering with a small slit opening - quite comfortable.

His therapist found some new areas that needed work.

As you would suspect, the menu of spa services is far reaching, from exfoliation, body masks and massage therapy to facials and nail care. Therapists incorporate botanical products into spa experiences. But the ultimate has to be the five-hour Walk in the Woods treatment of full body Babassu Sugar Scrub, Swedish Massage, Thermal Water Facial and a classic mani/pedi plus lunch from the spa cuisine menu and a glass of champagne. Now that’s a pampering celebration.

When visiting the spa, be sure to allow time to lounge by the tranquil outdoor heated mineral pool, exclusive to hotel guests and Spa Elite Members. Personal training sessions also are available at the Fitness Studio.

Check the website for specials. A recent special featured 20 percent off your choice of treatments any Tuesday or Wednesday.

For more info: Visit, call 919-447-4000 or 866-877-4141. For spa reservations, call 919.447.4170. The Umstead Hotel and Spa is located at 100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary, NC.



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