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It might be the depths of winter now, but we certainly don’t suggest hibernating. Take advantage of the off-season on the beautiful North Shore and visit some of the region’s top-notch cultural institutions, venues, and restaurants. Below, you’ll find information about artisan markets, shows and exhibits, and a couple of seasonally appropriate celebrations of chocolate. Read on for a few ideas to get you started this January and February.

Market Daze at Barewolf Brewing

Sundays, Jan. 7–April 28 

Every Sunday now through April, head to Barewolf Brewing in Amesbury for Market Daze, featuring artisan vendors, musicians, chefs, and creators of all kinds. The indoor winter market runs from noon to 4 p.m. weekly. The family- and friends-operated brewery features a rotating selection of small-batch brews from its spot in an old Amesbury mill building. Grab a drink and a pub snack after shopping!

Old Newbury Christmas Tree Bonfire | Photograph by Sara Willman

Old Newbury Christmas Tree Bonfire 

Jan. 13 

The Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury once again hosts the Old Newbury Christmas Tree Bonfire, this year on Saturday, January 13, from 3 to 8 p.m. The annual event features local food and drink vendors, and the bonfire begins at dusk. Parking is $20, cash only, at 5 Little’s Lane and 71 High Road, and proceeds from the event go to the Newbury Fire Department and Historic New England. OldNewburyChristmasTreeBonfire

PEM’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

Jan. 15 

On Monday, January 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem once again celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While you’re there, check out exhibits like “Let None Be Excluded: The Origins of Equal School Rights in Salem” and “Bethany Collins, America: A Hymnal.”

Gloucester’s So Salty

Jan. 20–21 

Gloucester hosts its third Gloucester’s So Salty festival this year, the town’s answer to Salem’s annual Salem So Sweet. On January 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors to downtown Gloucester can expect ice sculptures, live music, salty treats, and free children’s art activities. The Cape Ann Museum and Discover Gloucester host the free event, in partnership with other local businesses and cultural institutions.

Photograph by Paul Kravitz | Courtesy of Salem Comedy Festival

Salem Comedy Festival 

Jan. 25–27 

The Salem Comedy & Spirits festival returns to Witch City on the last weekend in January. Founded in 2016 by comedian Mark Scalia, the non-competitive festival is all about networking and having fun, drawing comedians from across the country. The fest features three nights of stand-up comedy performances at local Salem breweries this January 25 through 27.

Chocolate Expo | Photograph by Chuck Fishman

Chocolate Expo Wilmington 

Jan. 27–28 

The Chocolate Expo returns to the Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington this January, this time for a whole weekend of family-friendly fun. This year’s event, which runs on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., will host a reunion of four stars from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The expo also features samples from dozens of vendors including artisan chocolatiers, candy shops, bakeries, and wineries, along with the chance to chat with the makers. Timed tickets are currently on sale for $20 for adults and $10 for children.

Salem’s So Sweet

Feb. 9–11

The 22nd annual Salem’s So Sweet chocolate and ice sculpture festival returns to Salem this February 9 through 11. The weekend-long celebration kicks off on Friday with a welcome party, late-night shopping, and the installation of ice sculptures around town that’ll be illuminated each night of the festival. On Saturday and Sunday, keep an eye out for the Chocolate Hearts Challenge—scan the QR codes at businesses around town for the chance to win prizes, all while you’re stocking up on chocolate for Valentine’s Day!

Salem Flea

Feb. 10 

The Salem Flea hosts one indoor winter market this season on Saturday, Feb. 10. The market will feature dozens of local purveyors of vintage and handmade goods at Ames Hall on downtown Salem’s Sewall Street. Salem Flea does an annual summer market series, too, running on every third Saturday from May through September.

PEM “Our Time on Earth” Exhibit

Feb. 17–June 9 

Opening Feb. 17, “Our Time on Earth” at PEM is a celebration of the Earth’s biodiversity and of a potential shared future where both humans and the earth thrive together. The traveling exhibition from the Barbican Centre in London features interactive installations by artists, designers, and scientists that help viewers see the world through different lenses, peering at magnified plankton or the microscopic organisms inside a tree. Part of PEM’s Climate + Environment Initiative, the exhibit runs through June 9.