Dropping temps (and holiday indulgence) calls for a day at the baths. No ? not that kind.
KING SPA & SAUNA, CHICAGO
In the grand Korean tradition of the super-clean megaspa, King Spa Sauna (809 Civic Center Dr., Niles, Ill. $25) is like an aquatic Disneyland dedicated to stress reductionfood court and karaoke included. An ice "sauna' and nine elaborately themed dry rooms (featuring, among other things, amethyst, ocher, a gold pyramid, and salt) combine high heat with far infrared "energy." Sure, it sounds New Age-y, but the body scrubs, massages, and botanical-infused pools (some coed, some naked) are straightforward bliss. Open 24 hours; go late for family-free solitude.
THE COUNTRY CLUB, NEW ORLEANS
Locals know the best place to laze off Bourbon Street bead whorin' (not that they actually do that) is at the Country Club (634 Louisa St.; $10?15). Located in an unassuming converted mansion in the boho Bywater neighborhood, it?s more antebellum social club than spa. Sun on the leafy clothing-optional pool deck, take a Finnish sauna, catch movies and Saints games from the Jacuzzi at night, or just linger over lunch on the veranda. Massage therapists are on call. Expect all body types and potential friskiness.
RUSSIAN & TURKISH BATHS, NEW YORK CITY
An East Village icon since 1892, the Russian & Turkish Baths' (268 E. 10th St.; $30) no-nonsense, slightly grimy offerings are pure Old World Jewish shvitz, even if it's mostly tattooed trust-funders submitting to the oak leaf platza treatment/beating ($35) these days. Heat up in one of five saunas, douse with icy buckets of water, dip into a 45-degree plunge pool, repeat. A café serves homestyle Russian staples (borscht, kielbasa) and cold Baltika beer. Limited male-only (i.e., clothing-optional) hours on Thursday and Sunday.
KABUKI SPRINGS & SPA, SAN FRANCISCO
The Japanese are wonderful snobs about their culture, particularly the time-honored tradition of the onsen. Infiltrate the scene at Kabuki Springs (1750 Geary Blvd.; $22?25), a spotlessly clean cedar-planked sanctuary in Japantown affiliated with the gay-owned hotel chain Joie de Vivre. Book a Bliss package ($110) for a private attendant-administered green tea bath in a traditional furo tub, followed by a shiatsu massage, or just Zen out in the communal baths. The emphasis is on tranquil ritual, so leave the group at home. Men-only Monday, Thursday, and Saturday; Coed on Tuesday.