1. A hike for the birds
There are plenty of places on the North Shore to go for a lovely winter walk. Seriously – we have a ton. But for a uniquely charming experience, we suggest a visit to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. With 12 miles of trails, there’s a lot of room to ramble. And if you bring a pocketful of bird seed, you might even entice a feathered friend to eat from your hand.
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 Perkins Row, Topsfield, 978-887-9264
2. Sweet times at Appleton Farms
If you love pancakes, you’ll love the maple sugaring activities Appleton Farms has planned. Visit the onsite sugaring shack to learn about the process of making syrup and perhaps even glimpse some in progress or sign up for a workshop to try your hand at tapping a tree and boiling sap. The farm is also offering maple strolls, guided hikes that let you explore and learn all at once.
219 County Rd., Ipswich, 978-356-5728, thetrustees.org/place/appleton-farms
3. Bake up some fun
At Taste Buds Kitchen in Beverly and North Andover, expert instructors help kids create unicorn cupcakes, make an entire dinner, or practice the art of rolling sushi. February break features a baking techniques camp where kids from age 4 to teen can learn the art of pie crust, scones, and sticky buns.
4. Blue Man matinees
The Blue Man group has been bringing its particular brand of colorful, raucous performance to stages since the early 1990s. For February break, they are offering matinee shows that let the whole family experience the weird wonder.
Blue Man Group, Charles Playhouse, 74 Warrenton St., Boston, 800-258-3626, blueman.com/boston
5. Explore and discover at the Crane Estate
Choose from four guided adventures that let kids and parents discover the wonders of the Crane Estate and Crane Beach. On Tuesday, learn to identify animal tracks and learn how animals survive the winter. On Wednesday, be a nature detective and scout the beach for evidence of winter life. Explore a 100-year-old shipwreck on Thursday or make seaweed art on Friday.
Crane Estate and Crane Beach, Argilla Rd., Ipswich, thetrustees.org/events
6. Multicultural Festival at the Peabody Essex Museum
For February break, the museum is hosting activities celebrating and exploring the richness of diversity. Kids and adults alike can enjoy drop-in artmaking activities, stories and play with neuroscientist Darcy Moore, Latin and African dance classes, and film screenings, all free and included with museum admission. And there’s plenty of additional wonders to explore in the museum, like multimedia exhibit The Great Animal Orchestra, the colorful, thought-provoking installations in the Each/Other exhibition, and the extremely photo-friendly installation All the Flowers Are For Me.
161 Essex Street, Salem, 978-745-9500, pem.org
7. It’s all downhill
Throw the sleds and snow tubes in the car and head out to enjoy a new sledding hill. Ward Reservation in Andover provides a thrilling ride and Castle Hill in Ipswich lets sledders experience some of the most dramatic hills the North shore has to offer. Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, the President’s lawn at Tufts University in Somerville, and Stavros Reservation are other local favorites. Or, skip the sled-lugging and hill-climbing by driving out to the snow tube park at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Littleton, where tubes and lifts are provided for maximum fun with minimum effort.
8. Go wild at the Wenham Museum
February vacation is Creature Week at the Wenham Museum. The weeklong lineup includes chances to cuddle baby animals, wonder at live owls, pet a chinchilla, design your own pet rocks, and learn about the alligator that used to live in the White House (no, really!).
132 Main Street, Wenham, 978-468-2377, wenhammuseum.org
9. Big game hunting
For retro family fun, head to Salisbury for a visit to Joe’s Playland, an old-fashioned boardwalk arcade featuring contemporary games alongside nostalgic classics like skee ball and claw machines. Homemade caramel corn is always available and the ice cream stand is open even in the winter, so you can enjoy a soft serve twist with jimmies like a true New Englander.
15 Broadway, Salisbury, 978-465-8311, joesplayland.com
10. Skate through the season
If outdoor adventure is your family’s thing, dig out your ice skates and visit MarketStreet in Lynnfield, where you can glide on the outdoor skating rink then warm up around a firepit. If indoor recreation is more you speed, Roller World in Saugus offers old-fashioned roller rink fun.