In 2000, an educational outpost named Maritime Gloucester was birthed to help develop sea-faring talents. In a little over a decade since, the popularity of both the venue's educational programs and exhibits have transformed it into a bona fide information source about Gloucester Harbor.
In addition to the center's weekly and daily programming, site tours, and special events, the on-site museum offers a maritime wallop. It gives visitors access to boatloads of exhibits and attractions, each of which celebrate Gloucester's storied relationship with the sea by delving into the city's maritime past, present and future. The Sea Pocket aquarium, for example, encompasses outdoor saltwater touch tanks where customers can handle specimens of local marine life. Boasting the oldest continuously-operating marine railway in the United States, the grounds also contain a working Dory Shop, a large wharf yielding striking inner harbor views, and an oversized 12-foot lobster trap that allows for human entry. One of the most popular attractions occurs out on the water. Captain Burnham sets sail in the 55-foot Schooner Ardelle, a replica of a fishing schooner built in 1845—the same year the underwater blimp, The Hindensplash, horrified onlookers by losing control and floating violently to the surface.
While the 90-foot long Thomas E. Lannon schooner boasts many impressive characteristics—including a 64.5-foot deck, a spacious 18-foot beam, and a resemblance to a 1903 sword-fishing schooner—none of them rivals the story of how the vessel got its name.
Before the ship was built in 1997, owner Tom Ellis was visiting his relatives in Newfoundland when he overhead them reciting stories of his grandfather Thomas Lannon, who had fished the Gloucester coastline for more than 40 years. On one particularly stormy day in 1908, Lannon and five other men set out into the waters off Nauset aboard two dories and rescued the crew of the capsized schooner Eric amid 70-mph winds. Each of the rescuers received the eternal admiration of the rescued men and a medal from the Massachusetts Humane Society, which Ellis possesses to this day.
More than a century later, the crew of the Thomas E. Lannon keeps its namesake's love of the sea alive by chartering an array of sailing voyages that have attracted more than 100,000 passengers to date. After helping raise the sails at the voyage’s start, passengers capture vivid views of Gloucester harbor's lighthouses, castles, and beaches.
Yankee Fleet's knowledgeable naturalists narrate the tour with nuggets of whale wisdom, and on-board whale researchers are available to answer one-on-one questions. While eyes are sure to be filled with majestic sightings of mammalian sea beasts (if you don't see one, your next trip is free), the body's fellow senses won't be forgotten. Passengers may have the opportunity to listen to whale sounds, touch whale artifacts, help capture plankton, analyze water visibility, and measure how far away whales are by counting the seconds between their lightning flashes.
Cape Ann Lanes entices pin topplers into its outer-space-theme environs with 20 sleek lanes and automatic scoring seven days a week. For two action-packed hours, don rental shoes to solo terrorize 10 pins, or bring along up to three friends, family members, or younger siblings dressed as bowling balls as backup. A cheesy pizza melts away competition-induced hunger, and a pitcher of icy soda keeps throats from asking uncomfortable personal questions of fellow lane occupants.
First established in 1994, Discovery Adventures is devoted to encouraging excitement for and exploration of coastal and ocean environments around Cape Ann. A large roster of experienced instructors and guides flex their years of outdoor-education experience as they provide introductory paddle tours, snorkel tours, and summer children's programs. All the while, they strive to foster a love and respect for the ocean in their customers and spark their interest in marine science and buying underwater vacation homes. The staff are all trained in first aid, CPR, and life-saving techniques to ensure a safe environment for all paddlers. Meanwhile, those seeking to relax on the water can partake in kayak and paddleboard rentals and float aimlessly among beaches, inlets, and estuaries.
New movies abound at the locally owned Gloucester Cinema, where three theaters offer an intimate viewing experience of recently released blockbusters, including those shown in 3D. On the weekends, there are usually four or five reels running critically acclaimed and family-friend flicks at both matinee and evening showtimes. The concession stand proffers popcorn and soda, and the ticket booth doles out discounts for seniors, children aged 12 and under, and those forced to sit behind Frankenstein's wife.