The Franklin Cape Ann
A touch of the South End opened in Gloucester last fall, and it's been packed ever since. And no wonder. You could become addicted to the meatloaf, and can make an evening out of a couple of appetizers, a few glasses of wine, and the surprisingly fruitful people-watching. 118 Main St., Gloucester, MA franklincafe.com.
Rugg Road Paper Company
For custom wedding invitations, stationery, and an excellent if overwhelming selection of fine papers from across the globe, this Beacon Hill shop is unparalleled. There are more than 600 papers to choose from and a savvy, helpful staff that gives each customer special attention. Classes are offered seasonally in the arts of bookbinding, origami, and candlemaking, to name a few. 105 Charles St., Boston, MA .
Rugg Road Paper Co.
Whether you're looking for a gift or for your own personal use, no other store is more fun to browse in for writing, wrapping, and special occasion papers. Rugg Road carries an unusual and beautiful selection— sold by the sheet or by the box— that is a nice departure from the ubiquitous Crane's stationary, and great for customized invitations. Its heavy stock writing paper is email's most valiant enemy. 105 Charles St., Boston, MA .
Cape Cod Rail Trail
They say the best things in life are free, something that certainly applies to this long, winding trail that spans 27.5 miles from Yarmouth all the way to Wellfleet. With vistas of ponds, cranberry bogs, and wildlife sanctuaries — not to mention an eclectic mix of specialty stores and cafés to recharge when the going gets tough — there’s plenty to see and do along the way. Major expansions and upgrades planned for the next few years, meanwhile, mean you’ll never get bored by the scenery. 3488 Main St., Brewster, MA 02631, mass.gov/locations/cape-cod-rail-trail.
Franklin Cape Ann
Like its South End sister restaurant (and fellow Best of Boston winner), the Franklin Cape Ann has it made. Its wellpriced wine list, crazy-good cocktails, and New American fare are enhanced by its amiable spirit. Must-order items include the mixed grill daily assortment of meats, corn, and potatoes. 118 Main St., Gloucester, MA franklincafe.com.
Political Staff, <em>Boston Herald</em>
The paper's Sunday "Pols and Politics" column—a breezy, biting collection of one-liners, tidbits, and anecdotes culled from the annals of the state's number-one spectator sport—is a must-read for political junkies.
Franklin Cape Ann
Ferreting out a well-made cocktail and inventive cuisine—minus the pretense—can be a tall order anywhere. Find them in a North Shore beach town at 11 p.m., and it's like striking gold. Discriminating night owls flock to the Franklin Cape Ann, northern sibling of the South End's much-loved Franklin Café; for hearty, affordable (read: under $25) dishes like pan-seared cod with oyster mushrooms and ginger, as well as a killer lineup of old-fashioned drinks. 118 Main St., Gloucester, MA 1930, franklincafe.com.
Cape Poge Lighthouse Tour
A narrow beach used to connect Chappa-quiddick to Martha's Vineyard, but the sea breached the divide in 2007, and a 300-yard channel now separates thetwo. Don't let that deter you. Take the ferry from Edgartown and spend a day exploring "Chappy," which boasts 1,000 acres of preservation land. Sign up for the Cape Poge Lighthouse Tour, and a guide will pick you up at the ferry, drive you along the beach, and take you up into the lighthouse for sweeping views of the area. thetrustees.org.
Cape Cod Potato Chips
That's the brand, not the genre. We thought Vincent's were great. Then we tasted these. Superb.
J. Oliver's of Boston
No matter what the gift, this shop has the wrap. The racks of beautiful papers in every motif imaginable—from botanicals to gilt medieval prints—are a visual feast. What's more, the sheets are sold individually, so you don't get stuck with a half a roll of leftover paper. The card selection is terrific, too. 38 Charles Street, Boston, MA .
Wequassett Resort and Golf Club
The Wequassett is the Cape's best resort hotel because of the plush accommodations, the Cape Cod National Golf Club, and the award-winning Twenty-Eight Atlantic restaurant (helmed by chef James Hackney, formerly of L'Espalier). But it's the little things that feel so special—like the vintage-style Good Humor truck that drives around delivering frozen treats to guests. 2173 Massachusetts 28, Harwich, MA 2645, wequassett.com.
Crane & Company Papermakers
Pick up a $1 bill. Feel that rich, heavy texture? That's Crane & Company paper. The high-quality, 100 percent cotton construction has made Crane's paper the standard for elegant correspondence and very official documents (from legal wills to cold, hard cash) everywhere. Why should your wedding invitations be any different? This stationery can be easily customized: You choose the paper color, ink color, type style (most are classic, simple, and commanding), and whether you'd like the type engraved or thermographed. With tradition comes experience, and Crane's knowledgeable staff walks you through the entire process, from sending save-the-date cards to choosing additional embossings or designs. Prudential Center, Boston, MA crane.com.
The Art Store
From its creative workshops and tattooed employees to the epic collection of papers, every inch of the Art Store inspires creativity. The meticulously organized setting is the perfect place to lose track of time as you meander through wide aisles neatly packed with everything from standard paints, brushes, canvases, frames, journals, gifts, scrapbooks, and wrapping paper. Whether you're in the market for professional art supplies, a photo album, or rainy day children's games, the Art Store is the place to find your inner Degas. 401 Park Dr., Boston, MA .
Institute of Contemporary Art
You don’t have to be an art lover to appreciate the grandeur of a wedding at the ICA. With skyhigh ceilings and swaths of glass (to say nothing of the city and harbor views), the museum’s customizable event spaces are truly in a league of their own. But it’s not just the architecture that stands out; with artfully prepared cuisine from the seasoned wedding vets at the Catered Affair, the ICA’s exclusive caterer, you’ll be more than satisfied even if you don’t duck out to enjoy the galleries (although you totally should). 25 Harbor Shore Dr., Boston, MA 02210, icaboston.org.
The Herb Lyceum at Gilson's
Micro weddings are here to stay — and no venue caters to them quite like the Herb Lyceum. Its amenity-laden package includes access to party spots such as an airy greenhouse; locally sourced cuisine prepared by catering partner Puritan & Company, which uses herbs grown on-site; and an in-house planner to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. 368 Main St., Groton, MA 01450, herblyceum.com.