If you know anything about Salem, chances are it’s the infamous witch trials of 1692 that resulted in the death of 20 innocent people. While 21st century Salem is a love fest for fans of the occult (think tarot card readings, crystal balls, voodoo dolls, spooky walking tours and love potions), there’s a lot going on even if you don’t give a hoot about sorcery. Foodies, art enthusiasts and literary geeks will all find this seaside village bewitching.
The Must-Do Experiences
The Peabody Essex Museum is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Asian art. Its trump card is the Yin Yu Tang house, the only Qing dynasty house in existence outside of China. The museum is committed to public education and some exhibits spill out onto the pedestrian mall to be enjoyed by all.
The House of the Seven Gables is the actual house that Nathaniel Hawthorne set his famed 1851 novel of the same name in. Visitors may tour the gabled house, see Hawthorne’s birthplace next door and gaze at the gardens and harbor views.
It’s de rigueur to stop at least one of the town’s many attractions that commemorate the witch trials. Authenticity seekers will choose to visit the only remaining structure with actual ties to the trials, Witch House. It was the home of witch trial judge Jonathan Corwin. A stop here will give you some insight into the depth of the trial’s hysteria and an overview of superstition in early Colonial times.
Stroll Pickering Wharf and you’ll be reminded that maritime roots run deep here. If the weather’s fine, take a ride on the 1812 Schooner Fame and glimpse islands, lighthouses and forts.
This town is a haven for the hungry. Salem Food Tours offers a fantastic variety of guided walking tours that blend Salem’s food scene with history and culture. If your time is limited, consider the eye-opening AM Coffee Walk. Vegetarians won’t want to miss the All-Vegan tour. Seafood is stellar in these parts and Finz serves boat-to-table fish on its casual deck with a view of the harbor.
At Adriatic Restaurant & Bar, diners feast on a luscious Mediterranean-inspired menu in a romantic setting. Pasta, fresh fish and an extensive wine list are a winning combination. Connecticut may have Mystic Pizza but Massachusetts holds its own with Flying Saucer Pizza. They use organic and locally grown ingredients to make delicious pies. Try the gluten-free option. The collection of Star Trek memorabilia will have Spock and Kirk fans in a tizzy.
The Insider Tip
Salem’s main street is a pedestrian-only mall, so it’s perfect for car-free visitors who enjoy walking and cycling. The town’s new bike share program, Zagster, has locations throughout the area.
The Hawthorne Hotel has a timeless feel, excellent service and a convenient location within walking distance of all attractions. The gracious furnishings add old-world elegance.
How to Get to Salem, MA
See our Boston Transportation Guide. From Boston’s North Station, ride the MBTA commuter rail to Salem in 30 minutes. In season, catch the high-speed ferry from Long Wharf.
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.