This town in Essex County occupies a large tab of land reaching from the bank of the Merrimack River, next to Lawrence, south to the vast woods of the Harold Parker State Forest.
The old center of North Andover is on a typical New England green, under the Gothic Revival spire of the North Parish Church, and with the North Andover Historical Society preserving a campus of old buildings.
North Andover is the site of opulent country estates, two of which have grounds that are open to the public, at The Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens and Osgood Hill.
1. The Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens
In the 1910s this former farm was transformed into the stylish country estate for Helen Stevens Coolidge.
Her family had owned the property since 1729, and her diplomat husband John Gardner Coolidge, was a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and nephew of famous art patron Isabella Stewart.
Between 1914 and 1918, architect Joseph Everett Chandler combined the two late-Federal farm houses into one Colonial Revival mansion, and this was embedded in a patchwork of gardens, including a walled rose garden and a formal French potager garden.
The property is managed by the Trustees of Reservations and welcomes the public to tour the sublime and newly expanded gardens, which have thousands of blooming tulips in spring.
2. North Andover Town Common
The original heart of the settlement is a large green, dotted with mature hardwood trees and bordered by historic buildings.
By the roundabout on the eastern corner is the North Parish Church (1836), designed by Boston architect Richard Bond (1798-1861) in the Cardboard Gothic style.
This was the fifth meetinghouse for the Puritan congregation, in a line going back to 1645 and marked the congregation’s switch to the Unitarian Church.
The North Andover Town Common is pretty at any time of year, but especially in fall for its foliage. There’s plenty of space for a picnic on a warm day, and for a sweet treat you call in at the Cows Rock Ice Cream shop, opposite the church.
3. North Andover Historical Society
Established in 1913, the North Andover Historical Society cares for a number of properties around the town, and is based at the Johnson Cottage Complex on the Town Common.
Exhibits are housed in the 1932 Museum Building, shedding light on various aspects of North Andover’s long history.
The 1646 Bookstore here is a great resource, stocking local trail guides, history books, games and crafts specific to the North Andover area.
Interactive programs take place at the Johnson Cottage (1789), the last surviving artisan’s cottage in North Andover’s Old Center, and decorated to illustrate everyday family life in the 19th century.
Even older is the First Period Parson Barnard House & Barn (1715) at 179 Osgood Street, and open on the first Saturday of the month, June to October.
4. Smolak Farms
Rolling together agriculture, entertainment and education, Smolak Farms attracts people from far and wide, especially during the long fruit picking season.
June through October you can come to pick your own strawberries, raspberries, sour cherries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, sunflowers and pumpkins.
There are festivals to celebrate the harvest of many of these fruits, featuring hayrides, carnival games, crafts, live music and barnyard animals.
The farm stand has a bakery, ice cream stand and a counter for freshly made sandwiches, while in fall you have to come for the apple cider donuts and the indulgent apple cider ice cream sundaes.
Finally, at Christmas you can come to choose your tree and pick up decorations from the stand and gingerbread houses from the bakery.
5. Harold Parker State Forest
As you travel south through North Andover the town becomes ever sparser until you reach this 3,300-acre public forest, spreading into three neighboring municipalities.
Established in 1916, Harold Parker State Forest is an early example of logged-over land designated for reforestation and was improved during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
There’s a seemingly endless labyrinth of trails and logging roads through the woods for hiking and mountain biking, including a section of the 200-mile Bay Circuit Trail.
Woven into these rolling hills are multiple ponds, 11 of which are open for boating and fishing. The campground at 133 Jenkins Rd has 89 sites, sitting next to Frye Pond which has a beach on the north shore.
6. Weir Hill
For some nature right on the edge of town there’s wonderful scenery along the hilly western shoreline of the glassy Lake Cochichewick. One of the properties found here is the 194-acre Weir Hill, managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
The sudden changes of elevation and history of agriculture in this reserve give it an incredible variety of flora, with ten different plant communities, from butterfly-rich wet meadows to a large stand of oak-hickory forest.
The yellow trail leads you along the damp shoreline, with sections over boardwalk, while the blue trail carries you to the crest of Weir Hill through woods and open fields for exhilarating views of the Merrimack Valley.
7. Harrison’s Roast Beef
Something that brings people to North Andover from miles around is this roast beef sandwich spot, well-known among aficionados and in business for some 40 years now.
A good sign is how pared-down the menu is, focusing on roast beef, pastrami and ham, with crinkle-cut fries or onion rings as sides.
First-timers have to go straight for the roast beef, tender and thinly sliced, coming in large, medium or small portions, and served on a grilled onion roll.
