NEW SERIES: WATER RETREATS. REVIEW OF SPA CASTLE IN NEW YORK.

I love water spa/retreats and try to visit one every chance I get in our travels.   A combination of water and steam therapies with soothing ambience is a great way to unwind the soul and relax those aching muscles (which is especially welcomed after a day of sightseeing and exploring.)   These retreats could also offer interesting insights into local culture.

I am starting a new series on the blog to highlight our experiences visiting the spas around the world, with and without the kids.  These will include some destination spas (I hope!), as well as hotel and day spas.

As a point of reference, I will follow my own unofficial (and totally subjective) system of rating our experiences in the following 2 categories by using 1-5 scoring system in each category (5 being the highest score): (1) Water/Relaxation Facilities Offered and (2) Relaxation Ambience- with 10 being a maximum TOTAL score  for each spa. I will also comment on Value/cost of the experience.

First in the series, is our recent visit to family-friendly Spa Castle located in a residential area in College Point, New York.

This spa visit was part of our weekend trip from Boston to New York City; we had our daughter and friends’ family with us. Kids of all ages are allowed in this spa.

WATER/RELAXATION FACILITIES. Score: 4 out of 5

There are 4 floors of relaxation facilities in Spa Castle:

In the first floor gender-separate locker area (“indoor spa”), there are various temperature pools with aqua  jets. This was my favorite area in the Spa to relax.

On the Main (second) floor, there is “Sauna Valley” with 7 saunas of different temperatures and “themes” (e.g. Gold Room, Ice Room, infra-rated sauna, mineral salt sauna), chairs for sleeping and relaxation, and eating area (buffet).

Family Visit to Spa Castle in New York

Sauna Area on 2nd floor

Buffet area at the 2-nd floor

Buffet area at the 2-nd floor

There are a number of therapeutic jetted pools on the third floor: two outside 4-season pools with jets and fountains, and an inside bar pool (yes, you can eat and drink while taking water therapies). There is also a kiddie pool outside, but it was closed on the day we visited.

Family Visit to Spa Castle in new York

Outside pool area on the 3rd floor

The fourth floor has sleeping and meditation rooms, a full service Korean restaurant and a gym.

Services, like foot massages and scrubs are also offered (see full menu here). You are given electronic wrist bracelet to track all your food and service purchases, so you can keep your valet in a locker.

We arrived around 11am and stayed for about 4 hours. We spent the day alternating watching the kids at the outside pool (while those off-duty were trying different saunas on the sauna floor), then we all gathered as a group for lunch on the main floor. Before we headed out, boys and girls separated to enjoy bathing and soaking time in the inside gender-separate spa.  You have to be naked to use the inside pools, but the little girls in our group, ages 6 and 8, were comfortable enough with it. I do realize that public nudity could be a problem for some families, and that means no access to the inside spa, which in my opinion is the best thing Spa Castle has to offer.

RELAXATION AMBIANCE. Score: 2 out of 5

Personally, I found the ambiance seriously lacking in Spa Castle and here is why:

Too Many Rules/You must wear a Uniform!  It was all killed for me in the locker room before I even had a chance to experience any relaxation areas.  You see, everyone in Spa Castle (except in the pools) must wear a uniform they provide for you- a one-size-fits-all washed out shorts and t-shirt.  You also must leave your shoes in a separate room (before you enter the locker area) and either go barefoot or purchase the flimsy shoes from the spa- but you cannot wear your own pool shoes.  You also have to be naked to enter the pools in the inside (gender separate) spa area.  And if you are NOT following the rules, the locker room attendants are watching and will let you know!  With all these rules (and policing!), no wonder I did not get into the relaxation mind set.

It is just Too crowded in all areas, (except the inside spa where we finally were able to relax a little.)  And while I liked the selection of food at the buffet, people eating and drinking not far enough from my “sleeping” chair just ruined the Zen for me.

Style and Purpose Confusion: The complex seems style and purpose “confused”.  The inside spa and the fourth floor meditation space have more of a “spa” feel,  while the third floor pools area is a combination of family water park and cheap all-inclusive resort. The second  floor – with sauna area and food buffet – are somewhere in-between the two.

The locker rooms are clean, but the pools areas shows wear and need work.

TOTAL FACILITIES AND RELAXATION SCORE FOR SPA CASTLE: 6 out of 10.

Value: It all comes down to a (right) price, of course, and at $50 per person weekend rate (no discounts for kids older than 3), I am giving it 2 out of 5 far for a family visitpricing.  A day at the Spa for a family of 4 on a weekend will cost you $200 in entrance fees, plus– with even the minimum in food and drinks purchases, expect to leave another $100.  For a family visit, a water park, (like a “Water Country” in New Hampshire for under $40 a person) would offer  more for the price as far as  attractions and will probably make more sense for a family visit- if you have one nearby, of course.

That said, my daughter loved the pool area (cost and “ambiance” issues aside), and so will your kids:

Family Visit to Spa Castle, New York

Outside pool area on the 3rd floor

Will I be back?  I would probably consider another visit to spend time with a girlfriend in an indoor spa area.

If you go to Spa Castle:

1. It is open 7 Days a Week, from 6AM to 12AM: GO EARLY in the day to avoid the crowds

2. It is about 30-45 mins drive (depending on traffic) from Manhattan; they also provide a shuttle service (see the info here)

3. Bring your own towels (a hand size towel is included with your entrance, I was charged $2 to replace it)

4. Bring swimsuit or even 2 if you intend to use the pools in the co-ed areas – if you don’t, you would have to put a uniform over your wet suit to come back to the sauna area.

5. Be prepared for total lack of privacy in the locker room and in the inside (gender separated) spa- there are no curtains in the showers and you must be naked to go into the inside  (gender separated) spa pools.

6. To save on admission, go with a group (10% discount for groups of 10+), go on a weekday or find a groupon deal.

7. Don’t expect the stuff to show you around or take time to explain how it all works. Spend time on their website, re-read this post, and set your expectations.

8. Bring friends and family – everybody around you will anyway.

Have you been to Spa Castle or other Family Friendly Spas?