An eyewear shop needs two things to be successful: an ample selection of designer brands and a sales staff that’s willing to tell it to you straight. In the case of the fine folks at Lunette Optic, that meant stopping one tester from splurging on a pair of Chanel frames that made him look like an art-school dropout. Instead, they pointed the way toward face-flattering specs from a diverse lineup that includes hard-to-find international labels such as Anne et Valentin, from France, and Eyevan, from Japan. Perfect vision, indeed. Multiple locations. 121 High St., Boston, MA 02110, lunetteoptic.com.
Bucket, saddle, backpack, clutch, in every color and style under the sun—Saks' fully stocked bag department really does, ahem, carry it all. Separate Givenchy, Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton boutiques (plus a brand-new space for all things Céline) make this a one-stop shop for luxury-label aficionados. But those searching for something a little funkier are also guaranteed to meet their handbag match: Go all-in on the ’90s trend with a denim Valentino tote featuring embroidered butterflies, or make a vibrant statement with a rainbow-striped Sophie Hulme crossbody. The possibilities are endless. Prudential Center, Boston, MA 02199, saksfifthavenue.com.
In the wrong hands, a ticketed, dinner-as-theater concept could come off as pretentious or, worse, gimmicky. But from his tiny open kitchen in Somerville, Peter Ungár has managed to create one of the most refreshing and immersive dining experiences in the area. Driven by advanced technique and refreshing flavor combinations, the chef's nine-course, beverage-paired tasting menus wow with offerings such as blow-torched Spanish mackerel with house-fermented black beans and yuzu. The counter-style seating, meanwhile, dissolves the barriers between the dining room and kitchen, making it all play out like a food nerd's dream. 14 Tyler St., Somerville, MA 02143, tastingcounter.com.
Last year, Harvard showed us that melding three museums—the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler—into a five-level palace of scholarly eye candy is doable indeed. After a six-year renovation, Harvard Art Museums opened in November, and the project handily lives up to its reported $350 million price tag. One needs only a layman's knowledge of art and history—enough to get psyched about Van Gogh's self-portrait, Warhol's electric-chair silkscreens, and portraits of George Washington—to spend an afternoon wandering the museum's halls in awe. 32 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138, harvardartmuseums.org.
Bridal-gown stylists deal with a cross-section of the touchiest subjects: our relationships with our bodies, our closest family members, and our money. Your Dream Bridal’s Malinda Macari expertly guides you through that emotional minefield, landing you and your perfect gown—handpicked from designers such as Jesus Peiro and Truvelle—securely on the other side. The icing on the cake? Macari insists on booking just one client at a time, so you and your squad get the boutique all to yourselves, ensuring that the experience is both meaningful and safe. 730 Boston Post Rd., Sudbury, MA 01776, yourdreambridal.com.
French cuisine is back, bébé, and who’d have guessed that Jamie Mammano, king of client-wowing wallet lighteners like Mistral and Ostra, would be the one to nail its kicked-back neo-bistro form. In such an unassuming South End storefront, no less, with dreamy apps that include mahogany-burnished duck confit on melted-onion-studded potatoes Lyonnaise, dragged through “broken garlic butter” puddles; reasonably priced entrées, like a magnifique bavette steak; and nary a wobble in his restaurant empire’s trademark perfectionism. 1750 Washington St., Boston, MA barlyon.com.
By the time you've bought the dress, picked a reception site, and sent the invitations, your wedding cake is practically an afterthought. And it often tastes like one—destined to be left on the table, uneaten. Ellen Bartlett of Cakes to Remember in Brookline makes wedding cakes your guests will actually eat. Working with each couple individually, she helps them pick out the perfect flavor and design to match the dress, flowers, or location. Using the best ingredients, Bartlett custom-builds exquisite cakes so good your wedding guests may skip right to dessert. 248 Cypress St., Brookline, MA cakestoremember.biz/.
Any running shop can outfit you with warm winter running tights, a cool stopwatch, or the best summer dry-fit shirt. But only the best can motivate you to actually get out and use the stuff you spent all that money on. Founded in 1975 and one of the first running specialty stores in the country, Marathon Sports provides as much inspiration as gear. The knowledgeable and eager salespeople invite you to test out your sneakers with a jog on the sidewalk before you buy, and the stores organize regular training runs and an annual 5-mile road race in Wellesley. Cheaper prices can be found, but with such expert guidance, Marathon Sports runs circles around the competition. 671 Boylston St., Boston, MA marathonsports.com.
