Stuck in a strange city with time to kill? Take one of our quickie tours to see the highlights of town in three hours or less.
(Business 2.0) – AH, THE TRICKY TIMING OF THE BUSINESS TRIP. You're either running to catch a plane or trying to fill the hours between your last meeting and the next flight home. You could drink another latte and answer e-mail in a dreary lounge. Or you could poke your head outside and take a look around. For the savvy business traveler long on curiosity but short on time, we've designed six quick itineraries to give you maximum exposure with a minimum of fuss.
Make your first stop the city's first neighborhood: the North End, the perfect spot for an Italian fix. Load up on fresh pasta at Trattoria Il Panino (Parmenter and Hanover streets).
Skip the big museums. Cab it to the tiny Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the South End (280 Fenway; $12 entrance fee). The beautiful Venetian-style building houses an impressive but manageable-size collection of paintings (Matisse, Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent). The four empty frames are reminders of a high-profile—and still unsolved—1990 theft.
Wednesdays through Saturdays, take a 10-minute cab ride to the brewery named after Boston's own patriot brewer, Sam Adams (30 Germania St.; free). Tours include tastings of Extreme Utopia—Guinness record holder as the world's strongest beer.
Start at the Field Museum of Natural History in Burnham Park (E. Roosevelt Road and S. Lake Shore Drive; $12). There you'll meet Sue, the world's largest and most completely preserved Tyrannosaurus rex.
Then grab a cab to visit the architecturally impressive Tribune Towers (435 N. Michigan Ave.). When you're done, take the stairs down to the Billy Goat Tavern for a $3 "cheezborger"—the inspiration for the famous Saturday Night Live skit.
Back above ground, head north on Michigan Avenue—a.k.a. the Magnificent Mile—for world-class window-shopping. Finish at the John Hancock Observatory (between Chestnut and Delaware). The skyscraper was invented in Chicago, and you'll see some of the finest examples glittering below.
The first stop for most tourists is the luxurious Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th St.). The 114-year-old edifice has hosted Russian czars and U.S. presidents, but it welcomes drop-in visitors for traditional afternoon tea (or, depending on your mood, a single-malt scotch and a pre-embargo Cuban cigar).
Next, take the free 16th Street shuttle to the Tattered Cover Bookstore (1628 16th St.). The friendly shop has an unusually extensive collection of books and magazines and draws celebrity writers from all over. Tom Wolfe, Margaret Atwood, and Bill and Hillary Clinton all stopped at the Tattered Cover on their book tours.
When you're done, cross the Millennium Bridge for a fantastic view of the Denver skyline against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains; then stroll over to Confluence Park, the site of Denver's founding, to watch adventurous locals drop kayaks into the rushing South Platte River for an afternoon thrill.
See all the sights Manhattan has to offer—literally—when you hop on a Liberty helicopter (12th Avenue and W. 30th Street). A whirlwind five-minute tour of the Big Apple runs $84 plus tip; 10 minutes costs $134.
When you come back to earth, take a cab to Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, where a pair of stone lions—Patience and Fortitude—guard the New York Public Library and roar every time a virgin passes (or so legend has it). Behind the library is Bryant Park, with lots of green space, chairs, and free Wi-Fi. When you get hungry, try the upscale Asian fare at Koi, a couple of blocks away in the Bryant Park Hotel (40 W. 40th St.).
Finally, head south to the Museum of Sex (Fifth Avenue and 27th Street; $14.50) to see naked people—in photos—and learn about the history and evolution of human sexuality.
Take the Powell/Hyde Street cable car ($5) for great views from Nob and Russian hills. Get off near Ghirardelli Square at Fisherman's Wharf to start a culinary tour of one of the world's great eating cities.
Walk to Oakville Grocery on Leavenworth for a taste of Napa Valley without the two-hour drive: fabulous wine, artisan bread, cheese, and charcuterie. From there, catch the F-Market streetcar to the Ferry Building, a massive indoor market packed with ethnic restaurants and gourmet food shops. (The popular farmers' market is on Tuesdays and Saturdays.) Finally, take the F-Market streetcar back to Fourth and Market. Walk half a block southeast to Beard Papa's, a Japanese sweets shop (Yerba Buena Lane off Mission Street between Third and Fourth). Stroll through nearby Yerba Buena Gardens and enjoy your dessert.
Start at the Pike Place Market (First Avenue and Pike Street). Skip the flying fish—unless you're entertained by watching fishmongers chuck slimy seafood to one another—and refuel with a handcrafted sandwich from Uli's Famous Sausage. After you've toured the market, walk north on Pike Place past Stewart Street for coffee at the original Starbucks.
Finally, leave at least two hours for the Experience Music Project Museum (325 Fifth Ave. N.; $20). The Gehry-designed building boasts the world's largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia and a gallery of guitars played by everyone from Bob Dylan to Kurt Cobain. The highlight: the sound stage, where state-of-the-art technology makes you sound like any rock idol you choose—complete with virtual screaming fans. Groupies not included.
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Lindsay Blakely (email@example.com) is an editorial intern at Business 2.0. Susanna Hamner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer-reporter.