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When planning a respite from reality, most of us tend to think that we have to go far away to get away. Fortunately for folks on the North Shore, when we want a quick break without the hassle of a long-haul journey, a short drive down I-93 (or a train ride, if you want to skip the stress of parking) places us square in the center of one of America’s most intriguing towns.



Boston boasts an impressive array of hotels. The Taj and Four Seasons, both celeb favorites, are set at the edge of the Public Garden, steps from Newbury Street shopping. Taj Boston, 15 Arlington St., 617-536-5700,

Four Seasons Hotel Boston, 200 Boylston St., 617-338-4400,

The Mandarin Oriental on Boylston Street is home to the posh eatery Asana and an otherworldly spa. 776 Boylston St., 617-531-0888,

The boutique Beacon Hill Hotel is situated on tree-lined Charles Street and is home to a cozy bistro that’s a neighborhood favorite for brunch. 25 Charles St., 617-723-7575,



Boston’s South End is rife with excellent restaurants, and Coppa is no exception with its homemade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and innovative sea- and land-inspired bites. 253 Shawmut Ave., 617-391-0902,

Fans of food TV won’t want to miss Chopped alum Chris Coombs’s swank Deuxave, which marries the “nouvelle techniques of contemporary French cuisine with American ingredients.” 371 Commonwealth Ave., 617-517-5915,

Boston is synonymous with seafood, and Island Creek Oyster Bar is not only the city’s newest seafood spot, but arguably its best. Lobster rolls, chowder, raw bar items, and creative fare—like lobster roe noodles and bacon-wrapped monkfish—are major draws. 500 Commonwealth Ave., 617-532-5300,



Break from your outdoor pursuits with Metropolitan Tea  at The Langham, Boston. Served daily from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. at BOND restaurant/lounge, the menu includes scones and sandwiches, plus decadent sweets that make the $30 price tag seem modest. 250 Franklin St., 617-451-1900,

The Boston Opera House’s 2012 schedule is packed with high-brow productions, like Green Day’s American Idiot (January 24-29) and Les Miserables (March 13-April 1). 539 Washington St., 617-259-3400,

For something hands-on, head to the Boston Center for Adult Education, which offers one-time classes and workshops in everything from cooking and baking to drawing and dance. Take one class and you’re sure to sign up for more. 122 Arlington St., 617-267-4430,