New York City can be a stressful place. The economy is in the tank, winter refuses to relinquish its grip on the weather and people are perpetually worried about their careers and families. How can New Yorkers (and visitors) relax while in the city that never sleeps? How about a complex with massage pools, saunas and sleep areas? If you’re in New York City and in need of a respite from the manic world around you, look no further than Spa Castle in Flushing, Queens. It’s five stories and 100,000 square feet of relaxing bliss within the borders of our fair city. And because I care about you all so much, I toughed out a day at Spa Castle yesterday just so I could file a full report.
Getting to Spa Castle couldn’t be easier. From Manhattan, take the LIRR to Flushing or the 7 train to Flushing – Main Street. Then all you have to do is walk five minutes to the municipal parking lot on Union Street and 39th Ave. From there, you can pick up the free shuttle van that will whisk you off to Spa Castle. A ten minute drive later and you’re at the front door of paradise. Not coming from Manhattan or want more detailed directions? Check out their site for more info.
After paying your admission ($35 for adults during the week and $45 on weekends), men and women will part ways and enter their respective locker rooms. You are given a digital key-lock watch that acts as your locker key and currency while you are at Spa Castle. It has a number that corresponds to your locker. I proceeded into the locker room and locked my shoes in my shoe locker. I then proceeded to my main locker where I changed into my swim trunks and locked up my belongings. It’s worth noting here that you may want to bring a beach towel. The only towels on site are small free gym towels or beach towels that you must pay to rent.
Upon locking up my belongings, I picked up my uniform. In most common areas, you are required to wear a spa-issued shirt and shorts. Simply put the uniform on over your swim trunks and off you go. The vast majority of the facilities are coed, so the uniforms and swim trunks keep everyone modest. Except for the ladies in the pooks wearing bikinis. But hey, I’m not complaining.
I walked upstairs and met my companions in the lounge. From here, we walked upstairs to the outdoor pools. Once in the pool area, I removed my uniform and braved the cold as I made my way into the heated pools in just my swim trunks. Here, I indulged in various massage jets and a Hinoki Bath, which is constructed out of 300-year-old wood and is filled with heated, bubbling mineral water. Despite the near-freezing temperatures, I enjoyed my time in the outdoor pools as the various jets massaged away all the knots in my muscles that I had acquired during three weeks of travel in New Zealand and Australia.
After an hour or so in the pools, I was ready to move on. My friends had been indulging in some steamed shumai at the food counter right inside. To pay, they simply scanned their digital key-lock watch at the counter and the product was added to their accounts. You pay when you leave the spa, so no need to carry cash with you. You keep your belongings safely in the locker room.
From here, I headed to the dry saunas. You can choose from several dry saunas of various heats and “themes.” They range from facilities with LED lights with adjustable colors (each color provides a unique healing experience) to one with mineral salts to another with gilded walls. One thing they have in common is that they will all make you sweat. I spent 10 minutes or so in each sauna and was a soaking wet mess by the end. It may be a dry heat, but nothing about your skin and t-shirt will look dry. But I felt like a new man. A weekend’s worth of whiskey had evaporated through each and every one of my pores.
From here, I lounged on a massage chair for a bit to get my legs back under me. I had been relaxing at Spa Castle for more than three hours and had a dinner appointment in the city that was rapidly approaching. It was time to retreat back to the men’s locker room and start preparing to re-enter normal society. And this, my friends, is where things got a tad more interesting.
As you recall, I mentioned that the locker rooms are segregated by gender. They are also home to the showers, several more pools and additional saunas. And it’s all full nude. That’s the rule. Want to shower? No swimsuits allowed in the shower area. Want to hop in a mineral bath? Better be comfortable with nudity because you’ll be buck naked. Want to use the locker room saunas? Put a towel down before you grab a seat. But, and I am being perfectly honest here, you get comfortable with the nudity almost immediately. There is nothing sexual about this scene. It’s all about health. So, I dropped trou and headed into a few more baths before getting dressed and hopping on the shuttle.
I was back home in downtown Manhattan in under an hour. I felt rejuvenated and alive. And I had a new-found comfort level with close-proximity male nudity. So, it was a growth experience.
All in all, Spa Castle is a great experience. They offer memberships and are open until late in the evening. The next time you find yourself in New York and at your wits end with the noise, the recession or just life in general, take a spa day in Queens and rediscover what relaxation is supposed to be.