Visit. Reflect. Then Go Get 'Em. Need to gather yourself before a big meeting? These quick urban escapes are just the thing to get you mentally ready for showtime.
(Business 2.0) – This one will make you or break you. You've got three hours before that final presentation to a key client, and you're as prepped as you can possibly be. Now what? Option A--for "anxiety-inducing"--would be to keep running through your pitch until you become a PowerPoint automaton. Option B--for "better alternative"--is to treat yourself to a mental break, to find a place where you can leave those pregame jitters behind. Well, if the meeting is in one of these five cities, you're in luck: Here are the perfect spots to help you achieve the right frame of mind. -- AMY GOLDWASSER
G SPA Don't worry, it won't be just you and a bunch of bored suburban housewives coming in for mud packs and pedicures. At G Spa, close to many of Boston's major hotels, even the most businesslike of Back Bay Brahmins are known to drop by for regular 15-minute express massages ($15). You can also squeeze between the Harvard Business School grads sitting at the pub-style "beauty bar" and muster up a request for a quick facial ($35) to revive a travel-weary mug. Toss in another $5 for a hand massage and your overworked fingers will be grateful. 35 Newbury St.; 617-267-4772; www.gspa.biz.
CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE FOUNDATION RIVER CRUISE If you think Sammy Sosa is Chicago's most imposing figure, then it's time to learn a little about the city's architectural might. This 90-minute narrated float down the Chicago River ($23 to $25) guides you past some 50 manmade wonders by the likes of Mies van der Rohe, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and Louis Sullivan. Just how important is vision? Find out as you take in some of the nation's earliest skyscrapers--including the historic 1890s Monadnock Building, still the world's tallest commercial structure built with load-bearing masonry walls instead of steel. You'll then follow Chicago's rise all the way to the lofty heights of the 1,450-foot Sears Tower. Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive; 312-922-3432; www.architecture.org/river.html.
WILLIAMS TOWER WATERWALL Fend off Houston's heat at this oasis near the city's famous Galleria mall. Like any fountain, the 64-foot, semicircular structure invites you to get lost in its cool spray. But its real beauty is its ability to be both powerful and unintimidating: Hundreds of tons of water spill down its stone sides each minute, yet it remains tranquil enough to allow sotto voce conversations right in the center of its curve. After getting up close and personal, sit back under a shady live oak and simply marvel. 2800 S. Post Oak Blvd.; 713-850-8841.
MAP DIVISION OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY You need only walk five minutes from Times Square to enter another world. Room 117 of the library hosts the 106-year-old Map Division, where you'll find inspiration from an era when conquering new markets had an entirely different meaning. Among the more than 440,000 maps and atlases are woodblock prints of the New York Harbor that predate the American Revolution and a rare 1705 map of North America that depicts California as an island. Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; 212-930-0587; www.nypl.org.
JAPANESE TEA GARDEN Located 15 minutes from downtown in sprawling Golden Gate Park, the 3.8-acre Tea Garden is a testament to detail. When the garden was created for the 1894 World's Fair, everything--from the black pines to the shrine-moat goldfish--was imported, and for $3.50 you can still experience that meticulous spirit. Sit under the blossom canopy of 1,000 cherry trees, stroll past a hedge clipped to resemble Mt. Fuji, and enjoy the revered water irises. You'll go back to the fray relaxed, yet with a mental snapshot of perfection to exalt your return to the boardroom. Golden Gate Park near Lincoln Way and Ninth Street; 415-752-4227.