Shopping in Chicago

For a look outside the Vegas norm, a jaunt through Chicago’s Wicker Park district offers a radically different retail experience

Beyond great hot dogs and hockey, Chicago is the Midwest’s ultimate shopping destination. Like Las Vegas, it has a high concentration of luxury retailers populating its chic downtown areas known as the Magnificent Mile and The Loop. But since sometimes it is imperative to “dig in the crates” to put together a well-curated wardrobe, a trip to Chicago’s hip Wicker Park neighborhood is a must. Glamorized in films such as High Fidelity with John Cusack and benefiting from a serious dose of gentrification in the late ’90s, Wicker Park is a haven for up-and-coming clothing companies, sassy vintage shops and other types of inventive retail concepts that you can’t find elsewhere. And since dressing well is about building a look one piece at a time, shopping trips to destinations that offer styles different than one can find in Las Vegas, are highly advisable.

Talk a stroll through Wicker Park and don’t miss these four exciting stores, plus one that’s not in the neighborhood but worth a visit.

Connect. A sustainable apparel boutique and eco-conscious event space, Connect focuses on performance wear for the urban environment, selecting partnerships that focus on social, environmental and humanitarian solutions. Collections include Nau, Stronghold, FIN and Terra Plana, among many other progressive brands. Don’t miss Nau’s Chrysalis deconstructed dress, shirt and jacket hybrid, a must for the fashion diva who respects Mother Earth and its bounty. Another favorite: The shop’s skateboard wall and impressive men’s T-shirt collection are ideal for the haute urban gent. 1330 N. Milwaukee Ave.,

Lovely: A Bake Shop. Vintage aprons and accessories are just the icing on the cake at Lovely, a treat shop founded by pastry chefs Brooke Dailey and Gina Hartwig. For breakfast and lunch, Lovely is the perfect respite for an intense day of strolling through Wicker Park. To fuel up for a day on the mean streets, try the buttermilk scones with raisins and cream. For a mid-afternoon dessert, don’t miss the S’Mores pie. In its boutique, Lovely sells a divine selection of handcrafted items from Art Goodies and Oilcloth International, among others. 1130 N. Milwaukee Ave.,

Lenny & Me. The owners love everything vintage, and now with two shops (clothing and home decor) and an art gallery in Wicker Park, there is a lot more Lenny & Me to love. On the interiors side, Lenny & Me specializes in 20th-century furniture, lighting and decorative arts, organized into thoughtful pop-up boutiques by trend and interest. Lenny & Me’s spinoff, Three Birds Gallery, has become a haven for showcasing local talent from painters to sculptors. 1459 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Space 519. Recently opened inside the trendy mall known as the 900 Shops on Michigan Avenue in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, Space 519 markets itself as a refined general store that focuses on a variety of well-curated items for the home, personal accessories, hard-to-find music, books, apparel and apothecary. Space 519 features a section dedicated to seasonally rotating items that are on-trend must-haves. Some favorite items include technicolored G-Shock watches and a surprising grouping of canned enchilada sauce and bottled salsas, as well as bowls. The selection available at Space 519 is a true delight for those in search of a well-positioned shopping experience. 900 N. Michigan Ave.,

Mojo Spa. This spa began Amanda Kezios’ quest for the perfect lip balm and it has since entered into a successful business for the former personal chef turned beauty product innovator. Today, Kezios creates more than 200 bath and beauty products inspired by comfort foods and nostalgic treats, using natural ingredients, aromatherapy blends, positive affirmations, healing crystals and sound therapy. Services available at her Wicker Park store include manis, pedis and facials. 1468 Milwaukee Ave.,

Where to Stay

The Elysian Hotel. With a design palette blending Greek mythology and contemporary flair, this hotel has become the toast of Chicago since its opening in late 2009. Renowned architect Lucien Lagrange and Simeone Deary Design Group partnered to create a graceful 60-story tower, a mix of residential and hospitality. Standout features include the Elysian art collection with 65 individual pieces from 30 international contemporary artists as well as unparalleled amenities such as afternoon lemonade and iced-tea service in the parlor. Rooms start at $395.

The James. The ultimate in inner-city comfort, this hotel offers 191 guest rooms and 52 studios. But the real standout here is the 26 lofts, which feature a media room, separate bedroom and living area with a fully stocked bar. Don’t miss David Burke’s Primehouse and JBar, with rotating art exhibits. Rooms start at $250.