I’ll be candid and admit that the last thing I wanted was a staycation. After too many pandemic-enforced staycations to count, I needed to travel and get away.
The best way to describe my state of mind is to compare myself to Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz. I wanted to escape Kansas, and even a twister would do the trick.
To my surprise, this local staycation at Lake Nona Wave Hotel was the paradise I needed.
Lake Nona Wave Hotel
Driving on the 408 to Lake Nona, similar to the aforementioned twister, is as close to Orlando International Airport as one can get without going through security. The drive down the long, newly treed road to the hotel entrance set the stage for the magical respite right around the corner.
Lake Nona’s Wave Hotel opened on December 20, 2021, and is considered one of the most technologically advanced hotels in the World. The Wave features experiential drinking and dining, world-class art and design for health and well-being. It took me away into another world, perhaps feeling more like I was in Manhattan or one of the fine Chicago hotels surrounding you with exquisite, fine art.
After the valet took our car and loaded our luggage, they escorted us into the contemporary, glass-fronted, stylish hotel. Our room was chic and colorful, with floor-to-ceiling windows, smart TVs, and even a loaner tablet, if needed, along with the obligatory Wi-Fi, mini-fridge, and Nespresso machine (boy, I need one of these at home). If you spring for the suite, you can enjoy separate living rooms, kitchens, and wet bars.
Hotel amenities include 234 guest rooms that seamlessly combine hospitality with the latest technology at every touchpoint, two trendy restaurants, two bars with a self-described “funky” lounge, an outdoor pool and cabanas, a gym, and a gym event space.
“Toto, too? Toto, too!”
Once I unpacked my clothes and sampled the comfort of the bed, which was perfection, I explored the bathroom and toiletries. Rarely does the mention of a toilet ever make a travel story, but this is not your standard toilet; this is a Toto.
Imagine walking into a separate bathroom area, closing the door, and without flipping one switch, your toilet–bidet opens, lights appear, and it begins functioning. I was surprised it didn’t call me by my name. And pardon me for being indiscreet, but the seats are perfectly heated. I could write an entire essay on the Toto toilet.
Toto toilets are hands-free, automatically flush with a built-in bidet, an air purifying system and air dryer. I fell in love.
Lake Nona Sculpture Garden
After a heavenly night’s sleep, I began my first day of classes at the Chopra Mind-Body Zone and Spa. The walk from the Wave was moderate, just enough to get in some respectable steps. Much to my surprise, outside the hotel along the path to my destination was a stunning sculpture garden; this is not your ordinary sculpture garden.
The Lake Nona Sculpture Gardens is 50,000 square feet of carefully designed, picturesque outdoor space featuring lush tropical flowers, approximately 300 palm trees, and a world-class collection of sculptures. It’s an impressive gallery with iconic pieces, some immediately recognizable like the Wall Street Bull and several works by Henry Moore.
As one takes in the beauty of the actual sculptures, one realizes how the palm trees and foliage have been carefully placed to complement each work; Bismarck Palm-as-art, if you will. There are three gathering spaces perfectly suited for weddings or private events, including concerts, culinary events, and so much more. The possibilities are endless.
Architects, landscapers, and curators of the highest order created this peaceful garden of quiet inspiration and solitude. It set the perfect stage for my day of peace.
The Chopra MIND-BODY ZONE and Spa at the Lake Nona PERFORMANCE CLUB
After the lovely stroll, I arrived at the Chopra Mind-Body Zone and Spa, located inside the Lake Nona Performance Club and Fitness Center (LNPC). My meditation and sound healing instructor, Dena Register, greeted me.
As you walk into the LNPC, you’re greeted by climbing rock walls and a state-of-the-art fitness center, sports, and integrative health center with world-class facilities. You can work out solo, or you can access help from any expert team of trainers and wellness professionals all standing by to help you achieve your fitness and wellness goals.
LNPC partnered with Chopra Global, a leading whole health company founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra, to create this first-of-its-kind partnership. The result is a unique mind-body wellness experience, unlike anything I have ever encountered.
When I first saw my schedule, I thought three meditation classes and one sound healing session might be a bit much. That couldn’t be further from the truth. With Dena’s expert guidance, I spent the day experiencing deep and invigorating relaxation and healing. I was given a personalized mantra, which I still use today.
