/ The Boston Guide
Boston — By Maria Olia on August 21, 2010 at 11:56 pm
Filed under: Attractions, beach, family, kids, museum, top-feature

Family Fun in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Lighthouses, scenic beaches, a historic working harbor and a thriving artist’s colony. Recently, my crew — my husband and I, and our four teens (sons ages 21, 19 and 17 and our 14 year-old daughter_ — set off for an overnight trip to Gloucester, 35 miles northeast and less than an hour’s drive as the gull flies from Boston. Located on Cape Ann, dubbed “Massachusetts’ other Cape”, Gloucester is a find, jam packed with everything a family needs for a beach get-away.

Gloucester is America’s oldest seaport, and its famous commercial fishing fleet still works the waters of nearby Georges Bank for cod, halibut, haddock, flounder and lobster. We enjoyed walking along the inner harbor and watching the port in action. My kids were especially interested in finding  Rose’s Wharf, the actual former location of the Andrea Gail which was lost at sea during the “Perfect Storm” of 1991 and walking by the Crow’s Nest Pub (334 Main St., Gloucester) (Map) which was also featured in the movie. It has been estimated that as many as 10,000 Gloucester fisherman have been lost at sea since the 1600′s. Dedicated in 1925, the city’s iconic landmark, The Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial (57 Western Ave., Gloucester) (Map) overlooks the harbor. The larger-than-life bronze statue depicts a fisherman at the helm with the inscription “They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships.” If you grew up eating fish sticks on Fridays, you will likely recognize the statue. Since the 1960′s the “Man at the Wheel” has been the trademark of Gorton’s Seafoods which was founded in Gloucester in the mid-1800′s.

Gloucester boasts a stunning coastline and has several public beaches. Good Harbor Beach (Rt. 127 A, Gloucester) (Parking fee $25 weekends, $20 weekdays) (Map) is one of New England’s finest. This half-mile sandy beach is framed by picturesque wind-swept dunes and rocky granite outcrops and has just-right surf  for my boogie-boarding teens. Annisquam Lighthouse stands tall over Wingaersheek Beach (Atlantic St., Gloucester) (Parking fee $25 weekends, $20 weekdays)(Map), or Wing Beach as it is known by New Englanders. Located along Ipswich Bay, it is a perfect beach for the sand pail set with gentle waves and warm water.

After the morning at the beach, we went on our own seafaring adventure aboard the King Eider, a classic wood motor boat.  Cape Ann Harbor Tours (Yellow Ticket Booth, 69 Rogers St., Gloucester) (Map) offers a 1 1/4 hour  narrated sightseeing/lobstering water tour ($16 adults, $8 children ages 3-12)  that includes the hauling of several lobster traps. Our catch yielded a total of 10 lobsters — and all were (humanely) released back to the sea. Back on terra firma, we did a quick spin of The Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center (23 Harbor Loop, Gloucester) (Map) which celebrates the city’s seafaring traditions with exhibits of maritime artifacts. Kids can sound a foghorn, try their hand at tying knots, or hold a star fish or sea urchin at the touch tank.

Gloucester’s quaint streets feature enticing shops perfect for browsing. The Rocky Neck neighborhood is the country’s oldest art colony and  has a tremendous concentration of studios and galleries selling local work. It’s a good place to pick up a seascape painting or other classic New England motif. Menage Gallery (134 Main St., Gloucester) (Map) is one of the region’s largest, showcasing one-of-a kind and limited edition decorative art and furniture pieces. All the gifts, accessories and clothing  at Greenlife (196 Main St. Gloucester) (Map)  is earth-friendly in some way, whether it is fair trade, organic, sustainable or made from recycled materials. Even big kids like toy stores. Toodleloos (137 Main St., Gloucester) (Map) is fun to visit, featuring top-quality, educational playthings. And Stone Leaf (57 Main St., Gloucester) (Map) is just the place for pretty hand-knit sweaters, collectibles, artisan-made New England pottery, cards and candles.

Hungry? You can eat very well in Gloucester. For lunch we veered off Main Street to find the  Pleasant Street Tea Company & Coffee Bar (7 Pleasant St., Gloucester) (Map) a bustling cafe where the menu features sensational paninis — try the cheddar with ham and fig jam — along with soups, wraps, salads, and fresh-baked goods . For dinner we ate at  Jalapenos (86 Main St., Gloucester) (Map) which serves wonderful, authentic Mexican cuisine — fried fish tacos, chile rellenos and  chicken mole. And on Sunday morning before heading home, we  joined the line in front of Sugar Magnolias (112 Main St., Gloucester) (Map), the place in Gloucester for a late breakfast of  mouthwatering blueberry pancakes. Our “go-to” place for snacks was tiny Caffe Sicilia(40 Main St., Gloucester) (Map) which has a nice array of Italian cookies and pastries including ricotta pie, cannoli filled to order and homemade gelato.  We went three times!

When you travel with four teens, cramming the family into one hotel room isn’t fun for anyone. Just one mile from Good Harbor Beach and the attractions of downtown Gloucester, the Sea Lion Motel & Cottages (138 Eastern Ave., Gloucester, summer room rates from $130 ) (Map) has a variety of lodging options (motel rooms, efficiencies with a kitchenette, and 1 and 2 bedroom cottages) that ensure space for every size family.  The simply appointed rooms have a New England charm with white spreads and  comfortable wood furniture. Our sizable 2 bedroom cottage came with a full kitchen, living room and a private porch. Other hotel amenities include an outdoor heated pool, continental breakfast , and distant ocean views. The on-site owners could not be more helpful.

For more information on attractions, restaurants, and accommodations contact the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce (Stage Fort Park, Hough Ave., Gloucester;Visitor Center staffed May-October) (Map).

Image Credits: Man at the Wheel-Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, other photos personal collection.

The Gloucester visit was sponsored in part by the city of Gloucester; the opinions expressed herein are those of the author.

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Tags: Attractions, beach, family, kids, museum, top-feature

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