It was one of those gorgeous summer days, the kind that’s too hot to sit still in the sun, but with the breeze coming off the Merrimack River that runs right by downtown Newburyport, taking a stroll along the water was beautiful. A college friend of mine who grew up in the town was showing me all the ins and outs of the place for the day.
“I’m always confused for a second when I show people around here and they keep stopping to take pictures,” she says as I pulled out my Canon AE-1 for the third time in five minutes. “I forget that most people don’t grow up in a place that looks like this.”
Yankee Homecoming is an annual tradition in Newburyport where for one week every summer the streets are lined with vendors, live music plays from Market Square, and the week is packed with events and fundraisers, and I happened to visit when it was in full swing. After a lunch of scratch-made crab cakes from Newburyport Crab Cake Company’s tent (the most filling crab cakes I’ve ever had), we sat on a bench in Market Square and listened to the live acoustic music from the talented musician on stage before heading up and down the streets lined with cool boutiques and restaurants.
She pointed out to me all the new shops and eateries that have been popping up lately. Stepping into the boutique Piper and Chloe on Water Street felt like stepping into a real life Pinterest page. We browsed the gorgeous accessories, books, and home décor, then went down the block to another shop. Vaalbara, a boutique that sells handmade leather goods among other environmentally conscious clothes and accessories, oozed west cost vibes.
After coffee at Soufflé (ever heard of a Bee’s Knees latte?) we explored the countless Yankee Homecoming vendors set up at white tents lining the main streets. We could’ve shopped the handmade jewelry, independently owned clothing lines, and phenomenal homemade food for hours. My friend showed me to her favorite shops that have been around for years: Best of British sold exclusively British products, most of which you can’t find anywhere else in the States, and Tina’s European Fashions sold authentic Greek clothing so beautiful I almost bought a white linen dress for my hypothetical honeymoon in Mykonos right then and there. But the standout shop to me was the Salt Cellar, a store that sold salt and everything related to it. There was salt for eating in flavors like espresso, merlot, and everything in between, salt for exfoliation, and salt as kitchen goods like cutting boards and shot glasses, to name a few.
Starting at six o’clock was a road race fundraiser, so to avoid the crowds we had dinner at Sea Level Oyster Bar, a new restaurant in Market Square serving up fresh New England seafood and signature cocktails in a contemporary, high ceilinged, airy waterfront setting. After dinner we wandered down to the Waterfront Park to listen to one of the nightly free concerts happening every night of Yankee Homecoming. Timmy Brown, an up and coming artist from Norton, played his country set list to the lucky people who get to live in this town sprawled out on the grass as the sun went down.