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Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Essex offer summer fun for all - within easy reach!

Tired of waiting in traffic to get to the same old summer cottage? Located 35 miles north of Boston, Cape Ann is easily reachable by car (multiple exits off of a major highway), rail (commuter rail from Boston), air (between two major airports) and sea (ferries from New England locations north and south; cruise port).

One sure sign that summer has arrived on Cape Ann - for over 80 years - is the St. Peter's Fiesta, a five-day festival honoring the patron saint of the fisherman St. Peter. Starting on June 25 this year, Fiesta has a bevy of fun activities for kids and adults alike - parades, carnival, concerts, sporting competitions, Seine boat races, the famous Greasy Pole contest and the annual blessing of the fleet.

Come celebrate Independence Day a day early, at an event you won't find anywhere else: the Fish Town Horribles Parade on July 3, featuring creative costumes, fabulous floats and flying candy. And, of course, spectacular fireworks over Gloucester Harbor!

August 19 marks the eagerly anticipated re-opening of a Cape Ann treasure - the Cape Ann Museum - following a major renovation. The Museum's fine art collection includes the largest grouping of works by native son and renowned marine artist, Fitz Henry Lane, as well as work by other prominent painters and sculptors, contemporary and historic, who lived on, visited or were inspired by Cape Ann.

Summer 2014 closes out with the 30th annual Gloucester Schooner Festival, a spectacular highlight of which is the Parade of Sail on Sunday morning, as the participating schooners make their way through the harbor and out past the breakwater, to the Mayor's Race starting area off Eastern Point. (Click here for a complete list of activities throughout the weekend.)

Throughout the summer, visitors to Gloucester can enjoy the addition of new kiosks from Maritime Gloucester to the HarborWalk, a 1.2-mile loop that links the downtown to the waterfront along a marked trail and stops at a series of 40+ granite-styled "story posts" that inform and inspire. At each granite post, along with a brief explanation, quote or photograph, there is a Quick Response Code that will link one's mobile phone to more in-depth, online information about each piece of Gloucester's rich character. And, at each of the markers there is an icon - a Gloucester fisherman, a schooner, a Cod fish - that children can rub with pencils or sketch as a keepsake.

To learn more about Cape Ann, including lodging options (from grand oceanfront hotels such as Bass Rocks Ocean Inn and Atlantis Oceanfront Inn, to the cozy Blue Shutters Beachside Inn), please visit www.capeannvacations.com or call the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce at (978) 283-1601.

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