Summer in Boston is as sweet as a first kiss, and just as fleeting. Every year, it surprises residents and visitors with its perfection: The air is balmy, the Sox are playing, and it seems that everyone is outdoors. Start your summer fling with Boston in the Public Garden, the city's 24-acre botanical backyard, where families and couples line up for rides on the iconic swan boats, as they've done for generations. Climb aboard, and take in the crazy quilt of old and new that defines Boston-here, a centuries-old church; there, a soaring glass skyscraper, all in a setting where the salty sea air permeates everything from the culture to the freshly caught seafood.
Boston earned the 6th spot on our top 20 list of Cooking Light Cities for its ranking in a variety of food and healthy lifestyle categories, including its amount of Zagat's top-rated and organic restaurants per capita; the number of James Beard nominees for best restaurant and chef; and the percent of the population reporting they consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Best bowl of chowder: The debate about who makes Boston's best clam chowder continues, although locals agree that tomatoes have no place in it. (For that, head to Rhode Island or New York.) Legal Sea Foods (617-266-7775) serves a light version that's broth-based instead of creamy, and chock-full of clams and potatoes. How light? About 70 calories per serving (compared to 300 for Legal's traditional chowder) with near zero fat.
Best seafood: If oysters are your choice, meet like-minded souls at B and G Oysters (617-423-0550), where 12 varieties are available, and servers discuss their differences the way vintners chat about fine wines. Try the world-famous Wellfleet oysters from nearby Cape Cod. Or, if you prefer, savor a bit of Boston's culinary history along with your seafood at Union Oyster House (617-227-2750), which opened in 1826 and claims to be America's oldest restaurant. Regulars have included Daniel Webster and President Kennedy.
Best fine dining: At the Zagat's-lauded Aujourd'hui (617-351-2037), in the Four Seasons hotel, stunning views of the Public Garden enhance the unabashed luxury of the modern French-inspired menu. Dishes change with the seasons, but count on swoon-worthy creations like amber pears poached in Essensia (orange Muscat). Also noteworthy: A multicourse vegetarian tasting menu.
Best sightseeing: This time of year, the Charles River is dotted with sailboats, kayaks, and racing sculls. Join the joggers and cyclists as they zip along the recreation path on the riverbank-you'll really feel like part of the city. For views few tourists see, rent a boat or take a guided tour with Charles River Canoe and Kayak (617-462-2513). You'll glide under arched bridges and past Harvard's handsome buildings, where city scenes are complemented by wildlife sightings (turtles, mallard ducks, and black-crowned night herons, to name a few).