The Umstead Hotel and Spa


Is the concept of “girlfriend getaway” a public relations ploy or a reality? Luxury Travel Advisor put The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, NC, to the test, as we rallied our sister and niece and made reservations for a long weekend of pampering and dining.




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We’d heard plenty about The Umstead since its debut in 2007; it immediately garnered AAA’s Five-Diamond rating, and its 14,000-square-foot spa was quickly accepted into the Leading Spa fold (the property is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World).

Because the hotel, which does a balanced portion of luxury leisure and corporate business, is just outside of Raleigh, it proved to be an equidistant meeting ground for the three of us. In fact, the hotel is just six minutes away from Raleigh/Durham International Airport, which has frequent flights from New York.

After settling into our three adjacent rooms (King Lakeview Balcony Rooms, Nos. 210, 212 and 214), we immediately were struck by the tranquil color scheme, large tubs and the incredibly spacious balconies, which adjoined and made it easy for us to wave to each other while enjoying our privacy.

Our curiosity was piqued by the one-bedroom Presidential Suite, where Hillary and Bill Clinton had recently welcomed dignitaries during a stop in town; we’re sure they enjoyed the 1,725-square-foot, top-floor quarters, which include a fancy foyer (ideal for greeting guests), an inviting living- and dining-room area and extra-large bathrooms with deep soaking tubs. Hint: If that’s taken, advise clients to opt for the similarly laid-out Governor’s Suite, which is 1,200 square feet and set on the ground floor. Note: Spa goers may prefer this suite since it’s close to the spa, the 24/7 fitness center and the outdoor pool, which is heated to a cozy 80 degrees.

We also checked out the ground-floor Patio Suites, which we hear are popular with brides because of its close proximity to the 6,000-square-foot lawn that overlooks the lake, making it the ideal setting for a wedding. The Umstead, with its variety of classy, light-filled ballrooms, conducts many weddings and provides all-inclusive arrangements. Contact Wedding Coordinator Ami Wheeler ([email protected]; 919-447-4132) to get her thoughts on where your clients can say “I do.”

After our tour, we lounged about in the lobby, where Afternoon Tea was being served set to live harp music. That evening we dined on property at Heron’s, a very elegant restaurant that prides itself on its farm-fresh American regional cuisine “with unexpected southern flair,” a nice touch for the northeasterner in our party. If your Girlfriend Getaway comprises a sizeable group, request the semi-private or private dining room, where food and wine-paired tasting menus can be provided. Contact Food and Beverage Manager Sara Payne ([email protected]; 919-447-4373). Book 10 days out for weekends.



Herons sources much of its ingredients locally; the cuisine pays tribute to southern farmers.



After a lovely evening of bonding, we checked out the impressive fitness center, but only to comment on the high quality of the machines. The next day was dedicated to the dual-level spa, which is a fantasy playground for anyone fond of saunas, steam rooms, Jacuzzis and serious lounging. Hint: If your client is headed to The Umstead for a pampering retreat, advise them to bring several good books so they can curl up in the spa’s magnificent lounging areas (one even has a fireplace, which was a lovely touch during our January stay). There are separate areas for men and women and one large co-ed area, all of which are serviced meticulously to provide a five-star experience.

For us, it was a day of facials and pedicures; we give high marks for the Gemstone Facial, which uses gemstone, a mineral that “embodies intense concentrations of energy and fortifies the body’s ability to heal itself.”

Luxury travel advisors should reserve treatments at least a week out. Spa Director Judy Stell ([email protected]; 919-447-4160) can answer questions about the wide range of treatments, which include the Umstead Signature Body Ritual and Vichy Shower rinse.





The gift shop reflects the hotel's in-house art collection and natural surroundings.



Spa Sales Manager Kim Love ([email protected]; 919-447-4171) is the go-to person for questions about group functions for your client’s Girlfriend Getaway, which can be themed for bridal showers with wine and cheese or champagne toastings.

If your girlfriend group has a bit of spare time between Afternoon Tea, spa and dining at The Umstead, Front Office Manager Magdi Youseff ([email protected]; 919-447-4000) can book personal shopping excursions in downtown Raleigh or one of several nearby upscale malls. We were impressed by the hotel’s own high-end shop, which sells beautiful works crafted by local artists. We hear gift certificates are big sellers for Raleigh residents—as good an endorsement as we’ve ever heard.

Note: The hotel also has an excellent art collection comprised of 80 works by local and national artists, and your group can snag a private tour upon request. Alison Jenkins ([email protected]; 919-447-4122), director of group sales, is the luxury travel advisor liaison for the property, which is run by newly appointed general manager, Jim Beley.
So, Girlfriend Getaway, fact or fiction? We knew it was for real when we awoke on Monday morning doleful that we were leaving our traveling companions. The Umstead had provided an oasis of quality time for all three of us to relax, reminisce, laugh and enjoy each others’ company. We’d do it again in a heartbeat and already can’t wait to return. When we do, we’ll be sure to book it well in advance during college football and basketball seasons (NC State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke are all close by).  

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