Hotspots and hangouts
Cozy cafes, soothing spas, the best of Patriot Place, And Saugus's little Vegas.
Drink Barbara Lynch's aptly named Fort Point bar highlights the craft of the cocktail perhaps more than any other establishment in town. The concoctions are made with fresh herbs, specialty liqueurs, and hand-chipped ice, and the space feels like a contemporary speak-easy. There's no drink list; all-star mixologists ask what you're in the mood for, then improvise. 348 Congress Street, Boston, 617-695-1806, drinkfortpoint.com
Orchid Vegas comes to Saugus at this restaurant, lounge, and nightclub, where, on "Seduction Saturdays" or "Obsession Fridays," you can dance hypnotically, enjoy a Cherry Blossom cocktail, and eat Asian-inspired food. Just remember: What happens at the Orchid stays at the Orchid. 20 Bennett Highway, Saugus, 781-231-1330, orchidboston.com
For the young, hep, and musically inclined, Cafe 939 is a melodic oasis in the Back Bay desert of fratastic bars. The Berklee College-run concert venue is one part nostalgia-infused java shop, one part high-concept performing grounds. It claims no musical niche -- a refreshing openness not usually seen in Boston's sectarian music scene. 939 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-747-6038, cafe939.com
City Feed & Supply
One thing JP's Centre Street didn't have was a destination, a place to hang at 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. Problem solved with City Feed's second JP spot. Critics may carp about the prices and organic everything, but the wood decor, comfortable seating, fresh coffee, and fun munchies help wash away your worries. 672 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-524-1700, cityfeed.com
Crema Cafe Liza Baer-Kahn and Marley Brush's spot brings a cheery, inclusive spirit to exclusive Harvard Square. You'll get first-rate coffee, delicious soups and sandwiches, and the best ham-and-cheese croissant in Cambridge. And look, Ma, no attitude. 27 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-876-2700
Walker Contemporary After a decade working in local galleries, Stephanie Walker has opened a must-see spot of her own. Walker Contemporary leans toward the slick and minimal, bringing together abstract and narrative pieces in an array of mediums, created by emerging and mid-career artists from Boston and beyond. 450 Harrison Avenue,
BYOD Dog Wash
Two new outposts of the popular LaundroMutt chain opened, one in Southie and the other in Newton. Both provide everything needed to get your pup smelling friendly again: stainless-steel easy-access tubs, spray hoses, towels, and specialty shampoos and coat brighteners. Prices range from $5 to $23. 617 East Broadway, South Boston, 617-765-4800; 208 Sumner Street, Newton Centre, 617-431-4363
Black Bears at Stone Zoo Smoky and Bubba, the newest additions to the Stone Zoo's menagerie, love an audience. Rescued from Georgia after their mother was killed, the 3-year-old, 300-pound cubs often wrestle, climb trees, and generally show off for crowds. 149 Pond Street, Stoneham, 617-541-5466, stonezoo.org
Munchkin Land Need a place for your wee ones to expend their energy? Munchkin Land is the ideal fix. A gym and an indoor play area (named Tiny Town) provide the perfect solution for bored and, ahem, hyper kids. 30 Oak Street, Westborough, 508-366-7799, munchkin-land.org
Frog Pond Carousel During the shoulder season between wading and skating, the city experimented with a new attraction on Boston Common that we fell head over heels for: a carousel. A ride cost $2, and the merry-go-round stayed open into the post-dinner and movie hour of 9 p.m., when lights make the city more magical. Keep an eye out for the carousel's return this spring, when things start hopping again.
Koullshi Lounge Casablanca native Samad Naamad, owner/executive chef of Charlestown's Tangierino, dropped a cool $1.6 million to expand and rebirth his Moroccan mecca. The result is an opulent, fantasy-inducing overdose of canopy-covered couch thrones, hand-carved Moroccan furniture, hookah lounge, and, oh yes, belly dancers. 73 Main Street, Charlestown. 617-242-6009, koullshi.com
Look Good, Feel Good
Beauty doesn't come without a little work, but relaxation does.
PowerHouse Kickboxing Konstantin Selivanov's sweat studio in Central Square may offer the most intense total body workout in town. Selivanov, who trained in underground fight clubs in Russia, has perfected a "street friendly" style of mixed martial arts training. Selivanov has offered group classes for years, but now you can spar with him one-on-one for $90 an hour. Bring tissues -- he may have you crying like a baby. 91 Sidney Street, Cambridge, 617-225-7977, powerhousekickboxing.com
Mandarin Oriental You don't have to be a resident at this grand hotel to spend a day in the lap of luxury. Start your morning with a visit to The Spa at Mandarin Oriental with their popular "Time Rituals" package. While your feet are being massaged, a personal consultant will help you select custom treatments. Nosh on Asian cuisine downstairs at Asana. Next stop, the Mizu hair salon opened by
Life in Synergy A fitness studio without costly membership fees or yearlong commitments? Works for us. At $15 per class, or $120 for a package of 10, this well-appointed eco-friendly facility offers everything from yoga and Pilates to martial arts and funky dance classes. 867 Boylston Street, second floor, Boston, 617-867-6500, lifeinsynergy.com
Jeanne Lee Salon
After years of performing foot-pampering pedicures at other Newbury Street salons, Jeanne Lee has opened her own serene, calming, and extremely private space with her equally experienced mother Cathy Tran. Since both are skilled in Chinese reflexology, put your feet up and stay awhile. 125 Newbury Street, Suite 4, Boston, 617-536-0143, jeannesalon.com
Eat, Shop, Play
With live music and a freshwater aquarium,
Foxborough's Patriot Place isn't your average mall.
Showcase Live This sparkling music venue, which has hosted performances by Al Green, Chaka Khan, and Aimee Mann, features a large open dance area, impressive sound system, a capacity of 1,000 for concerts, and intimate seating for smaller shows. You'll feel as if you're at a club in Boston -- without the parking headaches. 888-354-7042, showcaselive.com
The Hall at Patriot Place Still can't believe that the once laughable Patriots have won three Super Bowl titles this decade? Well, it really did happen, and there is proof positive here. This state-of-the-art museum is filled with video and memorabilia that capture the team's history, from its bumbling early days (yes, Mark Henderson's snowplow is there) right up to today's dynasty and the shining Lombardi trophies. 508-698-4800
CBS Scene What better place to watch a Patriots road game -- battle the crowd during a home game at your own risk -- than in the shadow of Gillette Stadium. The ESPN Zone-like sports bar and restaurant has more than 150 TVs, so you won't miss a play. It may not be quite as good as your tailgate feast, but it's close. 508-203-2200, cbsscene.com
Bass Pro Shops Aside from an exhaustive selection of hunting, fishing, and camping gear, the 143,000-square-foot superstore features an expansive boat showroom, a waterfall, and a 34,000-gallon freshwater aquarium stocked with 400 types of native New England fish. Those longing to be more outdoorsy should check out the free classes -- everything from fly-fishing to how to smoke the best BBQ. 508-216-2000, basspro.com