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Gloucester, Mass.: An Imperfect, Perfect New England Travel Destination

Gloucester Fisherman statue, Gloucester Massachusettsby Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 11/16/16. Photo of Gloucester Fisherman Statue.

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Gloucester, on the North Shore of Massachusetts, is a worthwhile New England coastal travel destination, but not in the precious, slick and refined ways that have come into vogue lately by the sea.

Yes, you will find some great lodging, seafood dining, beaches, a classic harbor and so many earmarks familiar to a typical New England ocean vacation, but what's overwhelmingly evident here is that it's a working class community with a long fishing history. It is America's oldest seaport, discovered in 1623 by an offshoot group of the Pilgrims three years after they landed at Plymouth, MA. You can see the history in the old buildings and homes, and the narrow crooked streets and sidewalks, Some of Gloucester represents the best of coastal New England, while other city elements show a need for revitalization. Gloucester certainly doesn't share the gentle, gentrified look of neighboring Rockport and Manchester, but it's just as much worth a visit for very different reasons. For example, Gloucester has done a great job moving the city in the right direction -- especially the wonderful,classic seaport downtown with interesting little shops and restaurants, charmingly tucked away in the narrow streets around the corner from the sea. It's full of character and doesn't have a phony bone in its strong community foundation. This is the real New England, not some Hollywood set with all the latest retail bells and whistles full of elitism and attitude. There's a humble, modest feeling here, quite understandable given the city's working class roots.

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The Fisherman's Memorial on Stacey Blvd. is a highly recommended attraction , so that visitors can understand what the City of Gloucester is truly about. Created in 1925 to celebrate Gloucester's 300th anniversary, the statue and surrounding plaques pay tribute to the more than 10,000 fisherman lost at sea while working their jobs. It's a stunning reminder that the sea has a dark side, being relentlessly violent and merciless in times of inclement weather. The fishermen braved these rough conditions to honestly earn a living, feed their families and often, working at something they truly loved doing. It puts things in perspective, knowing that a community is so much than a vacation destination. This is a lesson in history, prominently displayed and seen by thousands visiting the area.

When it's time for rest and relaxation, Gloucester won't disappoint. There are chanes to go on a whale watch and water tours, visit local museums, view Gloucester Harbor with its 200-plus boats and see fishing and lobstering fleets. Seafood restaurants like the Gloucester House offer fresh-caught seafood as good as it gets in New England. Beaches like Wingaersheek and Good Harbor Beach offer chilly swimming and great ocean beach atmosphere, although parking can be at a premium during the summer season. Rocky Neck in East Gloucester offers the Rocky Neck Art Association the oldest continuously operating art colony in America filled with great art and other shops and restaurants -- as well as water views at Smith's Cove. Stage Fort Park is magnificent with trails overlooking the ocean, Half Moon and Cressy's beaches, a visitors' center, a privately owned restaurant open to the public, concerts and storytelling during the summer, and a terrific playground for the kids. You could spend a day at Stage Fort Park and get a true taste of Gloucester, given its location by the sea and things to do for the whole family.

Gloucester might be rough around the edges, but we highly recommend taking in this virtual outdoor seaside museum with lots to do for the whole family. It takes getting used to, but once you feel the authenticity and savor the stunning views, you just might want to return again to this esteemed and historical Massachusetts seaport city.

Visit the Official Gloucester MA Web Site for more information at http://www.gloucester-ma.gov/.


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