5 Reasons to Visit Salem in 2019

There is more to see and do in Salem than ever before! Find inspiration for your next trip to Salem this year below and discover everything that’s new for 2019. For more trip planning inspiration, request a free Salem City Guide & Map here.

(1) Festivals & events all year long

Photos by John Andrews

Kick off 2019 in Salem at the Salem Comedy & Spirits Festival in January, plan a spring visit and attend the Salem Arts Festival, or wait until the biggest Halloween celebration around in October for Salem Haunted Happenings.

Salem’s annual festival’s include:

(2) New attractions, shops, and restaurants

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery moved to a new location in 2018, and is now located on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall! Visit their new location this summer and October to experience this unique cinematic monster museum in a new, expanded space.

Twisted Escape Room just opened on Washington Street with an immersive experience that will test your wits, poers of observation and problem-solving skills.

Sinister Stories of Salem Presents New England Confessions, starts later this year with an all-new walking tour presented in the words and from the perspective of a 17th-century observer of the Salem Witch Tryals.

The Hotel Salem recently opened three new restaurants: Counter, located on the ground level right by the lobby features American food with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. The Roof, Salem’s only rooftop bar, offers expansive views with cocktails, tacos, ceviche, and oysters. Downstairs at the Hotel Salem, The Cellar offers a space for live music and special events with the longest bar in Salem.

Finz Seafood & Grill moved and opened at a new location on Pickering Wharf in 2018, with a new space offering waterfront views, a redesigned dining area, and an updated menu now including sushi.

Mr. Crepe opened on Washington Street in 2018, with a wide variety of sweet and savory crepes, specialty coffee, sweets, and more.

Kakawa is now crafting historic drinking chocolate elixirs, artisan chocolates, ice cream, and much more all handmade on the premises right next to the Peabody Essex Museum.

Coon’s Card & Gift Shop was remodeled in 2018, and opened with a refreshed look and more space to purchase Salem t-shirts, sweatshirts, crystals, oracle cards, witchy wares, pet gifts, and more.

Vampfangs opened on Essex Street in 2018, offering custom-fit Vampire fangs, unique jewelry, apparel, gifts, occult items, and more from their dark, centrally-located Vampire parlour.

Merry & Bright is an Enchanted shop, bringing a new and festive holiday shopping experience to Pickering Wharf later this year.

Hive & Forge is now open with more than 20 New England artisans and curators selling a wild collection of wares, led by the owners of Red Antler Apothecary and Bad Moon Shop.

(3) 200th Anniversary of the Custom House

The Custom House is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2019!  A custom house has been collecting taxes for the Federal Government in Salem since 1649. During the Colonial period, Salem’s custom house supported the British government. Following the Revolutionary War and the establishment of the U.S. Customs Service in 1789, collections began to support the American government.

The 1819 Custom House standing on Derby Street today once housed the offices of U.S. Customs officials while the adjacent three-story Public Stores building was used as storage facility for merchant cargo before duties were paid. The eagle seen atop the Custom House is a fiberglass replica of the original 1826 wood carved piece. Following years of restoration work, the original eagle was moved inside the Custom House where it is on display today, and the replica was added to the building’s façade in 2004.

While touring the Custom House, visitors can view the office of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who worked as a Customs Officer while writing The Scarlet Letter. The introduction to his 1850 novel is titled “The Custom House,” and it reflects Hawthorne himself as narrator’s thoughts share his feelings on living and working in Salem in the mid-19th century.

The Custom House is located in the Salem Maritime National Historic Site at 160 Derby Street and is open to the public for free, self-guided tours seasonally Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 pm-2:00 pm. The site’s outdoor exhibits and grounds are open 24/7, year-round, and hours for the site’s historic buildings vary by season.

Learn more about the Custom House’s 200-year history here.

