What It’s Like To Spend 6 Hours at Spa Castle
by Emmy Liu
Would you believe me if I told you that I spent the entire day at a spa? As in, I pampered myself for 6 straight hours at a multi-level, sprawling spa resort in Queens, New York. And would you also believe that it’s called — wait for it — Spa Castle?
Modeled after Asian beauty techniques and ancient European bathhouses, Spa Castle is a huge facility that offers not one, but four different pools, six different baths, seven saunas, and a variety of facial and massage services that will have you leaving the place literally glowing. After hearing about Spa Castle nonstop from friends and internet strangers alike, I decided I would go suss out the spot that everyone was raving about. After it was all was said and done, 6 hours of uninterrupted leisure had gone by. And when I finally left, I took some time to reflect on this experience and came to a few much-needed reminders on self-care and on how to be comfortable doing my own thing.
This is how I spent the day at Spa Castle.
I went early on a weekday because I had heard that it gets pretty crowded on the weekends. Tickets were kind of a splurge, ($40/person gives you general admission and unlimited pool/sauna usage) but hey, treat yourself. Upon arriving, the receptionist scanned my online ticket and handed me a cute lil’ waterproof watch with a number on it. I was told by the good people of Spa Castle that the watch would keep track of my locker number as well as my extra expenses, like food and drink (because how could I not sip on a piña colada in a hot tub?). An employee then gave me a uniform, which consisted of a baggy pink t-shirt and grey basketball shorts, which everyone had to wear. Not gonna lie, it was not my best look, but I made it work.
After changing, I went upstairs to find a mini food court, various massage areas, and something called the “Sauna Valley.” I wasn’t ready for the saunas just yet, so I made my way up to the second floor, where I found heated outdoor pools AND two heated indoor pools, all of which had various jets to massage different parts of your body. I soaked in as many of the pools as I could, and then went to the saunas and tried each one. The jade sauna is said to facilitate stress relief and balance hormones, while the infrared sauna is supposed to detoxify and help with circulation. I even tried the chromotherapy sauna, which bathed me in different-colored lights to target specific concerns, like rejuvenation or enhancing creativity.
The most memorable part of my day, though, was a large room filled with heated baths in the women’s locker room area. In order to soak in these amazing tubs, however, nudity is the only option. While I’m pretty comfortable with others being naked around me, my journey to wholeheartedly loving my own body is still a work in progress. I felt pretty conflicted as to whether or not I should bare it all and get in one final soak, or if I should call it a day and head home. As I debated, I noticed women of all ages, shapes, and sizes stride in and out of the area. And it was totally casual, too. The way in which these women seemed carefree and completely at ease while being totally nude with strangers reminded me that in the end, bodies are really just bodies. If I could appreciate other people’s diverse body types, then I could appreciate my own as well. After some debate, I made a decision right then and there to take off my pink uniform and my bathing suit, and, for the first time ever, walked around naked in a room of complete strangers. I fought the urge to cross my arms over my chest and stomach, the areas that I am most insecure about. Instead, I focused on my breathing as I tried to be ~casual~. It took me some time to adjust, but eventually, I did it. I accomplished a personal milestone — and I got a final soak in.
After my trip, I did some reflecting and realized that I need to be more conscious about self-care and taking time to recharge, whether that means spending the day at a literal spa castle or shutting off my phone for a few hours like I did on my mini-retreat. I think sometimes we can push self-care to the back of our minds, especially when life gets a little busier than usual. But now I recognize that in these moments, it’s especially important to be more active in practicing self-care and that it straight up just feels really good. Another thing I took away from my day-cation to Spa Castle was that people judge you way less than you think they do. I was a little nervous going in that I would embarrass myself by doing the wrong thing, or that someone would judge me for my unflattering, grandmotherly flower-print bathing suit from five years ago, but TBH everyone seemed too busy living their best lives to give a f*ck about me (in the best way possible). And while going with a friend is always a treat, Spa Castle is definitely the kind of place where you can spend some quality time with yourself and not feel judged. Bring a book, bring a friend, go on a date with yourself. Whatever you wanna do, you do you!
If you’re now inspired to plan your own trip to Spa Castle or another mega spa, here are some tips and tricks to maximize your time and get the most of your $40:
DO: Bring your own bathing suit and a towel. They provide you with a small towel and you can rent a bathrobe and a swimsuit, but if you’re hopping in and out of pools and also want to shower at the end of the day, you should bring your own towel since their complimentary towel is a little too small for a full day’s worth of activities!
DO: Come with a game plan. There are so many amenities and services to enjoy (three stories worth, to be exact) and you can really get a bang for your buck, but it’s also very easy to get overwhelmed and not manage your time properly. Come up with a loose list of amenities that you for sure want to hit, but make sure to build in time between to explore so that you give yourself ample time to soak up the experience (and the health benefits!).
DO: Eat something before you come. Spa Castle has a few dining options, but it can get a little pricey, and you’re not allowed to bring outside food or drink to the sauna and pool areas.
DO: Drive if you can. The subway commute to Spa Castle can be a long one for some. If you have access to a car, it’s a lot quicker and more convenient. There’s plenty of free parking around Spa Castle, as well.
DO: Get there early. It’s definitely worth it to set your alarm early and beat the crowds.
DO: Be prepared for some nudity on the first floor. The locker rooms are divided into men’s and women’s, and you inevitably will see a lot of naked bodies. If it makes you uncomfortable, there are private changing rooms — it’s a large enough locker room that you can do what you need to do to be comfortable.
DON’T: Bring a lot of unnecessary items. Your lil’ gadget watch opens your lockers, gives you access to areas, and tracks any services/things you purchased! So bring what you need to have a good time and indulge, but overpacking isn’t necessary.
DON’T: Try to do everything at once. You’ve got time! Pace yourself and check-in on how much you can take, especially in the saunas.