A Body Scrub that I Never Knew I Needed.
Visiting Spa Castle in Flushing, Queens.
Note: Spa Castle provided me with a complimentary day pass including food and beverages during my visit. I was not obligated to write this post, but had such a great experience that I’m choosing to share more about it here. While there, I chose to purchase the K-Scrub which was well worth every penny. More on that later.
Have you heard of Spa Castle? If you’ve lived in New York City for approximately six months or more Spa Castle is bound to come up in casual conversation at least once, if not multiple times. People talk about Spa Castle as if it really is a mythical castle in a distant land. Something that sounds too wonderful to be easily accessible in New York City- the land of crowded trains, noisy streets, and never ending exhaustion.
It’s crazy to believe there is a place in New York City where you can just sit and relax. A place that's within the 5 boroughs, but not your own apartment. A place where you can force yourself to lock your phone away and disconnect. A place where, if you chose, you can have every inch of city grime deeply scrubbed off of your skin.
Lucky for us, it’s not in a distant land…it’s just in Queens.
For the past four years, I had made up a magical image of Spa Castle in my head. Having spent a couple of summers in Santa Fe, NM during graduate school, I absolutely LOVE a good spa. What's not to love about some intentional self care? After couple of friends and colleagues who had been to both the spas in Santa Fe, and Spa Castle in Queens gave me their positive reviews, I was very excited for my upcoming visit.
Rather than giving you a full play by play of the visit- I want to give you a list of highlights to expect when you visit, as well as some tips that I think also helped on ours.
1. It really is the size of a castle. It sadly doesn’t look like a medieval castle, though there is a comically huge decorative door in the main atrium area beyond the locker rooms. There are four floors of spa amenities including indoor pools, outdoor pools, far more saunas than one can count or are probably necessary, endless massage rooms, and a full Korean restaurant. There's a salt sauna, a gold sauna, an ice room- I'm always a little skeptical on what they actually do, but they must do something, it's a castle after all!
2. Go Early. Alternatively, go on a weekday if you can. It likely quieter on weekdays, and also $10 cheaper during the week. If you can only visit on a weekend like us, definitely force yourself to be a morning person. Think of it as waking up early to go somewhere to keep sleeping! (There's literally a naping area. It's in the middle of the big atrium, so I'm not sure how feasible it is to nap...but if you need it, it's there.) The main reason to go early is to avoid the crowds. We visited on a Sunday morning, arriving close to opening. It was virtually empty for the first couple of hours we were there. Around 12:30pm the pools became more crowded and the swim up bar opened giving it more of a party vibe than a spa vibe upstairs. Still great, depending on what you're looking for. NB: They also allow children at the spa, going early gives another advantage of avoiding the tiny humans.
3. The locker room pools/saunas require mandatory nudity. Just something to note if that's not your thing. There are plenty of other areas at the spa that require bathing suits or the provided uniform. I will say that the pools within the locker room are probably the best pools at the facility including targeted jet pools, hot tubs of different temperatures, and two cold plunge pools. If you follow note 2, you'll likely have this entire area to yourself. The K-Scrubs also take place in the locker room pool area.
4. If you're going to eat a meal there, eat at the Korean restaurant upstairs. Trust me. If you wan't just a snack or something lighter, the best option is the smoothie/froyo bar on the third floor. Adjacent to smoothies on the third floor there is a snack bar with sandwiches, pizza, coffee, and a by the pound salad bar with various pre-made salads. Skip the snacks on the outdoor pool level, and save your appetite for something from the Sky Garden Korean Restaurant. NB: You won't have to carry around any money or a wallet during your visit, anything you chose to buy including spa services is charged to a tab connected to your wristband/locker number.
5. The upstairs pools are legit too. Hot pools, warm pools, jet pools, waterfalls in pools, pools within pools, private reservable pools. You'll have all the options in the world on the 3rd floor pool area. My favorite area was the indoor lounging pools which have targeted jets for your back and feet. They also are indoors so I could sit there for a long time and not worry about a sunburn! Win! The larger indoor pool has a swim up bar, but I decided a $15 cocktail wasn't in my best interest after purposely dehydrating my body via hot tub and sauna. Wouldn't have been a good look.
6. Research deals and promotions online! I'm not made of moneybags, but I definitely plan to return to spa castle. In order to do so I'll likely use one of the many promotions available on Groupon/Living Social etc. If you plan to go, you should do the same, and you might be able get a great package deal with spa services included.
7. Transportation is manageable. There are a variety of ways to access spa castle without a personal vehicle. Spa Castle operates a shuttle between the spa and their sister hotel the One Boutique Hotel located within walking distance of the 7 Train.. It's also possible to take a bus from the end of the 7 train, but it involves a longer walk. For quickest transportation, an Uber/Lyft from the Flushing/Main St stop of the 7 train is about $10-$12.
9. If you are considering a service, look into the K-Scrub. It's one of the least expensive bang for your buck services offered at the spa, hence was my choice for a little extra self care. I really had no idea what to expect, but I have now decided it will be an annual treat. In brief, every inch of your body gets fully scrubbed with a towel glove that is essential sandpaper. It's a very common practice in jjimjilbang, the term for Korean bathhouses. Who doesn't love seeing dead skin roll off their body like dried paint flecking off the side of a building. It's delightful.
10. Go with an open mind and create your own spa experience. Everyone will likely have a completely different experience. There are a lot of negative reviews online, but as we all know, generally only people who write reviews have bad things to say. There are parts of the spa that could use some updating, but there are also parts that are totally lovely. I imagine I would not like it when it's crowded, so I'll only go early in the AM to beat the crowd. I tended to get bored sitting in the saunas but could have sat in the various pools for endless hours. I'm sure spa days don't bring the same rejuvenation to everyone, but if you've never tried, it's worth a shot!
BONUS TIP: Plan to spend a long chunk of time there. If you're going to spend the money, it's not an in and out situation. Check out every pool and sauna, enjoy every space, or even take a nap if you're that person.