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There are certain places on the North Shore that seem to get all the attention, from the popular restaurants in downtown Salem to the region’s beautiful beaches. Don’t get us wrong; we love those spots, too. But there are other places that seem to fly under the radar, frequented only by those who are in on the secret. Consider this story your keys to that club. Whether you’re in search of deli- cious dining, ways to while away a weekend, or a chance to lend a hand, you can add some variety to your routine by checking out some of the area’s most sparkling hidden gems. By Alexandra Pecci

Sparky’s Wings and Things


Sparky’s Wings and Things When it comes to chicken wing supremacy, Haverhill is giving Buffalo, New York a run for its money, thanks to Sparky’s Wings and Things, a tiny wing joint tucked away on a downtown side street. There are wings for every taste, from the sweet-and-spicy Flight of the Bumblebee honey wings to the Wicked PB&J wings. Inside, the decor is spartan, but one taste will let you know why the Phantom Gourmet declared, “You’ve gotta eat here.” 20 Emerson St., Haverhill, 978-521-1009,

D’Amici’s Bakery Pastries, cookies, and fresh bread await hungry patrons at D’Amici’s Bakery, which has locations in Lynn, Wakefield, and Melrose. Founded in Lynn in 1993, the bakery also carries soups, sandwiches, and dinners to go. In the words of James Marsh, community development director for the city of Lynn, D’Amici’s is “incredible.” 500 Eastern Ave., Lynn, 781-596-1559,

Phat Cats Bistro Situated just outside downtown, Amesbury’s Phat Cats Bistro is a cozy neighborhood spot that emphasizes from-scratch food made with local ingredients, whether it’s Ipswich Ale or Valley View Farm goat cheese. In addition to the great grub, Phat Cats also hosts a monthly beer club, where diners can sip local suds, meet the brewers, and nosh on items from the $5 menu. 65a Market St., Amesbury, 978-388-2777,

Artemisia Botanicals


Downtown Haverhill Haverhill is becoming known for its restaurant scene, but its downtown galleries and boutiques are worthy of attention, too. Park the car and walk to check out shops like Positive Images and Haverhill Music Centre; Wicked Big Cafe, a coffee shop that features works from different local artists; and art galleries like Sage Art Gallery on Washington Street and Angles & Art on Wingate Street. Then stop by the Tap Brewpub to try some Haverhill-brewed beers like HaverAle and Whittier White.Wingate St., Essex St., Washington St.

Transformations Painted Furniture At Transformations Painted Furniture, owner Lynn Kennedy gives old or dated wooden furniture a gorgeous makeover that’s so restorative you might think her tool of choice is a magic wand, not a paintbrush. Transformations Painted Furniture only has a Facebook page and a shop on Etsy, but even without a storefront, the business has gained a loyal following. “It started off kind of small and it just kind of grew and grew,” says Kennedy, who sees customers by appointment at her workshop.  21 Boutwell Road, Andover, 978-886-0426,

Artemisia Botanicals

There are lots of shops catering to the magical community in Salem, but

Artemisia Botanicals

is unique among them. “We are a little different,” says owner Teri Kalgren. That’s because they specialize in herbs, carrying hundreds of natural and organic herbs and pre-mixed teas for everything you’d need for cooking, home remedies, teas, tinctures, and, of course, spell work. Whatever you can’t find in the shop can be ordered online, from allspice to yucca root powder. Check out their brand-new space on Hawthorne Boulevard. 3 Hawthorne Blvd., Salem, 978-745-0065,

Salsa Dancing, Rockafellas


Salsa Dancing at Rockafellas Even frequent patrons are sometime surprised to discover that every Wednesday night is salsa night at Rockafellas Restaurant in Salem. From 8:00 pm to 11:30, instructor Greg Coles spends an hour on salsa lessons before opening up the dance floor. Bartender Lindsay Meyer says couples, singles, and people of all ages come to the weekly Latin dance party. 231 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-2411,

Photo Safaris For a look at the North Shore through the lens, join Essex Heritage during their spring and summer photo safaris. Each of the monthly events, held May through August, explores a different spot in the Essex Heritage Area; among them this year is Lawrence and the House of the Seven Gables, says Emily Levin, project manager of Essex Heritage. The series is sponsored by Hunt’s Photo and Video and a different camera company during each event. “You get to try out all this camera gear at really cool places,” Levin says. Essex Heritage, 221 Essex St., Suite 41, Salem, 978-740-0444,

