All work and no play makes for a weary road warrior. On your next business trip, invite your family out and spend some time actually getting to know the city you're in. Here are our picks on what to do and see in three of our favorite cities.
NEW YORK
Day One
Start your morning off right by grabbing breakfast at Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant (4 Clinton Street, 646-602-6263). Locals know you might have to wait an hour on busy weekend mornings, but it's worth it. Try the thick brioche French toast served with caramelized apples and pears and roasted pecans, or a breakfast biscuit sandwich of scrambled eggs, bacon, and tomato jam on a buttermilk biscuit.

Properly fed, you're now ready to sightsee with the rest of the Big Apple first-timers - yes, this means swallowing your pride and becoming a tourist in the truest sense. After all, if you have only one day to spend in this great city, then you have to see the historically significant sites that have made New York what it is. Get the requisite photo op of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline via the ferry ride (catch it at Battery Park) to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Afterward, head to Wall Street's visibly secured New York Stock Exchange. The Empire State Building (Fifth Avenue at 34th Street) is just as much a must-see as it always has been. Wait in line to rocket up to the 86th floor for 360-degree views of the East River, Brooklyn, Queens, the Hudson River, and New Jersey, not to mention all of Manhattan, including Central Park.

If you're craving New York pizza, Little Italy is the place to go. You'll find a number of pizzerias close by, but we love Lombardi's (32 Spring Street, 212-941-7994, www.first pizza.com), which was the first pizzeria in the United States. They cook their pizza in an old-fashioned coal oven. Another favorite is NYC staple Patsy's Pizzeria (various locations, including one in the Village at 67 University Place, 212-533-3500, www
.patsyspizzeriany.com), which has been making classic, smoky, thin-crust pies since 1933. Not a fan of pizza? (Don't worry, we forgive you.) Then cross the street and head to Spice (60 University Place, 212-982-3758) for a blend of Thai, Pan-Asian, and Pacific Rim cuisine. Favorite dishes include martini crispy shrimp or house specialties like Maekong-aged pork chop.

Get into a New York state of mind by wandering down to the dimly lit Cedar Tavern (82 University Place, 212-929-9089), formerly frequented by hepcat artists Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Knock back a round or two at this bar, and the pulse of the city will start beating in your veins. Added bonus? The Cedar's hearty bar-food menu is available till the wee hours.

Head uptown if you're in the city on the first Friday night of the month and listen to world-class DJs spinning their faves in the grand rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum (Fifth Avenue at 89th Street, 212-423-3500, www.guggenheim.org).

Day Two
At the center of Greenwich Village is Washington Square Park, with its mini Arc de Triomphe. You might see Sarah Jessica Parker out strolling with her toddler on streets once frequented by Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan (who lived at 94 MacDougal Street).
La Lanterna di Vittorio (129 MacDougal Street, 212-529-5945, www.lalanternacaffe
.com) is the quintessential West Village cafe - perfect for an afternoon gelato or cappuccino (sip it on the back patio, weather permitting), and every night, the restaurant's next-door bar heats up with live music.

In a moving tribute to the lives lost on 9/11, several makeshift memorials have been permanently preserved along Seventh Avenue. Pay your respects and take a moment to view the tile-covered fence across the street from St. Vincent's Hospital (Seventh Avenue at 11th Street). Adorned with thousands of hand-painted tiles from around the world, it began as a means of bringing cheer to patients at St. Vincent's who were recovering from the tragedy. Eventually, it became blanketed with tiles that showed the outpouring of support and love from around the globe, and the fence is now a permanent memorial (for more information, visit www.tilesforamerica.com). Cross the street to the south side of St. Vincent's and you'll find the hospital's bulletin board - covered with missing-persons flyers, graduation photos, mementos, and children's drawings from the days following 9/11 - forever preserved.

Day Two in New York is also your day to do some serious shopping. SoHo is the epicenter of high-swank retail, with shops like Agent Provocateur (133 Mercer Street, 212-965-0229), a one-stop source for supersexy British lingerie. A few blocks away you'll find Alpana Bawa (70 East First Street, 212-254-1249), where Western styling and rich Indian colors and textures meet in highly original designs. And nearby is SCO (584 Broadway, 212-966-3011), a skin-care store that custom blends pampering products just the way you want them. Added perk? You can get a wax, a massage, or a facial while you wait for your miracle creams.

