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The North Shore is full of luxe spots to dine, shop, sleep, and play, but there’s also plenty to do that won’t cost you or your pals a single penny this spring and summer. Check out our list of ways to spend your time without spending money. 


Visit The Trustees of Reservations:

The Trustees of Reservations manages and preserves more than 116 properties throughout Massachusetts, including North Shore gems like The Crane Estate in Ipswich and Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover. During its annual Home Sweet Home Open House event on Sunday, May 31, from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., The Trustees will offer free admission to The Crane Estate and Stevens-Coolidge Place, along with nine other sites across the state. 

“The free events tend to be a great opportunity to get new folks to our properties to explore, learn about our origin, and get them outside,” says Kristen Swanberg, The Trustees director of public programming and education. Of course, there are also Trustees properties on the North Shore that are always free to explore, like Ravenswood Park in Gloucester, Appleton Farms, Grass Rides in Hamilton, Ward Reservation in Andover and North Andover, and many others. Folks can also download free apps from The Trustees that feature trail maps and site information and participate in their annual Hike 125 contest that challenges people to hike 125 miles on Trustees properties (


Sample some spirits:

Get a behind-the scenes look at the fermenting, distilling, barreling, and process at Ryan & Wood Distilleries in Gloucester before sampling some of their small craft products, like rum, gin, whisky, and vodka in the tasting room. The hour-long tours are interactive and fun, says Bob Ryan, who owns the business with his wife and son. “There’s a big mom and pop feel,” he says. “We encourage people to question and learn.” Call ahead to make arrangements: 978-281-2282. 

If craft beer or wine is more your thing, check out Newburyport Brewing Company which offers free tours on Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. (tell the bartender you’re there for a tour) and Mill River Winery in Rowley, where you can get a free tour on weekend afternoons during the winery’s summer hours (call ahead: 978-432-1280).


History, hiking, and chocolate chip cookies:

Willowdale Estate at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield is one of the area’s most beautiful events venues, and several times per year, it opens its doors for free historic tours events. The tours take visitors throughout the estate’s fieldstone mansion and butterfly garden courtyard, stopping to admire the hand-carved fireplaces, wood etchings, stained glass windows, and ornate balconies. It also covers the history of the house, architecture and culture of the post-industrial period. “It all ends with our famous chocolate chip cookies,” plus other snacks and drinks, says Sarah Boucher, Willowdale’s senior sales and marketing manager, who conducts the tours. Save extra time to also explore Bradley Palmer State Park’s beautiful hiking trails along the Ipswich River. Pre-register for a tour at


Photo Courtesy of Willowdale Estate


Visit an art museum:

The Addison Gallery of American Art, a premier art museum on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, is free for visitors and open to the public year-round. Its collection features pieces by John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jackson Pollock; a renowned collection of ship models; and nearly 7,600 photographs. Current and upcoming exhibitions include “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance: Civil Rights Era Photographs from the Collection” (on view through July 30) and “Frank Stella Prints: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” (April 22-July 30).


Discover our maritime heritage:

Salem’s witches get most of the attention, but equally impressive is the city’s rich and important seafaring past, which is preserved and showcased at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Free guided tours of the Custom House and the Narbonne House are offered several days a week throughout the year (call 978-740-1650 to reserve a spot). Also mark your calendar for the 29th Annual Salem Maritime Festival, August 4-6.