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Summer’s Here and Newburyport is Ready to Play!
Photo by Tava Hoag
Created by Tava Hoag
Memorial Day Weekend, the gateway to summer bliss. Vacation is upon many of us in the United States. The days are longer. The weather has calmed after a harsh winter. On Massachusetts’ northern shore, the ocean waves lap playfully, daring visitors to come and play. So what better place to spend the holiday weekend than Newburyport, MA, a quaint seaside town that is brimming with summer spirit.
Newburyport is located on the south bank of the Merrimac River, before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. This port city is part of Massachusetts’ north shore and Essex County, 35 miles northeast of Boston, near the popular beach vacation spots of Salisbury, Hampton and Plum Island. In the summertime the town is teeming with vacationers busy shopping and sightseeing. However, don’t let the crowds stop you from experiencing the local charm and rustic beauty of this old fishing port.
Newburyport was originally settled in the 1630s by European immigrants who founded the city as Newbury. Maritime trade fueled the city’s economy and it continued to be a success in the following decades. The churches and cemeteries bring visitors back in time, when Newburyport was just getting started. The Tannery district, close to downtown, is an extension of this history as it has remodeled and showcased old steam mills and tanneries. Victorian houses, federal mansions and colonial style homes are still cherished and cared for by the inhabitants of Newburyport. Some historic sites that are a must see are the Cushing House Museum and Garden, the Custom House Maritime Museum, Lowell’s Boat Shop and the Old South Church.
This Memorial Day the townspeople did more than a typical parade to celebrate their country. In the market square, booth after booth displayed local artistic talent found in every nook and cranny of Newburyport. From hand-crafted jewelry made from recycled materials, to kettle corn popped in an old fashioned tub using a crank to conserve energy, this town didn’t disappoint. Live music could be heard as shoppers meandered through the many tents and cobble-stoned streets and even the kids had something to do with an arts and crafts section. As it turned out, this event was actually a 30 year-old tradition of the town, one that they were very proud of and enjoyed adding to each year. What made the celebration even better was that a percentage of the proceeds were donated to local charities supporting American soldiers.
The fun didn’t end at the market square. Across the street in the maritime park was docked a tall ship hailing all the way from Spain. The name of the ship was El Galeon from Andalusia and would be docked in Newburyport for a week. The vessel was a replica of typical 16th century ships of sail. Now, El Galeon actually functions as a moving museum and hosts about 30 Spanish crew members. Stepping aboard felt like walking through time and it gave visitors and locals of the town a new appreciation for its own maritime history.
Photo by Tava Hoag
Newburyport offers cheerful activities year-round to bring in visitors. On a regular day shoppers and tourists can walk the shop-lined streets and stare into the elegant window displays of local businesses. They can dine at the finest restaurants with fresh seafood pulled right from the docks that morning. Or they can simply explore the narrow alleyways and back roads that have existed for hundreds of years. The residential part of town is a mix of old, grand Victorian houses and modern upcoming apartments. People can actually get lost among the buildings and forget that they are beside the ocean until they smell the salty brine in the air and hear the soft crashing of waves in the distance.
Although the local shops may be a little pricey, these one-of-a-kind purchases are worth every cent. They are unique to this area and are things you definitely can’t get at any shopping mall. Stock up on handmade soaps and bath oils from Soak; buy unique jewelry, photographs, paintings, mirrors and other trinkets from Sisters We Three; and indulge the child in you with toys and games galore at the Dragon’s Nest. A crowd favorite is Meyra, which transports visitors to a magical colorful world of unique Turkish lamps. Visitors can marvel at the breathtaking creative designs of these crystal lamps and contemplate buying them, (these lamps are gifts that no one would forget). You can even get a taste of Great Britain in Newburyport at the Best of British store, which sells merchandise strictly from the UK. There are teas, candies, clothing, fragrances, jewelry and more.
If you’re thinking of visiting, but don’t want to leave your pooch behind, don’t worry, Newburyport is also dog friendly. Dogs can go wherever their owners go, they can play in the park and they can even buy clothes and treats at local stores designed exclusively for dogs. You may see more dogs than people during the summer months, but the happiness and playful manner that accompanies them seems unique to this area.
Newburyport may be small, but it has so much to offer to the curious traveler. It’s a town that seems to have a focus on community. Instead of over commercializing Memorial Day, the townspeople have created a day to remind people of the importance of relationships, new and old. They have reminded us to connect with those around us, to enjoy a day spent meeting new people and appreciating our freedom.
Next time you are in need of a trip to the beach, take a drive and get lost in this hamlet by the sea. Who knows, you may even make it your new home.
For more information about the goings on in Newburyport, check out their website.