The Best of Boston


By Bess M. Hochstein

Boston is a city of contrasts: historic cradle of the revolution and modern hotbed of technology; home to patrician Brahmins and retro punks; land of the triumphant Patriots and the heartbreaking Red Sox. An academic center since the founding of Harvard in 1636, Boston today boasts more than fifty colleges and universities. One out of every six residents is a student, so the city stays forever young and ever-changing. Having endured the Big Dig – America’s largest and most expensive highway project – Boston will be ready for its close-up: the Democratic National Convention rolls into town this summer. No matter who ends up on the party’s ticket, these nominations for Boston’s Best are sure-fire winners!

Best Day Spa

Throw a rock on Newbury Street and you’re likely to hit a salon or day spa. Boston spaficionados are unanimous in their choice of the best: Bella Sante. Its reputation is well-deserved. There’s an extensive menu of treatments including a Champagne Yeast Facial for dry, mature skin and a Green Tea and Spirulina Algae Facial for detoxification; deluxe facials begin with a relaxing upper-back massage. Post treatment, you’ll find a basketful of the products you experienced, but no hard sell. If you’re too blissed-out to make on-the-spot purchase decisions, you can find it all online. Bella Sante also offers massage, hair removal, body treatments, and nail care as well as specialized treatments for men. Contact (617) 424-9930 or visit

Best Tea Salon

Stroll down Newbury Street and throw your own Boston Tea Party. At cozy, subterranean Tealuxe, the selection is encyclopedic, with choices from around the world, including chai, green, white, and flavored black teas as well as herbal blends; single-estate and organic varieties are noted. Your pot of tea arrives with a diminutive hourglass to mark the correct brewing time. Order a Toastite, one of Tealuxe’s signature grilled sandwiches, as an accompaniment; salads tossed with tea-infused vinaigrette are also available. Contact (617) 927-0400 or visit

Best Place to Commune with Nature

Boston is graced with the Emerald Necklace, a seven-linear-mile system of greenspaces designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also planned Manhattan’s Central Park. The brightest gem of the strand is the Arnold Arboretum, a 265-acre park famous for its trees and shrubs from around the world, including a historic bonsai collection. On long-term lease to Harvard from the city, it’s the oldest public arboretum in the country. Free walking tours that focus on the park’s history and plants are offered sporadically throughout the year, but you won’t need a guide to appreciate the meandering paths. It’s an all-season park, popular with bikers, runners, strollers, and dog walkers. The hilly terrain is perfect for cross-country skiing in the winter. Contact (617) 524-1718 or visit

Best Healthful Fast Food

If you’re dashing between appointments and you need a quick meal, forgo “Mickey D’s” and hustle over to b.good. You’ll find fast food fare and efficiency minus the excessive calories, fat, chemicals, and fillers. You’ll also find hot and cold sandwiches such as grilled steak or tuna (without mayo) as well as vegan options. Guiltlessly order a side of fries; these air-baked shoestrings taste just as sinful as the originals. Nutrition information is posted on the menu and a tabletop flier contrasts the fat and calorie content of b.good items with comparable selections from popular chain restaurants. Contact (617) 424-5252 or visit

Best Walk

Boston is a walking town; strolls through the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the South End reveal countless historical and architectural gems. When you’re ready to shed the traffic, head toward the Charles River and cross the bridge over Storrow Drive to reach the Esplanade. This riverside park, part of a seventeen-mile paved loop beloved by runners, bikers, bladers, and nature-watchers, provides a breezy escape just steps from the city, with views of MIT and Cambridge. As warm weather arrives, sunbathers swarm to the verdant banks of the Charles while sailboats and skullers glide through the river. The Esplanade will bring you past the Hatch Shell, which hosts a slew of concerts from June through October as well as a movie series and Boston’s legendary July 4th festivities. Cross to the Cambridge side for stunning views of Boston’s skyline. Contact (617) 626-1250 or visit

Best Facial

Between the Westin Hotel and the Copley Place Mall, Grettacole’s gleaming facade beckons. Answer the call and you’ll get a warm greeting from the casual yet professional staff at this bright white beacon of beauty, abuzz with urban energy. Choose from six different facials plus add-ons or opt for one of their exfoliating treatments. Indulge in the over-the-top Valmont Facial, which includes fifteen different steps plus shoulder, arm, and lower-leg massages. Short on time? Try the half-hour Express Facial, but don’t skip the Trish McEvoy makeup consultation, free to new clients. Grettacole also offers massage, salt scrubs, bronzing, waxing, and hair- and nail-care. Contact (617) 266-6166 or visit

Best Island Adventure

Pack a picnic, board a ferry at the waterfront and leave civilization behind to explore Boston’s little-known Harbor Islands. Tour Fort Warren on Georges Island; it was once a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and remains the reputed home to “The Lady in Black,” the ghost of a prisoner’s wife hanged for aiding an escape. Take the free shuttle to other islands; depending on your destination, you’ll find beaches, wild rabbits, nature trails, and even camping. Spectacle Island is set to open this summer, with a full-service visitor’s center, marina, cafe, and sandy beaches. Enlarged with dirt from the Big Dig, Spectacle’s peak rises 155 feet above sea level for a fantastic view of Boston’s skyline to the west and open ocean to the east. Contact (617) 223-8666 or visit

