Los Angeles

How to Get Rejuvenated at LA's Finest 24-Hour Korean Spas

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Life in Los Angeles, unsurprisingly, can be pretty stressful. We spend most of our time in our cars navigating some of the worst traffic in the world, all in the name of competing for rapidly diminishing occupational, financial, and romantic prospects — it’s no wonder many of us regularly see therapists just to talk it out.

Fortunately, LA is home to the perfect antidote for all these daily stressors: Korean spas. These specialty sanctums offer a relaxing-yet-invigorating range of treatments and services you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, ranging from gold-leaf masks to the ever-popular Korean scrub. Best of all, many of them are open 24 hours a day, meaning it’s never too late (or early) to treat yourself. Here’s everything you need to know to get in on the action.

What makes Korean spas different

LA’s Korean spas trace their heritage back to Korea’s rich bathhouse tradition, which itself dates back to the 15th century (although the practice of bathing in natural hot springs goes back more than a thousand years). Families would travel for weekly scrubs, meet up with their neighbors, and even share eggs boiled in the hot bathing waters. It was seen as a way to prepare for the week to come, and rather than dipping and dashing, interacting with your community was a very important part of that process.

That practical, communal atmosphere is still a big part of what separates Korean spas from their western counterparts. Massages, scrubs, and spa treatments are a bit more vigorous, aimed at getting the blood flowing rather than pure relaxation. There’s plenty of space to hang out, both in the gender- and non-gender divided areas — and most facilities will also feature a full-service restaurant where, in addition to hard-boiled eggs (still a snack staple), you can chow down on generously portioned Korean dishes like bibimbap, galbi-jjim, and bulgogi.

At any given time, a Korean spa can simultaneously serve as a location for family weekends, a respite after a night of heavy drinking, and a hideout for couples looking for the kind of privacy they might not get in multi-generation homes. You’ll often notice an influx of people after the bars close at 2am, enjoying the facilities alongside early risers and the select few who use the spa as a de facto hotel for the evening. (Many offer luggage storage surfaces for this very reason.)

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

What to expect on your first visit

Korean spas operate on a first-come, first-served basis, which makes them great for last minute plans. That said, if you’re going during the weekend or directly after work, it might make sense to book your spa treatments in advance. You’ll pay an entry fee (between $15-45 dollars, although Groupon frequently has specials) and receive a pair of oversized shorts and a shirt, a towel, and a wristband that’ll open your locker and allow you to purchase additional items (which you’ll pay for when you leave).
 
First, you’ll enter the locker rooms and wet areas. In addition to showering and changing into your uniform, this is where you’ll find a steam room, hot tub, cold tub, and treatment areas — all gender segregated, and fully nude. Think of it as an exercise in body positivity; you’ll quickly discover no one is impressed.

If you want to do more than just use the facilities, consider booking a spa treatment such as the popular Korean scrub, where an attendant armed with a scratchy towel will help you shed what feels like a pound of skin (along with whatever’s left of your inhibition). Wing, breast, thighs, it doesn’t matter: every part of your body gets scrubbed down with equal vigor. You can also opt for a massage or facial as well. Be sure to ask what’s available at the front desk, as many spas will waive the entry fee for treatments over a certain price point.

Bethany Mollenkof/Los Angeles Times/Getty
Bethany Mollenkof/Los Angeles Times/Getty
Bethany Mollenkof/Los Angeles Times/Getty

Your camp-like uniform is for the co-ed gathering room; they’re a staple of every spa complex, and the only spot where you can hang out with your friends of different genders. It’s here you can dip in and out of the mix-gendered saunas lined with rocks, salts, and minerals that devotees claim can cure a laundry list of ailments. Experts recommend 10-20 minutes in each room, followed by a cool down session in the “Ice Sauna,” a room filled with ice which will help your body temperature return to normal.