Also in the vicinity is C.O. Bigelow Chemists (414 Sixth Avenue, 212-533-2700, www
.bigelowchemists.com), which has traditional pharmacy offerings plus high-end brands like Nars, Bumble and Bumble, and Kérastase. But we love it for its own brand of rose, vanilla, and almond soaps. Hunt and gather with other in-the-knows among the deeply discounted racks of designer items at the Century 21 Department Store (22 Cortlandt Street, 212-227-9092). And the block-long original Macy's (212-695-4400) is at Herald Square, at 34th Street. (Tip: Times Square is just a stroll away; stand in line at the TKTS booth in the morning to pick up tickets for a play that evening.)

If you've lusted after Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw's shoe collection, start your own at Otto Tootsi Plohound (413 West Broadway, 212-925-8931). Manolo Blahnik it's definitely not, but between the sometimes-off service and the crowded racks of shoes, you'll find Prada and friends in front and the best knockoffs in town in the back. The end-of-season sales are enough to make you weep. The home gourmet will appreciate Broadway Panhandler (477 Broome Street, 866-266-5927, www.broadwaypanhandler.com), with its vast selection of brands (All-Clad, Wusthof, Cuisinart, Calphalon, Le Creuset, and KitchenAid), and equally chef-worthy but lesser-known names like Laguiole knives, Sitram cookware, and Pillivuyt baking porcelain.

Tired yet? Rejuvenate at locals' fave Féline Day Spa (235 West 75th Street, 212-496-7415, www.felinedayspa.com) on the Upper West Side, which offers a full lineup of head-to-toe services such as makeup and hairstyling, nails, reflexology, and, in particular, amazing facials.

If you find yourself in the mood for a late-afternoon drink instead, stop by the lobby lounge of the Mandarin Oriental New York (212-805-8881, www.mandarinoriental.com). Its location on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle affords spectacular views of the city that will have you gazing - and drinking - in awe.

For dinner, head to Cacio e Pepe (182 Second Avenue, 212-505-5931). It's a prime spot for people-watching, but it's even better if you love cheese, love Italy, and don't mind experimenting beyond the tried-and-true Italian dishes you're used to. (In one tableside-created dish, waiters toss homemade pasta in a hollowed-out wheel of pecorino, coating the noodles with the creamy, salty cheese.) On the Lower East Side, you'll find happiness without spending the rest of your vacation money on dinner. Kuma Inn (113 Ludlow Street, Second Floor, 212-353-8866) is best described as Asian tapas - dishes like pan-fried pork tonkatsu over watercress. The hideaway restaurant also offers a noteworthy sake menu.

But if night two is your big shebang, spend several hours overlooking Central Park in culinary heaven at Per Se (10 Columbus Circle, Fourth Floor, 212-823-9335), Thomas Keller's big-city incarnation of his noted Napa Valley culinary haven, French Laundry. We recommend the five-course tasting menu - and saving room for the comfortingly familiar and delicious "coffee and doughnuts" dessert.

Still going strong? New York is the epicenter of jazz. Try the Blue Note (131 West Third Street, 212-475-8592), 55 Bar (55 Christopher Street, 212-929-9883), or Iridium Jazz Club (1650 Broadway, 212-582-2121).

Day Three
There are certain must-do-once NYC activities, and if you haven't had your Michelle Kwan moment, hit the ice at the Rink at Rockefeller Plaza (Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, 212-332-7654) and take a spin in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Also, Rockefeller Center's observation deck has just reopened: Top of the Rock (www.topoftherocknyc.com), at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, offers multimedia exhibits, an indoor viewing area, and open-air views from the 70th floor.

When you come back down to earth, venture a few blocks north and west to the Museum of Modern Art (53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). Follow the crowds to Vincent van Gogh's fanciful The Starry Night and then wander around the museum's airy, sunlight-flooded galleries and through the sculpture garden. Relax and refuel at Cafe 2 or Terrace 5 (don't miss the latter's artisanal chocolates!).

