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Travel: Come, Let's Stroll in Nantucket

Travel: Come, Let’s Stroll in Nantucket
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Most shops and restaurants are happily open, too, and feature holiday-theme window decorations, one more extravagant than the next: Christmas trees made of scallop shells, wreaths and ribbons of every sort. The welcoming aroma of hot toddies and warm cinnamon from freshly baked cookies wafts over us. It’s a charismatic way to experience a little bit of an old-fashioned Christmas.

And, if you need a practical excuse, you can get some early shopping done without going to a single mall. Nantucket’s retailers look forward to this big push to get through the rest of the long winter season, and local crafters get into the act with shows and demonstrations. At the Preservation Institute, St. Paul’s Church, and St. Mary’s Church, artisans are lined up in rows, displaying handcrafts ranging from ornaments and greeting cards to jewelry and clothing to foods and toys. It’s hard not to spend, whether you’re looking for a stocking stuffer carrying a reminder of a fun weekend or a more exquisite purchase to last a lifetime.

Goodwill goes only so far, of course. All that shopping and smiling can certainly build up an appetite–and islanders don’t forget how to make great food when the days turn colder. In the parking lot of the Grand Union market, right off Old South Wharf, the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce sponsors an event called “Chamber Food Fair,” as local professional chefs and home cooks offer hot provisions to chilled and weary shoppers.

Serious dining is available as well; in fact, many restaurants re-open for Stroll Weekend. Finding a seat at one of the island’s many great venues requires patience and, better yet, some planning, but you’re bound to make new friends or even join the roaming carolers while you wait. Despite the chilly weather, the Boarding House restaurant’s outdoor oyster bar keeps the crowds pleased well into the afternoon.

As the early-winter sun slips toward the horizon, the caroling continues, and theatrical performances begin. Stage and screen actor John Shea reads Dylan Thomas’s classic A Child’s Christmas in Wales; the Karina Association presents its “Christmas Opera Concert.” And, if you feel the need to slip away from all this Noel activity for a bit, there’s still plenty of island left: house tours, literary and historical walking tours, book signings, birdwatching, wine tastings, a ghost walk, and Saturday’s annual five-mile “Nantucket Winter Run.”

At weekend’s end, as you climb aboard the return ferry, you can feel the spirit all around you. You’ve shared a common experience with friends and strangers in an uncommon place, where for a few special days everyone was a stroller, everyone was an islander.

For details on this year’s Nantucket’s Christmas Stroll Weekend, go to: nantucketchamber.org/.

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