Living Museums

Not all museums are sterile repositories of the past. The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, two blocks west of the Museum of Fine Arts, boasts an astounding garden atrium, a lush refuge from even the harshest of Boston's infamous winter days.

Mrs. Gardner, a socialite with a passion for art, built the luxe Venetian-style palazzo on the Fenway, after the death of her husband in 1898. She filled it with art treasures they had collected on their frequent trips to Europe, and lived on the top-floor of the unusual mansion until her death in 1924. Her extensive collection includes the works of Titian, Matisse, Whistler and Rubens, among others.

The World Headquarters of the Christian Science Church (at Massachusetts and Huntington Aves.) offers another quirky attraction: a 30-foot stained glass globe. A glass bridge allows visitors to walk through the "Maparium," a vibrant picture of the world as it existed in the 1930s. Bonus: admission is free.