Here is where to head when you want to dress like the models in Esquire and GQ. Doing so ain't cheap, mind you, but the expert and generally courteous staff will steer you toward top-notch renditions of whatever look you're seeking. The specialized heme rooms—like the Corner Office, Paddock by Kiton, Helmut Lang, On-the-Road with Gianluca Isaia, etc.—make the large selection a bit more manageable. And while it may be a trifle difficult to imagine Jack Kerouac walking into the one named for his beat masterpiece and dropping $195 on a button-down black shirt, that doesn't mean you won't be sorely tempted to. 234 Berkeley St., Boston, MA louisboston.com/.
Snooping for a new snowboard? Keep your wallet holstered until you hit the Blades Cambridge location and find out which stick is right for you. Not only does this Blades have one of the biggest selections in town, but its staff also boasts encyclopedic knowledge of nearly every shape, size, and model, and can order virtually any kind of board regardless of whether it's regularly stocked. After assessing your weight, ability, and style, they'll save you from riding the freshies on, say, a K2 Luna when you should really be shredding with a Burton Feelgood. 38 JFK St., Cambridge, MA .
Searching for the perfect gift can be a chore—unless you're at Flat of the Hill. This cute shop stocks only things that are in style (providing, of course, that they're also tasteful), so buyers can rest assured their money will be well spent. The place is filled with everything from Oscar de la Renta candles and Tusk wallets to Lauren Merkin leather clutches and high-heeled flip-flops. There's also a special section with presents for brides-to-be. The only catch is a welcome one: You'll likely walk away with a gift for yourself, too. 60 Charles St., Boston, MA flatofthehill.com/.
Finding the right playthings can be something of a tightrope walk—they need to be educational but not boring, creative but not too messy, fun but without an overabundance of grating beeps and whistles. Henry Bear's Park has been striking that balance for three decades, with a whimsical selection bursting with enough pirates, princesses, and robots to stoke kids' imaginations for years, not days. Little ones will love the wide range of Brio trains and Melissa & Doug retro wooden toys; for preteens there's more-substantial fare, such as a model kit that teaches them how to make a life-size human heart. 25 White St., Boston, MA 2128, henrybear.com.
True, it's in a shopping mall, or at least the closest thing Harvard Square has to a shopping mall. And it's part of a bigger chain. But it's still one of those photo stores where the staff loves to talk about cameras, and the prices are some of the best around. A standard Minolta flash that costs more than $100 around the corner sells here for $75. After buying the flash, our agent asked for an expensive gizmo to connect it to his light meter. "Oh no," said the salesguy. "You don't need it. We use the same light meter in the studio I work at and I'm sure you don't need it." 57 JFK Street, Harvard Square Galeria, Cambridge, MA .
The Sports Club/LA has staked its claim as the city's most exclusive urban country club. Members have full use of the seemingly countless treadmills, free weights, basketball and squash courts, and swimming pool, not to mention spinning, yoga, and Pilates classes. But it hardly ends there. This club also features dry-cleaning services, babysitting, a full-service salon and spa, and a gourmet restaurant, blu, that serves up a special low-fat, health-conscious menu. And while it may be uncomfortable to break a sweat with so many beautiful people lurking around, that's not a bad thing: The club is one of the best places in town for singles to mingle. 4 Avery St., Boston, MA boston.sportsclubla.com/.
A good eyebrow artist can change your face, but a great one can change your world. Part therapist, part girlfriend, and all parts godsend, Julie Michaud is Boston's arch angel. Her minimum-pain tweezing sessions—peppered with good gossip, health factoids, and beauty tips—result in perfect but natural brows fit to flatter every face. And while Michaud's talent has turned her scheduling book into a fortress (be smart and book months in advance), it's also turned the business into a dynasty; if Julie's booked, don't hesitate to make a reservation with any of her equally adept colleagues. 297 Newbury St., Suite 21, Boston, MA .