What to Expect at a Korean Spa
I decided to try out King Spa & Sauna in Niles, about 20 minutes from my home. This Korean-inspired spa is unlike any place I have ever been, a little cultural vacation without leaving my area code! King Spa is based upon "jjimjilbang," which are gender-segregated public bathhouses in Korea.
|Photo: 10 Best Media|
To get there, my navigation took me through an apartment complex alley bordered by a chain link fence. After dark, this looks a little shady. You drive through back roads thinking you must have the wrong location, until you turn the corner and see the sign. It is seriously stashed behind a Home Depot. Don't worry, you're here! And yes, there might be guys in black uniforms hanging outside. It's all good.
Upon arrival, you pay the entrance fee and receive a numbered bracelet. Then you split up according to gender: gentlemen to the left, gals to the right. Make sure to remove your shoes before you enter the locker room- there is a yellow line with a reminder on the floor.
Tip: Grab a printable coupon here! Entrance is normally $35 per person ($40 to include base rock room, which I don't), and you can get it for $22. Groupon and other discount sites sometimes have deals for around $17 as well.
Grab a uniform at the next desk and sign up for any spa services you want to partake in. The most popular seems to be the Aroma Gold- a 90 minute scrub and massage for $120.
Tip: With specific services, you also get a free admission coupon valid for a return visit!
After you grab your uniform (pink t-shirt and cotton elastic waistband shorts, one size fits all), you can opt to head into the spa area (women only) or the main area (co-ed). Your locker number corresponds to the number on your bracelet, and there is a key attached so you can stash your stuff.
Ok, if you aren't down with being totally nude, this isn't for you. It took me a while to get over the "naked as the day I was born in front of total strangers" thing, but honestly...no one really looks at each other. And it is all women. So...we all have the same equipment, right? My advice is to just get over it. If you are self-conscious, grab one of the teeny tiny towels and hold it in front of you.
When you walk into the spa area, hit the showers. They have soap and shampoo for you to use. There are stand up showers and um...sit down shower booth thingys that you grab a stool to use. After you are squeaky clean, you can hop in one of the hot tubs or sauna room. If you signed up for a scrub, you need to soak for 15 minutes prior and they will call your number when they are ready for you.
Tip: The tip is already included in the massage! No need to add it at the end or bring cash.
My Aroma Gold treatment was complete with an intense body scrub (like...not sure if I have skin left), aromatherapy head massage, body massage, collagen face mask, hot oil skin treatment, and hair wash/condition. It was crazy...but in a good way. There are a dozen Barbie pink tables lined up, and the women who conduct the treatments wear only black bras and black granny panties. You? You wear nada. These women are a force to be reckoned with. They actually hop up on the table to give a massage. They also periodically throw a massive bucket of warm water on you. Be prepared.
Tip: They provide toothbrushes, hair ties, blow driers, face oil, and towels at a station for you to get ready to face the world again.
Main Area/ Sauna Rooms
The main area, which is co-ed), features a lounge, multiple sauna rooms, a movie theater with leather recliners, an Oxygen room, an Ion room...I can't even list everything. The second floor is basically dedicated to relaxation/naps. A dude was snoring in the Oxygen room or else I would have hung out longer.
Tip: Check out the kiosk in the main lounge as well as the one in the locker room- grab an amazing sheet mask for $4 to use there or take home!
The movie theater looked amazing- they were showing a range of films (Gladiator was on when I was there) and the leather lounge chairs were fairly empty.
Yep, there is a cafe-style restaurant off the main lounge. You order at the counter and use your wristband to pay by passing it over the black pad once on the counter. They have a variety of Korean and American cuisine- from from fried rice to bibimbap to corn dogs, you should be able to find something to try. They also have traditional Korean "sauna style" baked eggs, smoothies, and tea. They don't serve alcohol or allow outside food/beverages to be brought in. If you want water at any time, there are small metal cups that you can grab water from the dispenser near the counter.
What To Bring
- Credit card
- Hair tie
- Reading material
- Ear plugs to drown out any conversations
- Music/ear phones
- Sports bra for under your uniform, because you will get sweaty
- An open mind!
I took my husband with me the first time around. Not the best idea IMHO- this isn't really a date night kind of place since half of it is single sex only. Also, you can't talk in the sauna rooms or the upstairs, so the only convos you can have are in the main lounge or restaurant. To get the full experience, you need to be comfortable being naked, so this isn't a place where you bring people you don't want seeing you sans clothing. I have had two children at a teaching hospital- lots of people have seen me naked so I'm down with it. I would be cool hanging out with my mom, but I am not planning a preschool Mom's Night Out there, m'kay? I don't want to know if little Sebastian's mom has artful waxing. I can't unsee that. Personally, I like going alone and being able to bring my Kindle, headphones and just be quiet the whole time.
A lot of people ask if it is clean. I say yes. The mats and cushions in the rooms might get a little sweaty, but otherwise it is pristine.
As for the best times to go when it will be least busy, just type "King Spa and Sauna Niles" into Google and check out their "Popular Times" in the column on the right. You can select the day you want to go and scroll to see when historically they aren't as busy.
I say definitely check it out at least once- you might love it! For $22, it is worth a shot.