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About Nantucket

What Do We Do All Winter?

By Rebecca Nimerfroh

Nantucket year-rounders are used to it. The wide-eyed stares, the curiosity. “You live here?,” a tourist will ask. “Even in the winter?”

In response, almost any year-rounder’s face will soften, thinking to that ideal time when the island gets oh-so-sleepy and quiet, when friends are no longer “summer busy” and dinners last long after a decanted bottle of red is all but drunk. When canceled boats delaying our groceries and Amazon Prime orders reinforce the New England way of making do or doing without. When storms rattle the hatches and snowy owls spot our beaches. When only a few restaurants in town remain open, their windows fogged with the joyful breath of those dining inside…

Oh, the winter.

“Yep, even in the winter,” we will nod, “and it’s not so bad.”

Whether you are spending your first winter on Nantucket, or your fiftieth, or even just visiting for a long weekend, here is your guide to the simplest of pleasures to enjoy while we all await the beginnings of a fresh, new summer season.


Got a knock out recipe, or want to try a new one? Why not call a few friends and arrange a potluck at your house or theirs, where over a delicious meal you can catch up on all the latest happenings in their life and yours. In the winter, this is the ideal time to gather, whether it be by a cozy fire, or around a table. Add some food, some wine, and as simple as this evening is, we promise it is likely to be one you won’t soon forget.


Only in the off-season, the Nantucket Culinary Center offers open mic night every Thursday night at 7 pm, hosted by local comedian David Hayes. This free event combines some of the best talents of the island, from local singers, songwriters, comedians, poets, and more, served alongside chef-made dinner specials that vary each week. A cash bar helps motivate the nervous toward the stage. As David says, performing at open mic isn’t to show off a perfect talent, it is to practice and improve your talent. But nevertheless, the room is as supportive as it is joyful and fun. For those not into performing, but still craving some social interaction, trivia night is also hosted in the same space on Tuesdays at 7 pm by former island physician Dr. Greg Hinson.


Living on an island, 30 miles out to sea in the winter does pay off occasionally, especially when you can go to the beach for the rare sighting of a beautiful white snowy owl. These owls travel to Nantucket from the Arctic Circle and look much like a small pile of snow from far away. This is not to say these creatures are small; snowy owls are actually one of the heaviest species of owls, weighing about four pounds, and up close and personal they are about the size of a toddler. Note that males are all white, while females have grey or black markings. So grab your best camera and head out on some deserted beaches to see if you can encounter this gorgeous and elusive creature.


It happens every time, you plan to catch the sunset at your favorite beach and wham! You only have ten minutes before it is scheduled to set. You scramble, grab your coat and run to your car, and head down dirt roads until you finally get to the beach, where you are just in time to see that golden crescent dip down below the horizon. That is sunset chasing at its finest, and it’s considered something of a competitive sport in the winter months. Grab a camera, add a few friends, and you’ve got a competition on your hands for the best sunset picture taken. Throw in a beverage and a snack and well, you’ve got a party. You don’t even need to get out of your car; but if you do, you can opt like a local to keep it warm and running for when you return. Likewise, with the sun rising later in the winter months, you can make a sunrise viewing on the eastern side of the island an excellent start to your day.


Nantucket has a plethora of clubs, you just have to find the one that fits your curiosity. The Curling Club meets weekly at the Nantucket Skating rink, and there are several book clubs hosted in conjunction with the island’s bookstores. Tarot Card Reading is hosted at the Atheneum, and knitting at both the yarn store Flock and monthly at the Culinary Center. Bottom line is if there isn’t a club that interests you, start one because there will undoubtedly be people who will want to join! After all, winter is a time to be creative, and if you crave social interaction, it’s a great way to combine both.


Take a day trip to what the islanders refer to as “America!” Ferries offer discounted same day trips to Hyannis where, with a little know-how, Nantucketers can let their hair down and enjoy some “real world” activities like catching a movie, going to the mall, or eating at a new restaurant. Pro tip: While shopping at the mall, leave the items you wish to purchase on hold at each store until you are all done so you don’t need to carry them all. Or, bring a rolling suitcase, and fill it to your heart’s content. Careful, though, as a storm could keep you stranded for the night, but luckily there are several hotels in the Hyannis area that offer a special “islander rate” for locals. With their indoor pools, arcade rooms and in-house restaurants, you may never want to come back home.

Article edited. Full version available in REVIEW NANTUCKET Holiday, 2019.

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