August 29, 2023

Trails & Sails: 10 Days of 150+ Free Events Across Essex County

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Essex Heritage Presents 22nd Year of Trails & Sails: 10 Days of 150+ Free Events Across Essex County.

The long-standing program helps connect people to the incredible historical, cultural, and natural resources of the Essex National Heritage Area!

Trails & sails essex national heritage area.

Trails & sails essex national heritage area.

August 28, 2023 – Presented by Essex Heritage, Trails & Sails is an annual event series that features more than 150 free events over ten days, this year held from Friday, September 15th through Sunday, September 24th. These events celebrate the many incredible historic, cultural, and natural resources in the Essex National Heritage Area: the 34 cities and towns of Essex County, a 500-square-mile region just north of Boston, MA. Participants can visit the website to explore all events at or pick up a guidebook at one of the 13 Visitor Centers in Essex County and most local libraries. 

Essex Heritage CEO, Annie Harris said, “Trails & Sails was created 22 years ago to encourage residents to experience some of the wonderful trails, museums, historic sites, and water-based activities in this region. All the events are free, so there is plenty of incentive for locals to visit these special places they drive by daily.” 

Event participants can take advantage of various family-friendly activities, including bird walks, guided hikes, historical tours, book lectures, boat rides, river paddles, and more – happening morning, afternoon, and evening over ten days. With so many things to do and see during Trails & Sails, there’s something for everyone.

In 2023, Essex Heritage has identified four themes of significant importance to the Essex National Heritage Area, including learning about where you live and taking care of it, the importance of our coastal resources and preserving them, recognizing the many influences and contributions of the Latino community within the Heritage Area, and new stories being uncovered in our local history. Helping to raise awareness about the important work our regional partners do is another way that Trails & Sails brings the community together. Some highlighted activities are included below. 

Looking to the Future

The natural beauty of the Essex National Heritage Area is something to be cherished! During Trails & Sails, you can learn more about sustainability in Salem, explore along the Shawsheen River in Andover, meet forest creatures in Georgetown, take a guided fall hike in Lawrence, and more. There are so many ways to connect with the natural resources in Essex County and ensure they are here for generations to come.

Preserving Coastal Resources

With the impacts of climate change and other factors, it is more important than ever to learn about the many coastal resources of the Essex National Heritage Area and how we can protect them. During Trails & Sails, you can identify marine invasive species in Gloucester harbor, take a walking tour of Newburyport’s changing waterfront, or trek into the Great Marsh in Rowley to discover its superpowers. 

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Trails & Sails falls during the first half of Hispanic Heritage Month and is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the essential contributions of the Latino community in the Essex National Heritage Area! Take a mural tour or a free salsa class in Salem, a cemetery tour in Spanish in Lynn, or check out the Hispanic Heritage Festival in Methuen. Join our partners throughout the county in celebrating the many Hispanic influences that make this region vibrant.   

Sharing Untold Stories

Hear the lesser-known stories of Essex County during Trails & Sails! Visit a real Wetu in Gloucester, take a cemetery tour in Newburyport to learn about the lives of the Black Newburyporters who are buried there, be inspired by the trailblazing women of the American Revolution in Marblehead, and so much more. Telling the stories of all the Essex National Heritage Area’s people helps us more deeply understand its diverse history. 

All Trails & Sails events are free, and most are available on a first-come, first-served basis except for certain reservation-required circumstances. Be sure to visit for the most up-to-date information and instructions as applicable.  

Trails & Sails 2023 is generously sponsored by Eastern Bank, Salem Five Charitable Foundation, M&T Bank, and Institution for Savings.

About Essex Heritage and the Essex National Heritage Area

Essex Heritage is a non-profit organization with a community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development. Through public-private partnerships, Essex Heritage uses the Area’s heritage resources uniquely to engage diverse audiences.

The full online schedule of events is now live. Trails & Sails guidebooks can be picked up at locations throughout Essex County, including many local public libraries and Visitor Centers. We recommend calling ahead to make sure they still have them in stock. Want to go paperless? You can also download a digital guide!

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