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I love winter. I still feel like a little kid when I hear, “Did you see outside?” in the morning, indicating snow. The cold weather brings a different flavor of fun. Skiing, having a drink somewhere warm, reading by a fireplace, cooking a cozy meal—all things that are better the lower the mercury drops. Read on for two dozen ways to beat the winter blues north of Boston this season. You’ll find our picks for shows and festivals, local dining initiatives, staycations, and ways to get cozy. Don’t have fun in spite of the cold weather—have fun because of it.

Ice skate at MarketStreet—and beyond

The Rink at MarketStreet Lynnfield is back, operating daily through February 25. Admission is $12, and you can check out some of MarketStreet’s top-notch restaurants and shops while you’re at it. Keep an eye out for other skating opportunities throughout the season, too, like weather-dependent rinks on Topsfield Common, Stoneham Common, and at Amesbury Town Park.

Head to a museum exhibit

Capitalize on the North Shore’s world-class arts scene by visiting an exhibit this winter. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is currently running “Let None Be Excluded: The Origins of Equal School Rights in Salem,” and “Bats!,” plus ongoing shows like “Japanomania! Japanese Art Goes Global.” Gloucester’s Cape Ann Museum is currently showing exhibits like “Above the Fold: The Photographers of the ‘Gloucester Daily Times,’” and “Coming Home: Selections from the Janet & William Ellery James Collection.”

Illustration by Daniele Simonelli

Curl at the Liberty Hotel of Snowport

Try your hand at curling this winter in Boston. Curl for free (with reservations!) at Snowport in the Seaport district, or head to the Liberty Hotel to book one of its synthetic rinks on the weekends for up to six people, complete with snacks and boozy beverages. 

Have drinks by the fire

Warm up with dinner or drinks by these restaurants’ sprawling, crackling fireplaces this season. Some of our editors’ best picks: Teresa’s Prime in North Reading, La Fina in Andover, the Port Tavern in Newburyport, Davio’s at MarketStreet, and the Indo in Beverly.

Shop a winter farmers market

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t get fresh local produce. The area has a handful of winter farmers markets this year, where you can find tons of storage and root vegetables along with other specialty foods. Try checking out the winter market at Groundworks in Lawrence on every second and fourth Saturday, or the market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Maxwell’s of Chelmsford.

Illustration by Daniele Simonelli

Dine in an igloo at Mile Marker One

The Cape Ann Marina’s Mile Marker One restaurant brings back its popular igloo dining this season. Originally a pandemic necessity, it’s back for another winter season by popular demand and means you can stay warm and cozy while still dining “outside” on the water in January!

Attend the Boston Wine & Food Festival

There’s hardly a better reason for a little staycation in town than the 35th annual Boston Wine & Food Festival. The event brings dozens of wine dinners, tastings, and seminars to the Boston Harbor Hotel between January 12 and March 29, and the hotel offers a special room rate of $295 for festivalgoers. 

Check out the Hermitage Inn’s gondola dining

Fancy a little getaway? Vermont’s Hermitage Inn does a gorgeous outdoor dining experience in the winter— inside vintage ski gondolas. The inn partners with New England farms for its Piedmont-inspired dining and aprés ski menus that feature local cheese, meats, and produce. We highly recommend booking a room at the charming inn while you’re at it. 

Hot chocolate at Kakawa Chocolate House, Salem

Sip some hot chocolate

Warm up at cafés around the North Shore with some hot cocoa. Everyone has their personal favorites, but some of our suggestions include Kakawa Chocolate House in Salem, Honeycomb in Hamilton, Ovedia in Amesbury, and Putnam Pantry in Danvers. 

Hear music at Upstairs on Main at the Shalin Liu

Shalin Liu in Rockport’s “Upstairs on Main” hosts laid-back shows perfect for grabbing a drink with friends or adding onto a date night. The intimate, lounge-like venue has both table seating and standing room, and this winter hosts artists like the Rum Runners String Band on Feb. 10 and Jack Favazza on Feb. 24.

