Day 3: Back Bay
The best shopping in Boston is in the Back Bay on Newbury Street, hands down. This is without a doubt Boston's premiere boutique shopping street. Start at Burberry at the beginning of the strip (2 Newbury St; 617-236-1000), and if you haven't maxed out your credit card there, Brooks Brothers (46 Newbury St; 617-267-2600) is just a couple of blocks away. Louis, Boston (224 Berkeley St; 800-225-5135), in the former Museum of Natural History, is another place for fine menswear with a slightly conservative bent. Bring your Visa card and your American Express card and any unredeemed savings bonds you might have -- the place is expensive and tempting. Also on tap in the Back Bay: Gucci, Filene's Basement, Hugo Boss, and a host of other goodies.
The rest of the neighborhood stretches from the foot of the Public Garden along the Charles River in a narrow corridor (once part of the river itself) that is lined with High Victorian-era townhouses and mansions, formerly home to Boston's elite families. It is here in the Back Bay that visitors get the truest reading on the pulse of the city. Don't miss the sheer blue glass wall of I.M. Pei's John Hancock Tower (there is no longer an observation area open to the public on the top floor).
Mama never liked to play favorites, but diners have to choose whose dish they like better at nearby Sibling Rivalry (525 Tremont St; 617-338-5338; $11-28). The eatery, run by dueling brother chefs, taps into a popular trend that is liable to catch on like wildfire. In a nod to Iron Chef, the brothers prepare variations of the same core ingredient and diners are given a split menu from which to choose their favorite.
Just over two hours away by car, Provincetown in Cape Cod offers, well, everything you'd expect from the world's gayest beach town. Shopping, tanning, and swimming are all part of this vacation-within-a-vacation excursion.
Undergoing massive urban renewal, which includes a sizeable influx of Bostonian commuters drawn by quieter streets, a more hip arts and music scene, and some deliciously inventive and upscale dining, Providence, Rhode Island (only an hour away) is rapidly becoming more than just the college town to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.