Instead of hunkering down this winter, take advantage of the quiet off-season here on the North Shore to explore all the offerings we have right in our own backyard. From outdoor ice skating to live music and from art happenings to street festivals, there’s so much to do here even during these frigid months. Check out the list below—you’ll find a little something for everyone.
1. Outdoor Ice Skating
Take advantage of the cold weather all winter long and head to one of the North Shore’s outdoor ice skating rinks. The Rink at MarketStreet in Lynnfield is open on weekday afternoons and evenings and weekends all day until February 28. Admission is $12, and skate rentals are $5. Topsfield introduced its public skating rink to the Topsfield common last winter, free and open to the public daily. Amesbury also brought back its public Town Park skating rink last winter for the first time since before the pandemic.
2. Old Newbury Christmas Tree Bonfire, January 14
Each January, the Newbury Fire Department, Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, and Tendercrop Farm host their annual Christmas tree bonfire. Old Christmas trees light up the night in one giant bonfire, food and drink vendors abound, and parking for the public event is $10 per car. The bonfire is lit around dusk. Find out more information about this year’s event at facebook.com/OldNewburyChristmasTreeBonfire.
3. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem | January 16
Many folks have school and work off on Monday, January 16 in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is honoring his legacy with a day of performances, workshops, and art-making at the museum, centered around the values of equality, freedom, and civic inclusion. <ore details available at the museum website. Other museums in Massachusetts, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, are offering free admission on January 16.
4. Gloucester’s So Salty, Gloucester | January 21-22
Following the footsteps of Salem’s annual winter festival, Salem’s So Sweet, Gloucester puts its own salty spin on the event hosted by the Cape Ann Museum. On January 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the museum partners with other Gloucester organizations like Discover Gloucester, Dogtown Books, and Maritime Gloucester for two days of ice sculptures, salty sweets, kids’ activities, and more in downtown Gloucester. Museum admission will also be free both days. More details available at the museum website.
5. Salem Comedy & Spirits Festival, Salem | January 26-28
This three-day celebration of spirits and comedy returns to Witch City for 2023, featuring both local and national comedian acts and locally distilled spirits. Hosted by comedian Mark Scalia, the weekend kicks off with a free Zoom event on Thursday, January 26, while tickets for Friday and Saturday nights’ shows at Deacon Giles Distillery go for $20 each and include one specialty cocktail each. Learn more and get tickets at salemcomedyfestival.com.
6. The Chocolate Expo, Wilmington | January 29
Dozens of chocolate vendors set up shop at the Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington on the last Sunday in January. For $20 each (or $10 for late entry), visitors can sample artisan chocolate, candy, baked goods, cheeses, drinks, and more at one of the largest consumer-oriented chocolate events in the country. Special guests at the event include actor Paris Themen, who played Mike TeeVee in the classic movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and chef Larry Rosenberg from the Food Network. Tickets and details at thechocolateexpo.com.
7. Amesbury Winterfest, Amesbury | February 2-5
Amesbury’s Winterfest, which, in previous years, has been a December event, brings a weekend of winter fun to downtown Amesbury from February 2 through 5. Past holiday season Winterfests have included ice sculptures, carolers, free movies, horse-drawn carriages, and a hot cocoa bar in Amesbury’s Market Square. Stay updated with this year’s fest happenings at amesburychamber.com.
8. Valentine’s Cooking Classes at Appleton Farms, Ipswich | February 3, 7, 14
Prep for the most romantic day of the year at Appleton Farms’ themed cooking classes this February. On February 3, learn to make sweet treats with a local pastry chef. On February 7, mix up the perfect cocktail with Privateer Rum’s Valentine’s-themed mixology class. And on the 14th, make a multi-course dinner to share with your loved one. Prices range from $65 to $100 for non-members. Register on the Appleton farms website.
9. Salem’s So Sweet, Salem | February 10-12
The Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival returns for its 21st year, featuring chocolate, ice sculptures, and Valentine’s Day shopping downtown Salem. Each February, on the weekend before Valentine’s Day, downtown Salem becomes a haven for sweets, with local businesses and restaurants offering discounts, specials, and samples. For more details about this year’s festival, visit salemmainstreets.org/festivals/salem-so-sweet.
10. Firelight Nights at Castle Hill, Crane Estate, Ipswich, February 10-18
At Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, the Trustees hold Firelight Nights for two weekends this February. The adults-only outdoor event includes live music, firepits, s’mores, and drinks from the 1634 Meadery. Bands perform in a warming tent, and the schedule features classic rock on February 10, New Orleans jazz on February 11, soul and Motown on February 17, and calypso on February 18. Tickets are $40 for members and $50 for non-members.