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Wandering Around Salem

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When wandering around Salem, you’ll quickly get the feeling that something is just not quite right. Perhaps it’s the tingling sense you’ve got that someone, or something, has its eye on you. Maybe the deja vu that you have been here before, but not here and now. That this place is like a face so familiar and yet foreign. It could be that the feeling as you wander around Salem is simply the weight of history on your shoulders. Well, it’s either that or just your mind playing tricks on you.

Salem takes a unique place in the American psyche and our global culture. If you’ve grown up in the states, you know of the Salem Witch Trials and in a way everything spooky in American culture pours forth from this small New England town. The modern city fully embraces its past, largely though tongue-in-cheek references. Salem is known as The Witch City, the city emblem has a witch on a broom, and the local high school mascot is a Witch. The fact that the city buys in fully to this history is both a boon and a curse as you’re wandering around Salem.

Special Note: Nearly all of the photos I took while in Salem were corrupted or lost when transferring to my computer. Photos provided by the friendly people at Destination Salem are indicated as such, along with the photographers. Just remember boys and girls, backups are your friend.

How to go Wandering Around Salem

So, just how does one wander around Salem? Well, by foot of course! Salem is an imminently walkable city, especially in the downtown area. If you are driving into town, parking at the Waterfront Garage presents the best access to your downtown stroll. Alternatively, it is a quick 30 minute train ride from North Station in Boston, to the Salem station via commuter rail. The train station will leave you on the north side of downtown by Washington and Bridge Street. Both of these options to arrive in Salem are entirely viable, so choose which is best for you!

In either case, nearly all of the attractions and sites are within about a 3/4 mile walk at most. This compactness means that you can easily cover all of downtown Salem in a day. I would look at splitting your day up by having a lunch at the wonderful Salem Common. This huge public green is just across from the Salem Witch Musem. Hit the green before or after seeing it and rest your legs from all that walking!

Salem also plays host to a wide variety of tours, most of which are based in the downtown area.

Spooky Salem

If you’re coming to Salem, its likely that you’re interested in something spooky. The city certainly doesn’t disappoint. Simply wandering around Salem can be a spooky endeavor of its own, especially after dark. Eyes which seem to be constantly watching from around the nearest corner only become bolder as night falls. If you’re hitting the city during the month of October, be prepared to fend off all manner of spooks that make an appearance during Haunted Happenings.

Beware the Salem Witch Museum at Night!
Photo provided by Destination Salem, taken by Robert Duschenne

Beyond the eerie feeling of walking through the city, you can pop in to a number of sites which are more than happy to give you a fright. The aforementioned Salem Witch Museum presents the harrowing tale of the witch trials and the history around them. The museum also takes the GoBoston Card which I highly recommend to cut down on ticket prices. There are a number of other witch themed museums in the downtown area as well. The Witch History Museum and Witch Dungeon Museum are two others, though I didn’t visit either on my trip.

Giles Corey stone at the Salem Witch Trials Memoria. Photo provided by Destination Salem, taken by Kate Fox

Your next spooky stops should be the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This series of granite blocks set into a wall, stands next to one of the oldest burial grounds in the United States. People still leave flowers here for those killed during the trials, a minor token for those poor souls. No place in Salem feels quite so heavy on your soul as standing among these stones and knowing what they represent about the worst of mankind.

The famed House of the Seven Gables.
Photo provided by Destination Salem, taken by John Andrews.

If you’re inclined to head towards the sea during your trip, Turner-Ingersoll Mansion stands along the harbor. This home, better known as the House of the Seven Gables, inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write his eponymous novel. The story is a seminal work of Gothic literature which would later influence writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and his writings. The house is thoroughly spooky on its own, so wander down by the river and check it out.

Not-so-Mundane Salem Sites

If, for some reason, you’re not a fan of spooky places then you’re still in luck! Salem is also home to a fascinating array of other locales just dying for you to visit them. The city features a whole host of historical sites, maritime locations, and perhaps one of the best museums in America.

If you’re interested in staying close to the water, then start wandering around Salem on Derby Street. This road runs along the harbor and your first stop will be at the Salem Custom House and Maritime National Historic Site. The Custom House will be celebrating it’s 200th anniversary this year and has long served as the first destination for international cargo coming into Salem.

Salem Custom House from the grounds of the Maritime National Historic Site.
Photo provided by Destination Salem

From here you can take a stroll to across the Salem Neck to explore the sites around Fort Lee and Fort Pickering. Both of these Forts date to the revolutionary period, though there is little remaining of their time as impressive fortifications. You can also stretch your legs a little further by heading all the way out to Salem Willows Park at the far end of the neck.

One attraction you absolutely can’t miss in Salem is the Peabody Essex Museum. This museum’s collection is already one of the best in the country and these pieces alone would be worth the admission. Yet, the Peabody Essex holds a secret at its heart. That secret takes the form of AN ENTIRE HOUSE FROM CHINA! The Yin Yu Tang House was originally built in the 18th-century and occupied by the same family for more than 200 years. Through an agreement with Chinese authorities and the family, the Yin Yu Tang house was moved to Salem in 2003. Meticulously reconstructed at the museum, its an entirely unique and unmissable experience.

One Day in Salem

When you choose to visit Salem will have a huge impact on the time you need to take it all in. During the “off-season”, which is practically anytime not in October, you’ll likely only need a single day. The Peabody Essex Museum can take a large amount of time, but many other stops can be done quickly or avoided altogether depending on your interest level. If you’ve picked up the GoBoston Card, then you’ll need to see the Essex Museum and Salem Witch Museum to get your money’s worth.

Wandering around Salem you will see a bronze statute of Samantha Stephens from Bewitched. She sits on a broom with a crescent moon.

The city is also home to a number of wonderful and quirky shops. Stroll down Essex Street to fulfill your need to shop. Grab a slice of pizza at Flying Saucer Pizza Company and check out the Bewitched Statue at the corner just outside. Finally, if you need some liquid to sate your thirst after a long day check out the taproom at Notch Brewing. It’ll be hard to be disappointed with these food and beverage choices, trust me on that.

To continue wandering beyond Salem, then check out some of my other Boston-area blogs. Need to do more walking, how about Along the Freedom Trail in Downtown Boston? Looking for more eerie historical places that aren’t so spooky, check out my time in Lexington and Concord. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or Facebook to journey along with me live! If you loved this post, then pin it and check me out on Pinterest as well!

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7 Responses

  1. There are so many things to do in Salem. People who like going to haunted houses will definitely love it. Thanks for the virtual tour

  2. I love visiting spooky places! I would be interested in visiting the Salem Witch Museum and seeing the witch trial memorial. Appreciate the tip on using the GoBoston Card for cheaper admission cost to these two places. I will somehow need to convince my husband to join me as he doesn’t like to visit scary places. Can’t wait to visit in the future!

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