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Spa around the world

Need a vacation? Just escape to one of these Chicago spas.

 (Photograph: Megan Carrepn)
Photograph: Megan CarrepnCaribbean Therapy Massage at Blueberry Moon (2108 N Halsted St, 773-529-3333)If the background music at this Lincoln Park salon/spa included the sound of seagulls and the ocean tide, I would�ve felt exactly as if I were spending an �ber-relaxing day at the beach. After choosing which chakras (energy centers in your body) I want massage therapist Miles to focus on, the service begins with a soothing foot scrub. The sugar scrub is made of avocado, coconut and passion fruit, and reminds me of feeling sand in between my toes. Once I�m on the massage table, Miles uses Aveda�s Caribbean Therapy products to create gentle yet deep strokes that melt away tension in my back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs. The movements bring to mind waves crashing over me in the ocean. By the end of the massage, I have warm towels on my face, hands and feet�just like I�d be wrapped in a sun soaked towel after a long swim in the Caribbean. $200 for 65 minutes (Mention TOC and get 50% off through April 15).�Kevin Aeh
 (Photograph: Michael Jarecki)
Photograph: Michael JareckiChicago Sweatlodge (3500 N Cicero Ave, 773-202-1777)Manliness rules at the Ukrainian-owned Chicago Sweatlodge, a Portage Park sauna or bania whose mainly non-English-speaking clientele reflects its Russian bathhouse ethos. But the language everyone speaks is that of relaxation, and you can do that in a plethora of ways. After paying the $25 entry fee and slipping out of your clothes and into a clean towel, start by baking in one of two sweltering saunas cranked up to heat levels so high that filling a nearby bucket with icy water and pouring it over your body will feel like sweet relief. For 15 additional bucks, consider getting the appropriately named Detox Scrub (how did they know what we were up to on Saturday?), which is a full-body rubdown by a staff professional. It feels great, but you�ll be buck naked and on display, so if you�re on the shyer side, private massages start at $35 for 30 minutes. You can also kick back in the caf� with a beer and a sandwich or recline in a leather chair and nap the day away while the game drones on. Just don�t leave before taking part in the Russian tradition: a circulation-reviving dip in the icy whirlpool. Every inch of your body (um, except maybe your genitals) will thank you.�Jason A. Heidemann
 (Photograph: Nicole Radja)
Photograph: Nicole RadjaHanakasumi Ancient Japanese Body Ritual at Spa at Dana Hotel (660 N State St, 312-202-6040) I may not be able to catch the brief Japanese cherry blossom season this year, but I�ll settle for being covered head-to-toe in a warm cherry blossom and rice powder exfoliating cream that momentarily whisks me away to the Far East and leaves me smelling so amazing I�m still sniffing my skin hours later. My masseuse gently works the cream into my skin before asking me a silly question: �The treatment needs to sit for 15 minutes. Would it be okay if I give you a foot massage during that time?� She had me at foot massage, but after she uses a rough towel to slough off a winter�s worth of dryness, works out a kink in my neck and drapes my back and feet in ridiculously hot towels, I feel I�ve made a new best friend. $155 for 80 minutes.�Amy Carr
 (Photograph: Emily Mohney)
Photograph: Emily MohneyLava Shell Massage at Elysian Spa at the Waldorf Astoria (11 E Walton St, 312-646-1310)On a gray March day in Chicago, the swaying palm trees of a Hawaiian island sound pretty amazing. But hanging out at the gorgeous Elysian Spa at the Waldorf Astoria�there�s a mosaic-tiled lap pool, sauna, hot tub and steam room, rain showers, etc.�actually feels like a getaway, beginning with a glass of citrus water in the lounge. Continuing my vacation-y experience, I head into a dark spa room with a flickering candle and a heated massage bed decked out in impossibly soft blankets. My massage therapist asks me to choose an aromatherapy scent�I go with subtle eucalyptus�which is used in the massage oil and infuses a bowl of water placed beneath the head rest. (Also in that bowl: a beautiful pink orchid bud.) The lava shells�smooth, caramel-colored rocks�are hollowed out in order to hold a warm liquid. So unlike hot stone massages, where the rocks get cooler and cooler as they�re used, these never lose their heat. Under their warm pressure, my knots of stress dissolve as if I�m vacationing in the tropics. $220 for 60 minutes.�Liz Plosser
 (Photograph: Nicole Radja)
Photograph: Nicole RadjaFoot massage at King Spa & Sauna (809 Civic Center Dr, Niles; 847-972-2540)Thanks to a sprawling windowless space, I have no idea what time it is or how many hours have passed since I entered Korean-inspired King Spa & Sauna on this frigid winter day. I�ve bathed naked in three hot tubs and one cold pool, eaten steamed buns and spring rolls at the caf�, casually watched a Korean reality TV show and ducked in and out of nine saunas. The highlight: an hour inside a small room filled with three masseurs kneading the legs and feet of three of us fortunate guests. As I lean back in a reclining chair, my massage therapist uses the acupressure technique to rub and knead every pressure point below my knees. $85 for 60 minutes.�Jessica Herman
 (Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki)
Photograph: Andrew NawrockiIndian Head Massage at Spa Space (161 N Canal St, 312-466-9585)I wake myself up snoring�yes, snoring�while Paul is rubbing my temples. Historically, he tells me, Indian head massages involve pouring large amounts of oil onto the scalp to strengthen the hair and target the different doshas (the elements that make up the body according to ayurveda). Spa Space�s version involves no oil (I can just imagine a following week of greasy hair) and a little bit of lotion. Paul starts by rubbing my feet and hands, then moves on to my scalp, temples, forehead and shoulders. I carry a good deal of tension, and I can feel him rubbing it away as he applies pressure. By the end of an hour, it�s no secret: I�ve conked out. My head feels heavy with sleep and free of stress. $95 for 60 minutes.�Jessica Herman
 (Photograph: Emily Mohney)
Photograph: Emily MohneyClarity Chamber at Valeo (151 W Adams St, 312-660-8250)There�s something transformative about being bathed by another adult in a spa. Add in an elegant marble bed, heated floors and an infrared sauna for a pre-bathing sweat session and it�s life-changing. Inspired by the Turkish and Russian hammams, the 30- to 60-minute bath at Valeo is a rhythmic bathing process: I lie face-up on the bed and my bather proceeds with three rounds of soaping, scrubbing and then moisturizing, dousing my body with buckets of hot water in between. At one point, I open my eyes to see my entire body covered in about a foot of airy, essential oil-infused bubble bath. By the time he towels me off, I�m convinced that showers (even the fanciest Kohler versions) are for the unenlightened. $100 for 30 minutes, $125 for 40 minutes, $175 for 60 minutes.�Jessica Herman

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