Last weekend, my husband and I drove to Spa Castle Texas because I could no longer stand the suspense. I first heard about the bath house a few months ago from skincare expert Ann Webb, who knows a thing or two about beauty and restoration.
I was feeling like I could use an infusion of serious relaxation, and Spa Castle Texas is only a three and half hour drive from our house. All I had to do was promise my newly-vegan husband that we would go to one of the best vegan restaurants in Dallas after and he was all in.
Spa Castle is totally different than what I expected—and better. In my mind, the word “spa” conjures true upscale luxury. This is not that. And that’s why it’s better. It’s actually closer to what I’d experienced in the bath houses I visited in Japan.
Spa Castle mixes influences from a variety of Asian and European cultures. (Not exactly sure what the Sphinx is doing outside it.) In addition to the baths, there are ten different saunas, two restaurants, a juice bar, coffee bar, tapas bar, plus a spa and nail salon.
Spa Castle Texas: The Basics
If you’re planning a trip to Spa Castle, the first things you’ll think about are when to go, where to stay, how much will it cost, and how does it even work. Here’s what we found:
When to Go
We read in reviews that Spa Castle Texas is most crowded and full of kids Saturday mornings, so we chose to visit on a relatively uncrowded Sunday. Spa Castle is open for quite a few hours, so you’ll want to take advantage of its offerings. I can easily see spending a few hours doing the baths and saunas on a Saturday and then doing spa treatments on a Sunday. And next time, that’s what I’ll plan. This time, though, I only had one day.
There is an onsite hotel adjacent to Spa Castle. It’s called The One Boutique Hotel. However, we decided to use points from our Hyatt credit card to get a free hotel room in the city.
Although I would have enjoyed the soaker tubs in each room at The One Hotel, in the end, I’m glad we decided to stay in a more urban location. Spa Castle is located in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas, and all I’d want to do in Carrollton is go to the spa, but during this trip, I planned to explore some other Dallas destinations, too.
Entry Fee for Spa Castle, Texas
Visiting Spa Castle ,Texas for a weekend day costs $50. A full day pass gives you access to all the amenities. Food, beverages, massages, and treatments are available for an additional fee. No appointment is required for admission only options. But if you want a spa treatment, try to book it in advance.
The good news is that you can usually find a Groupon and other online coupons to lower the cost. If you’re going to get a Groupon, make sure to redeem it 24 hours before you intend to use it. Some of the Groupons also include spa treatments.
Also, be sure to check the special packages available on the Spa Castle Texas website.
Note: With the day pass, you are not allowed to leave and re-enter, so most likely you’re going to be buying some food at the onsite restaurants.
Hours of Operation
Each part of Spa Castle is open and closed at different hours. Many people think that all of Spa Castle is open 24 hours, but this isn’t the case. For example, while the women and men’s bathing areas are open 6am-12am. The indoor and outdoor co-ed pools are open 8am-11pm. For a complete list of operating hours for each part of Spa Castle, see the Guide to Spa Castle.
We enter the building, pay the day fee, and get electronic wristbands—the type you may have seen at an all-inclusive resort. The woman at the desk explains that we can charge drinks at the bar and food at the restaurant, simply by using our wristbands.
We also get large towels for $2 when you enter, since we didn’t bring towels from home. But it’s a good thing I remembered to bring my bathing suit, because I’ll need one to use the co-ed pools.
The woman instructs us to go into the men’s and women’s locker rooms, where we’ll be given Spa Castle uniforms. My husband and I make a plan to go our separate ways, change into our uniforms and then meet back at the entry desk.
Women’s and Men’s Locker Rooms
In many Asian countries, people take off their shoes before entering a home or bathhouse. Spa Castle operates on a similar principle. So before I actually enter the women’s locker room, I find a separate room full of small shoe lockers.
I use my wristband to open the small shoe locker and tuck my sneakers inside. Then I head to the main wome’s locker room, where I show my wristband and the attendant gives me a Spa Castle uniform—a T-shirt and shorts. The attendant tells me I’ll need to wear my uniform when visiting the saunas and restaurants on the second and third floors, and that I’ll need to wear my bathing suit when visiting the co-ed baths on the first floor. But, she says, you should use the women-only baths in the nude.
