by Oscar Collins
Although it’s primarily known for the famous Salem Witch Trials of the late 1600s, this town has 400 years’ worth of national and regional history.
Because there’s so much to do in Salem, it can be challenging to choose an itinerary for a short day trip. Read on for three fun ways your family can enjoy a spring picnic in Salem, immersed in this New England town’s history and culture.
Learn About the Salem Witch Trials
If you’d like to learn about the witch trials and other Salem history, consider visiting some of the town’s museums during your day trip. Both the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Dungeon Museum offer insight into the area. You can also visit the Witch House – the historic home of a man named Jonathan Corwin who was a judge during the Trials.
A short walk from any of these museums will lead you to Charter Street Cemetery– a cemetery that holds the graves of several Witch Trial judges from the 1690s as well as soldiers from the Revolutionary War. This is one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States and is located next to an important memorial commemorating the innocent victims of the Trials.
When visiting any witch-themed sites, be especially sensitive with children. Some museum exhibits may be frightening, and it’s important to explain the historical context of the material you encounter during your day trip. Witch-themed museums may use lighting and music to create a dramatic historical experience that could frighten your kids.
After visiting Salem’s museums, you can break up your day with a lunchtime picnic at nearby Salem Common, a historical green space in the heart of the city. If you’d rather eat locally, there are several good restaurants in this area.
Spend Time on the Water With a Replica 19th-Century Sailing Vessel
Because it’s a coastal town, Salem also has a rich maritime history. To learn more about this side of Salem, start your day at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. This park includes several historic homes, grounds, and a replica of a sailing vessel from the 1700s. The site is free for all visitors and is open seven days a week.
If you’re really keen on experiencing the maritime side of Salem, consider booking a ride on a replica of the 1812 privateer Schooner Fame. Sails include half-day rides, sunset sails, and shorter excursions along the coast for $35-85 a person. To ensure you don’t miss this experience, make sure to book ahead.
You can celebrate the ocean on this trip by packing a seafood-themed lunch. Take fish tacos, or pick up a lobster roll from a local restaurant. For a creative learning experience, bring along oranges and teach your kids about sailors and scurvy. Forest River Park is a short drive from the pier and offers both grills and beach views.
Tour The House of the Seven Gables
One of America’s first well-known novelists, Nathaniel Hawthorne, was born and lived in Salem for many years. Although he’s most famous for “The Scarlet Letter,” Hawthorne also wrote a novel called “The House of the Seven Gables,” based on a real house in Salem where one of his cousins lived. His story draws on historical themes of guilt and the supernatural, and many details are based on objects found in Salem.
This house, which Hawthorne used for his book’s setting, still stands and has been turned into a museum for the Salem community. You can take an audio tour of the grounds for $5 per person or immerse yourself in a full experience of the famous house with a professional interpreter for $12-20 a person.
After taking the tour, head to nearby Salem Willows Park to enjoy a picnic lunch. This area has gazebos, beaches, an arcade along with seasonally operating restaurants offering everything from tacos and pizza to ice cream and the famous Chop Suey sandwich.
Exploring Salem, Massachusetts
Visiting Salem is an enriching experience that can immerse you and your family in early American history. The town boasts an impressive number of early historic sites and local museums are focused on Puritan culture and the famous Witch Trials of the late 1600s.
In addition to museums, historical replicas, and old cemeteries, Salem has beautiful parks where you can take a break from your wanderings to enjoy a picnic and the great outdoors. Although parking can be a challenge during the busy summer months, this small town is extremely walkable, so once you do park you will not need to move your car. Visit Salem with your family this spring for a memorable trip to learn more about New England’s history and culture.
Oscar Collins is the founder and editor-in-chief at Modded, where he writes about travel, food and similar topics. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates!
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