When champagne-drenched memories give way to a bleak feeling that goes rather well with the gray skies, Chicago can enter a pretty sad state. In hopes that the city won't be overrun with scowls and glares all winter (hey, we may see you on the L), Centerstage has racked up some of the city's most spiritually uplifting, warm-you-up situations. Winter's going to be here for a while: Face the frost with gusto.
Focusing on the teachings of yoga and Vedanta (an ancient Indian philosophy that stresses the oneness of existence), the spiritual spot has had Chicago channeling peace for more than 30 years. When blizzards start to freeze out your aura, pop into the center for a course on positive thinking. For $55 ($45 for members) you can treat your sour state of mind to four weekly sessions that give you the tools to make mental lemonade: The class teaches students to use positive thinking to mold a destiny of joy, success and peace. The next round begins Feb. 13.
Nomi garners five-star accolades for its year-round menu of creative, French-Asian flavors. But when temperatures drop, things sweeten up with Nomi's Haut Chocolat Chaud, served from noon-10 p.m., November to March, in the restaurant's lounge. The seasonal menu tempts candy-philes with five hot chocolate flavors ($8-$10) that put Willy Wonka to shame. The Aztec Elixir blends chipotle and ancho chilies with dark chocolate, Mexican vanilla and cinnamon, crowned by a chocolate-covered marshmallow. The decadent Truffle a Trois puts a trio of truffles in liqueur glasses; the lucky drinker gets to pour in hot milk and watch the chocolate dissolve.
Learning to knit will score you a new fireside activity and let you brave the chill in style. Division Street's Nina swaps curled up kittens and teacups in favor of Zen-inspired decor, making the Wicker Park space more urban art gallery than granny's living room. Nina stocks a dashing set of fibers: Expect threads made out of mohair, silk, alpaca and bamboo alongside metallic yarns and hand-dyed ribbons. Two-part classes (held throughout the winter) are aimed at knitting novices, so call the shop to get your stitch on.
It may not be the Caribbean, but this is one oasis that's worth a winter visit. The day spa puts the Zen in massage therapy with muted earth tones, a meditative soundtrack and an impressive range of massage options. The $95, hour-long Hot Stone Massage is said to melt away stress, insomnia and depression, all symptoms of the winter blues. Or try the Salt Glow; heated, infrared lamps warm you as a masseuse exfoliates your down-and-out winter skin with a blend of sea salt and massage oil. Before you head out, guard yourself against the cold with a complimentary tea or natural fruit juice.
On frigid days, head to the Ruby Room's second floor and settle in for some fireside detoxification: the Healing Sanctuary Boutique features a cozy nook for reading alongside herbal elixir, gem and floral essence bars that will lift your spirits higher than three Jaeger bombs can. Regular events like the Detox with Chinese Herbs seminar teach you how to banish the blues through exotic means. On Jan. 20, pop into the Ruby Room for a lesson in Flower and Gem Essences; the $15 one-and-a-half hour class illuminates which stones and floral essences can be incorporated into your life to increase mental clarity.