211 E. 51st St., nr. Third Ave. 212-223-6773
This midtown oasis puts a premium on manliness, with its nautical vibe, comely female attendants, and glass-walled cigar lounge made for brokering both business deals and bromances ($50 for admission). Favored by certain Eastern European members of the New York Rangers, the spa combines good old-fashioned steaming and birch-branch lashings with Dermologica grooming products and premium vodkas. The actual steam and sauna rooms are small and can get overcrowded and underheated during peak hours (before and after work). Best to go midday, when you’ll have the run of the place.
Russian & Turkish Baths
268 E. 10th St., nr. First Ave. 212-505-0665
Built in 1892, this East Village staple appears to be the YMCA of steam baths—charmingly no-frills or decidedly grimy, depending on your point of view ($30 for admission). And yet, the clientele—which includes starving artists with washboard abs and bikini-clad sylphs—is significantly hotter than anywhere else in town. Upstairs, there’s a dingy-but-dependable café serving blinis and dumplings, along with bare-bones male and female locker rooms. Below, steams and saunas are basically indistinguishable from one another; the entire area is overwhelmingly humid and, though there are signs forbidding guests from shaving, spitting, or cleaning their teeth, it’s pretty much a hygiene free-for-all.
1200 Gravesend Neck Rd., nr. Ave. W., Sheepshead Bay 718-332-1676
Brooklyn’s oldest banya isn’t as ancient as you might think. Founded by Gregory Zaslavsky in 1980, the former Russian Baths of Neck Road evolved from a swimming pool in the basement of an apartment building in Sheepshead Bay into a basic if endearing bathhouse. Today it still has a solid following among the jovial, big-bellied Russians who have been coming for the past three decades. They have their reasons: The saunas are hot, the café (lined with framed hockey jerseys of Soviet greats) serves beer and excellent Russian grub, and there’s a lounge-chair-equipped outdoor deck ($30 for admission).
Great Jones Spa
29 Great Jones St., nr. Lafayette St. 212-505-3185
Steaming got a trendy boost when this Nolita spa opened its doors mid–last decade. The wet area, a sort of subterranean grotto, gets a dose of natural sun from massive skylights three stories up, while a cascading waterfall whooshes soothingly and all-in-black attendants quietly maintain a supply of tea, fresh fruit, and nuts. There’s nothing particularly authentic about the chakra steam room or the river-rock sauna, but the latter’s extra-wide wooden benches let you fully stretch out without any danger of teetering off. And on Saturdays, the highly sought-after de-stresser Andre performs very authentic platza treatments. General admission is $50, or free for three hours if you book a spa service.
Body By Brooklyn
275 Park Ave., nr. Washington Ave., Prospect Heights 718-923-9400
In a former Tootsie Roll factory under the BQE, Body by Brooklyn has become a daylong destination for its utilitarian-chic water lounge ($45 for admission). The area combines the best of Russian, Turkish, and Swedish bathhouse traditions, with a wet sauna, dry sauna, and hammam, plus a Jacuzzi and cold plunge. During the week, you’ll have the wet area mostly to yourself, but weekend brunches attract a massage-and-martini crowd.
WATER PARK (Minus the slides)
For Day Trippers:
131-10 Eleventh Ave., nr. 135 St., College Point; 718-939-6300
Since this water park on the outskirts of Queens opened in 2007, it has won over everyone from beauty editors to college students to birthday-partying families with its sprawling, fastidiously clean facilities and egalitarian vibe ($35 for weekday admission; $45 for weekends). The best plan of attack is to start at the unisex, clothing-optional bottom level and work your way up to the third-floor pool deck, where, after cycling through heated mineral pools and seven themed saunas (ranging from gold and salt to LED and Far Infrared Ray), you’ll be ready to collapse on a deck chair and pass out.
King Spa & Fitness
321 Commercial Ave., nr. Union St., Palisades Park, N.J. 201-947-9955
If Spa Castle is the gleaming spa of the future, King Spa & Fitness is a Gilded Age retreat, with Louis XIV chairs and leafy foliage (both fake and real). And, as of this year, the New Jersey destination spa is open 24 hours. In addition to traditional steams and dry saunas, there’s a handful of specialty rooms for soothing whatever your ailment: The Gold Pyramid, lined with 23-karat gold leaf, is said to stave off disease and maintain firm skin, while the Rock Salt Sauna supposedly cures eczema and boosts metabolism. Guests clad in pink tees and shorts cycle through them all, breaking to play baduk, get a foot massage, or work up a different kind of sweat from spicy Korean food. Admission starts at $45.