The Sullivan Catskills, known as America’s first vacationland, is where, in 1968, my relatives decided to take a nature drive to the mysterious mountains of upstate New York. The trip resulted in a wise purchase: My great-uncle bought a rambling farmhouse and a factory space for wire goods that would employ many upstate wanderers, and he founded an entire bungalow colony nearby that came to be known as the Slovak Country Club. Europeans flocked here because it reminded them of home.
As A CHILD IN EUROPE, I felt the peaceful benefits of spending time in nature—meditating to the swaying trees, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. As irony would have it, Dirty Dancing was quite the iconic movie for me and my sisters while living in Europe. Little did we know that we would end up moving to the very same area in which the movie takes place. Seeing upstate New York anew has made me realize that this second home of mine is once again becoming a desired destination and one worthy of exploration.This is the first Crystal Life Spa on land, situated on the third floor, along with two pools, a bar, private villas, and VIP suites.
As a car whisked me away from my tiny New York City apartment to the brand-new Resorts World Catskills, I couldn’t help but think of the opening credits in the movie Dirty Dancing. No matter what you consider to be your cup of tea, the Catskills seem to have it all—the Kadampa Meditation Center, the Monticello Motor Club, the newly opened Yo1 Wellness Center, BETHEL WOODS ARTS CENTER, Woodstock Museum, Forestburgh Playhouse, ski resorts, breweries and wineries, along with a long list of activities for sports and nature lovers. The Resorts World Catskills, located in Monticello, even has a plan for a water park that will be right on its campus, along with a new hotel structure that will house retail shops. The new developments are exciting, and the warm service says, “Welcome! Take a time-out.” This Catskills’ revival has been in the making for the last 14 to 20 years. Resorts World Catskills opened in March 2018, and its luxurious Crystal Life Spa a few months later. I arrived just in time for the spa’s ribbon cutting, and I felt lucky to experience a just-opened spa.
This is the first Crystal Life Spa on land. The spa is located on the third floor, along with two pools, a bar, private villas, and VIP suites. The energy of the third floor is quite different from what you might experience on the casino’s main floor, and it is a reminder that this is so much more than a casino. Speaking with Crystal Life Spa’s director, Stella Gustafsson, brought me a step closer to understanding why this was built where it was. The spa’s mission is to share the experience of spa as a healthy lifestyle. As an immigrant from Iceland, Stella is a big believer in the benefits of spa and listening to your body. Additionally, the point is to put emphasis on taking care of your largest organ, your skin. I opted to try the C’ The Difference Anti-Oxidant Facial treatment. My esthetician was Selina, her voice calm and her energy easygoing. The 60- minute facial had about 11 steps, including cleansing, steaming, masks, peels, and extractions. Hydration with Ling skincare products was the focus of this facial. In order to help penetrate the hydrator and serums, Selina used an Ultrasonic machine to help get the product deeper into my skin, resulting in a healthy glow. And that is exactly what I ended up with. Truthfully, I had never seen my skin so radiant. As for relaxation, I got plenty. I took one of the best naps on a Spa Wave bed that was provided with something called “Quantum-Harmonic-Sound Therapy.” Crystal Life Spa at the Resorts World Catskills is the only place where you will find this bed on the East Coast, and the spa has plans to start incorporating treatments while guests relax on the bed.
Afterward my spa treatment, I took refuge in one of the third-floor VIP suites in order to get ready for my rustic Italian dinner at Cellaio. The lavish suite included a living room, dining room, two bathrooms, and an outside terrace with my very own plunge pool—a perk I especially loved. As a former Catskills resident, I came with an open mind and was not disappointed. Whether it was room service, the spa or the restaurant, the service was five-star. There is now a glistening newness to the upstate I used to know: These are no longer your grandparents vacation destinations. The level of service and luxury retreats in the Catskills have been elevated. Come see for yourself.
This article was originally written for Insider’s Guide to Spas.