Maybe you didn't notice the extra-chill vibes emanating from the GuideLive homepage on a recent Sunday. Perhaps you were out in the wild, sippin' bub or visiting Big Tex or generally enjoying your weekend. Cool, man, me too. Naked, on weekend website duty, working remotely at King Spa.
I'd been hearing about King Spa for years. It seemed cool, but nothing I had a burning desire to try personally. Legend told of public(ish) nudity. Crystals, pyramids and Himalayan salt. There was a guy friend -- a nice dude; think SNL's Two Wild & Crazy Guys -- who went cruising potential, um, paramours in co-ed social areas. I knew Type-A career folks who place high priority on decompressing through "me time" activities. Neither camp is representative of typical King Spa clientele, at least not wholly. But, they were partially responsible for my ignorance.
Ultimately, I wound up there a couple Sundays ago because my stepdaughters are super into it, I'm a team player and, hey, I was going to be working remotely somewhere: Why not a Korean spa? Though my limited experience is purely anecdotal, I discovered that King Spa attracts and supports a diversity of people. And, maybe I'm one of them.
First, the basics
King Spa is a "Korean inspired" cultural experience. When you think "spa," you might imagine Keratin hair treatments or eyelash tinting, and while the Dallas location does offer massages and a smattering of beauty services, the emphasis lands rather on a mind-body connection. Looking good is one thing, but feeling good is an entirely separate subject.
In North Texas, King Spa is located on Royal Lane, just south of I-635 and west of I-35, and there is a second location in Chicago. Within, you'll find binary gender-specific locker rooms and spas, and -- in co-ed sections -- a Korean restaurant, a movie theater, a childcare room, a wine bar and work stations, replete with free WiFi. Children are welcome, but anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The Dallas location even added an indoor water park in 2014.
It feels like a self-contained universe where the central ethos focuses on chillin' + eatin' + spiritual regeneration -- however you define it.
Even wilder? You can stay for a full 24 hours.
Now, about that nudity thing...
There seem to be few hard-and-fast rules about how to manage one's King Spa time, but check-in begins with the doling out of a locker key and spa uniform -- more on that later. We headed into the women's locker room and dropped trou. Seeing strangers in the buff doesn't faze me. Distance runners, my primary social cohort, aren't typically known for shyness when it comes to flashing legs, torsos and shoulders, etc. But, here's an important piece of information: King Spa locker rooms are separated by gender, but the experience is family-inclusive. That means there may be children without clothing nearby. I was uncomfortable with this. I know, how American. It's also important to note that spa guidelines specify children under age 14 must be accompanied by a guardian of the same gender at all times.
Once in "wet spa" mode, the first rule is: Take a shower. Cleanliness is paramount, which means not only "hosing off before getting into the pool" like you might do in a beach town, but also taking a full on soap-and-shampoo shower, getting in the crevices and whatnot. You may see others going through a full grooming regimen, including brushing teeth and shaving, if that's their thing.
Cleaned up, we headed next into a communal whirlpool. There's a kick-ass mural of Venus on the ceiling and killer little frog statues spewing hot water and it is ... darned nice if you like hot tubbing. We stayed for about 20 minutes, which is the time limit per dip in the wet spa area. There are also cold tubs, which I appreciated (marathon runners are no strangers to ice baths), but politely declined.
Afterward, we headed back into the locker room and suited up in official "spa uniform." All that means is "we put on matching pajamas." Not Steven Tyler PJs, but soft, loose shorts and T-shirts. Those who identify as women get yellow ones and those who identify as men (or gals who opt for a larger size) get gray. In common areas, everyone is fully clothed and, according to zero-tolerance signs posted in each room, held to good behavior.
So, we're suited up
If you've made it this far, you're gussied up like the official Olympic Sleep Team and, dude, that is a good feeling. But, where to go from there? Pretty much anywhere you want.
You've got as many or as few of the next 24 hours to do your thing, so long as it's legal, appropriate and considerate of others.
Oh, and remember that locker key? It's on an elastic band, which you can wear around your wrist or ankle, and that's your currency. If you want to order food, a glass of wine or purchase a towel upgrade, just scan it, and you'll pay upon check-out.
Scroll through these photos for a glimpse at the communal social areas, including the restaurant and upgraded spa serivces.
Next, it was sauna time, and King Spa boasts a number of special themed rooms for different relaxation experiences. Since I'd already committed to the experience sans skivvies in the spa, I was DTF (down to ... fun) throughout anything else King Spa could throw at me. So, I began at one end of the facility and explored the sauna rooms one-by-one. The gist is that natural elements -- like ice, fire, herbs, salt, minerals, crystals, oxygen etc. -- increase detoxification, improve circulation and contain anti-inflammatory properties.
I suspend judgment as to whether or not I buy that gold leaf covering the walls of the very mystical-sounding Pyramid Room "channels metaphysical energy ... to help cleanse impurities," but I liked lying around on a floor mat in a room that smelled nice, felt toasty and boasted some rad Sphinx decor. Speaking of, my favorite room without reason or explanation was the Salt Room. Because it looks like a cave, smells like, um, salt, and felt warm and, um, salty.
Roll through this gallery to catch a glimpse of a few of the sauna rooms:
After a run-through of the special rooms, I headed into the central area where there are rows of plush leather recliners lined up in front of a massive screen where many were watching the decidedly-un-chill Cowboys game. There wasn't a bad seat in the house and, despite the fact that the spa got more crowded as the day wore on, I never had to wait for a seat. My husband slept, read and watched the game, I did the GuideLive -- meaning, I worked remotely for several hours -- and my step-daughters headed into the separate movie theater to watch The Hobbit.
Now, about that new-ish water park...
Aren't spas pricey?
It's all relative, of course. Everyone's budget differs and long-time King Spa fans have noted that prices increased in recent years, likely due to the addition of the indoor water park. Admission is $45 for 24 hours for all ages, though King Spa regularly runs GroupOn or Living Social specials, which we used.
Aside from admission and included facilities, there are many optional add-ons: Bigger towels, beauty treatments, massages, beer/wine in the bar, and other items are not included. Water is free, but food from the restaurant is not, and meals cost around $10-20. Portions are big and we were able to split two bento boxes among the four of us.
Because used discounts, we spent roughly $120 for four people who stayed six hours. That number would have easily increased if we had been drinking alcohol or partaking in other luxuries, and we may yet ... another time. But, all-in-all, it was not what I'd call an expensive family outing. I'd definitely give it another go.