100 Family-Friendly Things To Do on the North Shore
What makes the North Shore great for tourism?
Here on the North Shore, we share the same worries as the rest of the world, but we are fortunate to be able to divert our worries to more local concerns like pesticides, flood tides, red tide, Nor’easters, “green heads” and green crabs.
We are able to provide tourists and locals alike with an old-time feeling of good, safe fun as a temporary distraction from the rest of the world. The North Shore is blessed with diverse and unique destinations that appeal to everyone.
We have beautiful beaches, fascinating monuments and top-notch restaurants all in our little part of the world. There are so many family-friendly things to do on the North Shore – so many, in fact, that it’s impossible to list them all!
– Maureen Woodman
Roy Moore Lobster Company
A hole-in-the- wall shack on Bearskin Neck offering seawater-boiled lobsters and kettle heated butter, clam chowder, and fish cakes. It’s a place you can’t afford to overlook!
Tuck’s Candy Store
A hole-in-the- wall shack on Bearskin Neck offering seawater-boiled lobsters and kettle heated butter, clam chowder, and fish cakes. It’s a place you can’t afford to overlook!
Kids will love climbing on the coastal rocks of Cape Ann and exploring the tide-pools. Halibut Point also offers great picnic spots and hiking opportunities!
Long Beach Dairy Maid
Serving both traditional and unusual flavors, Long Beach Diary Maid provides a tasty snack or dessert to cool off with during the hot summer months!
Another occupant of Bearskin Neck, this quaint little shop bakes Austrian style strudel the whole family will crave. A wonderful and filling snack for low-key afternoons
Nate’s at Front Beach
Nate’s cooks up burgers, wraps, Paninis, and fried seafood, but also has a rich breakfast menu with omelets, pancakes, and waffles for an early morning indulgence.
Top Dog Rockport
Hot dogs are a delightful summer snack perfect for the beach or exploring the coast. Top Dog’s menu serves up creative variations on the classic dog that you have to see to believe!
A truly gorgeous park that captures the natural beauty of the North Shore, great for a summer walk with the whole family!
The Paper House
Constructed in 1922, the entire house is literally made of paper—including the furniture inside! Your children are sure to be wowed by the amazing creations here!
Good Harbor Beach
A dazzling white-sand beach with tides ideal for boogie boards and body surfing. You can even walk to Salt Island during low tide for a singular coastal adventure!
7 Seas Whale Watch
Whale Watch trips run from mid-April to mid-October and are designed to educate and foster an appreciation of our local marine environment. 7 Seas is a family business, with three generations of captains. Take a ride and you’ll have a good chance of seeing humpback and other whales, as well as dolphins, sharks, marine birds, and seals.
Schooner Thomas E. Lannon
When this beautiful, 65-foot schooner sails out of Gloucester harbor you can imagine a time when the seas were full of ships made of wood and sails. Step aboard the Thomas E. Lannon for a two-hour sail and help the crew raise the sails, or just sit back and relax as you view the Gloucester coastline without the roar of engines in the background. The Lannon offers public sails and private charters for weddings, corporate events, birthdays and more.
A powerful and historic memorial to the thousands of brave fisherman who never returned from sea. A great place for photos!
Stage Fort Park
The site of the first settlers of Gloucester in 1623, Stage Fort Park offers access to beaches, volleyball courts, baseball fields, picnic tables, and even a restaurant. Outdoor concerts and fireworks happen here over the summer months, so now’s the perfect time to visit!
Yankee Fleet has been operating since 1944, offering deep sea fishing on Stellwagen Bank and Jeffrey’s Ledge. But it’s their Whale Watch tours that are a truly memorable experience for the whole family. Nothing beats seeing these amazing and majestic creatures up close and in person.
Hammond Castle Museum
Built in the 1920’s by James Hays Hammond, Jr., the inventor of the remote control, this mansion is a sightseeing must. You can explore the medieval stylings of the house and gardens and see the unique collection of Roman, medieval and Renaissance artifacts collected by the Hammonds. There’s even a secret passage!
If you’re planning a nature hike this summer, Ravenswood Park provides a diversity of scenery sure to stimulate and astonish. Check out the Ledge Hill Trail—a path through fern-covered boulders the kids will love!
