France Under the direction of twin chefs Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, Le Jardin des Sens wins raves for its Mediterranean flavors and its enchanting garden. On the $64 seasonal menu (available Thursdays and Fridays): an appetizer plate of miniature shrimp brochettes, crusted skate brandade, and seared tuna rolled in herbs; and entrées such as rabbit fillet stuffed with wild mushrooms, hot foie gras jelly, and grated apple. After seven years as a three-star, the Languedoc favorite lost a star in 2005. Only Michelin judges know why. 11 avenue Saint-Lazare, Montpellier; 011-33/4-99-58-38-48, jardindessens.com.
When the world really is a stage
The natural mix of hills and rock can provide the perfect acoustics and seating arrangement--and there's little for humans to do but set up a stage and start charging for tickets. At these arenas, it honestly doesn't matter who's performing.
Australia See ballet, jazz, theater, dance--you name it--in what was originally a limestone quarry (hence the name, Quarry Amphitheatre). The seating is on grass tiers, and you can bring your own picnic. The lights of Perth are visible in the distance. 011-62/8-9355-7144, quarryamphitheatre.com.au; open year-round, performances from November to March. Most tickets available through bocsticketing.com.au.
Colorado Just outside Denver, Red Rocks is an amphitheater flanked by jagged 300-foot-high sandstone monoliths. From Easter services to rock and roll. 303/295-4444, redrocksonline.com.
Sicily The Teatro Greco-Romano is a 2,300-year-old amphitheater dug into the hillsides of Taormina, with a view of Mount Etna and the sea. Greek drama, dance, and classical and pop music concerts at the annual Taormina Arte festival, from June through August (taormina-arte.com, from $19.50). The weeklong BNL FilmFest also takes place there every June (taorminafilmfest.it/2005, screening tickets about $9). 011-39/0942-21142.
Washington State Attracting popular music acts and festivals, The Gorge Amphitheatre holds 20,000 people on a grass-covered terrace among basalt cliffs overlooking the Columbia River in central Washington. hob.com/venues; tickets through Ticketmaster, 509/735-0500, ticketmaster.com.
New York shopping
Everyone loves browsing at upscale shops; paying is a whole different matter. Even the highest-end boutiques, however, usually have something that's not too splurgy (and as a bonus, you get a chichi shopping bag).
Tiffany & Co. America's most famous jewelry store. What we bought: sterling-silver key ring engraved with a registration number in case it goes missing ($90). 727 Fifth Ave., 212/755-8000.
Takashimaya A luxurious Japanese emporium of fashion, cosmetics, housewares, and more, with a little tea salon in the basement. What we bought: green butterfly tea in a silver canister ($25), mini copper teapot with brass handle ($65), bamboo mini strainer ($5). 693 Fifth Ave., 212/350-0100.
Jeffrey His and hers fashion excess in the Meatpacking District. What we bought: Stella McCartney's Greek-inspired flip-flops, in turquoise ($90). 449 W. 14th St., 212/206-1272.
Moss A museum-quality gallery of design. What we bought: the 12-sided World Time desk clock. It adapts to one of 24 global time zones, depending on which side you stand it on ($75). 146 Greene St., 212/204-7100.
Pucci The Italian label known for its signature retro patterns. What we bought: silk bandanna ($100). 701 Fifth Ave., 212/230-1135.
Sometimes you need extra amusement
If your trip to the amusement park just isn't special enough, there are ways to liven it up.
Los Angeles Buy used clothing fresh off a Hollywood set at Universal Studios' Wardrobe Dept. store. You might find a Seven for All Mankind jean skirt from Will & Grace ($25) or a Prada T-shirt from Passions ($50). Nothing is more than $150. 800/864-8377, universalstudioshollywood.com.
Orlando Ten guests a day are able to rent Segways for a two-hour tour of Epcot Center's World Showcase Lagoon--better yet, it happens before the area opens to the public at 11 a.m. ($80 per person). 407/939-8687, disneyworld.com.
Sure, the Rockies are cold in winter, and the gondola ride to the summit made me feel like a city slicker way out of my league. But the experience of learning to ski with my family proved much warmer than I ever could have imagined.