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Salem So Sweet

The 22nd Salem So Sweet returns this year on February 9 through 11—and it’s the perfect excuse to visit Witch City without all the Halloween craziness. The festival brings ice sculptures along with shopping and restaurant specials to downtown Salem on the weekend before Valentine’s Day, so make sure to check out the whole scene while you grab some artisanal chocolate. 

Have a Valentine’s Day dinner date

When V-Day itself comes along, celebrate the holiday with a dinner date—with your sweetie, with friends or family, or by yourself. A few of our top romantic spots: La Rosa’s in Andover, Ledger and Turner’s Seafood in Salem, or Tonno and Short & Main in Gloucester. 

The Cabot, Beverly

See a show at The Cabot

The 100-year-old theatre in Beverly is now a hub for shows of all kinds, from music and dance to improv and movies. Some of this season’s highlights: an evening with Mira Sorvino and screening of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion on March 2, and “Symphony by the Sea: A Winter Serenade” on Feb 4. 

Take a night hike at Ward Reservation

Go on a hike to remember at Ward Reservation in Andover. On Feb. 9, the Trustees host their “All Things Glowing” night hike—a lantern-guided hike that starts at 6:30 p.m. and finishes with s’mores by the firepit and a fire-spinning performance by Phoebe Flows. 

Hit the slopes

And if you’re up in the mountains, why not take a day for skiing, too? The Hermitage Inn is close to Mount Snow in Vermont, but some of our other favorites just a couple of hours away from the North Shore include Sunday River in Maine and Attitash, Crotched Mountain, and Loon in New Hampshire. 

Stay overnight at the Beauport Hotel

One of our favorite properties north of Boston, the Beauport Hotel on the Gloucester waterfront, makes for the perfect staycation spot in wintertime. Take advantage of the peace and quiet of Gloucester in the off-season while you dine at Beauport’s 1606 Restaurant. And make sure you snag a room with a fireplace and a private balcony. 

Head to Market Daze at Barewolf Brewing

Every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., now through April, Barewolf Brewing in Amesbury holds “Market Daze,” markets featuring artisan vendors, musicians, chefs, and creators of all kinds. Make sure to grab a pint and a bar snack while you’re at it. 

Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing

You don’t have to travel up north to ski around here! Try your hand at cross-country skiing or snowshoeing—a fantastic way to enjoy outdoor exercise in the winter. Check out the North Shore Nordic Association’s groomed trails at Appleton Farms or Bradley Palmer State Park, or Brooksby Farm in Peabody, which does ski and snowshoe rentals. 

Riverwalk Brewing, Newburyport

Get cozy at a brewery

There’s no better reason than bitterly cold weather to post up at a brewery on a weekend afternoon. And there’s no shortage of breweries on the North Shore offering interesting brews plus other temptations like live music or trivia nights. Some of our faves: Granite Coast Brewing in Peabody, Riverwalk Brewing in Newburyport, and East Regiment Beer Co. and Notch in Salem. 

Take a cooking class

It’s never too late to learn a thing or two to add to your kitchen repertoire. Try taking a class at Tuscan Village in Salem, NH—like a hands-on asparagus risotto class on Jan. 30. Or take Appleton Farms’ class “Indian Cooking Made Easy” on Feb. 3 or March 1. 

Visit the Wilmington Chocolate Expo

On Jan. 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Chocolate Expo returns to the Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington for a weekend of samples from dozens of artisan chocolatiers, candy shops, bakeries, and wineries. Door tickets are limited, so we suggest booking your ticket in advance! 

Laugh at the Salem Comedy Festival

The Salem Comedy & Spirits Festival returns to Witch City for three nights this Jan. 25 through 27. Each night of the non-competitive fest features local and national stand-up comedians performing sets at Salem taprooms.