1395 Washington St., South End
The Gallows is a gastropub done right.
102 Waltham St., South End
Stir—a dreamy all-in-one demo kitchen and cookbook store—is the kind of place you pile into with a group on a chilly Wednesday night to learn pasta-rolling and wine-swilling from the masters. A bunch of stools surround the chef’s island, bordered on one side by the open kitchen and on the other by floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with culinary tomes from kitchen gods around the world. Browsing is encouraged. If you’re more the hates-to-cook-loves-to-eat kind, Stir regularly holds tasting menu evenings where you might go with old friends or alone to make new ones. Either way, everyone sits around the intimate table, sharing food and conversation in a setting so cozy, it feels like home.
550 Tremont St., South End
Chef Barbara Lynch has her hometown all figured out. She knows what the Bostonians want: oysters, at least twelve varieties with nearly as many fixings, served in the cozy basement of a classic brownstone, with chatty servers to talk booze and bivalves with. In fact, B & E Oyster moonlights as one of the South End’s most famous wine bars—the seventy-bottle-strong list is that good. Really. We recommend forgoing the Tabasco and dousing your oysters in the restaurant’s prosecco-based mignonette instead. Oh, and book in for a shucking class with the pros—usually held on weekday afternoons, champagne included.
Banyan Bar & Refuge
553 Tremont St., South End
Dim sum, avocado bao, spicy salmon poke, chicken tikka masala, dragon noodles, and kimchi fried rice—the number of dishes we like to order at this Asian-influenced restaurant seems to grow with every visit.
The Spa at Canyon Ranch Lenox
165 Kemble St., Lenox
You go to Canyon Ranch Lenox for a healthy-living reset. Days here include plenty of exercise and gallivanting around in the fresh air, which makes a trip to the elegant spa all the more satisfying. The collagen-supporting, pore-shrinking, skin-smoothing, glow-inducing treatments are the real draw (if you don’t count the bucolic New England countryside), but the dim, atmospheric lighting, tranquilizing pale-neutral color scheme, and overflowing fruit bowls are also wonderfully pacifying.
Walden Behavioral Care
9 Hope Ave., Ste. 500, Waltham
Since 2003, the team at Walden has been treating children and adults of all ages who are dealing with eating disorders and related behavioral health conditions. The main inpatient and outpatient campus is in Waltham, Massachusetts, and there are more than ten other clinics throughout Massachusetts, Georgia, and Connecticut.
10 Avery St., Downtown Crossing
When you check in, you can choose rooms looking out on the cityscape or on the historic and verdant Boston Common. Go with the latter. If you go in the fall, you’ll wake up to sweeping views of the changing leaves in America’s oldest public park. It’s pretty unbeatable. The hotel is attached to an Equinox gym, and guests are welcome to use the facilities as well as the spa (where therapists are particularly good at sports massages). Aside from the sumptuously comfortable interiors and amenities, the real draw here is the hotel’s walkability factor. You’re only a few steps away from the boutiques of Newbury Street and the charming cobblestoned roads of Beacon Hill, home to many of the city's best restaurants. If you’re traveling with littles in tow, the toy-laden red wagon in the lobby means you don’t have to bring half the playroom on your trip, and Boston Common makes a great playground.
XV Beacon Hotel
15 Beacon St., Beacon Hill
When a hotel is as beautiful as the XV Beacon and the history is as storied and the restaurant is as wonderful, you wouldn’t predict that the real reason to stay here is none of the above. If there is one thing that puts this hotel a few clicks ahead of the others it’s the staff in general and the concierges in particular. This is a team that is thoughtful and competent and—a word not often associated with concierges—kind. Ask them for help with anything and they will deliver—and then they’ll go about three steps beyond. The XV Beacon’s other stock in trade is the building. A stunning, Beaux-Arts mansion originally owned by a well-to-do merchant, the building dates back to the 18th century and has also played home to the Boston Transit Commission and School Committee during its life. Since 1999, the XV Beacon has been working as a 63-room boutique hotel that puts a premium on cozy with fireplaces and soft cashmere throws and Frette sheets in the guestrooms. For those traveling with a pack, you’re in good hands: pets are welcome, kids are greeted with cookies…
Four Seasons Hotel Boston
200 Boylston St., Back Bay
The recently renovated Four Seasons in Boston’s Back Bay has made comfortable bedding into an art form (they designed their own mattresses, for starters). Silky-smooth Frette sheets and double-glazed, practically soundproof windows contribute to transforming the beautifully outfitted guest rooms into sleep sanctuaries. A stroll around the Boston Public Garden’s lake is a gorgeous way to start the day (the hotel's bright, twenty-four-hour gym is another) before hitting the sights, most of which are walkable. The hotel's restaurant, the Bristol, excels at traditional New England eats served in an elegant, wood-paneled dining room. Tuck into the king crab tortellini—it’s every bit as good as it sounds.
Sofra Bakery and Cafe
1 Belmont St., Cambridge
Should you be lucky enough to find yourself in the charming, redbrick suburb that is Cambridge on a Sunday morning, Sofra is your place for brunch—even if you’re not a brunch person. With not a piece of maple-glazed bacon in sight, this is Middle Eastern cuisine that transforms breakfast into the most exciting meal of the day. Diners go wild for the shakshuka (eggs baked in a harissa-heavy tomato sauce), but we would argue for the Turkish-style breakfast (a plate of boiled eggs, cucumber and tomato salad, thick yogurt, and hunks of feta). The space looks like a cozy cabin and operates as a café-meets-general-store. The beautifully packaged herb and spice blends and a box of orange-and-rose-scented pastries make great gifts. The divine cardamom and orange blossom buns will make you rethink your feelings on cinnamon and sugar. The same goes for the coffee: The Turks like it dense and unapologetically strong.