The jimjilbang/community room is where, if your spa has a cafe, you can grab traditional Korean dishes like bibimbap or bulgogi. You can then take some time to digest by napping it off in one of the rest areas, where you can usually count on a nearby television to help you catch up on your Korean soaps.

Game for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience without leaving the city? Here are our favorite places to spa, day or night. (For those who keep earlier hours, Hugh Spa, Wilshire Spa, and Olympic Spa are all local favorites that generally close around 10pm.)

Wi Spa
Wi Spa
Wi Spa

Wi Spa

MacArthur Park
This place is many people’s first Korean Spa experience; it’s also the spot where you’re most likely to see multiple generations of families bonding via steam rooms, snacks, and scrubs. In fact, the facilities are so popular it’s rumored that many Hollywood players use it as a personal clubhouse. (While this can neither be confirmed nor denied, Conan O’Brien did film a segment here.) There’s a reason Wi Spa’s multi-level 48,000-square-foot facility has been called the Disneyland of K-spas. Lounge on mats in the extra-large jimjilbang, which during peak hours can look like the world’s coolest sleepover, and sink into the extra deep clay sauna (a hot room with a sea of clay balls, not dissimilar from a sort of adult Chuck E. Cheese). Spa treatments are cut off at midnight, but you can head up to the roof day or night to put the lounge chairs to use and enjoy the city breezes. 
Cost: Entry fee: $25, waved with treatments over $120

Spa Palace

Koreatown 
Just because Spa Palace’s swimming pool is often bathed in disco lights and dance music doesn’t mean this isn’t a required stop for relaxation. Go for a swim before the party begins (usually late afternoon into the evening), and grab a glass of wine or a beer at the bar. Go easy on the booze, though, as the heat you’ll absorb from saunas and hot tubs means you’ll feel it much quicker. Feel like royalty in their gold-lined sauna, which they say promotes energy, immunity, and anti-aging, or give your lungs a treat and head to the forest room: a rest area which Spa Palace claims has oxygen content similar to an actual forest.  
Cost: Entry fee: $25, $35 after 8pm

Grand Spa
Grand Spa
Grand Spa

Grand Spa

Koreatown 
While most Korean spas offer a slate of treatments similar to their Western counterparts (again, get a scrub — it’ll change your life), Grand Spa is the place to go when you want to up your skin care game. Highlights include the Scrub and Green Tea massage, or the pure gold massage which, as the name implies, incorporates a gold-leaf mask into your treatment. After you’ve achieved that apres-treatment glow, hang out in the Hwangto Sauna, where you can relax for longer in lower temperatures. And because nothing gets the party started quite like a spa day, there’s also a karaoke room. 
Cost: $15 before 10pm, $30 after 10pm-6am

Hyundae Health Center

Koreatown 
Hyundae Health Center takes the Korean spa tradition of hospitality and community to heart, and works to create an environment you’d actually want to hang out in. After you’ve grabbed a massage (a bargain at $50 for an hour), try your hand at billiards, karaoke, or table tennis — which even has regular league meets. They do helpfully suggest you can also play “for fun,” so fellow klutzes should take heart.
Cost: $10 during the day, $15 at night

Crystal Aveda Concept Spa
Crystal Aveda Concept Spa
Crystal Aveda Concept Spa

Crystal Spa

Koreatown 
Crystal Spa gets an honorary mention here, because unlike its all-night kin, it takes a six-hour break every day to recharge. If you’re looking for spa treatments between 6am and midnight, though, this is your stop — and they tend to be flexible on the time you leave, with some patrons reporting last call around 4am. Crystal Spa is run in partnership with AVEDA, so you can expect to find high end body treatments, cosmetic and skin-care products for sale, and even loofas in the locker room. It’s a smaller facility than most, so come prepared to get your zen on in silence — like the famous ‘Till Tuesday song, voices carry
Cost: $30 general admission, $15 before 8:30am on weekdays, $20 on WednesdaysSign up here for our daily LA email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Los Angeles has to offer.

Laura Studarus is a Thrillist contributor.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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