Hotel concierges are best known for their skills in obtaining the impossible, such as reservations at popular restaurants, tickets to sold-out concerts, or behind-the-scenes tours of top-notch attractions, but they are also excellent resources for finding lesser-known or underappreciated sights and venues. Here, concierges from eight New England hotels offer recommendations on where to eat and drink, what to do, and a wild-card pick worth seeking out.
VINCENT LAGO AND JOE FALLON
Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston
Eat: Sandwich in a visit to either Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe (429 Columbus Ave., 617-536-7669, $4-$13), a Boston classic celebrating its 85th year and where the people-watching alone is worth a visit, or Parrish Cafe and Bar (361 Boylston St., 617-247-4777, www.parishcafe.com, $11-$19), where famous local chefs created the sandwiches.
Drink: Drink in the views along with one of more than 60 brews on the rooftop terrace at Atlantic Beer Garden (146 Seaport Boulevard, 617-357-8000, www.atlanticbeergard
en.com). For an authentic Boston pub experience, slip into The Sevens (77 Charles St., 617-523-9074), a dive bar with history and character in swanky Beacon Hill.
Do: The Larz Anderson Auto Museum (15 Newton St., Brookline, 617-522-6547, larzan
derson.org, $10) is home to the country’s oldest car collection. Sixty-four acres of parkland surround the historic mansion and carriage house, designed by Edmund Wheelwright and built in 1888. Wheelwright also designed the Boston Public Library, which many people walk past without realizing it is a jewel that offers free guided and self-guided architectural tours.
Seek:You forget you are in a city when you are immersed in the wooded landscape of North America’s oldest public arboretum, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (125 Arborway, Boston, 617-524-1718, arbo
retum.harvard.edu, free). Established in 1872 and designed in collaboration with Frederick Law Olmsted, the 265-acre property is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Equinox, Manchester, Vt.
Eat: Walk into Colonial history and feel the presence of Vermont’s famed Green Mountain Boys at the Ye Olde Tavern (5183 Main St., Manchester Center, 802-362-0611, www.
yeoldetavern.net, $17-$33). Built circa 1790 and listed on the Vermont Registry of Historic Places, the tavern serves hearty New England fare, such as baked scrod and Yankee pot roast.
Drink: If only the barn-board walls could talk at Chantecleer (Route 7A, East Dorset, 802-362-1616, www.chantecleerrestaurant.com), a restaurant and lounge in a 175-year-old dairy barn. The horseshoe bar makes it easy to converse with locals, while sipping Vermont brews and nibbling appetizers.
Do: Andrew Weill coaxes gorgeous creations out of molten glass at Manchester Hot Glass Studio & Gallery (79 Elm St., Manchester Center, 802-362-2227, www.manchesterhot
glass.com). Intrigued? Take a class ($50-
$300), and create your own handcrafted, blown-glass souvenir.
Seek: The creamiest soft maple ice cream comes from Dutton’s (Route 11-30, Manchester, 802-362-3083, www.duttonberry
farm.com), a farm stand and greenhouses filled with local produce and products. Both the ice cream and the maple syrup are made on the premises.
Portland (Maine) Harbor Hotel
Eat: Back Bay Grill is exceptional, but it’s often overlooked. The crème brûlée is exquisite, and the wine list is encyclopedic. Ask for Adrian; he steals the show with his gracious hospitality. (65 Portland St., Portland, 207-772-8833, backbaygrill.com, $18-$36).
Drink: Ginkgo Blue has live jazz and blues, a great cocktail menu, and a creative, backlighted, ultramodern feel that complements the music. (455 Fore St., Portland, 207-541-9190, www.gingkoblue.com).
Do: Just 4 miles away in Cape Elizabeth is Fort Williams, an amazing piece of land that is home to Portland Head Light (207-799-2661, www.portlandheadlight.com), authorized by George Washington and one of the most photographed beacons in North America. Drive, bike, or take a trolley tour to see it. The park is free; the museum in the lighthouse is $2.
Seek: Less than 10 minutes from downtown Portland is Mackworth Island (www.trails
.org, free), connected by a causeway to Falmouth. An easy 1.25-mile trail circles the island and offers sweeping views of Casco Bay. On a warm summer’s day, there’s nothing quite like it.
Mandarin Oriental, Boston
Eat: Enjoy the cool Brooklyn, N.Y., vibe and the Rhythm & Reason cocktail at JM Curley’s (21 Temple Place, Boston, 617-338-5333, www.jmcurleybos ton.com, $5-$18). The attitude is friendly, the tunes are terrific, and the atmosphere is simple. Expect fresh, hearty fare and a wide range of beers. A late-night menu features burgers.
Drink: The craft of the cock-
tail is explored at Drink (348 Congress St., Boston, 617-695-1806, www.drinkfortpoint
.com). Barkeeps prepare traditional and unusual cocktails, serve them in antique glasses, and will share the drink’s history. Creativity rules, and the minimal atmosphere enhances that.
Do: Walk into the world at the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library (200 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 888-222-3711, www.marybakereddy
library.org, $6), a painted glass globe that transports you to 1935. Ideas and quotes from some of history’s most influential thinkers spring from the cast glass and bronze fountain, flow around the basin, and are projected onto the walls of the Hall of Ideas.