Toodeloos / Island Art and Hobby
Sometimes a trip to the toy store is just what the kids need. Toodeloos delivers with a wide range of classic and unique toys and Island Art and Hobby has art supplies for the creatively-minded.
They aren’t kidding when they say Long Beach—it spans all the way to Rockport! It’s a pleasant sandy beach with pretty cottages on one side and a view of distant lighthouses on the other!
Considered one of the nicest beaches in the state, Singing Beach truly is a striking location. Does anywhere else in Massachusetts have water that blue? I doubt it.
Frayed Knot Sailing Charters
Looking for a picturesque harbor tour or a hands-on sailing experience? How about sailing lessons for the whole family? Frayed Knot Sailing Charter can do all these and more. You can even chart a boat for an overnight trip with meals provided!
Surfari Stand Up Paddle and Surf
Paddleboard lessons, rentals, and tours galore for a marvelous summertime activity. They also offer surfing lessons!
Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream
New England consumes more ice cream than anywhere else in U.S. In part that’s because we have such scrumptious ice cream shops like Captain Dusty’s to cool us off!
Beach Street Café is ready to satisfy your breakfast or Sunday brunch cravings in Manchester. They cook up specialty omelets, Belgian waffles, and even PB&J sandwiches during lunch!
A casual summer swim. A volleyball tournament. A T-shirt decorating day. West Beach is a versatile and entertaining place to be!
The product of decades of care and planning, Long Hill features stunning gardens and family-friendly walks through New England woodlands. There’s also a children’s garden!
Nick’s Famous Roast Beef
A hole-in-the-wall place in North Beverly which truly does have some of the best roast beef sandwiches you can find! No frills about it — just plain delicious.
The Salem Witch Museum
Preserving the dark history of the town, The Salem Witch Museum humanizes the victims of the Witch Trials and brings a modern perspective to the past. It’s a crucial locale to visit and an exciting opportunity to learn.
One of the most beautiful art museums in the state, the PEM is a center of enrichment and enlightenment. The carefully curated and moving artwork will inspire and transform!
Salem Maritime Park
Telling the story of the earliest days of the country and our nautical culture, the Salem Maritime Park features a reconstructed tall ship and numerous historic buildings. It captures the spirit of an age lost since past.
Salem Willows Park
Named for the white willows planted here, Salem Willows Park features a vintage carousel and modern arcade, fun restaurants, and a comfortable outdoor place to play all at once. The whole family will love it!
The Witch House
The last remaining structure with ties to the Witchcraft Trials, the Witch House preserves the history and hysteria of 16th century life. Displaying art and artifacts from the time period, it gives weight to the memory of the early colonial period.
House of the Seven Gables
For the literary of all ages! Known as the inspiration to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of the Seven Gables, the house exhibits artifacts and architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries certain to foster curiosity!
Finz Seafood & Grill
With innovative and inspired menus, creatively prepared fresh seasonal seafood, and a raw bar featuring oysters, clams, lobster, crab, and shrimp, as well as land-based meals like filet mignon, Finz has an amazing selection of food and flavors that reflect the season and its waterfront location.
A grassy 8-acre public park—plenty of space for the kids to run around in and a distinctive gazebo for shade. The Commons hosts numerous town events throughout the season.
A seafood restaurant in downtown Salem, serving fresh fish caught that day and classic appetizers. They also feature gluten-free options.
Maria’s Sweet Somethings
Lovingly decorated and serving candy and ice cream from Richardson’s of Middleton, this is the perfect place to conclude a wonderful evening on the town!
Sea Level Oyster Bar
The owner of the popular Finz Seafood & Grill opened the Sea Level Oyster Bar in 2015, boasting the city’s only indoor-outdoor bar, with an amazing view of the waterfront and featuring a custom-made raw bar stocked with local oysters, as well as mussels, lobster, fried clams, burgers, pizza, and a daily popcorn special for the family.
Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie
One of the oldest candy companies in Massachusetts, with a history as rich and vibrant as the candies they sell. Their signature Gibralters follow the same recipe as when the founder first made them in the early 19th century!