Farther uptown is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, 212-535-7710, www.metmuseum
.org). You'll never be able to see it all in one day, so pick up a map and choose your collections. Afterward, grab a hot dog from a vendor out front and stroll through Central Park. Scenic spots include the Obelisk, the Great Lawn, the Ramble, Bethesda Fountain, and Strawberry Fields. Just as great (and some locals even say it's better) is Brooklyn's Prospect Park (www
.prospectpark.org), a vibrant, lush 585-acre oasis designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the landscape architects who also designed Central Park. Prospect Park features the nation's first urban Audubon Center, the Prospect Park Zoo, and the borough's only forest.

A (relatively) low-key choice for dinner is Barna (365 Park Avenue South, 212-532-8300) in the Hotel Giraffe. It boasts a romantic atmosphere and well-priced tapas, music, and entertainment (flamenco dancers on Sunday!). Afterward, head to the rooftop bar for Champagne under the stars.

Or, imagine chocolate fondue surrounded by fruit, cake, nut-covered bananas, and chewy peanut-butter cookies. Welcome to Punch & Judy (26 Clinton Street, 212-982-1116), where you can also order from a tantalizing selection of Mediterranean-inspired platters and cheese plates while sampling a noteworthy array of wines. If the fondue isn't enough to lure you in, the wine and the easy music in this warm setting will put a smile on your face.


LOS ANGELES
Day One
Have breakfast at the Farmers Market (6333 West Third Street, 323-933-9211, www.farmersmarketla.com), where options include the French Crepe Company (323-934-3113), beignets at the Gumbo Pot (323-933-0358), or decadent doughnuts at local fave Bob's Coffee and Doughnuts (323-933-8929). Shops in the market offer everything from specialty foods to handcrafted jewelry. But save your real shopping for Melrose Avenue.
You'll see 90210 types and Marilyn Manson look-alikes frequenting their own kind of boutiques along always-trendy Melrose Avenue, stretching from La Brea Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard. In "Melrose Heights," fashion-setter boutiques include Betsey Johnson, Fred Segal, Jon Valdi, and Agent Provocateur, while just past Fairfax, the silver-studded crowd prefers stores like Red Balls on Fire (7365 Melrose, 818-763-6112). Decades (323-655-0223) and Decades Two (8214 Melrose Avenue, 323-655-1960) offer upstairs/downstairs vintage wear - including celebrity red-carpet couture - as well as more "practical" offerings like Dior shirts and Manolo Blahnik shoes that rich socialites wear once, then drop off here for your benefit.

Take a break from shopping long enough to indulge your sweet tooth. Up the street you'll find Sweet Lady Jane (8360 Melrose Avenue, 323-653-7145, www.sweetlady jane.com), offering simply divine desserts. Granted, they have lunch - but you're here for the decadent blackout fudge chocolate cake or triple-berry shortcake alongside a French press full of hot coffee.

Your shopping is out of the way, and the Getty Center (310-440-7330, www.getty.edu) is beckoning. But don't try to see the entire museum in just one afternoon - pick and choose from its amazingly eclectic collections, and opt for a break (since you'll be coming down from your earlier sugar high) at the Restaurant at the Getty Center, where contemporary fare is accompanied by beautiful views of the coastline and the city.
If you're feeling inspired, rent a bike or a pair of Rollerblades and hit the 22-mile South Bay Bike Trail (310-319-6263) - which runs from Malibu to Torrance. Alternatively, spend the afternoon people-watching and shopping along Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, and time your dinner with the sunset at the Lobster (310-458-9294), where chef Allyson Thurber's sumptuous seafood is served in a casual (but pricey) and happenin' spot at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier. Or drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu and you'll find Moonshadows (20356 Pacific Coast Highway, 310-456-3010) casting its own shadow on the crashing waves below the restaurant.

Day Two
At Amandine in Brentwood (12225 Wilshire Boulevard, 310-979-3211), you can grab breakfast - think a delicious croque monsieur and freshly squeezed lemonade - with the locals. The restaurant also offers an amazing selection of pastries, tarts, and cakes.
Because you're in SoCal and must see where its wildlife roam, pretend you're on the fashion runway and catwalk down Rodeo Drive, stopping to glance casually into boutiques and shops like Gucci and Cartier. However, for some true sites of beauty, the nonprofit Los Angeles Conservancy (213-623-2489, www.laconservancy.org) offers educational walking tours of the city's architectural masterpieces, including the Biltmore Hotel, the Bradburg Building, and City Hall.

