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Best way to fight winter depression

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King Spa

One strategy for staying sane through Chicago’s long deep-freeze is to temporarily pretend that it’s not winter at all, with a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory or Hala Kahiki tiki bar. Add to that list King Spa, a Korean-style resort in the ‘burbs that feels like a tropical getaway. Lounge nude in one of several hot tubs or a steamy sauna. Then don a pajama-like uniform and hang out in one of several kiva-like hot rooms. The walls are lined with minerals like salt, charcoal, amethyst and gold, said to have mystical healing properties. Spring for a massage or a King Scrub—being exfoliated with scruffies while you lie naked on a table. Afterwards, you can refuel with tasty Korean chow at their café, or catch a flick in the mini movie theater. The entry fee is only about $20 with a Groupon or Living Social coupon—a small price to pay for beating the winter blues.

809 Civic Center, Niles, 847.972.2540, kingspa.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best handmade soap

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Venus in Pisces

File it under the beautiful bathroom additions section. Made from vegan glycerin, Elaina Bender’s Venus in Pisces handmade soap uses a patented, layered process of imprinting a photographic image on a shower bar. Over time, as they wear down from use, the image remains intact, reproduced through the glass onion of the soap’s layers. Drawing from a reference library for her “Encyclopedique” collection, Bender appropriates full-color images of botanical and insect species. Each frosted glassine bar, at a square two-and-a-half inches, is a miniature art object.

venusinpisces.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best new hotel

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The Langham Chicago

The Langham Chicago is in a class of its own. Inside the unassuming old IBM office building (ok, it’s also a Mies van der Rohe), a breathtakingly luxurious modern interior with Oriental touches awaits. Staff members are poised and friendly, going out of their way to be of service to guests. The Chuan Spa, club lounge, dinner at Travelle and afternoon tea are not to be missed. Booking a suite gains you access to your own personal butler for the duration of your stay.

330 N. Wabash, 312.923.9988, chicago.langhamhotels.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best bookstore to find undoubtedly fascinating cultural texts that you will never read

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Powell’s

Books seen and bought at a Powell’s: “Sapphic Slashers,” an examination of the lesbian serial killer: “All About Love: The Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion”; “Perchance to Dream: A Patient’s Guide to Anesthesia.” With their eclectic, tantalizingly affordable mix of informal and academic texts, Powell’s teases your inner aspiring scholar. But let’s be honest: you’re not going to read these books. You just plunked down $20 for four intriguing tomes without realizing how dry they’d actually be. One day, you may sell these very books back to Powell’s in some sort of cyclical process unique to academic remainders. This is not to knock Powell’s—both the University Village and Hyde Park locations are incredible resources staffed by earnest and witty nerds. It’s to point out a common phenomenon in the hopes that we can all spend our money a little more realistically—at whichever Powell’s is closer.

University Village, 1218 S. Halsted, 312.243.9070 and Hyde Park, 1501 E. 57th, 773.955.7780, powellschicago.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best handmade jewelry

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Aitho Adornments

There are a gazillion jewelry makers in Chicago, where it’s difficult to distinguish oneself. But Crystal Wells of local artisan shop Aitho Adornments is something special. While understanding in a deep way the technical challenges of jewelry making, she also brings a unique sculptural sensibility to her craft. Working often from materials such as NuGold and brass, her pyramid and pyrite cube rings, for example, effectively redefine acceptable notions of mass and volume in wearables. Thought of as a mentor to others in the jewelry scene, she works in a bold and daring way to break the mold around the expectations of her own craft and more often than not succeeds spectacularly.

aitho-adorn.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best antique shop or market

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Lincoln Antique Mall

Lincoln Antique Mall gets hyped for a reason: to behold its variegated sales floor is to be transported into a storybook, a magical space populated by every kind of exotic creature. Specializing in furniture and decorative objects, the 7,000-square-foot space is brimming with finds, from sleek Danish modern credenzas to plush, ornate sofas that look like set pieces from “Moulin Rouge.” And though Nate Berkus and other professionals frequent the store, you need not be a design expert to enter. Lincoln’s friendly staff won’t judge you, even if you do walk out with that pair of curvaceous Lucite nightstands.

3115 W. Irving Park, 773.604.4700, lincolnantiquemall.com

Audience Choice: Two-Sided, 2958 N. Clark, 773.244.6431, foursided.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best cheap haircut

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Paul Mitchell The School

Getting a haircut at The School is not only a good deal, but a good deed. The stylists are students finishing up their coursework, practicing their cutting and conversation on you. Lest you worry, instructors inspect all student work. Any service that you might require, the school has for a greatly reduced price—$15 for a haircut that’s eons better than a Great Clips trim. If you click with your student stylist, you can make appointments with them for as long as they’re in the program. One minor drawback—because the instructor needs to supervise, it may take a little longer than a typical haircut, but if you’re patient, you’ll be rewarded.

1225 S. Halsted, 312.548.7588, chicago.paulmitchell.edu

Best of Chicago 2014

Best local personal style blogger

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Caylee Willett of If You Seek Style

When you Google keywords such as “Chicago personal style blog” or “Chicago fashion blogger,” If You Seek Style won’t come up on the first page. But it should, right on top. Caylee Willett’s effortlessly contemporary look—achieved through a mix of select vintage and fast fashion finds—perfectly translates the coolness of Chicago’s hippest hoods. The fact that she’s not a fashion victim or a brand slave also evokes two very Midwestern traits: authenticity and a certain modesty, even though she has plenty to brag about. Caylee has collaborated with major brands such as Urban Outfitters and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s Olsenboye; she has been featured on Teen Vogue, Elle and Glamour. She recently traveled to New York and Los Angeles thanks to the quality of her blog—all while keeping her day job as a manager at a local H&M.

ifyouseekstyle.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best new printmaking shop

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Flooding Factory

Run by the team of Dan Estep and Jessica Rosenbaum, the collaborationists behind the Flooding Factory press, they manage to distinguish their work by enlarging on tattoo designs in blown-up prints that take full advantage of garish, Paschke-esque coloring and dark, graphic linework. While these oft-visionary works are their stock in trade, they also print a line of t-shirts and a series of small prints that highlight the incursions of nature into the city that recalls early Tony Fitzpatrick. The duo has managed to launch a press more squarely in the Chicago tradition than any in recent memory.

etsy.com/shop/floodingfactory

Best of Chicago 2014

Best store for moms

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Monica & Andy

What started as an e-commerce baby and kids’ clothing business developed into a Lincoln Park storefront where Monica & Andy are building a community of moms and kids with classes and workshops, singing to yoga. Plus, kids can park themselves at the most adorable toddler-sized cookies-and-milk bar in town while their wardrobe stylists (er, moms) shop.

2038 N. Halsted, 312.600.8530, monicaandandy.com

Best of Chicago 2014