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  • Every Bookstore in the Boston Area: Talk about a rising tide lifting all boats — bookworms from around the world flock to Boston and Cambridge, which boast exceptionally well-stocked chain outlets, award-winning independent shops, and special-interest businesses for every appetite.
  • Barbara Krakow Gallery (Back Bay): With a handful of notable exceptions, the refrain that haunts the Boston arts scene is "nice, but it's better in New York." Barbara Krakow runs one of the few galleries that give New Yorkers the inferiority complex.
  • Black Ink (Beacon Hill and Cambridge): A funky desktop trinket, a retro toy, a beautifully designed kitchen gadget, a gorgeous card — you may not come out of these little treasure chests with what you went in looking for, but you'll almost certainly find something you love.
  • Converse (Back Bay): Founded in suburban Malden in 1908, the athletic-shoe manufacturer is a local brand with an international presence. If you don't see exactly the right pair of sneakers, head upstairs and create your own.
  • Galería Cubana (South End): It's not the easiest place to find, but this amazing gallery captures the experience of visiting Cuba without a single bit of red tape.
  • International Poster Gallery (Back Bay): One of the high points of a visit to Newbury Street is a stop here. If you have any interest in graphic design or contemporary art — heck, if you've ever taped a magazine cover to the wall over your desk — you'll find something wonderful here.
  • John Lewis, Inc. (Back Bay): The exquisite craftsmanship — executed on the premises by John Lewis himself — makes this jewelry store a favorite with several generations of in-the-know Bostonians. If you see nose prints on the front window, they might be mine.
  • Joie de Vivre (Cambridge): Just stepping in here puts me at ease. Somewhere in the thoughtful selection of inventive gifts, toys, cards, jewelry, and inspiring tchotchkes is just the right gift (for someone else or for me), and finding it is more than half the fun.
  • Upstairs Downstairs Antiques (Beacon Hill): Even when I don't wind up buying something here, I come away inspired by the layout of the well-edited merchandise and the knowledge of the helpful staff.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.