The North Shore Guidebook is an entertaining and somewhat tongue-in-cheek guide to my home turf on the north shore of Boston. It provides a mix of history, oddities, and hot-takes to indulge and inform the curious traveler. Inspired by the recognition that we often lend faraway destinations an air of prestige that we withhold from our own neighborhoods, the North Shore Guidebook aims to allow the reader to experience the north shore afresh in all of its quirks and glory.
Please note that this guidebook reflects a snapshot of the north shore circa fall 2022.
I was taking a stretch break in the middle of nowhere—halfway up the east fjords of Iceland—when I watched a tour bus disembark two dozen passengers in front of a small cottage bearing a sign for “Petra’s Stone Collection.”
We travel long distances to witness the wonders of the world, and while the world is certainly filled with wonders, we sometimes lend faraway sites an air of prestige that we withhold from the attractions in our own backyards. Would Stonehenge have the same draw if it stood in the center of Blackburn Circle?
This guide is an opportunity to experience the North Shore afresh, “laughing all along the way at the travelers who have seen Rome and Paris.” If you find yourself laughing instead at any of the North Shore destinations, just remember that on the South Shore, over a million people are disappointed by Plymouth Rock each year.
"Once in a generation we get to witness history being made in our own fresh water ponds. Beverly’s destiny changed one week in September when a gray seal took up residence in Shoe Pond for a week, transfixing the populace and taunting Animal Control. Pilgrimage to the Cummings Center parking lot to pay your respects to our local sea-saint."
Dunkins has admirably made a showing in both the Liberty Tree and North Shore malls. While you probably know which mall to choose, you have to respect Dunks’ commitment to a food court otherwise occupied by such eateries as the Army Recruitment Center and Metro by T-Mobile.
Glide down the Bay State’s answer to the Las Vegas strip. Driving north to south:
Agawam Diner — Pies and obesity (cash only).
Leaning Tower of Pizza — If tourists posing with their hands ruined your photos of the original tilted tower, score an unobstructed view of this realistic replica jutting out of Prince Pizzeria and laugh it out at the built-in comedy club, Giggles.
Kowloon — Storied haunt of stars such as Jerry Seinfeld, Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, this is peak Rt. 1. Ask for the Saugus chicken wings.
Hilltop Steakhouse neon saguaro — The restaurant has been closed for years, but locals petitioned to save this towering sign. Marvel at the scale and imagine getting zoning clearance for this today.
The (In)famous Orange T-Rex — Another roadside symbol saved by public outcry. This bright dino was part of a mini golf course that closed in 2016, but the new owner has pledged to keep it.
Auto Excellence Group — This exotic car dealership stands out like a double-decker Venetian wedding cake in coral pink.
Classic kitsch landmarks on Rt. 1 are sadly disappearing every day in the name of modernity. In remembrance:
Weylu’s — Once a grandiose, palatial Chinese restaurant, it was too big for it’s own good and was torn down in 2015.
Ferns Motel — Prototypical sketchy motel with a beautiful 50’s sign. It was notably robbed three times, once for just $27.
The Ship — A multi-story, boat-shaped restaurant built by a retired sea captain in 1930 that was too beautiful to float.