Each summer, city dwellers of all stripes—sunbathing nonnas, bronzed Adonises, giddy teens—flock to this urban oasis, making it one of the top people-watching spots in town. Not to mention one of the best bargains: A season pass costs a mere $20. In other words, a whole lot less than a trip to the Cape. 475 Commercial St., Boston, MA 02109, boston.gov/community-centers.
Sipping wine on a blanket by the cranberry bogs is so much more relaxing than sitting in traffic on the Bourne Bridge, isn’t it? With three restaurants, easy access to two golf courses, and a spa, the South Shore’s version of a turreted French manor is a welcome respite before the Cape Cod fray. plymouth.mirbeau.com.
Hopple Popple founder Linda Matzkin and her daughter Abby Matzkin Gordon have the experience, eye for design, and romantic natures—not to mention respect for spending limits—to fashion truly dreamy weddings, be they barefoot-on-the-Cape or candlelight-at-the-Ritz affairs. 284 California St., Newton, MA 2158, hopplepopple.com.
Not every day on the Cape can be sunny and 72 degrees (shocking, we know). When the weather's lousy, head to this multipurpose Mashpee complex, which opened this past winter. There's bowling, a variety of brick-oven pizzas, and a huge selection of New England brews. If the clouds part, hit the outdoor bar for bocce and live music. 9 Greene St., Mashpee, MA lanesbowlandbistro.com.
Folks who come to this beloved local watering hole enjoy its outdoor patio and live music on weekends, and get an added bonus: They can walk into the adjoining restaurant, 65 Main, and pair the town's best burger with, say, a pint from Cape Ann Brewing Company. 65 Main St., Gloucester, MA dogbarcapeann.com.
Some might scoff that Matt Murphy's perennially wins this award because, well, there aren't exactly Irish restaurants on every corner of this largely Irish town. That probably just means they haven't tasted the sausage, beans, and mashed potatoes with a hint of anise. Or sipped a perfect pint of Guinness while devouring fish and chips wrapped in the morning paper and accompanied by chunky, homemade ketchup. This Brookline Village hideaway is still an unadorned pub experience: good people (Jason Waddleton is one of the friendliest waiters in the Boston area), live seisiuns, or sessions of traditional Irish music, and food that's proud to call itself—dare we call it—Irish cuisine. 14 Harvard St., Brookline Village, MA mattmurphyspub.com/.
We aren't ones to cry over spilt milk, as our floors can attest; our couch has more hair on it than our cat. Without a speck of judgment, the Maids clean up our act month after month, dusting baseboards, degriming showers, and all but eliminating any traces of pet (except for, of course, the pet itself). They're quick, well priced, and unobtrusive: Aside from the preternatural sparkle and neatly triangled toilet paper, you'd never know they'd been there. maids.com.
Refreshingly chic silhouettes from Olian, Ripe, Paper Denim, and Inca Mama are enough to recommend Helena's. So are the racks of nonmaternity styles, which include tees by Johnny Was and trapeze tops by Tulle that can be repurposed by those with baby bumps (instantly dressing up, say, a pair of Gap Maternity stretch pants). What puts Helena's over the top, however, is its location, flanked by like-minded businesses Wild Child (see above) and Isis Maternity. In one fell swoop, moms-to-be can purchase a come-hither cocktail dress, sign up for a prenatal yoga class, and test-drive the stroller of the moment. 397 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, MA 2474, .
This is just to say that the apology note you left on the fridge didn't quite cut it, and the person whose sweet, cold plums you scarfed down is profoundly annoyed. Next time, put those words of remorse—or thanks, or affection—on something that gives them a bit more weight. At cornucopian paper shop Scribe, choose from scores of distinctive cards (Smudge Ink, B Designs) and refined stationery from the likes of Boatman Geller. If a gift is required, there are fragrant Seda France candles, Heather Moore jewelry, plus purses, pens, and more. (But sorry: no replacement plums.) 84 Washington St., Marblehead, MA 1945, .
Amid a flurry of cleaning services catering to on-the-go urbanites, the Jamaica Plain outpost of this national operation shows an unbeatable blend of polish and professionalism. After setting the appointment and sending an e-mail confirmation, your cleaning team will arrive armed with grime-busting equipment and a dozen sprays, as well as a rigorous 22-step plan for restoring your home's sparkle. The Maids will even pick up and drop off your keys at work—another excellent reason to fork over the $159 fee, which is lowered if you book monthly follow-ups. 179 Boylston St., Jamaica Plain, MA 2130, .
It's hard to decide what's best about this cozy South End bakery, where the owners have thought of every amenity for busy city dwellers. Is it the a.m. treats? The lunch? The cute tables that overlook Appleton Street? The gourmet take-out options? The catering? When push comes to shove, we choose the scandalousy delicious breakfast goodies: scones to cry over, fruit-studded muffins, old-fashioned sour cream coffee cake, and granola that could put a commune out of business. We could go on, but our trainer says no. 123 Appleton Street, Boston, MA appletoncafe.com/.
Some Sunday mornings require a little time spent catching up with our favorite sister, bloody mary. And the best place to find her in these parts is at the East Coast Grill. The bloody mary bar here goes beyond the traditional to offer tipplers a choice of ingredients—citrus squeezes, herbs, spices, vegetables, and hot sauces—to add to their base of vodka and tomato juice. From there you can get to the next order of business: pulling up to a hearty plate of grilled sausages, tropical fruit pancakes, a fluffy avocado—black bean—salsa omelet, cornbread-crusted French toast, and the Sunday paper. 1271 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA eastcoastgrill.net/.
Before Hingham's 251-acre World's End peninsula became a stunning spot for picnickers, it was the proposed location for both the United Nations headquarters and a nuclear power plant. Luckily, those ideas failed. Today, the reservation property boasts wide fields, native fauna, 4-plus miles of tree-lined walking paths, and panoramic views of the city skyline and Hingham Harbor. Just add paper plates and homemade sandwiches for a dining experience to rival that of any swanky sidewalk café. ($4.50, 8 a.m.-sunset year round.) 250 Martin's Lane, Hingham, MA 2043, thetrustees.org.
A local stalwart for more than 40 years, Leather World helps us handle our hauls, supplying a polycarbonate spinner to withstand the perils of the TSA, a leather duffel perfect for that weekend jaunt down to the Cape, and a trim briefcase for the daily commute to and from the office. Plus, all of its locations offer one line of embossing at no additional cost. 30 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA shopleatherworld.com.
Front Street's bar (260 Berkeley St., Boston) is a quiet, secure haven, protected by Horgan. A five-year veteran of the bartending wars of Boston and Cape Cod, Horgan knows his regulars and what they drink, and he protects their privacy. "This isn't a pickup bar," Horgan says. "People come here to relax. Single women come in by themselves and trust me to see they're left alone. People know that no one will bother them here." Front Street, 260 Berkely St., Boston, MA .