The Best Spa Day Cities in the U.S.

Since the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out in March of this year, many Americans have spent the last six to eight months back at the office. This means that for a lot of us, it’s about that time to set aside a day just for ourselves, and what better place to spend that day than a spa? From massages to mud masks, we tried to figure out which U.S. cities can offer the best spa day experience!

Methodology

To accomplish this task, we decided on five factors to measure each of the top 50 most populous U.S. cities on. Each city received five 0-to-10 scores, or one score per factor, and then received an overall score between 0 and 50, which was just the combined value of the five separate 0-to-10 factor scores. In every case, the closer you are to 10, the better. Each factor was also weighted based on how severely we felt it affects the spa day experience, with quality taking precedence over cost.

Factors:

  1. Cost of a Massage
    1. Source: Thumbtack
    2. Weight: 1.00
  2. Number of Day Spas
    1. Source: Yellow Pages
    2. Weight: 2.25
  3. Average Star Rating of Day Spas
    1. Source: Yelp
    2. Weight: 3.25
  4. Number of Massage Therapists
    1. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
    2. Weight: 2.25
  5. Cost of a Bottle of Wine
    1. Source: Numbeo Cost of Living Calculator
    2. Weight: 1.00

So without further ado, here are the best spa day cities in the country.

The 20 Best U.S. Cities for a Spa Day

A U.S. map plotting out the best cities for a spa day

And the winner is… Denver, Colorado! While Denver wasn’t the leader in any of the five individual categories, it tied for second place in average spa star rating, placed fourth in total number of massage therapists, and never placed outside of the top 20 in any category other than the average price of a bottle of wine. Surely those gorgeous mountain views and crisp air don’t hurt either!

Following up Denver, it’s not much of a surprise to see the three biggest cities in the country — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — in the next three spots. While big cities tend to be more expensive, and this did in fact hurt the big three’s placements in cost-based categories, they also have larger populations, which helped with the volume-based categories. And due to the weight we put on volume- and quality-based factors over cost-based factors, it’s harder for some of the smaller cities to compete with these giants. However, that certainly makes Denver’s placing all the more impressive! 

The west is up next, with San Diego, Seattle, and Phoenix taking fifth, sixth, and seventh place, respectively. The south comes right after, with Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, and Charlotte finishing in eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh place, respectively. It’s worth noting that all four of these southern cities finished with overall scores that are within half a point of each other, so southerners should definitely look into lining up that next day off with some spa time. 

The rest of the top 20 is spread across the country, but Houston, the fourth most populous city in the country, sitting at 15th seems somewhat low. Also, Pennsylvania’s two biggest cities managed to both sneak in at the tail end of the top 20, so there is no need for a rivalry between east and west PA when it comes to spa days. 

The Best Cities for a Spa Day by Category

A U.S. map plotting out the best cities for a spa day based on different categories

Everyone’s perfect spa day is going to look a little different. For some, affordability is going to top the list of must-haves while others will be much more focused on the overall quality of the experience, regardless of cost. That’s why we took the next logical step in our analysis and highlighted the cities with the highest scores for each of our five ranking factors. The cost-conscious spa-goer may opt to spend their time relaxing in San Antonio, Texas, or St. Louis, Missouri, where you can get the most bang for your buck when it comes to massages and wine. If you’re more focused on the experience itself, New York and Charlotte will be more your speed with the Big Apple’s abundance of available day spas and the Queen City’s outstanding average star rating. Whatever factors are most important to you for a spa day, we just hope you enjoy your time!

The 10 Worst U.S. Cities for a Spa Day

A U.S. map plotting out the worst cities for a spa day

Topping our list of the top 10 worst U.S. spa day cities by a wide margin is Birmingham, Alabama. Despite being home to lots of nice museums, parks, and theaters, Birmingham is definitely not where you want to go if you’re searching for the best spas in the U.S. With an overall score that’s more than 10 points below the second-worst cities (city is plural here as the second-worst spot is held by a tied Memphis and Nashville), Birmingham boasts the largest point difference between any two adjacently ranked cities. But why is this?

While cheap wine isn’t hard to come by in Birmingham, the city struggled a bit in the total spa count and total masseuse count categories, although we might be able to pin the blame for that on the city’s relatively small population when compared to the other 49. However, Birmingham’s average cost of a massage and average spa star rating were both much worse than the overall 50-city average. The average cost of a massage across all 50 cities? $91.69. In Birmingham? $150. The average spa star rating across all 50 cities? Almost 4 and a half stars (4.425/5 stars to be exact). In Birmingham? An even four out of five stars.

Continuing on with the list, we mentioned before that Memphis and Nashville share the second-worst spot in this ranking, and this stood out to us because large southern cities did so well in the top 20. However, there are a total of six southern cities out of a total of 11 (remember, there’s a tie) here in the bottom 10. These other three are Raleigh, North Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; and New Orleans, Louisiana, which took fourth-, fifth-, and eighth-worst place, respectively.

Closing Thoughts

While there’s no reason to believe it’d be hard to have a relaxing day off in a city like Raleigh or Milwaukee, we hope you ended up in or close to one of our top 20 spa day cities if your happy place includes saunas and steamy water. Or perhaps your version of a spa day is centered around shopping? If that’s more your speed, Shane Co. has heirloom-quality diamond and gemstone jewelry guaranteed to make you or your loved one feel special.

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