Travel: Philly to Cambridge

A winter wonderland, Harvard-style.

With its snow-packed cobblestones and ivy-wrapped everything, Cambridge might just be the ideal place in which to embrace the winter season: Just pack your peacoat for a little holiday jaunt to Harvard Square’s luxuriously cozy Charles Hotel, a four-star retreat that combines our nerdy Northern counterpart’s brainy, modern rep (rooms are furnished with chalkboard-style paintings and smarty, arty magazines) with culture and funk (see: the award-winning jazz joint Regattabar).

After check-in, throw on the Italian robe waiting in your room and immediately hit the hotel’s sparkling new Corbu Spa & Salon, where you can choose a seasonal (festive!) pick-me-up like the holiday spice scrub and wrap, or chase the chill out of your bones with a steaming-hot herbal poultice massage. You’ll soon see that the Charles does everything up right, from the massages to the meals: Come brunch time, visit the vehemently farm-to-table (and vehemently adorable) Henrietta’s Table for memorable and locally sourced dishes, including a ridiculously fluffy omelet.

Outside this hotel haven, around Harvard Square, you can hunt for stocking stuffers at the Harvard Book Store (don’t miss the used-book basement) and any number of quirky gift shops, then rest your feet at Burdick’s café, where we promise you a life-changing cup of hot cocoa. More serious holiday shoppers can tap into Boston’s famed shopping artery, Newbury Street, where block upon block of designer boutiques, chain retailers and twinkling lights make merry even the most last-minute gift-buying frenzy.

The ambitious will save a little energy for a twirl around the Charles’s ice-skating rink—but everyone who visits should save time for a dinner at ultra-posh, Italian-inspired Rialto, deemed by Gourmet magazine “the world’s best hotel restaurant.”