“Got it,” I say, trying to remember all the rules. Then I head toward a locker that matches the number on my wristband, passing naked women everywhere. They are black, white, young, old, Hispanic, Asian, African American and white. I wonder if this diversity is because Dallas is a diverse city, or if it’s because Spa Castle really has something for everyone. Or maybe it’s both.
Women’s Bath House
I know my husband is waiting for me but I have to take a look around, because I want to peek at the women’s bath house, even though I’m dressed in my Spa Castle uniform.
I feel awkward wearing my clothes as I glimpse inside the bath house. There are many, many baths. In fact, it looks like a public bath house that you’d see in Japan. Each bath is kept at a different temperature and looks shallow. And just like at the bath houses I visited in Japan, there are dozens of shower stations by the baths for washing off.
This is because Asian bath etiquette dictates that you don’t actually use the baths for washing with soap. Instead, you clean yourself first in the shower. The baths are for communion with others and relaxation.
The Incredible Saunas at Spa Castle, Texas
I meet my husband at the entry desk. Like me, he took some time to poke around, so now we’re both super excited to explore. We head up to the second floor. Here we find a large open area with mats for resting and tables for eating. There is also an Asian restaurant called Maru and a juice bar, as well as a spa and nail salon.
But most of the second floor is taken up by ten saunas that make up an area called Sauna Valley. We didn’t even hear about the Spa Castle saunas before we arrived, so discovering them is a fun surprise. The saunas are kept at different temperatures and each provides a different health benefit.
I can’t explain how awesome these saunas are. There’s a bit of a Disney World-for-adults feel, because there is actually a gold sauna and a charcoal sauna, as well as a freezing cold room called Iceland, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Although you’re not allowed to film inside the saunas, I get some videos on the outside. (And later I get permission to shoot a few videos inside the saunas, too.) So here are some of my favorite saunas and steam rooms, from the coolest (literally) to the hottest:
The Iceland Room
As you’d expect, the Iceland Room is kept freezing cold. The antechamber—a small room you enter before you enter the Iceland Room is 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The antechamber gives your body time to adjust to the cold before you get into the real deal.
Spending time in The Iceland Room is supposed to help your muscles and tissues recover from stress. According to the sign outside the room, your blood vessels will tighten and when you leave the room, new blood will rush in and improve cell function.
This reminds me of what I learned about ice baths when I explored the scientific proof for their effectiveness. I found that while ice baths have many proven benefits, despite what many people think, muscle regeneration isn’t one of them.
Having lived in Boston, Massachusetts for most of my life, I’ve seen all the ice and snow that I ever want to see. In fact, I’m so traumatized by having my feet numb for nine months of the year when I lived in Boston, that I can’t even stand to look at a photo of snow. I would never watch the movie Frozen. I just couldn’t bear it.
Still, for the sake of reporting this post to you, I pop into the Iceland room for just long enough to see that it’s lined in pipes that are covered in snow. My breath fogs when I tell my husband, “I’m done.” Then I pop right out, proud that I bore witness for my readers who might enjoy such an experience.
The Color Therapy Room
The next sauna is definitely more my tune. Or colors, I should say. That’s because this sauna features benches with large colored lights beside them. You can sit beneath a red, blue or green light, or switch between them.
The idea is that the different colors release various pure far infrared beams into your body. This incites something called “the resonance effect” that helps your blood cells travel more easily through small vessels and boosts your energy. This increased blood flow also helps you burn calories. The far infrared light also helps cells release toxins.
It’s a comfy, cozy 104 degrees. That might sound hot, but for a Texan, it’s the same temperature as a normal summer day.
The Far Infrared Sauna
While the color therapy room also uses far infrared light, the Far Infrared sauna is kept at 129 degrees Fahrenheit. Rather than use the infrared light from a variety of colors, the lights from this sauna have more of a strobe effect.
According to the sign outside, this sauna is ideal for healing damaged tissue. It’s specifically recommended for the following conditions:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
I decide to stay in this sauna a while. I’ve got this pain in my knee. Maybe it will help.