(4) Upcoming art exhibitions

The Peabody Essex Museum has an exciting year of exhibitions planned:

  • A Passion for American Art: Selections from the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Collection: Includes works by American Impressionist master Childe Hassam, modern furniture master Sam Maloof, Massachusetts folk painter J.O.J. Frost, and pioneering landscape painter Martin Johnson Heade along with significant works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent.
  • Wild Designs: Features works by artists and other creatives who are looking to nature and living systems for new ideas and creative solutions to human problems. Explore bioinspired innovations in design, technology and art that either model or engage nature to generate more sustainable solutions. (Through August 4)
  • Nature’s Nation: American Art & Environment: Examines for the first time how American and Native American artists have both reflected and shaped our understanding of the environment. The exhibition traces evolving ideas about the environment — and our place within it — through more than 100 works of art from the colonial period to the present by a broad range of artists. (February 2-May 5)
  • Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker: For more than 40 years, Olivia Parker has explored the relationships between vision, knowledge and the natural world. From deceptively simple still lifes that transform the commonplace to her most recent work exploring memory loss, this is the first exhibition to present a comprehensive overview of Parker’s extensive career. (July 13-November 11)
  • Hans Hoffmann: The Nature of Abstraction: Discover a fresh perspective on the artist, teacher, and student widely considered a profound influence on American modern art. Through approximately 80 paintings and works on paper from 1930 through the end of Hofmann’s life in 1966, explore the artist’s journey into abstraction, and his deep contribution to the artistic landscape of New England. (September 21-January 5, 2020)
  • Where the Questions Live: A curiosity-driven, format-bending romp with artist Wes Sam-Bruce, that adventurously investigates the connections, metaphors, and experiences of human beings within the natural world. Best known for his immersive, story-saturated exhibitions, Sam-Bruce will be creating a site-specific, multi-sensory, installation at PEM that will act as an enveloping world within a world. (September 21-March 1, 2021)

The Salem Arts Association helps bring art of all forms to our local communities. In addition to specialty exhibitions throughout the year, Salem Arts plans monthly artist meet-ups and runs a gallery exhibition space, shop, workshop area, and event facilities at The Bridge at 211.

Punto Urban Art Museum is comprised of curated murals painted by internationally-renowned artists throughout Salem’s Point Neighborhood. The museum is a collaborative effort with the North Shore CDC to break down the invisible barriers between the Point and the rest of Salem by inviting both visitors and residents to see world-class art. The murals are all accessible to the public and free to explore. Visit PuntoUrbanArtMuseum.org to view a list of murals and check out events scheduled for the year.

For more art in Salem, browse the galleries or attend a workshop on Artists’ Row, check out SCAM on Essex Street, or visit the Winfisky Gallery at the Hawthorne Hotel. You may even come across work by local artists while you’re out having coffee at Front Street Coffeehouse (with pieces rotating monthly) or at Howling Wolf Taqueria.

(5) In 2019 getting to Salem is easier than ever!

Just 16 miles north of Boston on the Massachusetts coast, Salem is easily accessible by car, train, bus and seasonal ferry.

The MBTA has extended $10 weekend fares for the Commuter Rail! Tickets are valid all weekend long for travel on all lines between all zones. You can take the Commuter Rail to Salem via the Newburyport/Rockport lines from Boston’s North Station or from cities to the north like Gloucester, Rockport, and more. Weekend tickets may be purchased in person or on the mTicket mobile app. Learn more here.

From Memorial Day to Halloween, you can also reach Salem aboard the Salem Ferry operated by Boston Harbor Cruises which departs from Long Wharf in Boston. In 2018, Salem was selected to receive a grant for federal funding towards the addition of a second ferry, which getting between Boston and Salem by sea will only get easier. Until the second ferry launches, the Salem Ferry schedules up to five trips between Boston and Salem daily. Complete schedules and ticket details are available at SalemFerry.com.

Since 2017, Zagster has made getting around Salem by bicycle a breeze. In 2018, more bikes were added downtown, and updates were made to the Zagster mobile app that allow bikes to be located and picked up from any location, no longer limiting them to Zagster-operated bike racks. Zagster relaunches each spring, and adds themed “Wicked Bikes” during October. Get the Zagster app here.

Click here for more information about getting to Salem, including parking maps and fees.

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