27 Things To Do with Kids North of Boston in Winter
The cold temperatures and snow have arrived, but that doesn't mean we have to hibernate. Bridging Boston and New Hampshire, the North Shore of Boston delivers New-England-style fun all winter long. In the spirit of 2021, many businesses and towns north of Boston have come up with creative ways to help families stay safe and socially distant while enjoying family time, outdoors and in. Whether the kids are keen to picnic at a fire pit, sample local chocolate, spot owls and arctic foxes, or marvel at a snow-swept beach, parents can cross some of these North Shore activities off their Winter Fun lists and show Jack Frost who's boss.
1. Chase the Whoo(pie) Wagon for seasonally inspired treats - Topsfield
This delicious food truck serves up an ever changing menu of creative whoopie pies that include seasonal twists like a gingerbread whoopie and fan favorites like the red and blue sprinkled New England Patriots whoopie. While their home base is in Topsfield, follow the truck on Facebook to find out where they'll be visiting all along the North Shore on any given day.
2. Warm up with s'mores at a fire pit at Appleton Farm - Ipswich
During winter weekends, the farm is hosting Fire Pit Picnics. Rent out your own fire pit and the farm will supply you with all the fixings to roast some marshmallows and make some ooey gooey s'mores.
3. Indulge your sweet tooth at the Salem's So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival - Salem
This annual festival is just as tasty as it sounds. Indulge your sweet tooth and visit Salem the first two weeks in February to sample local chocolates and treats, shop local for Valentine's Day and stroll through ice sculpture displays.
See who can spot the elusive owl on the Crane Beach Snowy Owl Prowl
4. Explore the beach and dunes on a Family Snowy Owl Hike - Ipswich
Get outside for a guided family hike and explore the dunes of Crane Beach in search of snowy owls. Designed for little explorers, the hike will focus on engaging children in the natural world.
5. Connect with nature and art at the Peabody Essex Museum - Salem
The PEM makes it easy for families to connect with art and culture with a variety of kids' programs (many virtual right now), family-friendly exhibits, and hands-on activities at the Art & Nature Center. Timed entry tickets must be purchased in advance.
There are plenty of kid-friendly exhibits at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola
6. Step into local history at the Wenham Museum - Wenham
Dolls, toys, and trains - what else could a kid want? - are all on exhibit at this North Shore museum that aims to protect, preserve and interpret the artifacts of childhood, domestic life and the history of the North Shore. The museum is open for timed ticketed entry and available for private two hour rentals.
7. Take in the view at one of the area's beautiful beaches - Salisbury, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rye, NH, etc.
Who says you can't go to the beach in winter? Just trade in your flip flops for snow boots and you can take in nature's awesome beauty while avoiding summer crowds. Collect shells, listen to the ocean, and marvel at the vastness of the world.
8. Grab a cup of quarters and hit Joe's Playland for some old school arcade games - Salisbury
Open weekend during the winter months, this two-story arcarde has old faves like Pac Man and Skee-ball as well as new games. You can still use quarters to play and actually win physical tickets for prizes or opt to use their new card system. And all of this with ocean views!
9. Take a winter walk at Ravenswood Park - Gloucester
Take a walk among snow-covered hemlocks at this 600-acre park offering the kid-friendly Ledge Hill Trail, a two-mile round trip walk among huge, fern-covered boulders. Start your jaunt at the park's Cape Ann Discovery Center, where you can borrow a Discovery Detective Pack for your adventure.
10. While you're in Gloucester, visit the Cape Ann Museum - Gloucester
Admission is free for kids at this art museum exhibiting paintings, photographs and sculpture. Check out their calendar full of youth and family programs. Advanced tickets are required.
Arctic foxes brighten the landscape at the Stone Zoo. Photo by Fran Mandeville
11. Befriend the animals at Stone Zoo - Stoneham
Not all animals hibernate in winter. Visit with black bears, North American river otters, the snow leopard, Mexican gray wolves and many more.
12. Everything is awesome at the North Shore Mall - Peabody
Kids love the mall, especially if you let them stop by the Lego Store to get creative and build in the "Living Room". Play a round of indoor mini golf at Aloha Mini Glow Golf, make a pit-stop for a treat at the Food Court, and take a break in the Kids Play Area. Bonus points if you can make it past Build-A-Bear without the kids noticing.
