The North of Boston region consists of two different faces, the shore and the inland region of Colonial history and American industry.
The North Shore and Cape Ann are home to a string of seaside towns like Marblehead, Salem, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Gloucester, and Essex. Further north, Newburyport is a lively town and the gateway to the gorgeous barrier beaches of Plum Island. Visitors love the art galleries in Gloucester, Rockport, and Newburyport; whale watching trips out of Gloucester; and great shopping and dining.
Inland Merrimack Valley – including the culturally rich Lowell -- is the place to explore the America Revolution in places where the Minute Men marched and fought at Concord, Lincoln, and Lexington. Visitors come to see where the American Industrial Revolution and the American textile industry were born in the historic textile mills of Lowell. Outdoor recreation is accessible throughout the region; an example is the top-notch Minuteman Bikeway, traversing four Merrimack region communities. Local theaters and art museums, the Lowell Folk Festival and lots of other music and ethnic fests keep these interesting towns hopping all year.
Along the shore, visit Rockport for shopping and seaside vistas, including the famous red fish shack known as Motif #1 in innumerable pictures. Marblehead has probably the most majestic and beautiful harbor on the Eastern seaboard. People take home lifelong memories of the thrills of spotting a whale during whale watch trips out of Gloucester or Newburyport. Castle Hill, overlooking the vast marshes and shoreline of Crane Beach in Ipswich, is a delightful expedition.
In Merrimack Valley, the Minute Man National Historical Park is a must-see, especially during the mid-April Patriots’ Day re-enactments of the opening of the Revolutionary War. Be sure to tour the Lowell National Historical Park to learn how the water-powered textile mills of Lowell kicked off American Industrial Revolution. The park contains a historic cotton mill and exhibit about the mill girls and immigrants who provided the muscle power. From Memorial Day to Labor Day you can tour the 5.6 miles of canals throughout Lowell on a Canal Boat Ride.
Excellent museums in almost all towns tell stories of art, history, and human works. Salem has the Peabody Essex Museum of art and, nearby, the Salem Witch Museum, which describes the witch trials of the 1600s. Families with kids will love a getaway at any time of the year at CoCo Key Water Park in Danvers. Also in Salem is the House of the Seven Gables, immortalized by author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Families with kids will love a getaway at any time of the year at CoCo Key Water Park in Danvers.
In the Merrimack region, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln is a sweeping, park-like property dotted with sculpture. People come from around the world to visit Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond in Concord. Stroll the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – a beautiful park – to commune with the spirits of transcendentalist writers Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts. The Concord Museum also is a fun visit.
The inns and hotels of the North Shore, Cape Ann, and Merrimack Valley offer luxury and comfort unrivaled anywhere. Some are on the shore, with beautiful ocean vistas. The town of Newburyport, located at the mouth of Merrimack River as it enters the Atlantic, has elegant and historic bed-and-breakfasts within the brick-faced center of town. In fact, historic B&Bs are a tucked throughout the region. Hawthorne Hotel in the heart of Salem is a historic place and the epicenter of many Salem Haunted Happenings events. This beautiful region is ideal for romantic getaways, for instance at gorgeous lodgings like the Inns of Rockport.
Like much of New England, the North Shore, Cape Ann, and Merrimack region is seafood country. Seafood -- think lobster in particular -- can be eaten in the rough or in white-tablecloth surroundings. One of the top places for fine waterfront dining is Pigeon Cove Tavern. Another great dining room -- this at an in-town historic hotel -- is Nathaniel’s Restaurant at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem. Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead offer intimate dining in the historic harbor district. It is one center of action during the town's over-the-top Fourth of July fireworks festival and display.