Seek: There is nothing better than sipping champagne and enjoying the harbor breezes while watching the sunset and twilight appear off the bow of the Tupelo Honey, a century-old majestic Friendship sloop (Pier 6, Charlestown, 617-828-9005, www.comesailawaynow
.com, from $130). With advance notice, Captain Don and First Mate Ann will provide food and drink.
Topnotch Resort & Spa
Eat: Frida’s Taqueria & Grill (128 Main St., Stowe, 802-253-0333, www.fridastaqueria.com, $4-$20) serves authentic Mexican fare. Go for the guacamole, made fresh tableside, and the fantastic margaritas. Pay attention to the specials, which might include tacos made with goat meat, duck breast, or even corned beef and cabbage.
Drink: The tango mango margarita at the Cactus Cafe (2160 Mountain Road, Stowe, 802-253-7770, www.cactuscafe
stowe.com) is one of the most delicious frozen drinks around town. You can have it on the rocks, but it is better frozen. For serious zing, order the azulcaliente margarita, made with El Jimador Reposado tequila infused with jalapenos.
Do: Hike to Bingham Falls (www.stowelandtrust.org), a 40-foot cascade, from the Stowe Land Trust’s Mill Trail property. It is easy to get lost in the aesthetics, both sight and sound, in this gorgeous part of the Mount Mansfield State Forest.
Seek: Drive Route 108 to the top of the notch, park, and, if you are up for it, hike. The rewards are phenomenal views and the geological structures are fascinating. One gets a unique sense of time looking at the millennia of layering in the notch’s large rock outcroppings.
Ocean House, Watch Hill, R.I.
Eat: There is no finer seafood or fresher oysters than those at pond-side Matunuck Oyster Bar (619 Succotash Road, Matunuck, 401-783-4202, www.rhodyoysters.com, $12-$30). Watch as the oysters are delivered from the boat and shucked before your eyes.
Drink: Choose from dozens of craft and microbrews on tap, more than 30 domestic and imported bottles, and creative cocktails inspired by local attractions at The Malted Barley (42 High St., Westerly, 401-315-2184, www.themaltedbar
leyri.com). Pair your libation with the perfect pretzel from the Pretzel Bar, and take it all to the riverfront patio.
Do: Reach for the brass ring while riding the Flying Horse Carousel (Bay Street, Watch Hill, Westerly, $1-$2). Built in 1876 and a National Historic Landmark, it is the oldest flying horse carousel in the country. Those who snag the ring win a token for free ride. Maximum age is 12.
Seek: I scream, you scream, everyone screams for The Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (757 Matunuck Beach Road, Matunuck, 401-334-8959), a tiny shack on the beach.
Royal Sonesta Hotel, Boston
Eat: Plan in advance to nab one of only 14 tables at Bondir (279A Broadway, Cambridge, 617-661-0009, www.bondir
cambridge.com, $14-$30). The menu changes daily based on the availability of local ingredients, and entrees are offered in full and half portions.
Drink: Looking to impress a date, spouse, friend, or client? Head to the Top of the Hub (800 Boylston St., Prudential Tower, Boston, 617-536-1775, www.topofthehub.net), where the views are stupendous on a clear day. Few people know that there’s a lounge menu ($10-$26), and the appetizers are both good and filling.
Do: Check out the firefighting memorabilia at the Boston Fire Museum (344 Congress St., Boston, 617-338-9700, www.bostonfiremuseum.com, free but donation appreciated). Exhibits include antique trucks and pumpers, fire alarms, photos, and equipment, all displayed in an 1891 firehouse.
Seek: Jose’s Mexican (131 Sherman St., Cambridge, 617-354-0335, www.josesmex.com, $10-$15) is a fun little place dressed in brilliant colors and serving authentic fare. On Friday nights, listen to a live mariachi band while enjoying the tamales del dia.
MARY CAREY FOLEY
Wentworth by the Sea
Hotel & Spa
Eat: Gilley’s PM Lunch (175 Fleet St., Portsmouth, 603-431-6343, www.gilleyspmlunch
.com, $1.85-$5.25), a local institution since 1940, is the greatest hot dog greasy-burger shack in existence.
Drink: Plunk down on the Piscataqua riverfront deck of Poco’s Bow Street Cantina (37 Bow St., Portsmouth, 603-431-5967, www.pocosbowstreetcan
tina.com), Old Ferry Landing (10 Ceres St., Portsmouth, 603-431-5510), or River House Restaurant (53 Bow St., Portsmouth, 603-431-2600, www.riv
erhouse53bow.com) and watch tugboats and freighters ply the harbor.
Do: The Seacoast Science Center (570 Ocean Blvd., Rye, 603-436-8043, www.seacoast
sciencecenter.org, $5) at Odiorne Point State Park ($4) is a family favorite with touch tanks, interpretive exhibits, and a fabulous ocean view.
Seek: Great Island Common (Route 1B, New Castle, 603-436-1992, www.newcastlenh
.org, $3) has a beach, picnic area, and great view of Whaleback Lighthouse.
Hilary Nangle can be reached at www.mainetravelmaven