This is a florist that elevates blooms to a cultural experience. Breath-stopping bouquets mix long-stemmed red roses amid tall birds of paradise and other flowers selected fresh daily. Owner Jimmie Palakavong is a native of Thailand and his early immersion in Asian blossoms transforms a simple get-well-quick arrangement into a world-straddling work of art. The place to call if you want to send flowers that are remembered long after the last petal has dropped. 482A Columbus Ave., Boston, MA .
Rosalyn Elder opened this gallery/bookshop almost four years ago to make African American culture both approachable and affordable, and to foster a sense of artistic heritage that had been lacking in the community. Elder offers reproductions by such celebrated African American artists as Romare Nearden and Jacob Lawrence, as well as handmade wares form Africa and original art by local artist. There's also a great selection of African American books, toys, games, and note cards; the store is both an inspiration and an education. Coplely Place/The Dartmouth Street Shops, Boston, MA .
Can you imagine actually looking forward to working out? We couldn't either, until Healthworks came along. This minichain of made-for-women gyms has a solid philosophy. The gym shave state-of-the-art equipment, plus cushy additional features like saunas, whirlpools, personalized training programs, towel service, and cutting-edge classes (they were the first places in town to offer spinning). 441 Stuart Street, Boston, MA healthworksfitness.com/.
After a $60 million facelift, all 17 stories of Boston's grande dame gleam as brightly as they did in the 1920s. This Ritz has spent more than 75 years perfecting the art of impeccable service, and it shows in a sophistication and luxury unmatched in this town—right down to the jocular doorman and white-gloved bellboys. The chandelier-filled dining room has been restored to its previous grandeur, and the vast menu of amenities includes bath and fireplace butlers, afternoon tea, and etiquette classes for children. 15 Arlington St., Boston, MA tajhotels.com/boston/.
From exotic to humble, unbelievably fresh to artfully dried, Charlestown's homegrown bud boutique treats its flowers like delicate children—and its customers like old friends. First, the blooms: Gerbera daisies that radiate like hot sunbursts, bright delphinium, and roses in hues of bright lemon yellow, russet, coral, and orange sherbet. Arrangements are creative but restrained, balancing more complex flowers (cymbidium or slipper orchids) with simpler textures (hydrangea and puffy peonies). Don't miss the exquisite custom-made wreaths. 73 Main St., Charlestown, MA awildflowerevents.com/.
Step one: Buy an ideal piece of art. Step two: Find a framer you can trust. Good ones, like the professionals at the Frame Gallery, have an artist's eye, offer quality workmanship, and won't pressure you into spending more than you need to. You'll walk away with a well-priced, perfectly framed piece. 2 Summit Ave., Brookline, MA theframegallery.biz/.
With two hotels, an art gallery, and an upscale shoe salon to her name, Nantucket transplant Vanessa Noel practically is the island. Her 10-room Hotel Green manages to make "environmentally correct" feel entirely first class, with eco-friendly touches like hemp shower curtains, buckwheat pillows, ayurvedic toiletries, and cardboard furniture (which, if you're wondering, looks far nicer than it sounds). Even the wall paint is organic, as are the blueberry pancakes and fresh-squeezed orange juice in Café V next door. 33 Centre St., Nantucket, MA 2554, .
Cynical James Joyce said that Irish art was "the cracked looking glass of a servant." Obviously, he never took the Green Line to Brookline for a pint of Guinness and a bowl of Matt Murphy's unique oxtail soup, a divine example of Irish artistry. Spicy beef broth, inch-thick carrot wedges spinach, onions, and Idaho potatoes make it a soup that truly eats like a meal. 14 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA mattmurphyspub.com.
This family-owned ice cream parlor is a flashback to the '50s, but what better era to find a real New England ice cream frappe? Here they've perfected the art, with three straw-bending scoops of ice cream blended in a tall frosty frappe glass (five scoops for the extra-thick variety). Your choice of nine flavors, including mocha, black raspberry, mint, and cherry, or mixed with strawberries, banana, or pineapple. 743 Washington St., Newtonville, MA .
Heralded as one of the 50 "most exciting" restaurants in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, this is the place where power brokers meet to wheel and deal over seared Arctic char, foie gras, and truffle-scented shrimp. Chef Michael Schlow and general manager Esti Benson have mastered the art of cuisine and flawless service—key factors when you're doing lunch under pressure. Oversized tables accommodate documents, and are far enough apart to ensure the utmost discretion. 8 High St., Boston, MA radiusrestaurant.com/.
Culture and film buffs thank the celluloid gods for this place to see all the idiosyncratic flicks that get reviewed in The New Yorker and The New York Times. Still the sole straddler of the art house/multiplex genres, it offers a great selection on nine screens and in many languages. Great snacks too: real biscotti and cappuccino, and birdbath-size containers of high-quality popcorn. All this and gumfree floors. One Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA .
Thanks to this easygoing contemporary-art curator, the Gardner has maintained one of the most vibrant artist-in-residence programs in the U.S. No doubt Cavalchini's close relationship with director Anne Hawley has also helped shape the museum's new Renzo Piano-designed digs, which will give the city one very hip theater-in-the-round. 280 The Fenway, Boston, MA 2115, gardnermuseum.org.
You'll thank the Lord that the owners of the Belfry saw the light and created this cozy, romantic inn and bistro in what used to be a Catholic church. Stained-glass windows, roaring fireplaces, and live piano music serve as perfect complements to chef George Willette's artfully presented cuisine, including baby spinach salad wrapped in prosciutto, and roasted rack of lamb over blue cheese—and—shallot gratin. We'd gladly worship here nightly. 8 Jarves St., Sandwich, MA belfryinn.com/.
There are furniture stores, and then there's this exquisite Essex shop, where every last piece is quirky, unusual, and utterly compelling. From colorful vintage prints to a stunningly original art deco aluminum bedroom set, Andrew Spindler's eclectic inventory says as much about the owner's depth of knowledge as it does about his unerring eye for beauty. 163 Main St., Essex, MA 1929, spindlerantiques.com.
Husband-and-wife team Andy and Jackie King have built their business around the art of crafting thick, crusty loaves brimming with ingredients like olives, walnuts, and apricot fennel and baked fresh each morning while most of us are still drooling on our pillow. Naturally, they try to source ingredients from nearby farms, meaning their sweeter offerings change with the seasons—you wouldn't trust anything in March featuring strawberries, would you? 48 Central St., Salem, MA 1970, ajkingbakery.com.