This weekend was Jenny’s birthday, and we celebrated by sending the boys to her parents’ house (thanks, Jim and Marilyn!) and spending Saturday at King Spa. Last year I blogged about King Spa, a Korean spa/movie house/restaurant/novelty that provides a great way to relax and try something a little different.
At the end of the day, we heard from a friend that a bold new competitor to King Spa had just opened. It’s called Spa Castle and is near the corner of 190 and Old Denton in Carrollton. So we took a tour. Both are Korean spas at heart, but the experiences are not the same. Based on what we saw, read, and heard from our friend, here are some of the key differences:
King Spa is bizarre and quirky. Huge giraffe statues guard the driveway. A gigantic metal horse greets you when you walk in. The chairs are pink and white in a 60s style. Some TVs show sports, while another shows Korean game shows with no subtitles. Artwork is a blend of Korean, Roman, Egyptian, and Simpsons. Throw in a bunch of gold and glam. Somehow it works.
Spa Castle looks like an upscale Vegas hotel or swank country club. The reception area and locker room reminded us of Life Time Fitness with large lockers, granite countertops, and plenty of space. A pool bar offers a variety of adult beverages and would fit well in a L’il Jon video.
As Korean spas at heart, many of the basics are the same. Both offer single-sex spas in various temperatures, scrubs, massages, and 9-10 different coed sauna rooms, each of which claims to offer its own (sometimes dubious) benefits. Both offer food and places to rest, relax, and watch TV.
However, each spa offers some features that the other doesn’t.
King Spa features a large movie theater showing a variety of movies throughout the day. At one point yesterday, Justin Timberlake’s 2011 film In Time was showing. Across from the theater beckons an authentic Korean restaurant with several unusual offerings that this American guy doesn’t try often such as Korean BBQ, papaya juice, aloe vera juice, and a surprisingly tasty dessert made from fruit, rice, and sweet beans. King Spa provides karaoke, another Korean favorite, if you know where to look. Although King Spa’s spa menu is much smaller than Spa Castle’s, its women-only wormwood steam treatment is only available there.
In fitting with its more upscale brand, Spa Castle offers a much wider selection of spa services and pool options. The spa brochure includes six pages and offers several services that King Spa does not, including manicures, pedicures, waxing, wraps, and hot stone massages. In addition to the same-sex, nude spas near the locker room like King Spa provides, Spa Castle also offers coed (suits required) indoor pools, outdoor pools, and saunas so that couples and mixed-gender friends can relax together, a major improvement in my mind over King Spa. Apparently, King Spa is planning an indoor water park for next spring, surely in an effort to stay competitive with Spa Castle. Finally, Spa Castle plans to open an on-site hotel in a few months, allowing guests to relax even longer without worrying about getting home.
As you might expect, Spa Castle is more expensive across the board. Admission to Spa Castle is $35/day, which they call a “grand opening” rate that could rise in a few months, versus $27/day at King Spa. A 60-min body scrub with massage is $100 at Spa Castle versus $85 at King Spa. A 60-min massage is $110 versus $70. Plus all tips are included at King Spa, whereas I assume they are not at Spa Castle. So a spa enthusiast could blow a ton of money really quickly up in Carrollton.
Food and Drink
While King Spa offers one restaurant with tasty Korean food, Spa Castle offers several dining choices and doesn’t focus only on Korean cuisine. Options include Starbucks, sushi, juice bar, salad bar, poolside grill, and alcoholic drinks. King Spa doesn’t sell alcohol and claims to deny entry to anyone who has consumed alcohol recently. However, that policy could change next year as King Spa is planning to open a pool bar in the new water park.
Target Market / Clientele
King Spa is run by and for Koreans. Much of the writing inside uses both Korean and English. Korean culture infuses all aspects of the experience. The facility is actually open 24 hours a day and caters to Korean families who want to visit for long periods of time and even sleep overnight in their comfortable chairs. Nearly all employees appear to be Korean, and some of the therapists speak limited English. The majority of the customers are Korean or possibly from another Asian country. During the week, almost all of them are Korean. Non-Koreans are very welcome, and we’ve always felt comfortable there, but we aren’t the primary market.
Spa Castle is focusing on a broader market and deliberately downplaying its Korean soul. It’s essentially a high-end, Americanized Korean spa. Although I’m sure some Koreans will visit, the customers we saw last night were more of a mix of backgrounds. With its upscale American decor and broader variety of dining and spa options, it’s trying to attract people who like the spa concept but are hesitant to try something like King Spa that might seem a bit too exotic.
Both spas offer a relaxing, fun, and unusual experience. If you’re trying to decide which one you want to visit, consider your priorities and the type of experience you’re looking for. If you want to immerse yourself in Korean culture, King Spa is probably the better bet. If you want a more American spa experience with a larger variety of spa services, recreation, and dining and are willing to pay more, Spa Castle is probably the right choice.
Jenny has gift certificates to visit King Spa a few more times this year, and she looks forward to using them. But we do plan to spend a day at Spa Castle and see how we like it.