River Falls Spa, Greenville, SC

River Falls Spa is lovely, but unexpected. Located steps below street level in a historic downtown office building in Greenville, SC, you feel like you are stepping back in time. For us, the location was perfect since our spa visit happened to coincide with our stay at the the Westin Poinsett for the annual Euphoria food/wine/music weekend. How convenient that during our visit also coincided with National Spa Week, and that reaching River Falls Spa was as easy as taking a few stops out the front door of the Westin as it was literally next door.

What wasn’t so easy was choosing just one treatment for each of us to sample from a tempting array.

Kathy says: I finally settled on the River Falls Signature Facial while Fletcher decided to go for the Signature Massage.’We arrived at the spa more than an hour early (as our hotel room wasn’t quite ready), but the spa’s staff was not only ready but even expressed how pleased they were that we would have time to fully relax first and even enjoy the steam shower. Great plan.

After getting the tour from the front receptionist, we were shown to the men’s and ladies’ locker rooms to change.

Here I found a lovely touch that I’d never seen in another spa (and I’ve seen a lot of spas): My locker was labeled with my name on a card decorated with a small image of a waterfalls. What a perfect little touch that made me feel welcome and special but also reminded me I was at River Falls; I think the big spas could learn from this bit of personalization. (Fletcher, I later found out, had the same label on his locker.)

While he was no doubt taking full advantage of his steam shower, I was falling in love with the best regular shower I’ve found in any spa, bar none. That’s because River Falls’ locker rooms have amazing oversized showers with five showerheads in the ceiling and on the walls so the surges hit you head to toe almost. I’m not one for long showers at home, but here I lingered and lingered loving the pulsating water.

I finally tore myself away from the stress-relieving sprays to pull on my robe and meet Fletcher in a small waiting area outside the men’s area. Before he joined me, I peeked in one of the treatment rooms and ran into my therapist who was setting up for my facial. She had a surprise in store for me.

Instead of the standard facial, she’d taken it on her own to customize my facial for my own skin type, which happens to be sensitive with rosacea, and I seem to be constantly dehydrated.

Once I was settled on the comfortable table, she took a few minutes to explain the steps: cleansing, exfoliating, treating and fully moisturizing the skin, and of course sunscreen in the final step. Wish we’d all done more of that in the early years, don’t you?

I really liked my therapist’s technique. She was thorough and polite but also allowed me all the quiet time I needed or wanted. When I’d ask a question, she’d answer but then allow the solitude to return. This is one of the times when I was so relaxed I barely remember the music that was playing, so they must have picked well, both in style and volume.

I also really liked the products, mostly from the Eminence line and a few extras from the CosMedix skin care line.

She started me out with a lemon cleanser - loved the clean, fresh smell - then moved on to a Rosehip & Maize Exfoliating Masque followed by the Quince & Ice Wine Masque. Yes, wine, and even ice wine, which I love! And here I was preparing for the Euphoria event, which is all about food and wine and music. No wonder I liked this treatment.

The product website says this particular masque is rich in polyphenols and tartaric acids to refine, enrich and firm skin’s texture while healing and repairing, purifying and soothing irritated skin. Therapist Jill chose wisely: Sounds perfect for my skin.

Oh, and did I mention, it also detoxifies, tones, reduces the signs of aging and restores hydration? Home-run, girl.

Those were the Eminence products. Next, she turned to CosMedix skin care for Rescue and Balm, then back to Eminence for Raspberry Eye Masque (even though I don’t like the taste of raspberry, the product was fine); plus Herbal Eye Contour Cream, Blueberry Soy Moisturizer for my arms, decolletage, neck and upper back area, plus a CosMedix product called Mystic (again, that need for more moisture) and finally Eminence’s Tomato Sun Cream. It turns out, that tomatoes contain natural sunscreen.

I especially liked the heated mitts this spa has chosen, instead of those plastic ones you get at the nail salon - you know the ones with the electrical cord that’s always in your way. These soft mitts contain those small beads you find in some neck pillows and are heated (I assume in the microwave) and applied after the arm massage. Super.

After my customized facial, I was glowing; my skin felt plump and moist. I told her: “You know how after you’ve had your teeth cleaned, you don’t want to eat anything and mess them up? Well, I don’t want to leave and have any of those germs out in the real world mess up my nice moist face.” Alas, I had to leave. But no worries, wine at Euphoria awaited!

Fletcher says: River Falls Spa calls itself a destination spa. We would categorize it as a day spa as there is no on-site lodging nor total wellness program as in seminars with wellness speakers, workout regimes, classes, etc. (although their site lists what sounds like a very nice River Retreat Package with hiking at Paris Mountain State Park, healthy lunch in the park and spa treatment). Regardless of how it’s categorized, they offer some great treatments. Mine was fantastic.

As Kathy pointed out, we arrived early enough to use their modest facilities, aptly divided down the middle for men and women. My locker room had six tall lockers, a fair number for the size of the spa. The restroom/shower layout was minimal, but the shower was a treat with the multiple sprays and a hand-held unit included. The double sink was more than adequate, again projecting for the number of possible visitors.

The lack of an attendant for the men's area was also forgivable, because I got the impression that here, as with most spas, there are more female guests than male.

This is not an "over the top" spa. Form and function are more important here than aesthetics, although the decor is upscale; use of matched mauves and browns works well. They've employed well-coordinated pallet, from the dark walnut of the lockers to the sandstone tile of the floors to the light-brown of the walls. The contemporary, brushed-nickel wash basins and fixtures are a nice contrast.

Comfortable and classy.

After receiving the Signature Massage, I only wish I could have sampled other treatments. My therapist Joy had been with the spa almost from the opening, working her way up to lead therapist. She greeted me and asked the typical questions about particular areas of need. That taken care of, she asked me to get situated face down on the table and said she'd be right back.

I very seldom do much talking once the treatment starts. I generally just let the therapist do her job, knowing my role is to absorb and enjoy as much of it as I can, and ask questions after. However, Joy's first few minutes massaging my scalp, head, neck and shoulders drew this question from me: "Who designed this treatment?"

Her fingers did not pause as she spoke, "The original director, but she's gone. I took over for her."

"Is it given this way every time?" I asked.

"Yes, I've been very specific to direct all our therapists to do every treatment with the same steps. We are looking for a constant, consistent product."

"That's good," I replied, thinking to myself, Why don't more massages start out like this? The massage began with one of the things I personally enjoy the most, what usually comes at the end, the relaxing scalp and face work, that mussing that gives us all “spa hair.” I congratulated her on the approach, which put me in such a relaxing state that the rest of the massage was made even better.

The rest? A great combination of hand work and the use of traditional hot stones. Joy's use of the stones was dual - one for a firmer application of force and also to apply heat. One of the neat results of her technique of moving the stones quickly over an area she had just massaged was that their trail became a hot reminder of where her hands had been. Maybe that is one reason why River Falls Spa has chosen it as one of their signature treatments: Joy got to leave her signature with the hot stones.

Back in the spa lobby after our treatments, a little treat of fresh fruit awaited each of us with those personalized name placards. Nice finish.

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J.S. Fletcher & Kathy M. Newbern,

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