Yesterday, I took Rachael on a birthday trip to spend a day at Spa Castle in Queens. When I say we spent a day there, I mean we spent a DAY there. Ten hours to be exact. And we didn't even do everything we wanted to do. We could have spent the night, too. Literally, it's like the Disney World of spas. I don't even know where to start telling you about it. Maybe I just won't . . . All right, I will.
Spa Castle is an interesting blend of Korean sauna and European bath house . . . in Queens. It's by far not a chi-chi frou-frou upper west side Bliss, but it has the most extensive facilities I've ever seen at any spa. Probably more than all of them combined. It's open from 6am to midnight and it's very clean and well maintained.
First, though, you have to get there. Now, it is a serious trek to experience the Castle, but it is well worth it. Take the 7 train to the end (Flushing), get off, walk two blocks to the Spa Castle shuttle (if none of the signs are in English, you're in the right place), travel on the shuttle for another ten minutes, and you're there. Luckily, the shuttles and the 7 train were pretty reliable and we got there with no trouble.
Rachael and I entered the HUGE building, paid the entrance fee, and went to the ladies' dressing room. We were issued orange and pink gym uniform-type outfits and towels, lockers, and a little plastic watch with a number. This watch, conveniently, is an electronic device used for all extra purchases in the spa (food, additional services) and your locker, so you don't have to worry about carrying around your valuables while you're relaxing. (Even though I did carry my cell phone, for which Rachael heavily chastised me).
We then walked to the lockers and looked around. Not a scrap of clothing in sight. Like, none. And to boot, every imaginable size, shape, age, and color of nakedness was being paraded around us. Apparently, the locker room is on the floor next to the European bath section of the facility (makes sense - women only). Like, swimsuits are not ALLOWED.
I looked at Rachael's face and laughed. I don't think we were quite ready for that before we had taken off our scarves. We put on our shorts and shirts and headed upstairs to the top three clothed floors of the facility. We'd save the swimsuit banning for later.
We then went upstairs and proceeded to partake of a list of pampering that would make the Real Housewives of Orange County jealous. We started with manicures and pedicures in a lovely mosaic-style tiled room with water falling down the walls. Nice, but when you're in the city, a good mani pedi is on every corner. We were just getting warmed up.
Rachael then left for her ninety minute hot stone massage ("That man beat me up! In a good way!", she said) while I stayed with Helen, the waxing specialist, for every woman's favorite half hour at the spa. Okay, it wasn't too horrible and she was very sweet. Her favorite phrase was "Beauty is Pain". Ha! I would have to remember that.
Then I left for my (after that, much needed) Swedish massage. My portly female masseuse seemed to have some kind of sonar for my sore muscles and the hour-long massage was both therapeutic and enjoyable. So far, so good. A good, if average, spa day.
Rachael and I then met up on the first floor for a little gnosh. The large open area was part cafeteria, part living room, and part trickling zen garden. It was oddly peaceful. Everywhere, people were sleeping in leather massage chairs, eating frozen yogurt, and chatting over asparagus and grilled chicken from the salad bar. To our left was a cluster of igloo-looking saunas, above us was a dark leather relaxation room, and in front of us was a Starbucks. Classic. We ate our lunch (sushi for me, chicken for Rachael), compared notes, and decided what to do next.
Here's where this spa was head and shoulders above others I've visited. We decided to check out the saunas next. Spa Castle had seven different sauna rooms just on the first floor! We started with the Gold Sauna that was lined on the inside with real gold plates. We read that gold was used in ancient times to provide a balance of mind, soul, and body. We took cedar neck blocks and laid on the bamboo mats to soak up said balance.
Unfortunately, there were two loud women from Jersey that were disrupting everyone in the room's "balance", so we moved to the Jade Sauna. The Jade Sauna was literally lined with large chunks of jade which we learned contains calcium and magnesium that emit far infrared heating rays (known for promoting healing in the body).
This room was much more peaceful. I was in detox heaven. Eventually, though, my Colorado native buddy led my sweating Southern inner peace to the room that gave HER the most peace. The Iceland cold sauna room. Supposedly, this room should improve your circulation and your immune system while going from hot to cold tightens your pores and rejuvenates your skin. It just made me shiver. Rachael was in heaven.
Finally, we made it out of the arctic and into the largest, hottest, and most lovely sauna yet. The Loess Soil sauna room has hand painted walls and a high mud ceiling. It smelled heavenly and we soaked up (well, sweated out) the benefits. Unfortunately, we didn't quite have time to check out all the saunas, but we will definitely be going back soon to finish our tour. Others include an LED room, salt sauna room, far infrared ray room, and every variation of wet and dry sauna you can imagine.
Overwhelmed, we padded barefoot (everyone's barefoot - if you don't like it, you'll get used to it) to the second floor which was largely an outdoor area. Through the glass, we saw six bubbling pools under the New York sunset.
The most important bit of info: all of the pools were heated. Every pool had a digital temperature above it so you could pick your pool and where you want your jets. We tiptoed carefully on the icy runners to the 106 degree whirlpool and hopped in as quickly as possible. It felt fabulous. We were outside in the 30 degree weather looking at the stars in Queens. Random, but fabulous.
Before this article gets too long, I'll tell you quickly the rest of our spa escapades. Rachael had a honey wrap/scrub that left her skin feeling like silk and I had a little time to explore and lay in the leather recliners in the relaxation room. We went upstairs to the restaurant and shared (totally unhealthfully, I know) some spicy waffle fries and tasty mango orange concoctions.
By this time, it was around 9pm and our subway would turn into a pumpkin soon, so we went downstairs to the baths, threw our shirts and shorts into a laundry basket, entered the "swimsuits prohibited" section, and hopped into a 102 degree bubbling bath. It was oddly comfortable. And for a moment, we felt very European . . . in Queens. Go figure..