Digital detox: biz as usual at expanded Sundara Spa


“Time to relax and enjoy everything your heart desires,” the one-page pledge sheet begins.

What you’ll promise, in exchange for temporary nirvana, is to unplug. To relinquish constant contact with the outside world. To silence and stow away cell phones and other mobile devices.

Such digital detox is one part of the quest for serenity and revitalization at Sundara Inn and Spa, an 80-acre refuge of tranquility in an unlikely location: hyper-active and thrill-a-minute Wisconsin Dells.

The getaway for adults only is next to a wooded area and Wild Rock golf course, where deer and turkey are known to roam as daylight wanes. That sets the mood for a disconnection from fast-lane living and heightened appreciation of nature.

For the first time since it opened in 2003, Sundara has undergone a major expansion. Consider the highlights of this $9 million project.

  • Replicas of the sandstone bluffs that define Wisconsin Dells are mood setters at the new Cambrian Oasis and its indoor/outdoor pool bar and mini waterfall.
  • Nava, which is Sanskrit for “fresh,” is the new restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to spa guests. Just out the door is a relaxation area with firepits, and musicians will perform when weather warms.
  • A new salt therapy room, for quiet lounging, is purported to improve mood and health, especially respiration. Think about the effect of inhaling dry salt air along an oceanfront.
  • Other new lounging areas look out onto woodlands. One is named Suvela, which is Sanskrit for “silence,” and it is a conversation-free area.
  • Each of eight new overnight suites comfortably accommodates a minimum of four, with a twin-bed option for traveling friends or relatives.
  • A new demonstration kitchen means room for private meals, cooking classes, behind-the-scenes peeks of chef and kitchen operations. It is next to a greenhouse, for growing herbs and other menu ingredients.
  • Other class offerings have expanded to include aqua yoga, boot camp fitness, guided meditation and guided hikes (with bird, vegetation identification). Add sunrise and sunset cruises on Lake Delton, kayak and stand-up paddleboard tours on Mirror Lake.
  • Thai massage is new to the spa service menu. Outdoors is a new zen welcome garden.

Lifestyle and pop culture trends typically migrate from coastal cities to the Midwest, notes Sundara publicist Carla Minsky, but she contends Sundara leads the way in spa trends.

Silence is an elusive luxury in congested cities, she notes. Trendy terms like “forest bathing” – reconnecting with nature – have been business as usual at Sundara since before the first hammocks were erected on the outdoor meditation trail.

Chef Chris Medwetz says his priority is to elevate food and beverage offerings. “We keep it simple and treat good ingredients with the respect they deserve,” he says.

Seafood offerings are prevalent, as are smoothies, and dietary restrictions are addressed routinely.

The property already had a steamy infinity relaxation pool for year-round soaking and a five-step “purifying bath ritual” to relax, invigorate and cleanse the skin.

The calming feng shui design of roomy lifestyle villas, one of which I shared with seven girlfriends a few winters ago, still exists – although they are now Wyndham-operated, timeshare properties.

Overnight rates begin at $199 for two at Sundara Inn and Spa, 920 Canyon Rd., Wisconsin Dells, The fee includes complimentary access to wellness classes, water features (pools, saunas) and lounging areas.

For a more frugal introduction to the property, book a massage or other spa service and pay an extra $30 for daylong access to lounges and classes. Peppermint- and chocolate-infused spa treatments are featured during this time of winter.

Both Sundara and Wild Rock Golf Club are a part of The Wilderness, a resort with multiple lodging, dining and activity options on 600 acres.

Wild Rock’s championship course on May 8 hosts a qualifying round for the 2019 U.S. Open and various Wisconsin State Golf Association events in September.

Why head to Wisconsin Dells during winter? A few quick reasons:

Hiking or snowshoeing by candlelight happens on two trails, each one mile long, at Mirror Lake State Park at 6 p.m. Feb. 2.

Palace Theater in the Dells presents the retro “Forever Plaid” with its 1950s pop tunes through Feb. 10. “Lend Me a Tenor,” an opera-themed musical that turns the clock back to 1934, opens Feb. 15.

“Danke Schoen” crooner Wayne Newton performs at Ho-Chunk Gaming on Feb. 16. An ode to classic rock happens March 10, and country musician Josh Turner takes the stage March 16.

The area’s massive indoor waterparks – at Kalahari Resort, Great Wolf Lodge, Mt. Olympus, Chula Vista and The Wilderness – are a force to pull you through winter too.

Zipline courses and horseback riding are other options. For more about the area: