By Tava Hoag
The holidays in Newburyport are in full swing and this quaint seaside town is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Newburyport is located on the south bank of the Merrimack River before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. This port city is part of Massachusetts’s North Shore and Essex County, 35 miles northeast of Boston. The town is near the popular beach vacation spots of Salisbury and Hampton. In the summertime, the town is teaming with vacationers spending their days shopping and sight-seeing. During the holiday season visitors can experience the local charm and the rustic beauty of this old fishing port.
Newburyport was originally settled in the 1630’s by European immigrants who founded the city as Newbury. Maritime trade fueled the city’s economy which sparked its building activity and success in the following decades. Past and present is easily linked in Newburyport. The churches and cemeteries bring people back to a simpler time and showcase the town’s old roots.
The Tannery district close to downtown is an extension and remodeled version of old steam mills and tanneries of the past. Victorian houses, federal mansions and colonial style homes are still cherished by the inhabitants of Newburyport today. Some historic sites that are a must see on one’s visit are the Cushing House Museum and Garden, the Custom House Maritime Museum, Lowell’s Boat Shop and the Old South Church, to name a few.
Many people believe that Newburyport’s lure and charm end with the changing of the leaves, when in fact the beauty is just beginning. Starting at the end of November and running all the way through December 24, Newburyport offers all sorts of cheerful activities to bring in people from all over. Shoppers and tourists can walk the cobble-stoned streets and stare into the elegant window displays of local shops.
They can dine at the finest restaurants with fresh seafood right from the docks that morning. Or they can simply explore the narrow alleyways and back roads that offer a realistic experience of life in a coastal town. The town is a mix of old, grand Victorian houses and modern upcoming apartments. People can actually forget that they are beside the ocean until they smell the salty brine in the air and hear the soft crashing of waves in the distance.
Everyone is looking for gifts to give their families this time of year and Newburyport offers the perfect way to do just that. Some local shops may be a little pricey but these one of a kind purchases are worth every cent. They are unique to this area and often made by local artists or craftsmen. Stock up on handmade soaps and bath oils from Soak, buy unique jewelry, photographs, paintings, mirrors and other trinkets from Sisters We Three and indulge the child in you with toys and games galore at the Dragon’s Nest.
A crowd favorite store is Meyra, which sells unique Turkish lamps. Visitors can marvel at the breathtaking creative designs of these crystal lamps and contemplate buying them; it’s a gift that truly no one would forget. You can even get a taste of Great Britain in Newburyport at the Best of British store which sells merchandise strictly from the UK. There are teas, candies, clothing, fragrances, jewelry and more.
The first two Fridays in December are called Invitation Nights in which the shops in Market Square stay open late and welcome friends in with refreshments to explore the depths of the stores.
If you are interested in seeing the grandeur of some of the state’s most beautiful historic homes then consider attending the Holiday House tour on Saturday December 13 from 10 am-4pm; tickets are available on the Custom House website and cost between 25 and 30 dollars. The best part about the tour is that the homes will be decorated for the holidays and guests will be allowed to walk through them at a leisurely pace taking the breath-taking beauty in.
The rest of the month features art shows, choral concerts and pub nights that are a treat to all. The atmosphere is truly what sets peoples’ experiences in Newburyport apart from other places. It’s not nearly as crowded as Boston this time of year and there is a simple elegance and old charm to it that is not available in places like Natick or the Wrentham Outlets.
Newburyport has a white light ordinance, meaning that all of the lights in the town are mandated to be white, no colored lights allowed in the windows of shops, restaurants or homes. This makes walking around the square filled with Christmas lights a sight like no other. Carolers can be heard singing by the town’s lit Christmas tree in the center and after a light snowfall you can’t help feeling a little magical about it all. And if you don’t feel like shopping, grab a hot-chocolate from Starbucks on the corner of Market Square and take a stroll down by the water to see the lights of the bridge and the small fishing boats docked there.
After the stress of finals is over, take a trip to Newburyport. It’s a little over an hour from Fitchburg State and if you don’t have a car, you can take the commuter rail to Boston and then from there get on the Newburyport/Rockport line. Although this will take longer, it’s a valid option. Make it a holiday get-away for you and a couple of friends. Spend the day sightseeing and shopping in this unforgettable town by the water.
For more information about the goings on in Newburyport check out their
website here: http://www.newburyportchamber.org/pages/Home/