New Yorkers know that one of the more ridiculous ways to spend a day in the City is Spa Castle, the (slightly cheesy) Korean day spa/aquatic playground that is close to the hearts of both Asians and Brooklyn hipsters alike.
For those of you who have not been, allow me. Your quest takes you to the end of the number 7 line, bathing suit clutched excitedly in your over-stressed, Manhattan hands. You are on the hunt for peace and relaxation in hydrotherapy pools and mineral saunas shaped like small yurts and other magical Korean secrets.
Upon actual arrival, however, all hopes of tranquility are dashed as you enter the massive, minimum security prison-like structure to find a brightly-lit, frenzied atmosphere — a multilingual cacophony rising above the fray of rambunctious, unleashed children bouncing from pool to pool, a dribbled trail of spilled frozen chocolate drinks in their wake. It’s…not what you had in mind. But you already paid the $45 entry fee…and Manhattan is really far away. Plus, there’s a heated pool on the roof with a fountain shaped like a mushroom, so you stick it out.
When the rumors started flying (in whispered, reverent tones) that a super-swank, child-free (let’s just say it…better) version was set to open in Manhattan, intrigue set in. I made my way to 115 E 57th Street and up a private elevator to the 8th floor. Stepping into the dimly lit, stone corridor, I was greeted by the receptionist in classic “hushed spa voice.” I smelled tranquility…We weren’t in Flushing anymore.
Entrance costs $65 (That’s pricing for a whole other tax bracket! Suddenly I felt entitled to Egyptian cotton and a Nespresso machine), and with your ticket comes access to the mineral saunas, hydrotherapy pools, steam rooms, meditation room, and relaxation lounge (treatments like massages and facials are extra). My first stop was to the Bade pool, the social center of the Spa Castle court, with its rotating LED lighting, pressure jets, and swim-up bar. Feeling fancy, I indulged in a glass of champagne…let’s get regal up in here.
When the glass was empty, I went to sign my check and doubled back in horror. Twenty-two dollars. Twenty-two dollars. Here, friends, is where the real difference between the two kingdoms lies: I knew the Manhattan location would be more luxe (translation: expensive), but Spa Castle Premier 57 is an excellent example of how you can blow all of your money in one night. From a $65 entry fee, to $22 glasses of champagne, to a minimum of a $150 spa treatment, to salads that cost $17, to towel rentals that are $2 (plus a $20 deposit per towel), you might consider investing in a high-pressure showerhead and a bottle of Andre and staying home.
Ok, so what else is free? The mineral sauna rooms are novel. I bounced from the chromotherapy room, to the gold room, to the snow room, to the salt room. Each room was a different temperature and the minerals were supposed to ease everything from chronic sinusitis to dermatitis to lots of other “itises.” But I had just dropped about $80 to sit still in a hot room. I was crabby. Next? Back to the Bade pool.
As I was making the circuit along the different pressure jets, something caught my eye. A couple in sunglasses was drunkenly making out hard underneath a cascading waterfall (That’s meant to massage your shoulders!). At first I thought nothing of it. It’s Saturday night — enjoy. Their only crime was wearing sunglasses. Inside. At night. It was all fine, until a man’s bathing suit floated lazily past me in a trail of bubbles, and the couples’ hands were no longer visible.