From the outside, King Spa & Sauna in Niles looks like a formal Home Depot. But inside, it’s a relaxation nirvana where for only $40 you can trade in your Banana Republic performance stretch wool slacks for a pastel cotton uniform and escape for a full 24 hours. First-timers can find it a maze of saunas and steam rooms, so let me be your guide to the 11 themed ones, in ascending order of Zen enablement.
11 Fire Sudatorium The rock walls of the Fire Sudatorium are heated to — OH MY GOD PLEASE WHY IS THIS ROOM SO HOT OH MY GOD OH MY GOD MY ENTIRE BODY IS SWEAT MY THOUGHTS ARE SWEAT I AM ONLY SWEAT …
10 Anion & Far Infrared Room The spa claims the light in here heals soft-tissue injuries, skin conditions, and rheumatoid arthritis. That’s a lot to expect from a red bulb suspended inches from your face.
9 Hinoki Cyprus Room The newest room (pictured, far right) has a floor covered with half-inch wooden cubes. This is a baffling choice for a relaxing spa experience: King Spa is asking us to lie down on a bed of Lego blocks. Which isn’t that bad until you remember all the sweat that’s dripped onto their porous surfaces.
8 Oxygen Room If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to pretend you’re a copy of The Goldfinch sitting on a bamboo bookshelf, this is the room for you.
7 Ice Room It is very cold. Like, cold-cold. Not cool. Not “refreshing.” COLD. This room is BRISK. The temperature hovers around 30 degrees, and the air smells faintly of peppermint. Good for tightening up your pores after sweating out Saturday night’s margaritas, but not a place where you want to spend a significant portion of your time. Be aware that the black light will expose any gochujang that you dripped on your uniform.
6 Ocher Room The underdog of the King Spa experience. It’s not as glamorous or exotic as the other rooms. The walls aren’t covered in gemstones, and it isn’t shaped like an ancient monolith to channel spirits from the astral plane. The walls are literally covered in yellow mud and straw. It makes you feel like you are hiding out in your papa’s barn. It’s humble. It’s sweet. It’s King Spa, Plain and Tall.
5 Base Rock Room For an additional $5, you’re given a thick cloth mat and access to this room (pictured, third from left). The “base rocks” are heated slabs of a mineral called Siraka. The King Spa website promises the experience of lying down on these is exclusive to Japan, Dallas, and Chicago. You can’t get big ol’ hot rocks like this in South Korea. They supposedly ease your aching muscles and aid in lymph node drainage (mostly, I felt the hair on my calves singeing when I accidently put them on the bare rock), but there are plenty of other delights to be had without spending an extra fiver.
4 Bul Ga Ma Some of the other rooms are heated by a radiant bamboo floor, but not this one. A pallet of mineral bricks is warmed in a giant oven, then rolled in here. Who doesn’t love a room with a reveal?
3 Charcoal Room Think of it as the Platonic ideal of a King Spa experience. It’s hot, the walls are covered in geodes surrounded by logs of charcoal, and the air has a vaguely medicinal smell. It feels like it’s good for you, but there’s no discernible reason why. If you like a hot nap, this is the place.
2 Salt Room Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live inside one of those Himalayan salt lamps your coworker swears is cleansing the office of Donna’s bad energy? Well, King Spa has a salt igloo for you. Made from 350-million-year-old salt blocks, this room promises skin rejuvenation. The dim lighting, the incredibly comfortable temperature, and the thick walls that block the outside noise make this another great place for a nap. You aren’t supposed to stay in here for more than 15 minutes, but who can put a time limit on serenity?
1 Pyramid Room Giza. Saqqara. Niles. Prepare yourself for the true wonder of King Spa: a large gold pyramid. (King Spa is not known for subtlety.) The shape is supposed to channel metaphysical energy, but more appealing to me was the flattering gold lighting inside. King Spa touts that the pyramid is coated in 23(!)-karat gold, which I didn’t know was even a thing. The dry sauna is heated to a pleasant 90 degrees and gets a sweat going quickly, but it doesn’t feel oppressive. Glamour, metaphysical energy, and the perfect temperature: It’s the Eighth Wonder of the Relaxation World.