The Buffalo News
September 23, 2013
A Spa Getaway to the Salt Sanctuary
My daughter, Jennifer, and I stepped into the quiet, softly lit salt cave, settled into the comfy chairs, and prepared to enjoy an hour of soothing relaxation. With my husband and younger son off to summer Scout camp and my two twenty-something sons fending for themselves, Jennifer and I were enjoying an overnight mother-daughter spa getaway at the Salt Sanctuary located at the Traditions at the Glen Resort outside of Binghamton. I had seen an ad for it and was intrigued as to what a salt spa was. Plus, I liked the fact that it was close enough to drive there in four hours, yet it was far enough away that we felt we were on vacation.
What exactly is a salt spa?
Salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, is a centuries old European tradition that has recently made its way to the United States. This therapy has helped people with respiratory illnesses, but is also a spa treatment that promotes relaxation and rejuvenation. There are currently less than 50 spas offering salt therapy in the US.
According to the Salt Sanctuary’s brochure, “The atmosphere of the salt chamber is an escape from the contaminated environments of our daily lives. Due to the anti-bacterial properties of salt, the salt chamber is a sterile environment that provides an ideal setting for healing.”
While in Europe there may be some salt therapy caves that are actually caves, the salt chambers or “caves” in the United States are man-made. At the Salt Sanctuary, the salt cave is a large room at the spa made to look like a cave, compete with walls and floor of salt and strategically stacked salt blocks adding to the ambiance.
A machine in the cave disperses salt particles into the air and the microscopic salt particles enter the airway. The atmosphere of the salt cave is supposed to help eliminate infections of the airways and skin, as well as promote relaxation. I don’t know if the claims work for other people, but I do know that my sinuses felt much clearer after the session and the headache I had when I entered the cave was gone when I left. It was also very relaxing; we dozed off during the session.
There are seven chairs in the cave at the Salt Sanctuary; another mother and daughter, also on a getaway together, happened to be in our session. The mom was visiting her daughter, a student taking summer courses at Binghamton University, and they decided to spend a couple days getting pampered at the spa.
In addition to the cave, the salt sanctuary also has a salt room, which is similar to the cave, but actually more suitable for children, since it has “salt box” toys and a marker board wall. Salt therapy has become a popular treatment for children with asthma, since it is 100% natural. The spa also offers traditional spa treatments, like facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. The next morning, Jennifer and I enjoyed getting manicures and pedicures, something neither one of us had ever done before.
Why have a salt spa in Binghamton?
The resort itself has been in business since 2004, the spa since 2006 and the Salt Sanctuary since 2011. I asked Matt Walsh, founder of the Salt Sanctuary, why they decided to open a salt spa at the resort. “The Southern Tier has long been known for its respiratory allergies. We wanted to add a new type of holistic healing to our existing spa services, and salt therapy, aka Halotherapy seemed ideal,” said Walsh. “We traveled the country visiting the first Halotherapy spas and learned quickly how great a benefit they were to their local communities.”
He went on to say, “Our clientele is comprised of novelty visitors, relaxation visits, and repeat chronic respiratory illness sufferers. The smallest percentage are the novelty visitors, often people who heard about Salt Sanctuary or hotel guests who take advantage of the 50% discount on salt therapy while staying at the hotel. While there are a number of clients who do visit simply for relaxation, the largest number of our clients are repeat chronic respiratory illness and/or respiratory allergy sufferers.” He added, “Most of our clients are from Broome County, but we do have number of clients who travel from nearby counties and a few individuals with chronic respiratory concerns who own salt therapy memberships who travel over 3 hours on a regular basis to our facility for Halotherapy.”
History of the resort
The resort, which is set high on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, was originally built in 1919 as a private residence for Eliot Spalding and a few years later sold to be a clubhouse for the Kalurah Shrine golf course. It was acquired by the IBM Corporation in 1935 to be used as an employee country club and a hotel for visiting customer executives. IBM would later use the grounds for summer sales conventions, putting up tents to house the members of the sales force who achieved 100% of their sales goals. Additions were added to the hotel as business needs expanded. However, in 1995, IBM closed the building and sold it in 2004. After renovations and expansion, the Traditions at the Glen Resort was born; today the hotel has 41 rooms and suites.
Behind the hotel building is “The Glen,” a 200+ acre mature forest, which has some of the oldest and largest trees in Broome County. The grounds include two stone bridges, waterfalls, and several loop hiking trails of various lengths. The Glen, which is open to the public year-round, is owned and maintained by the Fred L. Waterman Conservation Center. Unfortunately, it had been a rainy day when we were visiting, so Jennifer and I did not have the opportunity to explore The Glen.
Other things to do in Binghamton
Since we were on a girl’s getaway, naturally shopping was going to be involved. We checked out the nearby Oakdale Mall, which had a nice selection of some of our favorite stores, including Macy’s, Bon Ton, and JCPenney.
If you have kids in tow, you’ll want to check out the Discovery Center of the Southerntier, a 22,500 square foot interactive children’s museum. Next door to the museum is the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, which has over 150 different varieties of animals, a botanical garden, and an antique carousel. The zoo is open April – November.
Speaking of carousels, if you visit Binghamton between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you can ride for free on six restored antique carousels that are located throughout the city and surrounding areas, including the one at the zoo.
If you go
Traditions at the Glen Resort and the Salt Sanctuary, 4101 Watson Boulevard, Johnson City, NY 607-797-2381 www.traditionsresort.com, www.thesaltsanctuary.com
Oakdale Mall, 601 Harry L. Drive, Johnson City, NY 607-798-9388, www.oakdalemall.com
Discovery Center of the Southerntier, 60 Morgan Road, Binghamton, NY 607-773-8661 www.thediscoverycenter.org
Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, 60 Morgan Road, Binghamton, NY 607-724-5461 www.rossparkzoo.com
Carousels in Broome County. For more information visit www.gobroomecounty.com/community/carousels
Directions to Binghamton area
Take the New York State Thruway (I-90) to Syracuse exit 36 (I-81). Follow I-81 south to Binghamton area. Alternately, you can take the New York State Thruway (I-90) to Rochester exit 46 (I-390). Follow I-390 South until it merges with I-86 east and follow to Binghamton area