Nips Exeter by a stiff upper lip. Andover, MA
Some women regard the perfect haircut as the answer to every ill. It melts away pounds, increases IQ, and does your taxes. In reality, it does something almost as tough: It makes you—the real you—simply look your absolute best. Enter Leon de Magistris, salon sculptor-cum-scientist, and his team of experts. Their cuts are exercises in beauty and precision, flattering and natural while also classic and modern—and unlike so many Stepford Wives-type styles, carefully varied to flatter the face. 84 Leonard St., Belmont, MA leonandco.com/.
Most people don't give stationery a second thought. Then they get engaged and suddenly need an expert opinion on a forest's worth of papers—invitations, save-the-date cards, programs, thank-you notes. Dalton-based Crane, manufacturer of the most classic and elegant wedding stationery collections on the finest-quality paper, makes sense of it all. For tastes that veer toward the modern, there's a newer line of invites that don't follow the classic models. An experienced staff helps you find exactly the right paper and style to fit your budget, and even occasionally eschews tradition by letting you in on a little secret: You don't need that expensive second envelope nowadays. (Our saleswoman whispered that it was used to keep the invitation clean back when mail was carried on horseback.) Prudential Center, Boston, MA crane.com.
Hey, we have no quibbles with Winnie the Pooh's red belly shirt or Corduroy's hobo-chic overalls. Our storybook buds have long proven they can work the one-piece look. Kids need more head-to-toe options, though. To outfit your own little character, look to Twinkle Star. Recently relocated to Porter Square from Somerville, this boutique covering infants to age seven now features a broader mix of big names (Le Top, Zutano) and love-at-first-sight labels (Beary Basics, Revo Baby) than the hipster-kid boutiques you'll find in the Back Bay. Twinkle Star's prices are friendlier, too. Owners (and parents of three) Kerri and Lucas Friedlaender have an eye for eco-friendly wares, like Kicky Pants' silky bamboo separates, and modern colors. Cambridge, MA 2140,
We get the irony that our favorite neighborhood restaurant in Chinatown is a 135-year-old German beer hall, beloved by generations as a great place for a sudsy tall one and a grilled bratwurst. Now that Jacob Wirth has pulled itself from the brink with a new chef and menu, its halcyon days may still lie ahead. Chef Phyllis Kaplowitz's menu offers traditional sturdy German fare from schnitzel to spaetzle, but also pasta with shellfish, grilled steak tips, and garlicky P.E.I. mussels that ought to come with straws for all that luscious broth. And with wholesome entertainment such as live jazz and Mel Stiller's Friday piano sing-alongs—in which rowdy graduate students, old-timers, and tourists alike join in on classics from the last four decades—the old place is as lively as ever. 31-37 Stuart St., Boston, MA jacobwirth.com.
We've tried it at home. We've done the booth. We've stood stark naked before strangers and had every inch of our bodies airbrushed, only to emerge St. Barts brown on one side, Back Bay white on the other. But we never got the elusive all-over glow until we went to Bella Santé, where an almost painfully thorough full-body exfoliation precedes careful application of Phytomer's clear (!) bronzer. It won't streak when you sweat or rub off on your clothes, which means that even after a sticky, slow ride to the beach, we pulled up looking as if we had been there all summer long. 38 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, bellasante.com.
Last year, this award went to the Esplanade. What changed? Our tolerance for bladers. (Will they please stop kicking out so wide?) And while the Minuteman Bikeway is hardly devoid of in-line skaters, at 12 feet wide it can easily handle the traffic. Starting from the Alewife T station in Cambridge, it's a straight shot of paved and shaded paths six miles to Lexington and 11 to Bedford, along roughly the same path Paul Revere followed on his midnight ride. The bonus? At the very end, if you're really feeling ambitious, you can spin off onto some hilly roads and wend your way over to Walden Pond for a dip. It's a ride through history with a refreshing finish—something the Esplanade can't offer. After all, are you really going to jump into the Charles? MA
Its hit-or-miss tendencies require a true shopper's mentality, but savings can be as much as 60 percent. Rte. 9, Natick, MA .
It holds its own Punk Day. MA
With its great taquerias, Irish pubs, and Korean restaurants, this thriving Somerville neighborhood offers plenty of restaurants to try. Our vote this year goes to India Palace. Sure, the friendly service and simple décor make dining here a pleasant experience, but it's the delicious, inexpensive, and exotic food that brings us back. Tandoori specialties like chicken marinated in spiced yogurt, vegetarian dishes such as chana masala (slow-cooked chickpeas in a rich tomato-based sauce with coriander and sweet onions), and a creamy mix of onions, nuts, and herbs called rogan josh make it hard to decide which dish to try. So go ahead and try them all. The prices are that low, and with plenty of experience from their busy takeaway business, the servers will be more than happy to pack up your leftovers for you. 23 Union Square, Somerville, MA indiapalacesomerville.info/.
Two sleepers. 800 Massachusetts Ave., North Andover and 33 Marrett Rd., Lexington, MA .
Anatomy of a Winner: We all shed tears when our favorite impetuous primate and his long-suffering companion, the man with the yellow hat, lost their Harvard Square home in 2011. Luckily, the world's only Curious George store reopened in the same location last year, with an expanded focus and a brand-new interior. Besides the original books by Margret and H. A. Rey, here are some of the things we love about the shop. 1. Stroller valet means there's nary a carriage in sight and more room for playing and browsing. 2. Small visitors can curl up with a book in the popular reading nook. 3. Stuffed versions of the iconic monkey range from eight to thirty-six inches. 4. Local playthings, like this "Pirates of Boston" puzzle from Marblehead's Mud Puddle Toys, are on offer. 5. Exclusive T-shirts emblazoned with the shop's namesake and friends are designed in-house. 6. Trying out the display toys—like these bright Crocodile Creek balls—is encouraged. One JFK St., Cambridge, MA thecuriousgeorgestore.com.
Who has time to clean these days? Or do the laundry? Clean Sweep does, and for $6.50 to $7.50 an hour (for-hour minimum), it seems like a bargain. Owners Schnabel and McEachern began in 1978, and are so successful they've got a rookie camp, where cleaning neophytes are drilled in the fine points of floor-washing and plant-watering. Brookline, MA
While college kids and out-of-towners wait in line downtown for their overpriced martinis and bland playlists, hipsters hit Central Square for a much more appealing kind of scene. The Enormous Room is actually anything but: long, narrow, and brick-walled, full of couches and pillows. It's reminiscent of a harem (the last harem we visited, anyway), only with tasty food and DJs spinning some of the best music in town, from new wave to hip-hop to IDM. Get there early, or prepare to cool your heels outside awhile. 567 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA enormous.tv.
If you want a real island retreat, head to the north side, take a quiet road through the woods, and book yourself into a room at the idyllic Lambert's Cove Inn. You can stay in either the main building—a converted 1790 farmhouse decked out in English-country period style—or the carriage house, where many rooms have their own private porch. 90 Manaquayak Rd., Vineyard Haven, MA lambertscoveinn.com.