Serenity Spa has carved out a perfect cave-like retreat in an unlikely Downtown location - an escape from the hustle and bustle, a place where the lights are dim and the focus is on relaxation.

Serenity Spa has carved out a perfect cave-like retreat in an unlikely Downtown location - an escape from the hustle and bustle, a place where the lights are dim and the focus is on relaxation.

The student-operated spa, opened a month ago as part of Miami-Jacobs Career College's massage therapy program, sits on the first floor of the Continental Center, a skyscraper on busy Gay Street. But with floor-to-ceiling windows facing a quiet alley, it's an ideal getaway for a quick massage.

The spa has two massage rooms and a couples' room with two tables for side-by-side work. Save for blinds-covered windows on all of the doors - so program director Julie Hawk can check in on students as they work - the rooms are outfitted like any other spa.

Hawk said Serenity's location makes it convenient for Downtown employees as well as residents at several new town-home developments nearby.

You can stop in for something as short as a five-minute chair massage or as indulgent as a Black Baltic mud wrap or hot stone massage. Add-on services include a hand or foot scrub or back glow.

Miami-Jacobs is based out of Dayton, but the entire Columbus campus is housed inside the Continental Center, also home to myriad other businesses. Serenity Spa is positioned directly above the massage therapy program's classroom space, so students promoted to practice in the spa are, quite literally, moving up.

Students must meet certain benchmarks before doing so, and once they've joined the spa's "staff," they have to complete a minimum of 475 hands-on hours, Hawk said.

The two-year associate degree program began enrolling seven months ago and currently has 35 students. Many students use the schooling to jump-start a second career, and dream of opening their own spa, Hawk said.

"A lot of massage schools can do a fine job of teaching somebody how to give a massage, but they're working on their classmates, mostly," said Joanie Krein, director of the Columbus campus. "We're really helping our students work on the general public. Every day when they're working in the clinic, they're thinking about, 'How do I get repeat business and referrals and add-on services?'"

Students have been setting up on-the-street chair-massage stations to get word out that the spa is open, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this hidden Downtown escape.