The Roman Sauna
You’ve probably heard of a Roman bath, right? But have you heard of the Roman sauna? I hadn’t, but apparently it was a thing. A big thing.
Just like the Roman baths, the Roman saunas were a community center where citizens came to relax and socialize. Benches form a ring around the perimeter of the sauna and in the center, there’ a steamer that promotes sweating to detoxify the skin. This Roman Sauna is kept at 138 degrees Fahrenheit.
The sign outside says that “Steam sauna treatment also helps to speed up the metabolic process of inner organs and endocrine glands which result in a rapid loss of calories.”
I’ve done hot yoga so I can attest that a steamy environment can lead to weight loss. But had I known I could just sit there, I wouldn’t have bothered with all those poses!
As it turns out, of course you’re going to lose weight by sweating so much. And of course, you’ll lose more weight by exercising in the heat. But how quickly will you gain that weight back? And are there other ways to lose weight while sitting on your butt? This is an intense interest of mine. (If the prospect of doing nothing and losing weight intrigues you, check out What are the Best Baths for Weight Loss?)
The Charcoal Tower
Okay, now it’s really getting hot. The Charcoal Tower is 158 degrees. Bring it on!
I love this one, because the sauna is in the shape of a small hut and the walls are made of charcoal. There’s also steam being released and when the steam mixes with the charcoal it makes activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal prevents poisons from being absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. If you’ve ever gone to an alternative medical practitioner, you may have been tested for heavy metals like copper and mercury. These nasty things are absorbed by us and lead to all kinds of dysfunction.
Activated charcoal can be used to chelate the poisons from our systems. It absorbs toxins, and then our bodies can release these toxins through sweat and urine.
In addition to this benefit, the sign outside the Charcoal Tower also tells me:
“Charcoal is used as a natural remedy for lowering concentrations of total lipids, cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood serum, liver, heart and brain.”
Sounds like activated charcoal does a body good.
Himalayan Salt Sauna
This sauna is kept at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The walls and ceiling are made of giant blocks of Himalayan salt.
The salt is supposed to have anti-aging and detoxification properties for your skin. Count me in!
This is my favorite. I probably shouldn’t include this detail, but I’m starting to wonder if these saunas are legit, like is The Charcoal Tower really made of charcoal. Are these “salt blocks” really salt? I ask my husband and as only he would, he swipes his finger on the wall and then licks it.
“Yup, it’s real salt,” he tells me. We’re both amazed.
The Hottest Sauna at Spa Castle Texas: Bulgama
I never thought any place could be too hot for me, but in the Bulgama sauna, I finally meet my match. By far the hottest sauna, this one is kept at 183 degrees Fahrenheit. I can only stay in it for two minutes before breaking out into a full-on sweat.
The sauna uses Far Infrared and so has the same benefits as the Color Therapy Room and the Far Infrared sauna. If you’ve got pain and stiffness, this is the place for you—if you can stand it.
But the good news is, you don’t have to stand or even sit inside. There are beds to lie down on, and really pretty Asian-themed paintings on the walls that you can stare at as you’re drenched in sweat.
Warning: Castle Spa Saunas Are Not For Everyone
There is a sign outside every sauna and steam room warning that you should not stay inside more than 30 minutes. It also lists people who should not use the sauna or steam room without consulting a physician first. This includes anyone who has:
- Poor health
- High blood pressure
- Heart or circulatory disease
- Anyone on prescription meds
- Pregnant women
- People who can’t walk well
- Anyone with glycosuria
- Children under 13
Also, anyone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol should not to in the sauna.
Spa Castle, Texas Pools & Baths
I kid you not, there really is something for everyone here. And if you’re looking to socialize with your friends or special someone, visit the co-ed bar and pool on the first floor. But be warned, there is a rule at Spa Castle: Minimize public displays of affection!
So I guess a quick snuggle might be okay, but don’t get too cozy.
No photography is allowed near the baths or the pools but just go to the main Spa Castle site for a view.