After a delicious lunch of avocado toast with tomatoes and a power shake, I entered the spacious, Zen-like studio for the sound healing experience. As an occasional Real Housewives viewer (I’ll admit that I’ve watched an episode or two), I’ve seen sound healing classes before, but the in-person, live experience is transcendent. Sleeping in public has never been my bailiwick, but I heard myself begin to make sleeping sounds, more commonly known as snoring; I was transformed as the deep vibration of the gong resonated throughout my body.
I would encourage anyone who would like to try these classes to check out the Chopra Mind-Body Zone and Spa’s website for courses like Yoga in all forms, including Aerial Yoga, Meditation, Stretch and Soothe, Flow and Explore and, of course, Sound Healing. Anyone can drop in for a day-cation to re-center and re-set yourself for the road ahead.
After my sound healing and meditation, I was treated to a much-needed Ayurvedic deep tissue massage, which was refreshing and sublime. There is nothing quite like finding true tranquility with calming spa treatments, candlelight, and other wellness offerings perfect for someone like me, seeking my inner Zen.
Dining as Art
Like everything else at Lake Nona Wave, the dining at BACÁN and its companion restaurant, Haven Kitchen, does not disappoint. At BACÁN, we’d recommend the Smoked Scallops A La Plancha with caviar, beetroot tartare, cauliflower, and yuca crisp. The smokey presentation was theatrical, and the scallops perfectly prepared. The Grilled Short Ribs with sweet potato, charred baby vegetable escabeche, crispy rice, and tequila sauce were rich with flavors, leaving me unable to tackle dessert. Never fear, I stepped up to the plate and saved the Esfere De Chocolate, a chocolate fondant cake, chocolate mole sauce, and strawberry ice cream for my midnight snack.
The Haven Kitchen was a pleasant surprise. Located right next to the pool, our server, the delightful John, was as hospitable as they come, and knowledgeable about every aspect of the Haven dining experience.
I recommend the Roasted Chicken, perfectly prepared with honey-roasted heirloom baby carrots, spiced macadamia, herbs chermoula, and tzatziki. Leave room for dessert, as the Carrot Cake, a deconstructed amazement created with orange ginger panna cotta, comfit, pineapple, orange carrot vanilla sauce with a sour cream sorbet, was a work of art, worthy of a place in the sculpture garden.
We usually define a vacation as a trip far away, to Paris, New York, Italy, where you feel you’ve escaped your rut and experienced a rebirth of energy, a renewal of life. Who would have thought that in our own backyard, there would be a place where you can not only escape and get away for the weekend, but truly feel an inner rebirth, a rediscovery of your inner Zen?
Like Dorothy says in “The Wizard of Oz,” “There’s no place like home.” And as Dorothy says at the end of the movie, when asked what she learned from her adventures, “I think that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
I think that’s a philosophy of which Deepak Chopra would approve.
There are several local spas and wellness centers to choose from in the Orlando area. Even if you don’t have time for an overnight staycation, a day at the spa rejuvenates the body and soul.
Orlando, Grande Lakes
The spa at this Orlando resort is a destination in itself. Guests are invited to forget the outside world for a few hours or an entire day, to give in to the soothing elements of nature and emerge refreshed, relaxed, and revitalized. ritzcarlton.com
Spa by JW
JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa (photo below)
JW Marriott features highly personalized treatments with the intention of renewing and revitalizing your body, mind, and soul. marriott.com
The Spa at Rosen Centre
The Spa at Rosen Centre is more than an escape from your everyday life; it’s all about pampering, relaxation, and wellness. Experience a quick escape into luxury at The Spa at Rosen Centre, where there is even a special Educator’s Rate. spaatrosencentre.com
Fiala Aesthetics Medical Spa
Med Spa in Altamonte Springs
At Fiala Aesthetics, you receive first-class treatment from highly credentialed staff members with extensive aesthetic experience. Whether your desire is a subtle change or dramatic results, Fiala is available. plasticsurgeryinflorida.com
Face Place Boutique
Located on South Street in Orlando
Look and feel amazing with Face Place Boutique’s latest techniques and proven technology. Face Place believe that “You are already beautiful…we help you feel beyond beautiful.” faceplaceboutique.com