Haunting Salem

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Salem Witch House. (Photo credit Scott Lanes.)
Witch House. (Photo credit Scott Lanes.)

With Halloween right around corner, what better time than the present to do a short write-up on “haunting” Salem? In fact, whenever I travel to Boston, and I travel there quite often, I always set some time apart to visit Salem with my family. It’s such a lovely, serene destination, and one can’t ignore its captivating history—witches, Hawthorne and seafaring tales—all trimmed with tree-lined streets and striking architecture. For kids, it’s an adventurous history lesson in a living classroom.

Here are some of the things that families shouldn’t miss as they step back in time while on a visit to Salem.

• Say the word Salem, and what’s the first thing people think of? The Witch Trials of 1692, of course. Located on gorgeous Washington Square, the Salem Witch Museum is a must-do (although, be ready, it can be a little, shall we say, hokey, but, again, a can’t-miss for first-timers to Salem, and travelers will definitely learn a thing or two). The gift shop is actually pretty cool, full of  great souvenirs.

• Settled since the early-1600s, Salem knows a thing or two about U.S. history, and some of its most historic remnants, so to speak, are buried six feet under at the Old Burying Point Cemetery on Charter Street. Here, visitors will find the graves for one of the judges from the infamous Witch Trials, John Hathorne (a relative of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne), as well as those of a Mayflower passenger.

House of the Seven Gables in Salem
House of the Seven Gables.

• The House of the Seven Gables is one of my family’s favorite spots in Salem. This 2.5-acre attraction features 17th and 18th century period homes, spectacular gardens and inspiring views of Salem Harbor, Derby Wharf, and the tall ship, Friendship. Literary buffs will feel like kids in a candy store as they make their way through the House of the Seven Gables and learn about Hawthorne’s connection to this Turner-Ingersoll Mansion; all while exploring the 18th century house where Hawthorne was born in 1804. The museum shop itself is housed in a house from the 17th century. But recommend clients stay awhile to enjoy the gardens and the vistas—extraordinarily beautiful.

• The legendary Peabody Essex Museum—it was founded in 1799—features exhibitions of American art and architecture and its entire campus is made up of numerous parks, period gardens and 22 historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200‐year‐old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States.

• Take a walk along the harbor and you’ll be walking through the Salem Maritime, a National Park. No, not your traditional green park—this one is a tad more blue. It is here where the seafaring tales come to life amidst one of America’s most influential ports featuring historic buildings, wharves, and the reconstructed tall ship, the Friendship.

The harbor in Salem
Salem’s harbor. (Photo courtesy: Linda-J.-Orlomoski.)

• For families who just can’t get enough of those infamous Witch Trials, recommend they make a detour to the “Witch House.” It’s actually the only building with direct ties to the witch trials, and is, in fact, the 17th century home of Judge Jonathan Corwin.

• Families following the Red Line on the sidewalk will be walking along what is known as the Salem Heritage Trail—in other words a stroll through American history.

• Salem has innumerable lively dining spots, but it’s fun to grab one’s lunch and find a spot on the waterfront. It’s moments like these when you sit there taking it all in that the magnificence of the history that surrounds you truly washes over you. It’s a great family moment.

• And coming up in October is Haunted Happenings, when Salem is taken over by the Halloween spirit (it does get crowded, so even though this is a great time to visit for obvious reasons, warn your clients to expect the masses).

accommodate yourself
While walking through historic downtown Salem, visitors can’t miss the Hawthorne Hotel, which opened in 1925 and is one of the destination’s best accommodations. The hotel is offering an Explore Salem package that includes overnight accommodations; breakfast for two; two entrees for the price of one in Nathaniel’s (reservations are recommended); and tickets for two to two museums. Rates through Nov. 4 start at $243. For more information, visit hawthornehotel.com.

For more information on Salem, visit salem.org.

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