The main pool on the first floor is not for swimming, but for enjoying your drink from the Aqua bar just beside it. This heated pool features a number of tables and benches, where you can sit and laugh with your friends while your worries and stresses drip off you.
The other co-ed baths on the first floor are kept at a variety of warm to hot temperatures. These look like small Jacuzzi tubs. My favorite one has built-in lounge chairs. I lay down on the tiled chez lounge, while covered in warm water. Then I press a button next to the chair, and to my surprise and delight, the jets massage me all over.
While there are also pools outside, it’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit today, so I’m not going out there. I know there are plenty of people, though, who enjoy a hot bath in the cool breeze. Just not me.
Spa Castle Texas: Restaurants & Spa
Next time I visit Spa Castle, I plan to focus on the spa and restaurants. You can get facials, body massages, Korean scrubs, foot and hand reflexology, as well as manicures and pedicures at Spa Castle, Dallas. While the restaurants are both very reasonably priced, the spa treatments are as expensive as you’d find at any truly upscale spa. (That’s why you’d be smart to buy a spa package from Groupon or the Spa Castle website before you visit.)
Some of the most popular spa treatments include the Korean Scrub and a variety of whole-body massages.
The Spa Castle website explains the Korean Scrub treatment like this:
“Popular treatment known to all spa enthusiasts. Korean traditional exfoliating process using textured gloves to remove dead skin. It doesn’t only remove the dead skin to a new level, it also improves circulation, tones the skin, stimulates the Lymphatic System and aids in clearing your mind. Treatment requires hot tub soaking prior to service.”
The basic, 30-minute Korean Scrub is $30, while the 100-minute deluxe Spa Castle K-Scrub is $195.
Among others, you can get a Swedish massage, a Shiatsu massage, a Healing Stone Therapy massage, and a basic Stress-Busting massage. Prices range from $80 to $160, depending on length of massage and type.
My normal setpoint is to get a massage everywhere and anywhere, so it says a lot about how many great activities there are—all of which involve relaxation—that I don’t make a beeline for the spa. Instead, I’m occupied for hours with the baths and saunas.
Finally, my husband says he’s REALLY hungry. “You could get a salad right here,” I say, pleadingly. I look over at a couple sitting on a mat with a small table between them. “Their salads look amazing!” I say.
“You promised,” he says.
And it’s true, that was the deal. If he drove to Dallas with me, I’d go to this vegan restaurant he’d been fantasizing about forever. Adjusting to the fact that there’s no sushi in my immediate future, only faux chicken and waffles, we at least agree that we definitely want to return to Spa Castle soon.
Maru Sushi Bar
Even though we didn’t eat at the restaurants, I see that the Maru Sushi Bar on the second-floor, offers fresh made-t0-order sushi. It’s open 11am-10pm with the last order taken at 9:30pm. The menu includes sushi rolls, sashimi bowls, and salads. You could easily get out of there for $15-$20.
The Asya restaurant is on the third floor. Asya serves a variety of Asian cuisines from authentic Korean food to Japanese and Chinese dishes. Each meal is presented with small side dishes to enhance the flavors. It’s open 9am-10pm with the last order taken at 9:30pm. Here you can get a variety of bento boxes for $14, hot stone bibimbap also for $14, and dumpling soup for $11.
Okdol Room with Heated Floor
There’s one last activity we both want to try before we go, though we’ll need to do it separately: Off of the men’s and women’s locker rooms, there are relaxation rooms called Okdol Rooms.
We each go our separate ways. Then from the women’s locker room, I enter the relaxation room. The floor is heated, but the air isn’t hot at all, at least not compared to the saunas I’d visited. It’s dark inside and mats cover the floor.
Women relax on the mats, eyes closed. I do the same. I absorb all the good feelings from Spa Castle, Dallas. As for me, I swear that my skin was tingling all over. Plus, I realize that the pain I had in my knee is gone.
After about 20 minutes in the Okdol Room, I change out of my Spa Castle uniform, return my towel, and head out. I definitely could have stayed all day and plan to return as soon as possible. Top on my list for next time is the Korean Scrub, which is supposed to make your skin soft like a baby from head to toe. I can’t wait!