With pristine dunes surrounded by windswept marshes, a lighthouse at its far end, public parking, and a refreshment stand that serves a mean chocolate frappe, this is one seriously idyllic place. For nonresidents, there's plenty of reasonably priced public parking. Better yet, there are still areas left where the crowds are relatively thin, so if you don't feel like enduring your neighbor's predilection for Britney Spears, you don't have to. Canal St., Duxbury, MA .
Beverly's answer to the Kendall Square Cinema is as funky as it is friendly. The diverse roster of screenings (don't take that plurality literally—only one movie at a time is shown here) includes everything from second-run films to indies. Service is swift and conversational (most of this crowd is local), and tickets are a bargain at $6. Sick and tired of South Patch Kids? There's a small café serving coffee, tea, and pastries. 286 Cabot St., Beverly, MA cabotcinemamovies.com/.
This gorgeously untarnished world of sweeping dunes and fresh Atlantic air is about as idyllic as nature gets. That may seem to be true of many Cape shorelines, but this one stands out from others for its spectacular and endless stretches of perfectly undisturbed white sand. With nary a touch of human architecture for miles, this slip of coast also provides a view of the sunrise that approaches the sublime. Rte. 6, Truro, MA .
About every eight weeks, from September to June, the LVAC shows innovative, provocative contemporary work in all media by established and emerging artists, including the likes of Kiki Smith and Louise Borugeois. There are a total of three gallery spaces—more than 4,600 square feet—in this grid-patterned building, designed by MIT alumnus I. M. Pei in 1985. And the atrium, where a giant, colorful Kenneth Nolan painting sprawls across an entire wall, is by far one of Boston's most beautiful sanctuaries. 20 Ames St., Cambridge, MA .
First-time owners Tom and Mary Prince have assembled an A-team at their debut Italian restaurant: general manager Lorenzo Savona (formerly of Les Zygomates), chef Tony Bettencourt (UpStairs on the Square), and pastry chef Mary Bergin (Spago). The combination tastes even better than it reads. These new twists on classic dishes (like smoky roast lamb in a tomato—and—black olive sauce) will take you on a one-night trip to Italy. 154 Turnpike Rd. (Rte. 9), Southborough, MA tomassotrattoria.com/.
Texas smoke versus Memphis rub, vinegar tang versus peppery heat—barbecue debates will likely rage until kingdom come (and straight on into the sweet hereafter). This year our returning champion silenced at least one point of contention—which of its two outlets is better—by debuting a central, honking-big smoker (reportedly New England's largest) that turns out uniformly succulent sliced brisket, pulled pork, and an array of other regional specialties for both Blue Ribbon locations, as well as its booming catering business. 1375 Washington St., West Newton, MA blueribbonbbq.com.
Always up for a challenge, chef Marc Orfaly is taking on the notion that bar food has to be cheap and greasy with a Malaysian-themed menu culled from his recent trip to the Far East. Pigalle's bar seats just six, but the small plates of duck fried rice, baby-back ribs with sweet and sour kumquats, and shrimp shumai with ponzu dipping sauce make the fight for a spot one worth waging. 75 Charles St. S., Boston, MA pigalleboston.com.
A mediocre alternative theater is content to stage Brecht rip-offs and plumb the depths of existential mime. A great alternative theater like Jimmy Tingle's Off-Broadway hosts political fundraisers, film panel discussions, local comedy, cabaret, storytellers, and rock bands. Topping the marquee are must-see popular productions like Shay Duffin's channeling of Brendan Behan in Confessions of an Irish Rebel, not to mention Tingle's own venerable one-man shtick. 255 Elm St., Somerville, MA jtoffbroadway.com.
This is the most important baked good you'll ever purchase. With that in mind, shop owner Ellen Bartlett has a simple philosophy: Every one of her confections should taste as heavenly as it looks. Flavor options like mocha-Frangelico infusion and strawberry-orange blossom, combined with Bartlett's exquisite floral and graphic designs, make for tiers of absolute joy. 248 Cypress St., Brookline, MA 2445, cakestoremember.biz.
The trash bin at the Shawmut-Milford intersection brims with the other kind of doggie bag, the calling cards of tail-wagging patrons who find plenty of reasons to stop here: two floors of homemade treats (tuna cookies for crunching, pig ears for gnawing), fancy leashes, and bright, squeaky toys just waiting to be slobbered over. The variety satisfies even two-legged shoppers—which, let's be honest, are the only critical ones on the premises. 258 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 2118, polkadog.com.
You could go to one of those fancy spas with the stark furniture and the green apples stacked perfectly so. But when you're in need of coddling, a place that's more welcoming than antiseptic is refreshing. La Residencia, located in a renovated two-story house with shabby-chic décor, has a cozy vibe. And a day there feels less like a clinic visit and more like a day with girlfriends—girlfriends who wax, extract, and massage, that is. 336 Elliot St., Newton Upper Falls, MA 2464, laresidenciaspa.com.
One of the perks of having lots of friends is being in lots of weddings. The downside? Being in lots of weddings. Flair makes those obligatory bridesmaid's-dress shopping trips something close to fun. The cheerful boutique overflows with modern silhouettes in tasteful shades (really!) and quality fabrics by lines like Jenny Yoo and Coren Moore. And while you still probably won't wear the dress again, Flair's sensible prices make that okay. 129 Newbury St., Boston, MA flairbridesmaid.com.
Drawing on his Piedmontese heritage, Charles Draghi turns out elegant northern Italian-inspired fare with a delicate touch—homemade pappardelle with cubed beets and speck; butternut-squash broth with spicy shrimp; and wild boar with a Concord-grape mosto, all designed to pair with the restaurant's Italian wine list. A one-time contestant on the Food Network show Sweet Genius, the chef also excels at after-dinner treats—we're partial to his mascarpone-stuffed pear enrobed in caramel. 69 Church St., Boston, MA erbaluce-boston.com.
We first fell in love with Paopao when she was the bubbly sommelier at Oleana, in Cambridge—and then, as is often the case with talented hospitality folks, she split for New York, for a prestigious gig as the sommelier for David Chang's Momofuku group. But early this year, Paopao returned to consult for Ken Oringer's impending Toro New York concept, and decided to stick around Boston. And now? She's the one responsible for the wines at Ribelle, her pal Tim Maslow's new Washington Square eatery. 1665 Beacon St., Brookline, MA .
Sadly, the deli is seriously endangered in this country. Thankfully here in Boston, or in Brookline anyway, at least one shining outpost exists, an homage to a time when eating a sandwich piled high with corned beef, pastrami, coleslaw, and Russian dressing didn't make you think, Oh my God, my arteries just froze. That place is Rubin's and that sandwich is called "The Gramercy Park." It is a monster. Provided that you've got health insurance, please, go and order it. 500 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 2446, rubinsboston.com.