America’s Best Small Spa and Wellness Town Is a Lakeside Gem in Upstate New York

When it comes to small towns with big reputations, lakeside Aurora, New York, is top of the class. The 724-person village, hugging the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, is probably best known as the headquarters of MacKenzie-Childs, the homewares retailer that still paints its distinctive serveware by hand in the blissful quiet of this stretch of Cayuga County. But it’s also becoming a destination for wellness thanks to the Inns of Aurora Resort & Spa, a collection of six small lodgings and one stunning hilltop retreat that T+L readers recently voted among the very best resorts in New York state. Throw in the fact that this stretch of the Finger Lakes is filled with gorge hikes, tap rooms, farm stands, and low-key beaches, and Aurora starts to look like not only the best small town for wellness, but for just about anybody’s idea of what the chilled-out good life should be.

The hospitality project that helped put Aurora on the map, the Inns are today a collection of six distinct lodgings, all designed with impeccable taste by owner Pleasant Rowland, an alumna of Aurora’s own Wells College, and her team. The 10-room Aurora Inn is the centerpiece of the resort, which is spread restored buildings across the village; other similarly sized lodges, such as Wallcourt Hall and Zabriskie House, round out the portfolio. The newest, Orchard Cottage, opened in May 2023, as a stand-alone two-bedroom that, unlike the rest of the Inns, welcomes both kids and pets.

Spa + Wellness

You’re here for The Spa, as Inns of Aurora refers to its ambitious stand-alone wellness retreat that’s open to guests of the resort as well as day visitors who book in advance. On a ridge, with views of Cayuga Lake, it’s an expansive facility that runs year-round, with an extensive array of treatments and programs that includes things like massage, skincare, bodywork, hydrotherapy, and Reiki. In 2023, the Spa achieved Well Certification at the Gold level for its holistic approach to not only building operations but also community and staff engagement; it’s the only spa in the United States that’s achieved that lofty mark.

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