Kohler’s New Chicago Spa Is a Temple to Water, Warmth and Relaxation
The perfect remedy to Chicago winters has arrived
Walking along Lincoln Avenue, just past the six-way intersection of Lincoln, Fullerton and Halsted, you might miss the new Kohler Waters Spa. Instead, you’ll probably be looking across the street thinking, “When did they put in an Equinox?” The Equinox opened in September, and Kohler Waters Spa at Lincoln Park opened last week.
If you’ve already got a massage place, think again. The unassuming red brick exterior belies the urban oasis within. Spanning 20,000 square feet and two floors, Kohler’s largest day spa to date — complete with 21 treatment rooms – is worth visiting … and then revisiting, again and again, in perpetuity.
A bit of background: Kohler, as any good Midwesterner knows, is America’s foremost manufacturer of plumbing components. And one of the principal ways they show off those components is via a series of Kohler-branded luxury spas around the Midwest (and the globe). There is a very fancy spa at their flagship resort in Wisconsin, as well as one at Lodge Kohler in Green Bay, WI, one in Burr Ridge, IL, and even one in St. Andrews, Scotland.
But the new Chicago location is the brand’s first urban spa. Below, we’ve compiled six reasons you should give it a whirl(pool).
1. Vichy shower treatments
Kohler’s been in the water business for a long time, so you know their version of the Vichy shower is going to be proprietary and top of the line. In this indulgent offering — one of Kohler’s signatures — a six-headed horizontal shower replaces the hands of a masseuse, and then the world melts away. It’s not all H2O; the hydrotherapy massage kicks off with a full body exfoliation rub, followed by a Moroccan oil scalp massage, then the main event: a water massage. Things wrap up with a shea butter moisturizing session and hot stone massage. It’s better than it sounds, and it sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it? With the amount of water and towels employed, eco-friendly treatments these are not, so maybe don’t make a habit of it. But this is the kind of extravagance you should try at least once in your life (or gift to someone you like so that they can).
2. An eight-foot deep cold plunge
As far as I can tell, this seems to be the deepest cold plunge in the city (if you don’t count the lake). Apparently Mr. Kohler designs all of his cold plunges to be eight feet deep. Located next to the Finnish steam and eucalyptus sauna rooms, cycle between hot and cold to unlock the restorative magic of vasoconstriction and vasodilation. As far as cold plunges go, at 69 degrees, it’s manageable, so psych yourself up, skip the stairs, and go straight for the dunk. You’ll feel alive.
3. No battle of the sexes here
The International Spa Association said more men are frequenting spas, and it’s at least a 50-50 split in clientele, if not swinging more male. Kohler’s Midwestern roots shine in the presentation of a high-end spa that is somehow luxurious but not ostentatious, and cozy but not too casual. While the locker rooms are gender-specific, men and women can mix freely everywhere else, sharing hot tubs, steam rooms and the spa lounge upstairs. The products available for sale have a good amount of unisex options, focusing more on skin types and desired outcomes than blue-for-guys and pink-for-gals packaging. It makes it easy to book a spa outing with a coed group of friends.
4. The thermal suite’s hydrotherapy circuit
Before or after your cold plunge, try out the thermal suite’s hydromassage pool. Five alcoves line the seemingly normal hot tub, but each station has jets aimed at different levels. The effect is a self-service hydromassage circuit that, when done in order, moves from your calves to your IT band to your glutes to your spine, then ends with a gooseneck water spout pouring a 102-degree waterfall onto the head and neck. Located on the first floor, any 50-minute service (including hair or nails) gets guests access to this section of the spa.
5. It’s a water spa by plumbing experts
As you might have imagined, everything in the Kohler spa is made by … Kohler. The tiles, the sinks, the robotic showers in the locker room, the toilets, the Vichy shower, the faucets … it’s like the bathing equivalent of the Shinola hotel in Detroit.
6. Virtual-reality manicures and pedicures
We really are living in 2019. The body might be on the first floor, seated next to Lincoln Avenue with street traffic a few feet away, but the mind? It’s on a beach, in a forest or gazing at snow-capped mountains. A strange combination of privacy, fantasy and guided meditation coalesce in the 50-minute, $95 virtual-reality pedicure. Go go gadget nail clippers.
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