An expansive beach long beloved by the locals for its magnificent view and pristine waters. Swimming, hiking, and lounging possibilities abound!
A walk through carefully tended fields. Homemade cheese for sale. The picnic-friendly Stone Paddock. A peaceful place for a peaceful day.
What else could a place named and shaped like a clam box serve but superbly fried clams and seafood? With over 80 years of satisfied customers under their belt, they’re sure to provide you with an unforgettable meal!
A fruit farm and farm stand selling some exceptionally delicious pies, pastries, and ciders! There are also animals for children to interact with and fruit-wine tastings for the adults. Check their calendar of Pick-Your-Own fruits including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and of course apples. And don’t leave without a bag of freshly-made apple-cider doughnuts.
Dedicated to preserving the North American Wolf, Wolf hollow allows visitors to meet real grey wolves and learn more about them. It’s fun for all ages, and the proceeds go to conservation efforts!
The Devil’s Footprint
Right in front of Meetinghouse Green, this attraction is the subject of a local legend about a conflict between a preacher and the Devil. Come and see for yourself! And stop by the nearby Ipswich Visitor Center in the 1820 Hall-Haskell House to learn more about this historic town and what it has to offer.
The Riverview Restaurant
Even in a seafood region, you can get a hankering for a slice. Riverview Restaurant bakes up delectable thin crust pizza that promises to please.
Castle Hill on Crane Estate
Take a stroll through beautifully designed gardens or take a guided tour of the Stuart style Great House that overlooks the trails.
White Farms Ice Cream
Selling frozen confections since 1963, White Farms Ice Cream boasts a staggering range of flavors, including Reverse Chocolate Chip and Key Lime. They also have a miniature golf course. It can’t get much better than that.
Wenham Tea House
Relive a quainter, more civilized time at the Wenham Tea House. The tea house offers breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea, as well as brunch on Sundays, private functions, and their famous Children’s Teas featuring storybook characters.
The Wenham Museum celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2013. Known world-wide for its collection of dolls, including 19th-century porcelain dolls and 20th-century collectible dolls, the museum also boasts a First Period house (the Claflin-Gerrish-Richards House, circa 1690), historic toys, a model train gallery featuring 10 operating layouts, and a collection of more than 10,000 pieces of clothing and textiles from the Victorian era onward. It’s a fantastic peak into the lives of those who came before us, and a must see whether you’re a history buff or not.
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
Offering over 12 miles of trails through forest, meadows, and marshes, the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is the premier location for outdoorsy families. It’s a hiker’s haven!
Bradley Palmer State Park
The Bradley Palmer State Park rests on a 721-acre former estate – Palmer’s mansion currently operates as the Willowdale Estate, and is a popular wedding and events center – and features wooded paths, rolling meadows, and old carriage roads perfect for hiking and biking. A wading pool for kids operates from mid-June until Labor Day.
One of the quintessential Massachusetts getaway spots—an 11 mile barrier island with expansive beaches, restaurants, and a national wildlife refuge. Perfect for swimming, fishing, or beachcombing fun!
Custom House Maritime Museum
Newburyport possesses a deep maritime history as the first major commercial port on the east coast, and this museum allows you to explore it in depth. Displaying models of shipwrecks, the history of the Coast Guard, and the artifacts of Newburyport captains, the museum brings the Age of Wooden Ships to you.
Newburyport Whale Watch
Aside from the Red Sox, there isn’t a more New England activity than a whale watch. Hop aboard and witness majestic marine life up close!
Ninth Wave Sailing Charters
Spend a few hours sailing about the coastline or the wide open sea with an experienced captain by your side. You can even get the chance to learn about sailing with hands-on instruction.
If you would like a more laid-back experience, then Harbor Tours is for you. You can observe the wildlife with a narrated tour and drinks supplied for the journey. It’s a fun way to spend an hour!
Joppa Flats Education Center
Salt marshes and mudflats are yours to explore at Joppa Flats, and with a marine touch tank to boot! Great for birding!
Maudslay State Park
With a variety of different gardens and miles of walking trails to traverse, there are few places more scenic than this. Make sure to keep an eye out for bald eagles!
