As you explore the North Shore this summer, don't forget that there are many wonderful things to do in Cape Ann that do not require you to spend any money at all. You can enjoy a money-free day or weekend and still take part in everything that makes Cape Ann and the rest of the North Shore great. It's true what they say -- the best things in life are free!
- Go to the beach. Most Rockport and Gloucester beaches do not have a fee (aside from a parking fee). If you are able to park elsewhere and walk, the sand, surf and cool breeze in your hair is absolutely free.
- Browse the art galleries on Rocky Neck and in the village of Rockport. In Newburyport, take the self-guided ArtWalk gallery tour anytime, or choose one of the four Special Exhibit days that enhance the tour with demonstrations, artist discussions, live music, and more.
- Discover treasures great and small at the numerous antique shops in Essex.
Stroll along Bearskin Neck, browsing the shops, galleries and restaurants and taking in the view of the harbor from the stone jetty. Be sure to stop by Motif No. 1 to take a photo or even paint it, in the "plein air" tradition.
Motif No. 1 in Rockport
- Hike the trails at any or all of the local parks and green spaces. Local favorites include Ravenswood Park, Tompson Street Reservation, Dogtown Common, and Coolidge Reservation.
- Got a bike? Ride along the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway or on one of the many local off-road trails. Gloucester's Back Shore is one fantastic stretch that is easy to take on from Good Harbor Beach.
- Visit Stage Fort Park and have a picnic, play an impromptu ball game, get a history lesson, and swim at the beach all in one location. Several area playgrounds and parks also have ocean views, including Gloucester's Cripple Cove playground, Masconomo Park in Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Lynch Park in Beverly.
- Looking for dog-friendly places in Gloucester? You can let your dogs run wild and free off-leash in the recently completed Dog Park, located inside Stage Fort Park.
- Visit a historic cemetery. The First Parish Burial Ground in Gloucester, the Old First Parish Burying Ground in Rockport, the Old Burying Ground in Essex, and the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich are among some of the older cemeteries north of Boston.
Sit or stand at the Cut Bridge (Blynman Bridge), the drawbridge connecting downtown Gloucester to the mainland, and wave at the boats going through. (A must if you are looking for things to do in Gloucester MA with kids!)
Strolling Stacy Boulevard in Gloucester MA
- Learn about Gloucester’s maritime history and culture by exploring the self-guided HarborWalk downtown. The HarborWalk trail is marked by 42 granite posts, each highlighting an element of Gloucester’s culture, fishing industry, or history.
- The Rockport Cultural District sponsors FREE Walking Tours throughout Rockport's downtown Cultural District, starting in Dock Square at 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday in the summer.
- BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket) and watch free movies in the open air at Gloucester’s HarborWalk Summer Cinema, Newburyport Waterfront Movies, Lynch Park Sunday Night Free Movies in Beverly, and Movies in Masconomo Park in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
- Free weekly outdoor concerts at Gloucester’s Harbor Loop, the Danvers Rotary Pavilion, Lynch Park in Beverly, and Manchester-by-the-Sea's Masconomo Park.
Peoplewatch and partake in hundreds of free activities and events during local festivals such as Gloucester’s St. Peter’s Fiesta (June), Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming (Late July/ Early August), Beverly Homecoming (Late July/ Early August), Festival by the Sea in Manchester-by-the-Sea (late July), the Gloucester Waterfront Festival (August), the Gloucester Schooner Festival, (September) and Trails & Sails, taking place in locations throughout Essex County (September).
The Waterfront Festival takes place in Gloucester every August.
Find a Block Party where you can dance to live music, shop local vendors and munch on tasty treats. See the schedule for Gloucester Block Parties, Beverly Block Parties, Downtown Tuesdays in Ipswich, and Rockport at Night (every Friday in summer).
Rockport at Night 2016 Poster.
- Visit a local library –- an especially great option for a rainy day with kids! Find a book, surf the web, join a toddler story hour, and more at Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library, Rockport Public Library, Manchester by-the-Sea Public Library, T.O.H.P. Burnham Library in Essex, Newburyport Public Library or at the Beverly Public Library.
- Browse a Farmer’s Market. There are so many to choose from, but you can start with Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Beverly, Newburyport and Ipswich.
- Collect sea shells or sea glass from any of the local Cape Ann beaches. Keep them in a jar, use them in an art project, or even make your own jewelry.
- Visit the Fishermen’s Memorial Monument on Stacy Boulevard in Gloucester, as well as the adjacent Fishermen’s Wives Memorial.
- Continuing on down Stacy Boulevard, play bocce or tennis at the scenic waterfront public courts.
Watch the sailboats, fishing boats, and schooners head out of Gloucester Harbor from any of these fantastic vantage points: Stacy Boulevard/Cut Bridge, Stage Fort Park, Niles Beach and Eastern Point Light / Dogbar Breakwater.
Watching the schooners go by in Gloucester MA
- The Highland Street Foundation sponsors Free Fun Fridays, a program that offers free admission to museums and other cultural venues throughout Massachusetts. There are several North Shore institutions on the list, including the Wenham Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Cape Ann Museum. Check the schedule for details.
- If you are over 21 and are a fan of adult beverages, the Cape Ann Brewing Company, Ryan and Wood Distilleries, and 1634 Meadery offer free tours.
- See the stars. Pick your favorite spot on the beach or in the park and look up! Be sure to catch the Perseids Meteor Shower in late July into August.
There are so many things to do and see in Cape Ann, they can't all fit on one page! Find out more by reading our Cape Ann Guide.
- Things to do in Gloucester MA
- Things to do in Rockport MA
- Things to do in Essex MA
- Things to do in Manchester-by-the-Sea MA
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