Miles of rocky coast and sandy beaches make up this beautiful part of Massachusetts. Nature enthusiasts can visit the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, or the Salisbury Beach State Reservation. Of course, visitors can't miss Salem! Salem boasts an array of museums, including the Witch Museum where guests can learn about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 that made the city famous.
Further up the coast, whale watching trips leave from Gloucester and Newburyport, both beautiful towns with small, intimate beaches. While in Gloucester, be sure to stop by the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, an interactive spot that traces the fishing history of the town. Just west of here lies the Merrimack Valley. Every Patriots' Day, a band of Patriots and Redcoats gather to reenact the famous battle of Lexington and the 'shot heard 'round the world.'
The Merrimack Valley is also home to the Industrial Revolution, and guests can visit the Lowell National Historical Park, an historical site that chronicles Lowell's transformation from farm to factory. You can also find the New England Quilt Museum and Revolving Museum, both in Lowell. Try to plan your trip around the Lowell Folk Festival in July, a three day celebration of the city's multicultural heritage.
Gloucester, settled in 1623, is America's oldest seaport. Situated at the center of Cape Ann, Gloucester has a working waterfront, bustling with fishermen and lobster boats, and remains one of the busiest fishing ports on the Eastern seaboard. The world-famous "The Man at the Wheel" statue was commissioned in 1923 in memory of thousands of fishermen lost at sea. The harbor is alive and bustling with sightseeing cruises, and deep-sea fishing. Some of the world's best whale watching is just off her coast. In October 1991, a rare combination of meteorological factors created a so-called "storm of the century" in the North Atlantic. The crew of the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat out of Gloucester, attempted to sail home through the tempest. Their ordeal is featured in the George Clooney movie The Perfect Storm.
Gloucester's scenic beauty has inspired artists since the early 19th century, as it does today. Perhaps the first painter of note was native-born Fitz Henry Lane, whose home still exists on the waterfront, and whose works hang at the Cape Ann Museum, as well as at museums in Boston and New York. Others attracted here include William Morris Hunt, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, John Sloan, Maurice Prendergast, Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis and Marsden Hartley. Smith Cove is home to the Rocky Neck Art Colony, the oldest art colony in the country, still dotted with art studios that you can explore today.
The town greens and monuments of Lexington and Concord attest to the region's critical role in the American Revolution. Every Patriots' Day, the third Monday in April, a band of 'Patriots' and 'Redcoats' gathers on the Lexington Green at dawn to reenact the Battle of Lexington and the 'shot heard 'round the world.' Located between the two towns is Minute Man National Historical Park, which brings that battle to life, letting visitors explore the battlefields and learn about the first skirmsih of the American Revolution. Concord lays claim to some of the greatest names in 19th Century American literature: Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Visit the authors' houses to learn about their life and times. A visitor trolley called the Liberty Ride, run by the Town of Lexington, brings visitors between the two towns and from the 18th to the 19th Century to learn about these two histories. It operates seasonally and begins in downtown Lexington.
Lowell's preserved mill buildings are reminders of the city's prominent role in the American Industrial Revolution. Exhibits and guided tours of the Lowell National Historical Park chronicle the shift from farm to factory, the rise of immigrant labor, and the industrial technology that fueled these changes. Its Boott Cotton Mills Museum features an operating weave room whose 88 power looms generate a defeaning clatter. Just steps away, you'll find a cluster of lively art museums and galleries. Lowell is the blue collar town where the movie The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, was based. It was shot here, too, using a lot of local talent as extras in the movie.
Rockport is a charming town on the tip of Cape Ann. Part of Gloucester until 1842, it is located just to the north. The town's name is a reference to the granite industry that thrived until the World War I era. Once that industry dwindled, the town's art scene boomed. In 1921, the art colony was founded and named the Rockport Art Association, the first art organization of its kind in America.
The iconic image of Rockport is a fishing shack known around the country as 'Motif #1,' so-named because it was always the first subject to be painted by artists who came to town. This non-descript building was saved from possible destruction in the early 1930's by local artists and was used for a while as a studio by painter John Buckley. The shack is one of the most painted structures in America and was recently a symbol on a Massachusetts U.S. postal stamp. Hollywood movies filmed in Rockport include Stuck on You and The Love Letter.
Tourists know Salem as a mix of important historical sites, New Age and Wiccan boutiques, and Halloween-themed attractions. However, Salem's real importance in American history lies at its status as an often used port for East Indies trade. The city played a leading role in the American China trade. Salem is home to a large collection of Federal Style mansions. Many of these were the work of architect and woodcarver Samuel McIntire, for whom the city's largest Historic District is named. Salem is also a college town, home to Salem State University. Its nightlife is pretty strong, especially in the summer and fall. A visit to Salem in September or October - as Halloween approaches - can be an experience to remember.
Driving Time from Boston: 30 minutes