Foraging Beach plums and rosehips are just some of the wild edibles growing on the North Shore, and a foraging walk for wild edible foods with environmentalist and author Russ Cohen will help foodies take adventurous eating to a new level. “I’m giving people a glimpse of what my life is like as someone who likes to nibble on the landscape,” says Cohen, who leads foraging walks throughout the state; upcoming Essex County walks will include locations in Lawrence, Haverhill, and Beverly. Check for other dates online. Foraging with Russ Cohen,

High Rock Tower and Observatory


Essex Art Center Housed in a newly renovated space in one of Lawrence’s historic mill buildings, Essex Art Center offers an extensive array of classes for adults and children, ranging from painting and drawing to sculpture and stained glass. In addition, the Art Center hosts several gallery openings throughout the year. The show Strike! will run from June 15 through August 15 and remembers the 1912 Bread and Roses strike. According to Leslie Costello, executive director and co-founder, the art openings are a great night out, with wine and cheese served at the gallery. 56 Island St. # 1, Lawrence, 978-685-2343,

Buttonwoods Museum From Native American artifacts to remnants of a shoemaking past, the more than 10,000 artifacts at Haverhill Historical Society’s Buttonwoods Museum chronicle Haverhill’s long history. The museum, perched on a hill overlooking the Merrimack River, also hosts events throughout the year, such as the Greater Haverhill Art Association Art Show and the Festival of Trees. It’s also a designated Essex National Heritage Area Visitor Center, so visitors can brush up on the rest of their Essex County knowledge, too. 240 Water St., Haverhill, 978-374-4626,

High Rock Tower and Observatory

The city of Lynn might not be synonymous with stargazing, but the view from the top of

High Rock Tower and Observatory

might change a few minds. The city-managed tower houses a 12-inch Meade telescope that’s used during free public observation nights. “I put on a tour and let everyone use the telescope to see the moon and its features, and the plants that are out; usually Saturn and her rings or Jupiter and her moons, and nebula and star clusters,” says James Marsh, Lynn’s community development director and volunteer tour guide. “People are very surprised that we have such a wonderful resource available for free.” High Rock St., Lynn, 781-586-6770,

Art Classes at Montserrat College of Art


Italian cooking lessons Head to Salem to learn the ropes of authentic Italian cooking with Licia Bester, a.k.a. Mama Licia. “I introduce clients to what is authentic Italian food rather than an American interpretation of the cuisine,” says Bester, who hails from Milan. Providing private lessons and classes throughout the city of Salem, Bester teaches students about the flavors of Italy, from seasonings to handmade pasta and ricotta to fresh tomato sauce. Best of all? Students do as much eating as they do cooking. Mama Licia, Salem, 978-219-9211,

Community Gardens If you’ve got a green thumb, but not a lot of green space, don’t despair. Many cities and towns on the North Shore have their own community gardens that residents can use to grow their own veggies, herbs, and flowers. “We haven’t put a limit on what people grow,” says Lisa Spence, a member of the board of directors of Salem Community Gardens. Other community gardens exist in Haverhill, Lawrence, Beverly, and Danvers. Find one-or start one-in your own town.

Art classes at Montserrat College of Art Drawing from film, silkscreen, and digital photography are among the many classes and workshops offered for adults are Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. Classes are offered on evenings and weekends. For inspiration, also check out the art galleries and artist talks available to the public on campus. 23 Essex St., Beverly, 978-921-4242,

Horizons for Homeless Children


Horizons for Homeless Children

Homeless shelters can be bleak places to live, especially for kids. That’s why

Horizons for Homeless Children

has spent the past 20 years building playspaces just for kids in family homeless shelters throughout Massachusetts, including about 24 shelters in the Northeast Region, which includes the North Shore. The playspaces are staffed with PALs-playspace activity leaders-who volunteer to play with the kids who live in the shelters. “It’s given me an additional way to make a difference and be a positive role model,” says Kurt Mittelstaedt, a PAL from North Andover who volunteers in Lawrence. 60 Island St., Lawrence, 978-557-2182,

Merrimack River Watershed Council The Merrimack River Watershed Council protects one of the North Shore’s most defining rivers. Water resources manager Tracie Sales says that indoor  and outdoor volunteer opportunities are available, and because water quality testing happens on the open water, there’s a special call for people who’d be willing to take volunteers out on their boats. “We can always use more volunteers who actually own boats,” says Sales. 60 Island St. # 2, Lawrence, 978-655-4742,

The Witch House Not many people get a chance to work in a more than 300-year-old house that has connections to the famous Salem Witch Trials, but that’s exactly what’s in store for people who choose to volunteer at the Witch House in Salem. The Witch House’s director, Elizabeth Peterson, says that volunteer opportunities can range from greeting patrons and answering questions about the home’s history to dressing up in full-on Colonial garb to provide historical interpretations. 310 Essex St., Salem, 978-744-8815,