There’s a choice of toppings, but the star is the signature BBQ sauce, even up against more conventional options like horseradish and mustard.
8. Osgood Hill
From the 1850s, the textile manufacturer Moses Tyler Stevens (1825-1907) started purchasing land on the western shore of Lake Cochichewick in North Andover.
Later, in the mid-1880s he built an august Romanesque Revival mansion here at the summit of Osgood Hill.
Today, the Stevens Estate at Osgood Hills is a major local events venue, while the 230+ acres of splendid town-owned country estate is yours to discover on a walk.
There are 3.5 miles of marked trails, curving around the hill with lovely views of the lake, or down on the lakeshore, with signs on the way to identify trees.
9. Charles W. Ward Reservation
The Trustees of Reservations also looks after these majestic 700 acres in North Andover and Andover. The Charles W. Ward Reservation contains a verdant landscape of forest and fields covering ridgelike drumlins that afford astonishing vistas of the region.
The most prominent of these is the 420-foot Holt Hill, the highest point in Essex County and named for the influential 17th-century Puritan settler, Nicholas Holt.
On the summit you can marvel at a panorama taking in the Boston skyline, the Blue Hills and Salem, while the Solstice Stones here align with sunset on the longest and shortest days of the year.
Numbered stations around the reservation give you interesting insights into important geological and botanical features.
10. Rogers Center for the Arts
The private Augustinian university, Merrimack College was founded in North Andover in 1947 and has a 220-acre campus along Route 125.
One famous alumnus is Charlie Day (1998), from the TV comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and he returned to give the commencement speech in 2014.
The Rogers Center for the Arts is a complete arts hub, with a 600-seat venue for live theater, music, family entertainment and film, as well as two galleries.
These are the McCoy Gallery, staging several exhibits each year, including a group show by student artists at the end of the academic year, and the Thagaste Gallery, offering a platform for talent from the Greater Merrimack Valley, as well as student and faculty artists.
11. Addison Gallery of American Art
The highly-regarded private university-preparatory school, Phillips Academy (1778), is just across the line in Andover, and counts five Nobel laureates and Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush among its former students.
The campus is laced with ponds and woodlands, a portion of which is a former bird sanctuary established in the 1920s.
The main visitor attraction is the Addison Gallery of American Art, founded in 1931 and providing a comprehensive survey of American painting, sculpture and photography, with 22,000 works in its collection.
For just a condensed list of the artists represented here, you’ve got John Singleton Coley, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent and Frank Stella, to name a very small few.
If you have an eye for 19th-century industrial architecture you’ll be captivated by this city, contiguous with North Andover to the northwest.
A center for textiles, Lawrence was planned in the 1840s, and its giant mill complexes were built along canals excavated on the north and south banks of the Merrimack River.
You could come to gauge the amazing dimensions of these factories, and to check out sights like the commanding Ayer Mill Clock Tower, with four glass faces that are only six inches smaller than London’s Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben).
Manufacturing is still part of Lawrence’s economy, and one of the modern occupants at Ayer Mill is New Balance, which has a factory store here.
13. Boston Helicopters
A lot of the northern end of North Andover is taken up by Lawrence Municipal Airport (LWM), owned by the neighboring city.
The airport was established in 1934, and is used by companies in the defense and telecommunications industries, as well as for general aviation.
With downtown Boston located about 25 miles to the south, this is also the base for several flight schools and tour operators.
One is Boston Helicopters, which offers training for all levels, but is also available for tours of the Boston skyline, the North Shore, Massachusetts’ Northern Coast or all of these together in one flight.
For a truly memorable experience, there’s also an evening tour to see Boston as the sun goes down or in lights.
14. North Andover Sheep Shearing Festival
Taking place on the Town Common in May, this unique event has ushered in the summer in North Andover for more than half a century now.
At the core of the North Andover Sheep Shearing Festival are demonstrations of shearing and herding, showing off the exceptional skill that goes into removing the fleece, as well as the teamwork between farmers and their herding dogs.
These shows are complemented by live music, food, old-style horse-drawn carriage rides, pony rides for kids, craft stands and other live demonstrations of time-honored rural skills.
15. Fall Festival
Combining a merchant market with tons of activities for kids, the Fall Festival takes place on the Town Common on the third Saturday in September.
For grownups this is an opportunity to get acquainted with the variety of small businesses based in North Andover and neighboring towns, browsing craft stalls, trying some great local food and taking in some live entertainment.
For wee ones there’s all kinds of yard games, a dedicated game tent, as well as activities like pumpkin decorating and pony rides.