Best Alternative Bookstore

When Bernie Flynn founded Trident Booksellers and Café in 1984 with his wife Gail, Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood boasted about ten small bookstores and Trident was considered “alternative” due to its focus on spirituality and Buddhist philosophy. Twenty years later, Trident represents an alternative to the giant chainstores that have squelched nearly every other independent new-book dealer in town. Flynn won’t characterize the store’s selection, but admits that the shelves still reflect his Buddhist leanings. Bostonians flock to the Trident for books on Tantra, Tarot, Taoism, health, psychology, and religion as well as works of fiction and poetry and a superb magazine section. Don’t ignore the cafe menu, with its variety of coffees, teas, fresh juices, and smoothies as well as all-day breakfast, snacks, and full meals, including many vegetarian options. Contact (617) 267-8688 or visit

Best Bath and Body Products

In the early 1990s, a small store in Boston’s South End called Nuts About Beauty sold high-quality, cruelty-free bath products, mostly imported from Europe. The Russian émigré owners spoke of plans to create their own soaps. From these humble roots sprang Fresh, a lush, upscale line of body-, skin- and hair-care products, plus fragrances, makeup, and candles. Fresh employs natural ingredients traditionally used as healing remedies – such as milk, rose, soy, rice, honey, and sugar. Sign up for the store’s weekly soiree; every Thursday guests sip champagne and receive complimentary treatments featuring Fresh products. Fresh also donates proceeds from sales of specific products to ovarian cancer research and an organization helping homeless children and their families. Contact (617) 421-1212 or visit

Best Vegetarian Restaurant with a Social Conscience

Chef and cookbook author Didi Emmons (Vegetarian Planet, Entertaining for a Veggie Planet) has commandeered a corner of Harvard Square’s legendary folk venue Club Passim for her restaurant Veggie Planet. Emmons serves up creative vegetarian fare with a global accent. Choose from such menu items as Vegan Peanut Curry and Portobello Redhead (seared portobellos topped with a roasted red pepper almond sauce, browned onions, and feta cheese), served either as a topping for flatbread pizza or over rice. Club Passim patrons can enjoy Emmons’s menu as they take in the show, while non-ticket holders share a cramped corridor by the open kitchen. The performance space becomes the dining room at lunch and Sunday brunch includes live instrumental music. Emmons’s progressive social values also hold sway at Veggie Planet: her organic pizza dough comes from a job-training bakery; she bakes her brownies with fair-trade chocolate; and a percentage of profits goes to combat hunger. A dedicated member of the Slow Food movement, Emmons also holds cooking classes and themed dinners (e.g. vegan Thanksgiving feast) at the restaurant. Contact (617) 661-1513 or visit

Best Reason to Stay Inside

Should a Nor’easter blow through town during your visit, step into The Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, and you’ll never want to set foot outdoors. You’ll receive a warm, efficient reception before being shown to your luxurious room, decorated in soothing sea blues and celadon greens. If you can tear yourself away from this sanctum, don your workout gear and take the elevator to The Sports Club/LA. Limited to members and hotel guests, this 100,000-square-foot gleaming fitness center features the latest equipment, squash courts, a gymnasium with basketball and volleyball courts, a sparkling 25-meter pool, and more than 100 group classes per week. The yoga classes are among the city’s best and most varied, including Iyengar, Forrest, and Yin Yoga. Afterward, reward yourself at Splash; the Club’s on-site spa offers a multitude of treatments. You’ll be blissful but famished by now but your dinner decision still awaits: blu in the Sports Club Complex or JER.NE in the Ritz? Either way, you can’t go wrong. Contact (617) 574-7100,

Best Yoga Studio

After just two years in business, Back Bay Yoga has created a cohesive community and a welcoming environment. The studio is unpolished, but the students and teachers are dedicated. Mornings begin with Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga. Afternoons feature instructor-led Ashtanga and other hatha classes. A wall of windows fill the loft-like space with natural light; where you’ll have plenty of space to move through your practice. With monthly breathwork, bi-monthly Kirtan, and free weekly pranayama and meditation classes, Back Bay is the only Boston studio addressing aspects of yoga beyond the physical work of asana. Enthusiastic owner Lynne Begier attracts world-class teachers for workshops in such diverse styles as Jivamukti, Iyengar, Kripalu, Ashtanga and Forrest Yoga; Kirtan visits by Bhagavan Das draw crowds. Contact (617) 375-0785 or visit

Best Wellness Center

Imagine a multitude of natural healing modalities under one soaring roof. You’ll find it all at Wellspace. Offering chiropractic, movement education, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, nutrition counseling, naturopathic medicine, skincare, bodywork, and therapeutic massage of many stripes as well as free lectures, weekend workshops, and small classes in Feldenkrais, tai chi, Pilates, and several styles of yoga, Wellspace is the largest wellness center in the country. Practitioners take a multidisciplinary approach; your chiropractor may recommend a dose of acupuncture for your migraines, and you’ll get a discount on the treatment. Contact (617) 876-2660 or visit

May/June 2004

Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team
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