Best way to fight winter depression

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,

Best of Chicago 2014

Best handmade soap

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.

Best of Chicago 2014

Best new hotel

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,

Best of Chicago 2014

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


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,

Best of Chicago 2014

Best handmade jewelry

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.

Best of Chicago 2014