Where There's Always a Festival
Annual Festivals, Regattas & Events
Nantucket Wine Festival
Figawi Race Weekend
Nantucket Film Festival
Independence Day Fireworks
Independence Day Downtown Celebration
Nantucket Comedy Festival
Boston Pops at Jetties
Nantucket Race Week
Opera House Cup Regatta
Thanksgiving Turkey Plunge
To lure tourists year-round, Nantucket has an array of weekend festivals, including daffodil (April 28-30), wine (May 19-21), arts (October 3-9), and harvest (October 13-15). It all climaxes in the Christmas Stroll, from December 1 to 3, when residents don their winter finery and go shopping en masse. (If you're looking for a reason to visit Nantucket in November, the annual high-school football game against Martha's Vineyard is big news. You don't need tickets, but go early if you hope to find a seat.) None of the festivals are as hokey as they might sound, but neither are they sufficient reason to visit. An exception may be the film festival (June 19-24). The focus is on the scripts—a good decision, since the Gaslight Theatre (1 N. Union St.; 508/228-4435) has a screen the size of a beach blanket and the Dreamland Theatre (19 S. Water St.; 508/228-5356) is a tiny classic movie house. During the event, you'll spot twentysomething screenwriters dressed in New York black meeting fortysomething producers in pressed L.A. blue jeans for morning coffee at the Cambridge Street restaurant. You can also attend screenings—some worthy, some unlikely for a good Quaker town. Last year's hit was a documentary about a woman who slept with 251 men in one day. For tickets and schedules, call 508/325-6274.
the lay of the land
"Take out your map and look at it."
So Melville wrote of Nantucket in Moby Dick, perhaps as a tacit admission that he had never been to his protagonist's island. Officially it's all one town, but in reality there are several distinct neighborhoods. Where you choose to stay will affect your overall experience.
Nantucket town: Nantucket has more than 800 pre-Civil War houses in its historic district. Most were built around the harbor in "town" (as everyone calls it) during the island's reign as capital of the whaling business. Wandering the streets lined with 1700's and 1800's captains' houses is an architectural education in itself. West of Steamboat Wharf begins the land of generously porched summer retreats built in the post-whaling period.
Siasconset: At the island's extreme eastern end, the heart of this miniature fishing village—"Sconset"—is almost unchanged from the early 1700's, when Nantucket town residents began summering here. On either side along the bluffs are later-vintage summer places.
Madaket: Across the island from Sconset, both geographically and temperamentally, lies Madaket. Nothing is ever scruffy on Nantucket, but Madaket is laid-back enough for some people to sniff at. If you didn't clip your hedge for a season, none of your neighbors would notice.
Quidnet, Quaise, and all the rest: Each of Nantucket's smaller neighborhoods has its own flavor. For your purposes: North of Polpis Road, where Quidnet and Quaise are located, think old family compounds on winding roads. South of Milestone Road, think subdivisions by the sea.