Newburyport Art Association
Families with a passion for the artistic will love visiting an exhibition by the Newburyport Art Association; they’re open to the public and completely free! Different styles and schools are displayed throughout the season and are sure to ignite creative energies!
Newburyport Kayak and Canoe
Why not explore the salt marshes and coasts on your own with a rented kayak? Or how about taking a canoeing lesson? Or paddling to Casco Bay? Newbury Kayak and Canoe will make your aquatic ambitions a reality!
The Chococoa Baking Company
The Whoopie Pie is a classic New England treat, and the Chococoa Baking Company have taken the idea and run with it. Their delicious invention—The Whoopie—is made with triple chocolate cake and a variety of flavored fillings.
A Newburyport tradition. Between the filling food and live music, it’ll be hard to make yourself leave at the end!
Tis the season to pick succulent summer fruits like strawberries and blueberries at Brooksby Farm! Afterwards you can visit the farm store or meet the barnyard animals and while away the hours.
Treadwell’s Ice Cream
Originally founded after World War II, Treadwell’s is still going strong 70 years later! Offering gigantic sundaes made with their World Famous Ice Cream, it’s impossible to turn down a visit.
Independence Greenway Bike Route
Biking is a wonderful pastime and great exercise that can be shared with the whole family. This route is clean, pretty, and a good length for anyone to enjoy! Following the old route of the Salem and Lowell Railroad, this rail-trail passes by wetlands and ponds that are full of wildlife.
Castle Rock Park
So named for the private, castle-like house standing over it, the park offers a fantastic view of the sea, cared-for walking paths, and plenty of rocks for kids to climb on.
The Lee Mansion and Marblehead Museum
The Lee Mansion was built in 1786 and is carefully preserved to maintain its historical legacy. It’s part of the Marblehead Museum, which documents the history of the town and the colonial navy that began there. Both are fascinating glimpses into our collective past!
A historic candy shop that once served F.D.R., Stowaway continues to make timeless chocolate confections and ice cream that everyone will go crazy for!
Mud Puddle Toys
An award winning toy store located right in downtown Marblehead, Mud Puddle focuses on classic, educational, and arts & crafts rather than electronics. They pride themselves on excellent service and knowledgeability; it’s great as a special treat for the kids!
A tiny Italian restaurant that truly is family owned and operated. Casa Mia features rich authentic Italian cuisine and friendly staff that is always happy to see you.
The Muffin Shop
A community bakery featuring—what else?—muffins of all different flavors. They’re far from a one trick pony; they also offer breakfast sandwiches and lunch options. Great for breakfast, brunch or a midday snack!
Coffey Ice Cream
Located just outside Crosby’s Supermarket, this little parlor serves huge servings of mouth-watering ice cream. Unique flavors and delightful service make this place a must-visit destination.
Cherry Farm Creamery
An ice cream shop that doesn’t limit itself to just ice cream; ice cream cakes, frozen yogurt, sorbets, and even novelty bars are all available here!
CoCo Key Water Park
A tropically themed, indoor water park located right in Danvers! Add some variety to your summer swimming with giant water slides sure to delight the kids! Make sure you book ahead for reservations.
With a kid’s playground, a pond for easy fishing, apple orchards, hiking trails, and even a children’s barn, Endicott Park features some of the most varied geography of any park.
Little Shop of Treasures
An independent toy store inside the Liberty Tree Mall, selling collectibles, posters, and all sorts of geek ephemera. A fun trip for the whole family!
A 50’s style ice cream parlor, with the classic color schemes and bar stools, that is sure to wow you with its décor and flavors! They even serve hot food!
Andyman Dessert & Baking Company
Providing gourmet breads, cookies, cupcakes, and even lunch wraps, Andyman’s is the perfect place to satisfy your sweet tooth!
The Hollow Cafe
The Hollow Café serves up unusual and delicious twists on classic wraps, salads and melts, plus a diverse breakfast menu and kids’ menu. Everyone will find something they love here!
Cider Hill Farm
It’s the perfect time to go strawberry and raspberry picking with the family, and then treat them to the farm bakery for a fresh pastry. What better way to spend a quiet summer day?
Hodgie’s Ice Cream
Hodgie’s sells homemade ice cream and made-to-order grill items, and provides a picnic area to enjoy it all in. Who can ask for anything more?
