Things to do in Newburyport

 

You can take a walk along the boardwalk and see all the boats coming and going on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.   The Waterfront Park is the place for summer concerts and holiday fireworks.   Just pack a picnic lunch, set up some chairs or a blanket and you can sit all day and enjoy the ocean views.   Plum Island, a beautiful sandy public beach is nearby and includes the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge that is home to 800 species of birds, plants, and animals.   Maudslay State Park, on the banks of the Merrimack River, has garden plantings, pine forests, walking trails, horseback riding and cross country skiing.   An outdoor theatre is open in the summer.  

 

Yankee Homecoming is a weeklong celebration that includes many family events including parades, music, food, dance, craft fairs, concerts, and fireworks.  

 

There are art galleries, theatres and historical museums to visit.   For a small community, Newburyport has a lot of diversity to offer.

 

The core of Newburyport's Old Town runs between Low Street (Water Steet) along the Merrimac River, then uphill State Street to High Street. For tourists who just parked the car in the municipal lot and just want the essentials, stick to the Market Square and State Street. Newburyport is most famous for its Federalist architecture, the result of a fire that destroyed most all wooden structures in the downtown area about 1800. The result were all new redbrick buildings, all in the new Federalist style and many with a new invention--firewalls--that created a uniquely American look. Back in the day, the redbrick buildings in and around Market Square were warehouses and lodging houses for sailors arriving in the Port. The Firehouse was exactly that: a couple of decades ago it was slated for demolition but patrons of the arts fought hard to have it saved and converted to a performing arts center. Threadneedle Alley is one of the few surviving narrow streets in the old town, now home to many little eateries, boutiques and a very inviting children's playground.

 

Pleasant Street turns off State Street and is well worth exploring. The Unitarian Church was the exception to the redbrick rule after the fire of 1800: it was built in 1801 in white clapboard with a high wedding cake steeple that hosts a church bell cast by Paul Revere! The white interior with salt box pews and a historic organ makes it quintessentially New England. There are two European style bakeries facing each other: Greta's Golden Grains and Cafe di Sienna. Lots of boutiques and a restaurant or two harken. Further past the post office you will see a little square: in the middle of this is the Garrison Monument. William Lloyd Garrison was a Newburyport native who pushed the nascent anti-slavery consciousness of early 19th century liberals by publishing "The Liberator," a paper that gave voice to a rising anti-slavery movement in the Union. He had started his career at the local town paper but made himself unpopular in town and moved on to bigger and better things. The statue of Garrison near the Garrison Inn and city hall is a fitting tribute to his massive contribution to American history.

 

The crowning jewel of the town is High Street, the residence of all ship captains who made their fortunes at sea and wanted to show them off in their homes. The houses are huge and beautifully designed, many of them topped with widow's walks or cupolas for captain's wives looking out to sea for a returning ship. The Newburyport Historical Society, also located on High Street, runs a historic house tour every spring. High Street is home to the Barlett Mall, a beautifully designed public space with terraced walkways and a central pond that is also home to the Charles Bullfinch designed Essex County Superior Courthouse (1801), famous for being bombed by Weathermen radicals in the 1960s. On the far end of the street visitors can tour another public space, the Atkinson Common, with gardens and walkways that lead down to the Merrimac River. A walk down the side streets off High Street will give visitors an idea of everyday life in the colonial and post-colonial eras in an important New England shipping center.