To do a Hollywood tour on your own terms, begin at the Hollywood & Highland Center, a new development that's set to bring the area back to vibrancy. Located within the center is the infamous Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. Next door, you'll find Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where you can press your hands into the cement palm prints of 2,000 of your favorite stars. Other nearby attractions that you can pencil into your agenda, time permitting: the Hollywood Entertainment Museum (323-465-7900), the Hollywood Wax Museum (323-462-8860), or the supersexy Frederick's of Hollywood Lingerie Museum (323-957-5953, in the back of the Frederick's Hollywood store), where you can see Madonna's skivvies.

If you worked up an appetite taking all those tours, one block north of Union Station is a culinary landmark dating back to 1908: Philippe the Original (1001 North Alameda Street, 213-628-3781). Try the lamb, ham, pork, or the "original" beef French dip sandwich. The double-dipped lamb sammy, with blue cheese and a kosher dill on the side, is heaven. Even better, all the prices are blessedly low.

For night two, catch a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (www.music center.org/wdch) or check out a lecture or event at UCLA's Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Boulevard, 310-443-7000), where celebrity creatives like to gather. If you make reservations well in advance, you can dine at Wolfgang Puck's Spago Beverly Hills (176 North Canon Drive, 310-385-0880). Top the night off with live music (on Friday and Saturday nights) and a chocolate martini at Nic's Restaurant & Martini Lounge (453 North Canon Drive, 310-550-5707).

Day Three
It's a toss-up. If you live far from the ocean, then you've got to explore SoCal's beaches. Some favorite hamlets are Belmont Shore, Hermosa Beach, and Seal Beach. If you're lucky enough to see the ocean most days, then drive inland to Old Pasadena and stroll the district's boutiques and cafés - the area is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nearby in San Marino is the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical
Gardens (1151 Oxford Road, 626-405-2100), which was once the estate of railroad tycoon Henry Huntington. The renowned art collection includes Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy, and bibliophiles can get their fix in the library: It holds more than five million rare books and documents - including a Gutenberg Bible that dates back to 1455. The new Helen and Peter Bing Children's Garden has something for the younger set, and they (and you) can easily spend hours exploring the botanical gardens. Tucked away in the middle of the three acres of roses, you'll find the Rose Garden Tea Room - it's popular, so make reservations well in advance.

For an unparalleled mental snapshot of the city's sparkling skyline to take home with you (and for a scrumptious meal, too), try L.A. Prime Steak House: It sizzles at the pinnacle of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel (404 South Figueroa Street, 213-624-1000) with an extensive wine list (heavy on the California offerings, naturally) and fantastic steaks and seafood. For an evening of a different flavor, Chinatown's many Hong Kong-style restaurants bustle, or, for a south-of-the-border touch, head to historic Olvera Street, where you'll find La Golondrina Café (W-17 Olvera Street, 213-628-4349).
In the mood for a nightcap? Slide into a table at the low-key and utterly fab Gallery Bar at the Millennium Biltmore (506 S. Grand Avenue, 213-624-1011) in downtown. You'll definitely decide to stay for more than one.


SEATTLE
Day One
Order your triple-shot, extra-hot, light-foam, nonfat vanilla latte at the original Starbucks at 1912 Pike Place, then ease into Pike Place Market (along Pike Street and First Avenue, 206-682-7453) to sip and sightsee among stalls selling the freshest fish and flowers.

While you're there, don't just stare at the ocean: Along the wooden docks of the waterfront are day-cruise companies that will take you (weather permitting) on Puget Sound excursions of all varieties - or hop aboard a Washington State Ferry, which departs from Pier 52, for the half-hour trip out to Bainbridge Island, where you can stroll the historic village of Winslow. If you'd rather stay on dry land, you can get a glimpse beneath the sea by visiting the Seattle Aquarium (Pier 59, 206-386-4300).

Back in the thick of downtown, hop a trolley at Pioneer Square, and afterward, take a seat at the communal table at Salumi (309 Third Avenue South, 206-233-0817), where loyal customers flock for owner Armandino Batali's (father of renowned chef Mario Batali) cured meats and homemade sausages.

