Living in New England, and specifically the Boston area, affords one the opportunity to take fantastic day trips or weekend getaways without traveling too far from home; the city itself offers an abundance of historical sites, museums, and events that could keep anyone busy for several weeks. But for those looking to head outside of the city and see a bit of the surrounding area, I highly recommend a day trip to Salem, Mass. Though best known for the Witch Trials and Haunted Happenings (read: outrageous Halloween celebrations), Salem’s residents have worked hard in the past decade or so to rebuild the downtown and bring out the best of the city year round. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan a non-haunted visit to the Witch City.
On the commuter rail, take Newburyport/Rockport line from North Station to Salem Station, which will take approximately 30 minutes and will cost $6.75 one way. The train will drop you off just outside of Salem’s main streets.
By car, you could drive north on Route 1, to Route 128 N, to Route 114 East, and follow the signs from there. Or you could take Route 1A N to Route 107 N. Either way, you’ll eventually find yourself in downtown Salem, where there are several parking lots and parking garages, as well as street parking.
Bonus: From the end of May through the end of October, you can take a ferry from Boston to Salem. Details on fares and schedules can be found at www.bostonharborcruises.com/salem-ferry
If you’re looking for the historic aspects of Salem, you won’t need to go far. Many of the houses surrounding the downtown area hail from the 18th century, and one of the main roads through the downtown, Essex Street, is a cobblestoned pedestrian thoroughfare containing a mix of modern and historic architecture.
I recommend checking out the Peabody Essex Museum, Derby Wharf and the Salem Maritime National Park, and the House of Seven Gables. While you’re in the Derby Street area, check out Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, America’s oldest candy company, to sample chocolates, Black Jacks, and Salem Gibralters.
Essex Street and the surrounding streets are full of shops ranging from clothing boutiques and specialty cooking stores to discount books shops and the typical tourist traps. Bookworms should definitely stop by the Derby Square Book Store, famous for its precarious floor-to-ceiling stacks of books. The Museum Place Mall also contains several interesting stores, such as Glass and Etc., which sells vintage/antique items specific to the Northshore.
For the foodie
Regardless of what kind of cuisine you’re looking for in Salem, there’s a good chance you’ll find it; the city boasts over 100 restaurants, many of which are located in the Essex/Washington/Derby street area. A few of my recommendations include The Howling Wolf, Rockafellas, Red’s Sandwich Shop, and Engine House Pizza. You might be familiar with Tavern in the Square and Salem Beer Works, both of which are great for grabbing a drink with friends after a day of sightseeing. For lighter fare, try Café Valverde or Gulu Gulu Café.
Salem also hosts several Restaurant Weeks throughout the year; the spring version runs from March 17 – March 21 and March 24 – March 28. The city’s restaurants offer two-course or three-course fixed price menus, making it affordable to try some of their signature dishes. You can find out more about it by visiting the Chamber of Commerce website.