There are four corners to historic Salem – and many nooks and crannies in between. If this is your first visit to Salem, you may want to get a taste of each of our four primary themes:
- The Salem Witch Trials of 1692: Part of the curriculum in American history, and integrated into contemporary and historical literature, the Salem Witch Trials are the event that nearly everyone around the world associates with Salem. Learn about the Salem Witch Trials at the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch House, the Witch Dungeon Museum (seasonal), or Cry Innocent: The People Verses Bridget Bishop (seasonal).
- The Great Age of Sail: The Eighteenth Century was a grand period in American and Salem history. One quarter of the young country’s wealth came through the port of Salem, where dozens of wharves stretched far into the harbor. Learn more at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site (open year round, seasonal tours vary).
- Architecture & Literature: We fit two significant themes into one because we are fortunate enough to have the iconic House of the Seven Gables in Salem. New England’s oldest wooden mansion, the 1668 Turner-Ingersoll Mansion was immortalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The House of the Seven Gables. The entire property comprises its own National Historic District, and includes Hawthorne’s Birthplace, which features a new museum about Hawthorne, and beautiful seaside gardens.
- An Overview Tour: In addition to being home to the House of the Seven Gables, Salem has one of the finest collections of Federal-style architecture in the world. Climb aboard a Salem Trolley (seasonal) and you will receive a live narrated tour of the City, including our lighthouses, beaches, recreation areas, historic districts, shopping neighborhoods, and attractions. In addition to being valid for the one-hour tour, your ticket is good for on-and-off transportation between more than a dozen historic sites in Salem.
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692
- The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were pivotal in the development of American society. The basis of our current justice system, innocent until proven guilty, evolved from the trials after the Court of Oyer and Terminer was dissolved. There are so many lessons to be learned from the Trials, including social tolerance and abuse of power, and in Salem there are many places and ways to explore the intricacies of the Trials.
- The Witch House is the only structure still standing in Salem today with direct ties to the trials of 1692. The home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, the house is open for guided and self-guided tours.
- The Witch Trials Memorial was dedicated by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel in 1992. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Memorial is where we recommend visitors go to reflect on the lives lost and the lessons learned from 1692.
- Cry Innocent: The People Verses Bridget Bishop is a reenactment of the examination of Bridget Bishop. The audience is the jury in this award-winning production that will immerse you into the fears and concerns of seventeenth-century Salem.
- The Salem Witch Museum features a presentation that interprets the trials of 1692 through life-sized scenes and dramatic narration, the second explains the evolution of the word “witch” in society from Pagan midwife to McCarthyism.
- The Witch Dungeon Museum provides a dramatic reenactment of one of the trials in 1692, and then guests are led on a tour of recreated dungeons that demonstrate the horrible conditions in which the accused were kept for months while awaiting trial.
- The Witch History Museum provides an interactive tour through life-sized scenes that depict several of the stories from 1692.
- The Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers presents the people involved in the Trials of 1692 as well as other significant eras in Salem history through life-sized wax figures.
In Danvers, which in 1692 was Salem Village (neighbor to Salem Town, now Salem), you may also want to explore the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, which was home to Rebecca Nurse, who was condemned and executed on July 19, 1692.
Salem for Families
In 2010, Salem was named “Favorite Day Trip” in Boston Parents Paper. Several attractions close for the winter, but visiting Salem in the off-season (January, February, March) can be a great experience that does not include lines, long waits at restaurants, or crowded shops. Here are family-friendly opportunities for the off-season. Check out our Salem for Kids Board on Pinterest!
- Salem Maritime National Historic Site offers tours, a Junior Ranger program, two free films and one ticketed film. At the Orientation Center, 160 Derby Street, the film, To the Farthest Ports of the Rich East, tells the story of sea captains and the Great Age of Sail in Salem. Ranger-led tours of the Park buildings are available for $5 per person. At the Visitor Center, 2 New Liberty Street, the film, Where Past is Present, is about the region’s Early Settlement, Maritime, and Industrial heritage. A third film, Witch Hunt, presents new scholarship about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and costs $5. Younger children will want to contribute to the “Fish and Ships” coloring wall, which occupies the kids while the adults take in the exhibits.
- At the House of the Seven Gables, a tour of the seventeenth-century Turner-Ingersoll Mansion includes the curious secret staircase, and talks about the families that lived in the mansion over the course of two centuries. Outside, adjacent to the seaside gardens, the counting house has been converted to a family area, with a spyglass to view the harbor and costumes to try on for size.
- The Peabody Essex Museum (open year-round, closed on Mondays except holiday Mondays) is free for children under 16, and they have scavenger hunts to help the kids make connections between objects from around the world.
- If your family is interested in the Salem Witch Trials, the Salem Witch Museum is open year-round. The first presentation interprets what happened in Salem in 1692, and the second exhibit discusses the evolution of the word “witch” throughout history.
- Whichever attractions and museums you explore, leave time for Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, America’s oldest candy company. They have been making Gibralters and Blackjacks for more than 200 years. There are many family-friendly dining options in Salem, from hot dogs to seafood, pizza to tacos. For pancakes the size of your head, and the largest portion of macaroni and cheese in town, visit Reds Sandwich Shop on Central Street for breakfast or lunch. Located in the old London Coffee House where Revolutionaries met in the early 18th-century, you may just get some history with your fries.