Travel tips and advice for Salem, Massachusetts, US: The nine things you should do

THE ONE BOOK

Salem could have easily buried the darkest part of its history – the witch hysteria and trials of 1692 that led to 20 people being executed and another five dying in jail. But it seems to have embraced the notoriety – to the point where a large population of  people who identify as witches has moved there. If you want to read up on it, then Arthur Miller's The Crucible is the classic telling. 

THE ONE MUSEUM

Several museums attempt to tell the story of the Salem Witch Trials, with the Salem Witch Museum doing the best job. That's partly because it goes in for stage sets and dramatic narration rather than dry signs on walls, but partly because it has an engrossing separate section on witch hunts throughout history. See salemwitchmuseum.com

THE ONE ART ATTACK

The Peabody Essex Museum is the oldest art museum in the US. It holds a substantial Asian collection and the presentation throughout is thoughtfully innovative. In the maritime gallery, for example, one work is by an unknown artist. Paintings by the two most likely candidates are displayed next to it, allowing the visitors to make up their own minds  about who's responsible. See pem.org

THE ONE MEAL

Unsurprisingly, given the location on the New England coast, Salem's culinary scene leans heavily towards seafood. Fish is also to the fore at Finz on Pickering Wharf. The $US25 North Atlantic haddock with lump crab meat, mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables is a winner, but there are plenty of alternatives, including tuna, seafood paella, oyster and swordfish. See hipfinz.com

THE ONE BOAT TRIP

There's a distinct maritime feel to Salem, and a trip out on the Schooner Fame is the best bet for getting out on the water to check out vintage lighthouses, pricey clifftop homes and birdlife. The crew let guests have a go at hoisting the sails, and are a goldmine of historical information about the region. A two hour cruise costs $US35. See schoonerfame.com

THE ONE PLAY

Want to know how you'd have behaved during the Salem Witch Trials? Well Cry Innocent: The People Versus Bridget Bishop will probably make you feel mighty uncomfortable. It's interactive theatre, and the audience acts as the jury deciding whether to commit Bridget Bishop – the first of the Salem "witches" to be hanged – to trial. See cryinnocentsalem.com

THE ONE HOTEL

The clue is in the name with the Salem Waterfront Hotel – it has a prime location next to the sea on the Pickering Wharf, and opts for the sort of solidity that leads to few complaints, but few giddy whoops of excitement, either. There's a good on-site pub/restaurant, plenty of parking and a handy pool. Doubles cost from $US150. See salemwaterfronthotel.com

THE ONE FESTIVAL

Nowhere in the US does Halloween like Salem, where it has become a month-long celebration of all things spooky. Expect to see the whole city covered in carved pumpkins, cobweb effects and ghostly figures. This is the best time of year to come if you want to throw yourself into the madness – but it is also the most expensive month for accommodation.

THE ONE ESCAPE

Salem Willows park is found at the end of a small peninsula just outside the town centre.  In summer, the beaches make for a nice respite from the heat, while its rides and arcades are perennially popular with the kids.

Advertisement

ONE MORE THING

Salem is about 40 minutes' drive from Boston Logan airport, and the trip costs about $US50 in a taxi or limo. If Salem is your main target rather than an add-on to Boston, it's almost certainly going to be quicker and cheaper to go direct rather than heading into the big city first.

David Whitley was a guest of Destination Salem. See salem.org

Comments