For those looking to experience an authentic Korean JimJilBang experience without the jet lag, if you live in the New York City area, the New York Spa Castle awaits, just over the Whitestone bridge in the College Point neighborhood of Queens.
The New York Spa Castle, formerly known as InSpaWorld, from the outside its 5-story structure looks like just another big-box store. Once you enter, you find 100,000 square feet / 9,200 m² of relaxation.
There are plenty of public transportation options to get to the Spa Castle. If you’ve driven your own car, they offer complimentary valet parking. This is a good thing, since the surrounding streets are crowded and very narrow.
Entering on the lowest level is the reception area. Here you pay your entry fee and in exchange you are given a numbered plastic bracelet that is your key and charge card: Hold up to one of the 3 lockers in the facility with a matching number and the door will pop open. Allow a cashier to swipe it and it will add the charge to your bill when you exit. There are terminals throughout the facility where you can check the balance on your card.
The front desk staff (at least on the day I visited) didn’t admit to speaking much more English than “Your money please” and “Thank you.” After I was handed my bracelet, I was pointed to the appropriate locker room: To the left for men and to the right for women.
Just inside of the locker room is a shoe storage area. One of these small lockers is the first one your key opens. True to any Korean business, the floor changes from standard industrial tile to a wood-grained vinyl. Before stepping on the vinyl floor, you are to remove your shoes. Helpful attendants were there to chastise me and the three people behind me as we went to step on the pristine vinyl floor.
Inside of the locker room, there is a service desk selling things like scrub cloths and fresh underwear, grooming areas with all types of toiletries, lounge areas with couches, and entries to the single-gender sleeping area and bath area and stairs to the coed areas. A helpful thing to note if you are planning to enjoy the coed areas first: You must do so in a uniform. These are stored by the entrance to the bath area.
I visited the bath area first. It is to be enjoyed exclusively in the nude. Watching the other patrons, the appropriate ettiquitte, at least on the men’s side, was to strip down at you locker, and walk naked across the room. Towels, etc. are provided only at the entrance to the bath area.
Inside the baths are steam room, a dry sauna, a whole bunch of pools and banks of showers. You are expected to shower upon entering, and rinse yourself after using the sweat baths and before entering any pools. The pools range from cold to exceedingly hot. The large pools in the back have a battery of massage jets inside.
The single-gender areas of Spa Castle also have a relaxation lounge with couches for socializing, a sleeping lounge, and an area to get the famous korean body scrub.
The Coed Areas:
Once you have bathed your fill, don one of the uniforms, and head upstairs. There is a rack of them just
outside of the bath area. If you’re modest, grab your uniform before you undress.
The first floor is an expansive open area. At one end are the coed dry saunas. All must be used in your uniform, and they are hot. Save these until just before you are ready to head back down to the single-gender areas, as your uniform will be drenched with sweat after visiting these. A visit to the ice room helps, but not enough.
Also on this level is the food court, salon and massage area. There are tables and chairs throughout for dining, relaxing or just socializing.
On your way to the second floor is the mezzanine. In it are rooms full of recliners, some with personal TVs in the armrest. While lounging here you can get a foot massage, or have an attendant bring you a cold drink at your chair. This is the life.
The second floor is the pool floor: The variety of pools here rivals most water parks, and includes massaging pools, kiddie pools, and even an aqua bar for enjoying (non-alcoholic) beverages while sitting in the worm water. Some of the pools are outside, some inside. If you plan to use these pools, bathing suits and pool towels are not provided, but are available for rent. This floor also has the third locker that your key will open for storing your personal effects while in the pool. These lockers are in single-gender locker rooms, so if you don’t want to return downstairs with your wet bathing suit under your uniform, you can change out of it here.
The top floor has a full-service Korean restaurant, and a fitness center. A day pass to the fitness center can be purchased for an additional fee. This is new since our visit, so we’re not sure how you get your shoes up here. We assume you carry them.
When you have had your fill of the spa castle, you return to the lower level, and change back into your street clothes. A counter in the locker room has every imaginable toiletry, combsm brushes, and hair dryers available for use. Heck, if you want to clip your toenails, there are trays with nail clippers attached for just this purpose (eww). When dressed, claim your shoes, and proceed to the front desk to return your bracelet. If you’ve made any charges in the Spa Castle, they’ll be due here.
The trip to Queens is a little long for us. We’re anxiously awaiting the opening of the Pocono resort they show on their website.
Here are some other New York metro saunas from our database: