Here and in the listings, we've singled out establishments that we especially like and neighborhoods that suit shoppers interested in particular types of merchandise. Addresses are in Boston unless otherwise indicated.
Antiques & Collectibles
No antiques hound worthy of the name will leave Boston without an expedition along both sides of Charles Street, with a detour to River Street (parallel to Charles St., 1 block closer to the river).
Art galleries dot the city and suburbs, with the greatest concentrations in Boston's Back Bay and South End. If your travels take you to outlying neighborhoods and suburbs, by all means look around—soaring rents have driven savvy proprietors to some unexpected locations.
The SoWa district -- short for "south of Washington Street" -- centers on 450 Harrison Ave. The SoWa Artists Guild website makes a good introduction to this thriving community. The best time to visit is the first Friday evening of the month, when guild members in the building throw open their doors to visitors.
An Artsy Stroll Along Newbury Street -- The Boston area's best-known destination for art lovers is Newbury Street. New England's equivalent of New York's Madison Avenue, it's home to galleries of all descriptions. As you explore, don't forget to look up -- some great businesses thrive at street level, but their upstairs neighbors who pay lower rents can often afford to be more adventuresome. Exhibitions typically change once a month.
If gallery-hopping isn't a habit for you, here's an observation: Galleries can look intimidating, but remember that each one is a business. Gallery owners aren't selling art because they couldn't break into widget sales; they're in the art business because they love it. They welcome browsers and questions that show you've given the art some thought.
For a good overview, plot a course that starts with the Krakow Witkin Gallery at 10 Newbury St. or at 38 Newbury St., where Robert Klein Gallery shares a floor with other worthy establishments, including Martha Richardson Fine Art and Miller Block Gallery. Your ultimate destination is 238 Newbury St., home of the venerable Vose Galleries of Boston.
The Boston area is a book-lover's paradise. It's an important stop on most author tours; check the local papers or stop by any store that sells new books for details on readings and book signings.
Fashion - Adults
The Back Bay is New England's top destination for swanky boutiques and if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it designer shops. Long considered Boston's answer to Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive, Newbury Street is in some ways a victim of its own success: Rents are so high that many -- though not all -- of the quirky independent retailers that give a shopping destination much of its zing have been priced out. Still, you'll want to leave time for some exploring along Newbury, before or after checking out the second level of Copley Place.
An Outlet Excursion -- If you can't get through a vacation without some outlet shopping, the fact that you left the car at home doesn't have to stop you. Boston Common Coach (tel. 877/723-3833 or 617/773-2784; www.bostoncommoncoach.com) and Brush Hill Tours (tel. 800/343-1328 or 617/720-6342; www.brushhilltours.com) offer service from Boston to Wrentham Village Premium Outlets (tel. 508/384-0600; www.premiumoutlets.com), a huge complex about 45 minutes south of town. Its dozens of outlet stores include -- and this is merely scratching the surface -- Anne Klein, Banana Republic, Barneys New York, Juicy Couture, J. Crew, Kenneth Cole, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger, and Versace. Shoppers leave Boston between 9 and 10am. The round-trip fare is $42 for adults (Brush Hill charges $23 for children 3 to 11); both companies require reservations.
Gifts & Souvenirs
Boston has dozens of shops and pushcarts that sell T-shirts, hats, and other souvenirs. You'll find gifts that say Boston without actually saying "Boston" all over them. Remember to check out museum shops for unique items, including crafts and games. Particularly good outlets include those at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Concord Museum, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.
Flying Lobsters -- Why go to the trouble of sending a postcard? Send a lobster instead. James Hook & Co., 15 Northern Ave. at Atlantic Avenue (tel. 617/423-5500; www.jameshooklobster.com; T: Red Line to South Station), and Legal Sea Foods, Logan Airport Terminal B and C (tel. 800/343-5804, 617/568-2811, or 617/568-2800; www.sendlegal.com; T: Blue Line to Airport), do overnight shipping.
Massachusetts farmers and growers under the auspices of the state Department of Agricultural Resources dispatch trucks filled with whatever's in season to the heart of the city from late spring through October or November. Depending on the time of year, you'll have your pick of berries, herbs, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, apples, corn, and more, all fresh and reasonably priced. Visit the website for a complete list of state-sponsored markets.
The Boston Public Market is an indoor, year-round bazaar with a tasty mix of farm products and specialty foods. It's located at 100 Hanover St.
The funky, fashionable SoWa Open Market operates every Sunday from May through October on Harrison Ave. in the South End (T: Orange Line to Back Bay, then a 10-min. walk, or Silver Line SL4/SL5 bus to E. Berkeley St., then 5-min. walk). The market features numerous craftspeople as well as food merchants in a neighborhood you may not have a chance to explore otherwise.
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.