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My daughter and I stepped into the quiet, softly lit salt cave, settled into the comfy chairs and prepared to enjoy an hour of soothing relaxation. With my husband and younger son off to summer Scout camp and my two 20-something sons fending for themselves, Jennifer and I were enjoying an overnight mother-daughter spa getaway at the Salt Sanctuary located at the Traditions at the Glen Resort outside of Binghamton. I had seen an ad for it and was intrigued as to what a salt spa was. Plus, I liked the fact that it was close enough to drive there in four hours, yet it was far enough away that we felt like we were on vacation.

What is a salt spa?

Salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, is a centuries old European tradition that has recently made its way to the United States. This therapy has helped people with respiratory illnesses, but is also a spa treatment that promotes relaxation and rejuvenation. There are currently less than 50 spas offering salt therapy in the U.S.

According to the Salt Sanctuary’s brochure, “The atmosphere of the salt chamber is an escape from the contaminated environments of our daily lives. Due to the antibacterial properties of salt, the salt chamber is a sterile environment that provides an ideal setting for healing.”

While in Europe there may be some salt therapy caves that are actually caves, the salt chambers or “caves” in the United States are man-made. At the Salt Sanctuary, the salt cave is a large room at the spa made to look like a cave, compete with walls and floor of salt and strategically stacked salt blocks adding to the ambience.

A machine in the cave, which has seating for up to seven people, disperses microscopic salt particles into the air. The atmosphere of the salt cave is supposed to help eliminate infections of the airways and skin, as well as promote relaxation.

In addition to the cave, the Salt Sanctuary also has a salt room, which is similar to the cave, but actually more suitable for children, since it has “salt box” toys and a marker board wall. Salt therapy has become a popular natural treatment for children with asthma. The spa also offers traditional spa treatments, such as facials, massages, manicures and pedicures.

The resort has been in business since 2004, the spa since 2006 and the Salt Sanctuary since 2011.

“The Southern Tier has long been known for its respiratory allergies,” Matt Walsh, founder of the Salt Sanctuary, said when explaining why the resort decided to open a salt spa. “We wanted to add a new type of holistic healing to our existing spa services, and salt therapy, aka halotherapy, seemed ideal. We traveled the country visiting the first halotherapy spas and learned quickly how great a benefit they were to their local communities.”

The resort, which is set high on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, was originally built in 1919 as a private residence for Eliot Spalding. A few years later it was sold to become a clubhouse for the Kalurah Shrine golf course. It was acquired by IBM Corp. in 1935 to be used as an employee country club and a hotel for visiting executives. IBM would later use the grounds for summer sales conventions. Additions were added to the hotel as business needs expanded. IBM closed the building in 1995 and sold it in 2004. After renovations and expansion, the Traditions at the Glen Resort was born; today the hotel has 41 rooms and suites.

Behind the hotel building is “The Glen,” a 200-plus acre mature forest, which has some of the oldest and largest trees in Broome County. The grounds include two stone bridges, waterfalls and several loop hiking trails of various lengths.

Around town

If you have kids in tow, you’ll want to check out the Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, a 22,500-square-foot interactive children’s museum. Next door to the museum is the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, which has more than 150 varieties of animals, a botanical garden and an antique carousel. The zoo is open from April to November.

Speaking of carousels, if you visit Binghamton between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you can ride for free on six restored antique carousels that are located throughout the city and surrounding areas, including the one at the zoo.

If you go

Traditions at the Glen Resort and the Salt Sanctuary, 4101 Watson Blvd., Johnson City; (607) 797-2381, www.traditionsresort.com, www.thesaltsanctuary.com

Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, 60 Morgan Road, Binghamton; (607) 773-8661, www.thediscoverycenter.org

Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, 60 Morgan Road, Binghamton; (607) 724-5461, www.rossparkzoo.com

Carousels in Broome County; for more information, visit www.gobroomecounty.com/community/carousels

Getting there: Take the New York State Thruway (I-90) to Syracuse exit 36 (I-81). Follow I-81 south to Binghamton. Alternately, you can take the New York State Thruway (I-90) to Rochester exit 46 (I-390). Follow I-390 South until it merges with I-86 east and follow to Binghamton.