13. Visit an indoor skating rink - multiple locations
Go for a spin on your blades or rent a pair and try out skating for the first time by visiting one of the many indoor rinks on Boston's North Shore. Call ahead for open skating times.
"Dine" together at the World Cafe. Photo courtesy of Children's Museum of New Hampshire
14. Spend the afternoon at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire - Dover, NH
Hands-on and interactive exhibits along with educational programs make CMNH a popular place for North Shore families to spend the day. Advanced reservations are required. Nearby Portsmouth is a great place to stop for good eats and more family fun.
15. Ski the slopes at Bradford Ski Area - Bradford
Whether you've got a family of expert skiers or a team of first-time Alpiners, enjoy swishing down the slopes together at Bradford Ski Area. Take a lesson, show off in the terrain park or take the lift to the top of one of the 15 groomed trails.
16. Track winter wanderers at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary - Topsfield
Strap on your snowshoes and look for signs of wildlife at this 1,954-acre sanctuary offering 12 miles of trails. Go on your own or join in a fun family program offered by Mass Audubon.
17. Get crafty at Board & Brush - Amesbury
While this popular sign making studio is an awesome BYO wine and craft project for adults, they also offer up great kids group classes. Little artists get to pick from a huge selection of fun paint colors and create wooden signs with their names, initials, or favorite quotes. It's the perfect decoration for any bedroom! Private classes and kits to-go are also available.
The Seacoast Science Center encourages interactive learning. Photo courtesy of the Seacoast Science Center
18. Learn about some seacoast species at the Seacoast Science Center - Rye, NH
Get your marine fix at this educational stop located on the seacoast of New Hampshire, not too far over the Massachusetts border. Get up close and personal with marine animals, view marine mammal skeletons, and drop into a visitors' program.
19. Play, connect, and create at The Children's Piazza - Beverly, Peabody
An indoor play space for children through age 6, the Children's Piazza offers a place for kids to climb, swing and slide in any weather, plus an art room and a cafe serving parents fair trade organic coffee. Advanced reservations are required. The playspace is also available for private two hour rentals.
20. Curl up with a good book - Newburyport
21. Put the pedal to the medal at NH1 Motorplex - Seabrook, NH
If you've got a need for speed, make reservations at this 49,000 square foot indoor go-kart course.
22. Take a swing at Newbury Golf Center's heated outdoor driving range - Newbury
Don't pack up your golf clubs just because it's winter. Bring the kids to Newbury's outdoor heated driving range for some fresh air and to hit a bucket of balls.
Candlepin lanes are great indoor entertainment for kids. Photo courtesy of Cape Ann Lanes
23. Go bowling at Cape Ann Lanes - Gloucester
Enjoy a game of candlepin bowling, perfect for little hands. After you count up your strikes and spares, hit the arcade for even more fun. Wrap up the family fun with a pizza and some fried dough bites.
24. Explore life's mysteries at America's Stonehenge - Salem, NH
Who built this 4,000-year-old maze of manmade chambers, walls and ceremonial meeting places? No one really knows. But when the snow falls, strap on those snowshoes and take a look for yourself on a self-guided tour of America's Stonehenge. Then, visit with the site's cute and cuddly Alpacas, on site year-round.
25. Spend an afternoon sledding - Andover, North Andover, Ipswich, Essex
The North Shore is home to lots of sledding spots and the Trustees of Reservations lists some of its properties as favorite downhill delights. Try the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Ward Reservation in Andover and North Andover and Stavros Reservation in Essex.
26. Whip up some tasty treats at Taste Buds Kitchen - North Andover, Beverly
From drop-off camps when school is out to weekend classes, your little chefs can whip up everything from creative cupcakes to homemade pastas. If you're not ready to head back into the kitchen yet, they also offer virtual options.
27. Spend the day playing laser tag, video games, and rock climbing at In the Game - Peabody
You can literally spend the day at this huge gaming facility filled with laser tags, an arcade, ropes course, bowling alley, and more. Take a break at their onsite restaurant to fuel up and then get back to gaming.
Top photo by 6SN7/CC-BY-2.0; originally published in 2015