I’ve heard so many people rave about King Spa, so when I needed a day for a little rest and relaxation, I decided to make a trip. King Spa is a Korean-inspired spa & sauna located in suburban Niles, just outside of the Chicago city limits.
A few days before I was planning to go, I put up a post on Facebook asking for tips and things I needed to know for my first trip there. While I received a lot of great info, I also had multiple friends comment who had never heard of King Spa, and were now intrigued based on everyone’s comments. One friend asked what the big deal was about this place, and why so many people loved it. I think the main appeal is the affordability – you can pay just the admission cost ($35, although there are lots of great deals on discounted admission) and enjoy the hot tubs and saunas all you want – they are open 24/7. You can also pay extra for spa services – massages, scrubs, facials, acupuncture, etc.
If you’re interested in checking out King Spa, here is what you need to know, based on my experience and tips from my friends. I didn’t take any photos once inside, but you can check out photos of the space on their website and Yelp.
King Spa is a Korean-inspired Spa
This is not a fancy, posh day spa. While you can get spa services, and it is quite relaxing, King Spa is inspired by bathhouses that are common in Korea. It’s also a family spa, so you can bring your children, although anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Coupons for King Spa
The admission price for King Spa is $35 ($30 for kids), however, you can almost always find a deal on Groupon, and I’m told you can buy discounted admission at the H-Mart next door to King Spa.
What to bring to King Spa
King Spa provides pretty much everything you need. I’m not sure if this is to provide a complete experience or to control the amount of outside “impurities” that come in. You are allowed to bring your own beauty products, but the showers have soap and shampoo (and toothbrushes), the locker rooms have towels, hair dryers, q-tips. You are provided with a uniform to wear in the Dry Spa (sauna) area. You’re not allowed to wear swimsuits in the wet spa (you have to be completely nude) nor can you wear flip flops anywhere, but you are allowed to wear your own socks in the Dry Spa area. (I went barefoot, as do many other people.) They also have a food court, and they don’t allow you to bring outside food. I did bring my own unbreakable water bottle (they don’t allow glass), but I left it in my locker because there are drinking fountains and I didn’t want to carry anything around.
What to expect when you arrive
The first (and last) thing you’ll encounter is the check in/out desk. You’ll receive a key attached to a wristband with a number on it – the number corresponds to your locker but is also what you swipe to “pay” for anything. (You’ll settle up when you leave.) Then you head into a gender-specific locker room, and there is a spot right before you enter the locker room where you have to remove your shoes. Just inside the locker room is a reservations desk, where you sign up for spa services. I believe the services are first-come, first served, so you put your name on a list and they’ll let you know what time slot you’re signed up for. I arrived just after 12pm on a Friday and got a 12:40pm time slot for my services. Which was perfect, it gave me time to get undressed, shower, and relax in the wet spa. You’ll also receive a uniform – t-shirt and shorts – as soon as you enter the locker room (pink for women and blue/gray for men).
King Spa is separated into the Wet Spa areas (located within the locker rooms, so separated by gender), and the Dry Spa. The (women’s) Wet Spa includes showers, hot tubs, a large cold tub with a waterfall, a steam room, and the tables for wet spa services. You have to be completely nude in this area, and you also have to shower before doing anything in this area. They provide soap, shampoo and towels (although the towels aren’t big enough to wrap around your body). The showers aren’t private (nothing in the wet spa is private), it is basically a row of shower heads along the wall. I showered and then alternated between the hot tub, then cold tub, then steam room, then shower (required after a steam), then back into the hot tub, then it was time for my spa service.
Exfoliating Body Scrub
Multiple people told me to get the exfoliating scrub, but I took it a step further and got the Gold Aroma scrub and facial. All performed in the wet spa service area, which is behind a half wall separated from the showers and hot tubs, but is a row of plastic/vinyl massage tables … so you’re basically laying naked on a table next to other naked women, being rubbed down by an older Korean lady wearing the equivalent of a black bikini (I assume the uniform is because it’s warm and they likely get wet while working).
The body scrub is a full-body scrub. (Minus the face.) Multiple people warned me that they scrub everything – even your bikini line. I had my eyes closed during a lot of it, but I think they rub you down with loofah mitts, face down, then on your side, then face up, then on your other side. And then they pour warm water over your body, then I believe you’re rubbed down with some kind of scrub paste. Then you shower. Then it’s back on the table, face down, where you’re covered with towels for a little massage, including a scalp massage with peppermint oil, then the towels are removed and you’re rubbed with body oil – and more massaging. Then you flip over, and the facial starts, then your front is rubbed down. Then your hair is washed, your facial mask removed, and you’re coated in some kind of … moisturizing milk-like substance. And that’s the end and you rinse off in the showers.
The Gold Aroma scrub took 90 minutes, cost $130 but included a ticket for free admission if I return within the next month. The regular exfoliating scrub is 40 minutes and costs $70. I would definitely get a scrub again, my skin felt pretty smooth the next day.
The Dry Spa
The Dry Spa area is outside of the locker rooms, so you have to wear your uniform.
Upstairs is the meditation area with the oxygen room and ionization room, which are not heated, and all have mats on the floor for you to lay on, separated by little partitions. Many people were napping in these rooms, so they were very quiet with soothing music piped in. Outside of these rooms was another quiet area with lazy boy reclining chairs – apparently, this is where you can sleep if you decide to spend the night (like I said, they’re open 24/7).
The downstairs was a little bit louder. That’s where all the hot saunas are and there are quite a few – I think 8 rooms total. There’s also an ice room, which is “chilled to just above freezing.” The dry spa services (massages, acupressure) are accessible through the locker rooms or through the Dry Spa area. There is also a large seating area in the middle of all of the saunas where you can relax – or work, since they offer free wifi. And a movie theater room, which screens various movies throughout the day. (They had a list of the day’s showtimes posted, the only movies I recall were Dead Poet’s Society and Hancock.)
King Spa doesn’t allow outside food, however, they have a Korean food court on the first floor, adjacent to the Dry Spa. I got the kimchi fried rice, which had an egg on top and came with miso soup and some pickled/fermented Korean sides, and iced green tea. It was pretty tasty and ready pretty quickly, and I think cost $17 total.
Overall, my experience at King Spa was exactly what I wanted – a few hours to relax and disconnect from the rest of the world. I would definitely go back for the hot tubs and the body scrub. Personally, I didn’t get much out of the hot saunas, although they might be a nice treat in the middle of winter. I hear King Spa can get quite crowded on the weekends. I was there from about 12-4pm on a Friday, and it was not very crowded, but seemed to be picking up as I was leaving. However, the traffic getting back into the city during Friday rush hour was horrible – a harsh wake-up after such a relaxing experience.
If you go to King Spa:
- Saturday-Sunday is the most crowded. Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday is the least crowded.
- Get a coupon for admission, either via Groupon or H-Mart.
- Know that you will be fully nude in front of others (of the same gender) unless you skip the hot tubs.
- Get the exfoliating scrub if you’re willing to spend a little bit more and pamper yourself.
- If you’re planning to get a spa service, give yourself 30 minutes to relax in the wet spa first (hot tub, cold tub, steam room, etc).
- If you’re planning to get a spa service, especially on the weekend, get there early to get your name on the list.
- Hydrate! Drink lots of water before you go, and while you’re there (either bring a non-glass water bottle or hit up the drinking fountains).
- If you have long hair, pull it back.
- Bring socks if you don’t want to go barefoot.
- Leave your phone in your locker if your intention is to relax.
- Check out all the rooms (upstairs and downstairs) so you can pick your favorite.
Have you been to King Spa? What are your tips or favorite parts?