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The Inns of Aurora, a Luxury Resort in New York’s Finger Lakes Region, Puts Wellness Front and Center

Discover how one woman’s generosity and vision transformed the town of Aurora with The Inns of Aurora and a standout spa.


The Spa at The Inns of Aurora

If you blink, you might miss the town of Aurora, NY, located on Cayuga Lake. It only takes a couple of minutes to drive through the quaint Finger Lakes village known for being home to Wells College, a small liberal arts college founded in 1868 for women, and Mackenzie-Childs, the renowned manufacturer of ceramics, furnishings, and home decor. However, Aurora is one destination you don’t want to miss. It once attracted the likes of Edwin B. Morgan, a congressman and co-founder of the New York Times, and Henry Wells, founder of Wells College, Wells Fargo, and American Express. Today, the village and its historic Victorian homes there have been restored to their former glory thanks to the generosity and vision of Wells College alumna Pleasant Rowland. Founder of the American Girl series of historic dolls, books, and more, Rowland and the Aurora Foundation, which was created through her partnership with Wells College.

Although I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived, I soon discovered The Inns of Aurora are made up of five boutique hotels. The Aurora Inn, where we first tried to check in, was originally built in 1833 by colonel E.B. Morgan as a popular resting place for travelers along the Erie Canal. The historic inn was restored in 2003. Since then, the property has come to include E.B. Morgan House, a beautiful stone mansion on the lake; Rowland House, a chic centuries-old house on the lake; Wallcourt House, which once served as Miss Goldsmith’s School for Girls, a Wells College dorm, and a studio for Mackenzie-Childs; and Zabriskie House, another beautifully restored house and where we called home during our stay. From the moment we checked in, I knew we were in for a treat.

Zabriskie House
Zabriskie House is one of the five boutique hotels at The Inns of Aurora.
What We Love:
  • Wine & cheese hour
  • Housemade granola bars
  • Soaking in the spa’s hydrotherapy pools
  • Dining at 1833 Kitchen & Bar
What Not to Miss:
  • Hiking Fillmore Glen State Park’s gorge trail
  • A meal at nearby Salt of the Earth
  • Sampling the Café’s healthy offerings
  • A visit to the Mennonite-owned and operated Saunders Country Store
  • A complimentary guided tour of the grounds around Harriet Tubman’s home
Zabriskie House Room Four
The well-appointed guest rooms at Zabriskie House are awash in natural light.
Guest Rooms

I must admit, I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at The Inns of Aurora. My partner had done most of the legwork and other than the fact that I had heard there was a spa I must see, it was a blank slate to me. When I first laid eyes on the Zabriskie House, I knew we were in for an idyllic stay. The stately home was renovated in 2019 and features 11 guest rooms, beautifully designed living spaces, a wraparound porch, and a firepit around where guests gather each evening for a complimentary happy hour and s’mores. Each of the boutique hotels is run by an innkeeper, who is always on-hand for questions, recommendations, and to ensure guests have everything they need.

Our guest room was especially inviting with its soothing blue and white decor, king-size bed, Frette linens, and marble bath with heated floors. I especially loved that I could get up early and head down to one of parlor rooms to work in peace. A kitchenette on the first floor was always stocked with light bites, such as delicious house-made granola bars, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt in the mornings and other snack items in the afternoon.

While each of the inns has its own unique style and decor, they all showcase art collected by Rowland over the years. None, however, accommodate children under the age of 12 without a private rental of the entire inn. Fortunately, as we were without kids, we enjoyed the serenity of the adults-only vibe.

1833 Kitchen Bar Veranda
1833 Kitchen & Bar features a veranda overlooking the lake for guests to dine.

It’s easy to eat well at The Inns of Aurora thanks to 1833 Kitchen & Bar. Serving brunch and dinner, the restaurant, located in the Aurora Inn, features a menu of offerings made from scratch whenever possible. Sourcing local purveyors and responsible harvesters, it also has gluten-free and vegetarian options. The menu also designates dishes relying on ingredients sourced from local farms. Open since 1833, the setting hearkens back to that time with colonial-style decor, fireplaces, and portraits of historic figures. In the warmer months, it’s also to dine outside on a beautiful deck overlooking Lake Cayuga.  

