Inside the Capitol Hill Urban Float, ‘the largest float pod center in North America’

Urban Float is Capitol Hill’s new flotation therapy spa, a place to let your mind wander to its outer limits while bobbing in salt water. It is located in the street level of the wedge-shaped building at the intersection of Madison, Union, and 12th, across the street from the Ferrari dealership, a suitably luxe, modern facility for this upscale iteration of the time-honored practice of soaking and thinking. With six locations from Houston to Vancouver, the Capitol Hill location is five-year-old Urban Float’s new flagship and, they say, “the largest float pod center in North America” at 4,000 square feet.

“Floating has been around for more than 40 years, but as this form of therapy has become more popular among elite athletes and celebrities, the concept has ultimately reached urban professionals, students, parents – really anyone in need of a break from the daily stresses of the fast-paced, digital world,” Urban Float co-founder Joe Beaudry said in the announcement of the new Capitol Hill location.

Urban Float has both corporate-owned stores and franchise locations. The Capitol Hill location is owned and operated by the Bellevue-based company.

After filling out a release form on an iPad, visitors are asked to pick the soundtrack to accompany the beginning and end of their float. CHS chose “Waves and Birds,” and the attendant helpfully suggested we might prefer “Waves and Birds in the Distance.”


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As for accessibility in its new Capitol Hill home, the new float spa says all are welcome. “Urban Float prides itself on creating a culture of inclusivity and all genders are welcome in all our locations,” a company representative tells CHS.

Each float tank sits in a spacious, darkened room down a broad hallway that snakes through the building. There is an open shower stall in the corner and a bench outfitted with towels, earplugs and little packets of Vaseline, to slather any small cuts or scrapes that might be irritated by the salt water. Everything you’ll need for your inner voyage is provided, including shampoo, conditioner and body wash.

The float tank itself looks like something designed by Steve Jobs: a glossy white minimalist unit whose sleek, streamlined shape resembles something halfway between an Apple mouse and a 2001 Volkswagen Beetle. An attendant briskly ran through the guidelines and shows how to work the controls, two Jobsian rubber bulbs on either side of the inner chamber, one to change the light settings and the other an emergency call button. She explains that the water is fully filtered three times through a one-micron filter between each float, and sanitized with disinfectant and UV light.

As for the float experience, the tanks are about five times more spacious than the coffin-like chambers you might imagine; claustrophobes can opt to keep the large overhead hood open as you float with a sense of weightlessness, silence, and multicolored mood lights reminiscent of Tron.

Once freed from the constraints of gravity, the real relaxation begins. With ears underwater, you get a sense of the rhythm of your pulse. Lying there with nothing to do, you gradually unspool tensions you hadn’t even noticed, and eventually you go limp. Your mind starts to wander and time stretches.

When the distant birds come over the onboard speakers, you emerge from the tank, shower, and get dressed, refreshed and a little spacey. There are certainly cheaper ways to achieve that sensation—membership plans start at $60 for a float a month — but it was pleasant nonetheless. Think of it as a tech-assisted micro-vacation, a nice midmorning respite for the overworked engineer on the go.

Urban Float Capitol Hill is located at 1121 E Union. It is open 7:30 AM to 10:30 PM. You can learn more at urbanfloat.com.

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