The two-minute monorail ride from Westlake Center (400 Pine Street) to Seattle Center (305 Harrison Street, www.seattlecenter.com) deposits you near the steps of the 600-plus-foot Space Needle, where you can ride to the top for 360-degree views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and snow-capped Mount Rainier. When you buy your ticket to ride to the top, ask about the City Pass, which offers discounts on many Seattle sights. Nearby, the Experience Music Project (206-770-2702, www.emplive.org), an interactive music museum designed by Frank Gehry and founded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, has a great selection of CDs in the gift store when you're finished immersing yourself in the voice recordings and memorabilia of Jimi Hendrix, or in "Bob Dylan's American Journey 1956-1966," which runs through April. Also well worth a visit is the Seattle Center's Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (www.sfhomeworld.org). And if you can find a moment to spare in your first day in the Emerald City, spend some time at Capitol Hill - in addition to awesome views, you'll find several of the ever-present coffee shops, retro clothing boutiques, and a variety of ethnic restaurants nestled between antiques stores.
Dinner at Seattle superchef Tom Douglas's Dahlia Lounge (2001 Fourth Avenue, 206-682-4142) will round out your first night in this great town. Try the always-delicious revolving menu, or if it's available, have the flatiron steak, served with green beans and melting blue cheese. Save room for dessert or take something home from the bakery next door to eat for breakfast the next day.

If you find yourself still going strong, the former nexus of grunge, the Crocodile Cafe (2200 Second Avenue, 206-441-5611), is a great venue for traveling indie acts and local bands.

Day Two
After stuffing yourself on the gourmet weekend brunch at Café Campagne (1600 Post Alley, 206-728-2233), spend the day exploring Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, a fishing village settled by Scandinavian fishermen on the shores of Salmon Bay. Here you'll also find the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (3015 Northwest 54th Street, 206-783-7059), which connect Lake Washington with the Puget Sound; watch the locks fill with boats, and when the salmon are running, from August to November, catch your breath as the silvery fish jump the fish ladder.

Remember Sleepless in Seattle? Paddle by Lake Union's historic houseboat community to see if you can find the houseboat that was featured in the film. Agua Verde Paddle Club (1303 Northeast Boat Street, 206-545-8570) rents single, double, and triple kayaks on a first-come, first-served basis (weekends book quickly). When you're finished, head upstairs for refreshing margaritas and fish tacos. If you prefer to let someone else steer the ship, Argosy Cruises (AGC Marina Dock E on South Lake Union, 206-623-1445) offers two-hour narrated rain-or-shine cruises on Lake Union and Lake Washington.

Get your land legs back with a stroll around the lovely Queen Anne neighborhood, and plan to arrive at the Sitting Room (108 West Roy, 206-285-2830) in time for happy hour. Warm lamplight casts a romantic glow across the small space, and a modest wine selection and a full lineup of bottled beer accompanies a cheese board, inventive salads, and panini sandwiches. If you find yourself in the neighborhood a little later, join jazz and blues fans at the Paragon (2125 Queen Anne Avenue North, 206-283-4548).

Day Three Hop in your rental car and take a drive to Redmond, and look for the enormous Microsoft campus. And don't miss lunch at Thai Ginger (Redmond Town Center, 16480 Northeast 74th Street, 425-558-4044); we love the Swimming Rama (spinach and chicken in a peanut sauce).

Nearby is Marymoor Park, where you can hike the Sammamish River Trail, and if you're feeling really outdoorsy, the trail connects with the Burke-Gilman Trail for a total of 27 miles.

Snoqualmie Falls is one of Washington's leading attractions, with a drop of almost 300 feet (Niagara Falls is about 170 feet). It's only a 20-minute walk down to the lower viewing area, where you get an even more impressive vantage point. Later, enjoy a romantic view of the falls and the valley from the dining room of the Salish Lodge & Spa (6501 Railroad Avenue, Snoqualmie; 800-272-5474), where you'll find award-winning Northwest specialties such as seared diver's scallops with Dungeness crab and blackberry-braised Canadian goose. Dining reservations are a must, and for a decadent getaway, book a room (and spa treatment or two) at the lodge.

If you head back into town instead, the perfect end to a perfect day of communing with nature can be had at Tango (1100 Pike Street, 206-583-0382), where you'll mingle with Seattle's beautiful people while casually grazing on tapas (prawns with roasted corn-coconut galletas or pork tenderloin with hot berry compote) and sipping a glass or two of Spanish, Portuguese, or Chilean wine.