The holiday season looks a whole lot different this year than it usually does—but it’s here all the same, and in full swing. Make the most of the season with this roundup of North Shore holiday activities, most of which are outdoors, and all of which require a mask.
Many of the area’s holiday traditions have been creatively reimagined to allow us to still have holiday fun, but more safely this year, like Rockport’s Christmas Pageant and Salisbury’s Sea Festival of Trees. And a few creative businesses have introduced new traditions this year, like Tuscan Market’s outdoor skating rink. Click on the event names for more details about each happening.
Now through January 1, various businesses and landmarks throughout Cape Ann are illuminated with outdoor light displays in the spirit of the season. Hop in the car, take a look at the Winter Lights map, and visit each of these enchanting displays.
Rockport Christmas Pageant Display
Each year, the Rockport Art Association puts on their annual Christmas pageant, during which hundreds of people fill the streets of downtown to watch the progression of the live nativity pageant. This year, the pageant costumes will be set up in three different scenes in Willoughby’s window displays, with QR codes that viewers can scan for the history of the Rockport Christmas Pageant, in celebration of its 75th anniversary this year.
Salem, New Hampshire
Tuscan Market has opened an outdoor winter village in Salem, including a skating rink, a tree trimming market, and dining in heated igloos.
Usually, the Sea Festival of Trees is an indoor Christmas tree display at Salisbury’s Blue Ocean Event Center. This year, they’ve pivoted their celebration slightly, setting up the trees in storefront displays in both the Salisbury Beach and downtown Newburyport areas. Head to seafestivaloftrees.com to help navigate this year’s display, and enter to win a beautifully decorated tree or a cash prize.
As part of its initiative to make downtown a holiday destination to support the many small businesses in the area, Salem is hosting an informal hot chocolate crawl through the holidays. Find out where you can get every type of hot chocolate in Salem, and warm up after shopping and enjoying the city’s new “Winterlude” decorations.
Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich puts on a dazzling holiday light show this year, in celebration of the winter solstice, or the longest night. The shows take place each evening, and tickets must be bought in advance. Warm up around a campfire, sip on a hot chocolate, and enjoy the 40-minute, multi-sensory experience including music, narration, and lights.
Artists and creative businesses around Rockport have decorated wooden trees throughout Rockport’s Cultural District. Find a map at the visitor’s shed or participating local retailers, and try to spot them all!
The annual tradition has returned to Stone Zoo in Stoneham, lighting up the zoo’s 26 acres with dazzling holiday displays (and plenty of Instagram photo ops). Stroll along tree lined paths, visit your favorite animals, and see some larger-than-life holiday displays throughout the zoo.
Visit the Newburyport Art Association’s gallery at 65 Water Street to see their holiday exhibit, Celebrate Art!, featuring various artworks and crafts for sale by local artists—perfect for holiday gifting. Or if you’d like to stay outdoors, visit the Custom House Maritime Museum at 25 Water Street to see a new outdoor sculpture installation put on by NAA.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do this holiday season is support local businesses, which need our help now more than ever before. Find some tips here for shopping local in Salem or Newburyport. But whatever North Shore community you live in, check out your local store’s offerings before buying from big box stores this year, and let’s help get the community through this pandemic.