Destination Salem Blog
If you're at all like me, it has recently dawned on you that school vacation week is coming up SOON and you have an inkling of where you would like to go, but no real concept of how to go or what to do or how much you can cram into a long weekend or mid-week overnight. And as much as we like the insights provided by TripAdvisor and Google, sometimes you just need a human being to help shed some light on how to do what with whom.
I'm here to help.
If you're thinking, "Salem would be a great long weekend to bookend school vacation week," you are absolutely right. And perhaps you're thinking, "I want to take my kids to Salem for the history - the Witch Trials History - but what else is there to do?" And, "How long does it take?" Or, "Where is Salem, anyway?" I have some answers for you.
Salem is located 15 miles north of Boston. We are a two-hour drive from Hartford, two hours from Mystic, Connecticut, about ninety minutes from Plymouth, forty-five minutes from Lexington and Concord. Once you get to Salem, we are a walkable city (the whole city is only 8 square miles, and the historic downtown is just over a mile in diameter). We recommend parking your car and walking between sites. You'll see more that way, and Salem offers some of the most unique window shopping you'll find. Anywhere.
Salem has two full-service hotels, The Hawthorne Hotel and the Salem Waterfront Hotel; a motel, The Clipper Ship; The Salem Inn, and several B&Bs (some of which are seasonal, some of which are kid-friendly). Check out the accommodations on Salem.org, and note that the Salem Waterfront Hotel offers a Pizza & Pool package, and the Salem Inn has family suites.
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 left an indelible mark on Salem, and we have several attractions and museums that interpret the Trials. The Salem Wax Museum is offering a vacation week special, and a combo-ticket is available for the Witch Dungeon, Witch History, and New England Pirate Museum (note: the Pirate Museum is only open weekends in April). The Salem Witch Museum has a unique second exhibit (the first exhibit interprets the Trials) that presents interpretations of the word "Witch" throughout history. The Witch House is the only house still standing in Salem with direct ties to the Witch Trials of 1692. You'll find descriptions of each of these museums and attractions on Salem.org.
But we aren't all about the Witch Trials. Mix in a dash of maritime heritage at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, where tours are free. And climb the secret staircase (if you can find it) at the House of the Seven Gables.
The most robust April vacation week (for the week of April 15-19) in Salem can be found at the Peabody Essex Museum. Programming will appeal to kids of all ages, and their parents, and the entire museum is very family-friendly. Within the PEM galleries, you'll find the model of the tall ship Friendship that was used to build the full-sized replica at Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and you will find a contemporary art installation of sound suits by Nick Cave, and you will find the Chinese Moon Bed used in The Last Emporer. Your kids won't care about that last reference, but it's awfully cool for us parents.
There's a lot more to Salem, and I always recommend families hop aboard a Salem Trolley tour to get that live one-hour narration. It's impossible not to learn something new on the Salem Trolley, and it will help you chart the rest of your visit. If you are traveling with teens, check out Witch City Segway - it's a hip tour that will share the history and get you out and around Salem, on Segways.
If your family is like mine, they are going to require food. Reds Sandwich Shop is great for breakfast or lunch (cash only, pancakes as big as your head), and it is located in the old London Coffee House, which is where Patriots once met to plan the revolution. We have a lot of food options in Salem, so if you have a hankering for Italian, Indian, pizza, Mediterranean, seafood, soup, or burgers, we can do that. You'll find listings of our restaurants on Salem.org. Most are family friendly, so your decision can be based on price and menu.
If you're planning a long weekend, book a room in Salem and spend two full days here. Then spoke out for a day to Gloucester, which is about 30 minutes north-east from Salem, for the maritime and fishing history. On your final day, visit Minute Man National Historic Park in Lexington on your way home. That is a trip that would be full of pirates, Patriots, and Puritans.
If you want to connect to Boston, you can do it car-free aboard the MBTA Commuter Rail. Salem is only 30 minutes from Boston via train, which delivers you to North Station. From North Station you can walk or Trolley to Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, and everything in between. Visit our friends at BostonUSA.com for more Boston information.
Best wishes for a great April vacation week with your family - especially if it includes Salem!