Sitting in warm soda - that's the best way to describe what it's like to soak in a bath of natural mineral spring water. I slipped into a tub at Roosevelt Baths & Spa in upstate Saratoga - long celebrated for its abundance of natural springs - and let the tingling bubbles that rose from the effervescent, yellowish-brown water work their putative magic. I closed my eyes and listened intermittently to the new wave music piped into my private treatment room.
ABOUT THE SPRINGS
For more than 200 years, health seekers have journeyed to "take the waters" in this charming town. The actual health benefits of soaking in mineral water - rich in iron, potassium and calcium - are debatable (at best). Until a state-sponsored analysis in the 1950s proved otherwise, doctors touted the carbonated water's curative powers for ills ranging from dyspepsia to dropsy, claims that were supported by thousands of testimonials.
To be sure, Saratoga still has its "true believers." But even skeptics will benefit from the undeniable therapeutic value of slowing down, pampering themselves and getting away from it all - even if for only a few days.
AT THE SPAS
Mineral soaks can still be arranged at three spas, each of which tap into different underground springs. Expect to pay $20 to $30 for private baths that last up to 40 minutes. Package deals are available that combine soaks with other spa treatments - or overnight stays.
Roosevelt Baths & Spa
39 Roosevelt Dr., Saratoga Springs
The last of three European-style "health pavilions" built by New York State in the 1920s and '30s, the Roosevelt underwent a $3-million renovation in 2004. The spa draws its water from the highly carbonated Lincoln Spring, believed by some to be particularly good for those suffering from heart disease. Patrons soak in one of 42 private rooms.
PACKAGES The Gideon Putnam Hotel's "Rejuvenation" package includes an overnight stay for two, breakfast and a pair of mineral soaks (from $129). The "New York Spa Vacation" package, also for two people, includes overnight accommodations, breakfast and dinner at the hotel's restaurant, plus a pair of mineral baths and 60-minute Swedish massages (from $371).
The Crystal Spa
120 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Catering primarily to women, the intimate Crystal offers a variety of herbal baths, wraps, scrubs and other spa treatments. Its water comes from the privately owned Rosemary Spring, credited with increasing blood flow, cleansing the digestive system and rejuvenating sore muscles.
PACKAGES The "Crystal Experience" is a two-hour affair that includes a sauna session, mineral bath and 60-minute massage or facial ($98). The spa shares the grounds with the Grand Union Motel, where rates range from $89 to $159 (518-584-9000).
The Medbery Inn & Day Spa
48 Front St., Ballston Spa
Six miles outside Saratoga, the Medbery is a more low-key experience. Its current owner, Bellmore-Merrick native Dolores Taisey, arranged for iron-rich Sans Souci Spring water to be piped in directly. Besides mineral baths, patrons can choose from wraps, scrubs, microdermabrasion and salon services. Separate facilities available for couples' baths and massages.
PACKAGES Rates for the Medbery's 11 guest rooms, decorated in Victorian style, are $150-$225. Two-night stays include complimentary mineral baths.