The Founder of American Girl Redid an Entire Town — and It'll Make Your Childhood Dreams Come True
In 1962, Pleasant Rowland graduated from Wells College in the town of Aurora in upstate New York. Though she spent just four short years there, it was a place that stayed with her forever.
About two decades later, Rowland was putting her education to use creating one of the most successful toy brands of all time, American Girl. You know, those historically accurate dolls named Kirsten, Abby, Molly, Josefina, Felicity, and more that have remained on the top of children's Christmas wish lists since the day they came to market. In 1998, she sold the American Girl brand for $700 million and quickly put the money to use on another project she adored: renovating her beloved college town.
"The four years I spent at Wells College, in the tiny village of Aurora, changed me forever," Rowland told Vogue. "First, of course, in the obvious ways that college changes everyone. But in another, deeper way, my heart was touched by the timeless remove of this place, far from the hustle and bustle."
While Rowland was on the rise, Aurora was in a tailspin. But, in 2001, Rowland, together with Wells College, created the Aurora Foundation with the aim of both renovating the town and bringing it some much-needed tourism. In the time since the project began, Vogue noted, the foundation has added restaurants, a market, revived local businesses, and added five boutique hotels known as the Inns of Aurora. And most recently she added a 15,000-square-foot luxury spa to go with them.
The Spa at the Inns of Aurora opened in summer 2021 as part of the larger waterfront village campus, and is just as idyllic as you'd imagine. The spa comes with views of the vast meadows all around and the nearby Cayuga Lake. And, it comes with a "farm-inspired" spa menu designed to "promote healing and harmony in your body and mind."
At the spa, guests will find services dedicated to holistic wellness, including two hydrotherapy circuits, and therapeutic treatments provided by Rasa Spa including massages, energy work, and multi-day retreats.
"Guided by our wellness philosophy, offerings at the Spa are designed to promote long-lasting benefits to mind, spirit, and body," the spa explains on its website. "These treatments can be enjoyed as single experiences or as part of a broader wellness visit that incorporates a series of overlapping health benefits. Multi-day retreats are an ideal way to enjoy the full benefit of our services: each day features a progression of treatment that amplifies the healing power of the experience, offering a profoundly transformative wellness journey."
Its most intriguing massage offering may be its Abhyanga treatment, which uses rhythmic movement and warm oil.
"This deeply relaxing massage includes movements that increase blood flow, cleanse your lymphatic system, and nourish your skin with a warm, healing oil, customized to your needs," the spa explains on its website. "Your session will start with a short questionnaire to determine which balancing oil will benefit your whole being. The 80-minute version of this session includes focused, deep tissue massage work."
Once you're done pampering yourself at the spa, you can check into one of the five Inns of Aurora, which each come with their own personalities and style. You know, just like the dolls that made this entire getaway possible. See all the accommodation, spa, and experience options here.