The Barking Dog Bar & Grill
The Barking Dog is perfect for a casual dinner with the family, with plenty of space and a menu that mixes healthier options and traditional pub fare—it’s a wonderful place to relax.
Whether you’d like to pick your own fruits and vegetables for a fresh salad or purchase locally raised meats and poultry for that summer barbeque, Tendercrop Farm has you covered.
Old Town Hill
The hill in question is high enough to see Mt. Agamenticus in Maine, and is surrounded by salt marches, tidal rivers, and woodlands just begging to be explored. It’s exquisite hiking material!
Mad Martha’s Island Cafe
If you’re heading out to Plum Island this summer, stop by Mad Martha’s one morning for a filling and scrumptious breakfast the whole family will love!
If you’re on your way back from Plum Island, you can stop by PI Beachcoma for a comfortable casual dining experience. Kid’s eat free on Tuesdays!
Salisbury Beach and State Reservation
Almost 4 miles of sandy beach, plenty of picnicking space, and even grills for public use. If you’re thinking of a barbeque or just a fun day out, this is the place!
Joe’s Playland is a family-run entertainment complex which was established over 90 years ago on Salisbury Beach. Joe’s is a safe, clean place to bring your family for hours of fun, and is filled with state-of- the-art and classic video games and arcade games. Open daily in the summer and weekends off-season.
Blue Ocean Music Hall
Comedians, classic rock bands, 90’s rock bands, reggae artists— all of them and more perform here throughout the summer. Tickets are on sale right now!
A down-to- earth-eatery with a salad bar and seafood classics. Plus they offer breakfast for those early beachgoers!
Hodgie’s Too Ice Cream
Hodgie’s is so good they had to open a second one! There’s no excuse not to visit
Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary
For a shorter hike through salt marches and salt pannes, Rough Meadows offers stunning views and the opportunity to see coastal wildlife flourish.
Down River Ice Cream
Promising ice cream with no artificial preservatives or chemicals and made locally in Essex, Down River’s ice cream simply delivers on taste!
Beach Bluff Park
A small oceanfront park that’s part of the larger Preston Beach, people come from all over to enjoy the beauty of the site and relax. Lovingly designed and cared for, it’s the ideal place for a family walk!
Mary Baker Eddy Historic House
Witness life in the 1860’s first-hand with a tour through this historic house! Learn more about the deep and fascinating history that took place within its walls!
The White Elephant
Right on Main Street in downtown Essex, The White Elephant is one of the oldest antique shops on the shore. Unusual and intriguing items find their way here—perfect for a quirky shopping experience!
Scenic salt marshes, gentle hills and tumbling meadows make for a quintessential New England hiking trip. The breathtaking view is perfect for family photos!
A carefully restored 1728 farmhouse overflowing with history and folk art, offering tours on the hour through the unique collection. Excellent for the creatively inclined!
Essex Shipbuilding Museum
The spirit of New England lies in our rich nautical traditions, and nowhere are they better preserved than at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. Witness the hard-work and dedication necessary to make the age of sail a reality!
Essex River Basin Adventures
Offering guided sea kayak tours and kayaking lessons for over twenty years, this is the ideal opportunity for an oceanic adventure through New England waters!
Cape Ann SUP
A more unconventional aquatic experience, but no less thrilling! Stand Up Paddleboard lessons, tours, and even yoga are all available here!
Eagle’s Nest Playground
For those energetic summer days and energetic summer kids, this playground just behind Essex Elementary School has a wide range of fun structures to keep them active and engaged. It even has a frog pond!
Our neighbors around the corner. For a satisfying lunch of chowder, lobster rolls, or fried clams with a beautiful view of the salt marches!
If you’re in the mood for a salad, sandwich, or steak, the Village Restaurant is the place for you! They also offer traditional seafood, mouthwatering desserts, and a kids’ menu!
Woodman’s of Essex
We couldn’t resist putting ourselves on the list! While you’re in Essex with the family, stop by our place for a fantastic lunch or dinner everyone will love. We’ve been frying up clams, scallops, and shrimp for over 100 years — a delicious North Shore tradition!