Calling QC NY a day spa is like calling Ringling Brothers a street fair. “Day spa” is usually a code word for a quick dip in the cold plunge before your massage, but at the newly opened oasis on Governors Island, you’d easily be able to spend an entire workday, if not longer. From the water treatments to the relaxation rooms, to the outdoor pools, there is something new to see around every corner. The self-paced “wellness path” feels akin to an immersive museum, but instead of ball pits, you’ll find playful ways to recharge and relax (something we all need now more than ever.)
Upon arrival, in an old army barrack, my friend and I were greeted by a welcoming committee in houndstooth uniforms that matched the houndstooth sofas in the lobby. This is the kind of place where design doesn’t embody just the furniture, but also the curated scent, music, and personality of each space. The front desk is where we paid, reserved my massage, and made lunch reservations. I happened to go for my birthday and received a free day pass entry, and a 10% discount also applies to local NY heroes including teachers, first responders, police, firefighters, and veterans. (A day pass starts at $88 and massages at $100.) Once we settled the bill, we were let loose through a maze of treatment rooms.
Located within three restored landmarked buildings next to where the ferry drops you off from Manhattan, there is a massive amount of indoor and outdoor space to roam. QC NY is part of the QC Terme Spas and Resorts, a global brand established in 1982 with locations all over Europe. “Much of QC Terme is influenced by and rooted in history and culture,” says Janine Di Gioacchino, CEO of North American. “Ancient Roman Baths were places of wellness, pleasure, gathering, and relaxation.”
A huge part of the fun of this spa is the sense of discovery. No one tells you where to go or not, and it’s easy to get lost, and find something new around every corner. “The feeling of discovery and wonder is a critical part of our guest’s journey,” says Di Gioacchino. “Wandering through the rooms and varied spaces you will discover scents and scenery, which typically trigger a feeling of happiness and pleasure.”
We started our journey in the ample dressing rooms, which could fit hundreds. We brought bathing suits with us (required), but the spa provided everything else including a robe, flip flops, a plastic bag for wet suits, towels, a secure locker, and upscale toiletries for showering.
There’s no roadmap, but we found our way to the bottom floor where the water treatments and wet saunas were located and alternated between water and wet heat, including a Vichy shower, stone foot baths, and steam baths. There was plenty of staff on duty to assist, but at each “station” there were easy directions and tips. We were ready to continue and realized it was already time for our treatments.
Upstairs, the massage rooms (and almost every room) overlook the Manhattan skyline, and with soft music and aromatherapy, Surprisingly, the massage was probably not even necessary, as nice as it was, since the waterworks had already turned most of my muscles to Jell-O, but I still regretted not booking a longer session. Afterward, we made our way to the bistro, where a spread of dried fruit, nuts, water, etc. is free to snack on. We wanted lunch and indulged in champagne and salad. Although I was happy to not have to leave the premises to eat, the menu was unremarkable light spa fare. But curled in my robe, holding a glass of bubbly in front of the Manhattan skyline was priceless.
By the time lunch was over, my experience had already exceeded my entrance fee. But we weren’t even close to being done. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the themed saunas and relaxation rooms, the absolute highlights of QC NY. Di Gioacchino says there is a lot of storytelling in each room, with inspiration ranging from Italy to the Wright Brothers. Here are some examples: the Scottish sauna covered in plaid where you listen to bagpipes. The Sauna in the City with cutouts of NYC skyscrapers and landmarks. The Infrared room where you lie on beds cooking like a rotisserie chicken under a light. The Face Gym room where you follow along to a video of a playful woman massaging her facial muscles. One of the wackiest ideas is the Upside Down room where everything in the room is upside down, except the beds you are lying on. “This room, in particular, was dedicated to our father, Pericle Quadrio Curzio who always encouraged us to pursue our dreams and express ourselves, even in an upside-down way,” says Di Gioacchino. “Sometimes all it takes to be happy is to look at things from a different perspective.”
When we visited, there were no crowds, but that may not always be the case. The location could handle many more than the handful of us there, especially now, when the outdoor tempered infinity pools with unparalleled views of the skyline are open for business. The pools feature underwater loungers that massage the body and are designed to increase lymphatic circulation. “The best-kept secret is QC NY at sunset,” says Di Gioacchino. “Our garden is an outstanding place to watch the evening sky and sip a cocktail, relaxing in a bathrobe. The glimmering lights of the city, and the quietness remains.”
Although the rational part of my brain definitely knew swaying in a pretend library full of rocking chairs in front of a fireplace was hokey, my unconscious connected with the experience and I found myself actually letting go. QC NY is a real vacation, in the way that you take a ship to get there, but also in the way that when you’re through, it feels like you’ve taken a journey.
QC NY is open 365 days a year from 10am-10pm Sunday-Thursday and 10am-11pm Friday & Saturday. Day Passes, which start at $88, will include access to the entire spa, all amenities for the whole day, and a roundtrip ferry ticket. Adults only.