For a more casual dining experience, Fargo Bar & Grill is a neighborhood restaurant and tavern built in 1836. It’s the place to go for a burger or other bistro fare. While we didn’t get a chance to eat there, we did pop in for a quick look. We immediately felt transported back in time. It’s a cozy setting that calls for good food and conversation. 

Fortunately, we did get to enjoy lunch at The Café, located at the spa. It was an experience worth raving about. Featuring a complimentary grazing table for guests of the spa, it offers a selection of salad fixings, yogurt parfaits, energy bites, and petite cheese and charcuterie boards. Some beverages, such as wine, beer, and kombucha, are available for purchase. Honestly, I could have spent another hour or so just nibbling on all the goodies there.

The spa’s reception area features a stunning fireplace.
Spa & Fitness Facilities

While I’ve visited spas throughout the world, I must admit I wasn’t at all prepared for The Spa at The Inns of Aurora to be as grand as it is. Opened in 2021, the farm-inspired spa campus is located on a hill overlooking Cayuga Lake and its surrounding fields and forests. The first new build for the property, it honors the area’s agricultural heritage with three white barn-like structures. Inside, the spa welcomes guests with floor-to-ceiling windows highlighting stunning views of the landscape, beautiful contemporary decor, abundant natural light, and artwork from Rowland’s personal collection. The 10-treatment room spa also features an outdoor sauna pavilion with four co-ed hydrotherapy pools, an indoor co-ed hot pool and a cold plunge, and more. There are also indoor saunas, steam rooms, and an indoor/outdoor tranquility lounge with a modern fireplace and breathtaking views.

The treatment menu, designed and provided by Rasa Spa, which has been cultivating wellness experiences in the Finger Lakes since 2006, incorporates the Ayurvedic philosophy of holistic wellness. Committed to helping guests live harmoniously through the seasons of their lives, the spa offers a range of treatments in addition to seasonal packages and multi-day retreats. I opted for the Rasa Signature Facial (starting at $170, 50 minutes; $275, 80 minutes), a customized skincare treatment using products from Eminence Organic Skin Care and Circadia. My skin got some long overdue TLC, and I left with some tips for treating my rosacea-prone skin. 

Although I’m not a fan of hot tubs and such, I did love the spa’s hydrotherapy pools. Whether it was the epic setting, the rejuvenating contrast therapy, or a little bit of both, I found my time in the pools to be pure bliss (even the cold plunge). I couldn’t help but think it would be the perfect place for a girls getaway.

The Schoolhouse The Loft Yoga Class
The Loft is a beautiful space to enjoy yoga and other wellness offerings.

It’s impossible not to love a place that offers a host of complimentary activities. One of my favorites was yoga at the Loft, a charming and light-filled space in a renovated schoolhouse. Other options include water sports, board and lawn games, biking, and more. Some activities are a la carte. One I wish I had had time to experience was cooking demo or tasting at Aurora Cooks! Wellness enthusiasts like myself will find plenty of activities to enjoy, such as Spice Blending, Tarot Reading, Tea Blending, and Essential Oil Blending.

Beyond the resort, there is also much to explore in the Finger Lakes, from the Cayuga Lake Wine Train, the oldest wine trail in the country, to a visit to the Village of Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement and home to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park and Women’s Hall of Fame. For more information on the Finger Lakes, visit

About The Author

Heather, co-founder of Well Defined and the former editor-in-chief of American Spa, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, copyediting, and media relations. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent,,,, and, in addition to various custom publications. She is frequently called upon to comment on various spa and wellness trends for various media outlets.