Your invitation sets the tone of the wedding—no pressure at all, right? Enter Smudge Ink, which has its own on-site letterpress to ensure complete control over quality and design. Work with the team to create a custom look, or choose from a selection of pre-made options (they lean swirly and feminine). They'll even incorporate your own artwork for a truly unique invitation. 50 Terminal St., Charlestown, MA 02129, smudgeink.com.
Planning a wedding is like putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle, and the six-person team at AE Events is skilled at making it all fit. Want a seven-course Tuscan feast with live jazz for 400? Done. A 50-person bonfire beach celebration? No problem! From contracts and vendor negotiations to creative extras (taco bar, anyone?), they're steadfast, organized allies. And if your budget is a ball and chain, they'll work with that, too. 546 East Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127, aeevents.com.
The future of ice cream lives in the freezers of this Fluff-cone-stuffing, hot-fudge-slinging, topping-tossing mecca of flavor, now with even more selection: Affable dairy maven Aaron Cohen recently teamed up with Juliet’s Josh Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri to create rich, offbeat flavors such as Swedish apple pie, sweet potato, and peach basil. 22 Union Sq., Somerville, MA 02143, graciesicecre.am.
Kelly Gardner has an eye for contrast, tone, and depth, with a particular fluency in the art of foiling—super up-close and personal with the root, mind you. Trend-seekers, fret not: Gardner will fearlessly dive into those edgy, ultramodern looks, too. For us, it was a bold white-platinum with an inch of blended root. Her second forte is of-the-moment, sun-kissed balayage. Talk about cutting-edge. 691 Belmont St., Belmont, MA 02478, moxiebelmont.com.
Thanks to a recent renovation, this centrally located Federal-style building has all of the history but none of the outdated décor. The inn's eight guest rooms boast luxe amenities, including Frette and Matouk linens and marble bathrooms. But perhaps the most compelling reason to stay is new innkeeper Lyn Francis's already-legendary breakfast of such staples as warm muffins and house-made granola. 78 Centre St., Nantucket, MA 02554, theregattainn.com.
In a year when books explicitly addressing racism in America were the hottest topic in nonfiction, longtime Emerson creative writing professor Jerald Walker’s How to Make a Slave and Other Essays stood out for its wry, self-deprecating tone. The essays, which earned him a National Book Award finalist nod, trace his early years in Chicago, his experiences as a Black man in academia, and more, highlighting plenty of heartbreak but still managing to find grace and humor along the way.
Los Angeles native Matt Gallagher brings the West Coast to the South Shore with Assembly Showroom, a boutique offering casual-cool styles for men and women. With a wide selection of clothing from brands such as Marine Layer, Faherty, and LNA — not to mention ultra-helpful, knowledgeable staffers that make upgrading your wardrobe a breeze — you’re guaranteed to drop in more than once. And your options for visiting are plentiful: Within three years of opening, Assembly already has three locations on the South Shore. Hingham and other locations 24 North St., Hingham, MA 02043, assemblyshowroom.com.
Back in the Pre-Pandemic Era, the Chinatown stalwart’s stunning three-course Peking-duck feast required preordering 48 hours in advance. Now you can phone it in by 3:30 the day before. The epic spread includes hand-pulled noodles stir-fried with the shredded meat, a bone-broth soup, and, of course, house-made pancakes for making hoisin-moistened wraps with the (ahem) quack-ling crisp skin. 60 Beach St., Boston, MA 02111, chinakingboston.com.
The granddaddy of rail trails, this 20-plus-mile paved pathway stretching from Yarmouth to Wellfleet offers no shortage of things to see and do en route. Zip past cranberry bogs, cool off in Seymour Pond, and reward yourself after an exhilarating ride with an ice cream cone or ice-cold beer (why not both?) right along the trail. mass.gov/locations/cape-cod-rail-trail.
All of our local museums have responded to 2020’s challenges with aplomb, working hard to launch online programs that keep the public connected. But the MFA has gone above and beyond with offerings as labyrinthine as its physical complex on Huntington Ave. In addition to a deep dive into the landmark Basquiat exhibit, the museum also uploaded artist interviews and art classes for kids on its website and YouTube channel—to say nothing of its immaculately produced collection tours on Google Arts & Culture. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, mfa.org.
With vanilla, chocolate, and matcha-flavored homemade cones and a smattering of bold ice creams to top them with, wife-and-husband team Kristen Rummel and Rory Hanlon retain their thrones as dairy queen and king of Cambridge. Their quaint shop’s imaginative list of locally sourced scoops rotates seasonally: Standby favorites include cold-brew-coffee chip and malted vanilla, but fresh ideas such as honey lavender and London Fog are palate pleasers, too. 1702 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138, honeycombcreamery.com.
Is it uncool to call this store cool? Regardless, it’s hard not to get excited once you open the door camouflaged as a vending machine and step inside the sleek, well-lit space, where the latest and greatest styles from Nike, Adidas, and Puma are lined up like artifacts in a museum. And just to ensure Bodega continues its reign of cool, the brand opened Series, a constantly evolving micro art space just a couple of doors down that offers buzzy limited releases and serves as a mecca for local sneakerheads. 6 Clearway St., Boston, MA 02115, shop.bdgastore.com.
The city's preeminent dance organization dazzled audiences this past year with Ivan Lika's thrilling Le Corsaire, while also embarking on a new five-year partnership with internationally renowned choreographer William Forsythe. The company's dancers always impress, whether performing Forsythe's ode to ballet, Artifact, or bringing beloved stories to life: Thanks to popular demand, The Sleeping Beauty will return for a weeklong run in 2018, along with Romeo & Juliet and Classic Balanchine. Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, MA 02111, bostonballet.org.
Don’t let the well-dressed crowds fool you: The Poynt is on the North Shore, not in the South End. Opened this fall by the owners of the successful Cottage restaurants in Wellesley and Chestnut Hill, the spot exudes a casual yet polished vibe. You may be in beef-Wellington country, but the perfectly done grass-fed cheddar burger with local lettuces (not to mention the stiff, locally themed cocktails) provide a great camouflage. 31 Water St., Newburyport, MA 01950, poyntnewburyport.com.