Planning a summer getaway to Salem, Massachusetts for the whole family? Bring the kids (and maybe the grandparents, too!) and learn about the Salem Witch Trials, Salem’s rich maritime history and more, all while trying Salem’s unique shops and restaurants and enjoy a convenient stay right downtown.
Start at the Salem Regional Visitor Center, located at 2 New Liberty Street across from the Peabody Essex Museum. While at the Visitor Center watch a film on Salem’s history, view the current exhibits or simply stop to use the restroom, fill your water bottle, or pick up a Salem City Guide & Map.
From the visitor center, you can set off to explore Salem in any direction, or take a tour around downtown aboard the Salem Trolley. The hour-long tour begins right outside the Visitor Center and it spans nearly 400 years of history, stops at all major area attractions, and serves as a shuttle service between sites. Save time during your visit to Salem by getting tickets in advance at SalemTrolley.com.
Following your trolley tour, walk down Essex Street to check out some of Salem’s shopping scene, with homemade chocolates from Kakawa Chocolate House, Salem gifts and souvenirs from Trolley Depot, Salem-made candles from Witch City Wicks, and more.
When you reach the intersection of Essex and Summer Streets, cross the street to visit the Witch House. Home of 17th-century Witch Trial Judge Jonathan Corwin, the Witch House is the only building in Salem with direct ties to the 1692 Trials. Architecture, furnishings, and information regarding the day to day life of the Corwin family provide a deeper understanding of this period in colonial history.
After your tour of the Witch House, walk a couple of doors down to the Ropes Mansion, (look familiar? You may recognize it from Hocus Pocus!). The 1727 Ropes Mansion was built in the Georgian style and renovated in 1894 in the Colonial Revival style. Throughout its history it has been home to three generations of the Ropes family and today the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Ropes Mansion is open for free self-guided tours every Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm through the fall, and the gardens in the rear of the mansion are free to visit and open to the public.
Ready for lunch? Head back down Essex Street after exploring the Ropes Mansion and stop for a bite at Flying Saucer Pizza Company. The family-friendly menu includes fun additions like “Spaceballs,” traditional or stuffed with pepperoni and mozzarella and a variety of pizzas with vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options served up in a neat Sci-Fi themed setting.
After lunch, continue down Essex Street for a family photo shoot at Witch Pix. Salem’s premium witch-costume photo studio allows you to be the star of your own photo shoot and capture the allure of being a witch with extensive handmade costumes, three backdrops, and engaging photographers. Walk-ins welcome, but an appointment can save your spot in line- book at WitchPix.com.
End your first day in Salem with a sunset sail aboard Schooner Fame, Salem’s very own authentic gaff schooner! See islands, forts, and lighthouses while sailing along Salem’s coast and cap off the evening by steering the ship or learning about Fame’s cannon before it’s set off over the harbor.
Start your second day with breakfast at Red’s Sandwich Shop, a popular Salem landmark for over 50 years. The hearty food has won many awards over the years-most notably for the North Shore’s best breakfast, best luncheon, best coffee and best bagels. The menu includes diner classics with pancakes and omelette breakfasts, soups, salads, sandwiches, and more, and the restaurant itself itself is housed within Salem’s historic 1668 London Coffee House.
Plan your next stop at the Peabody Essex Museum, just a short walk around the block from Red’s. The museum underwent a major expansion in September 2019 opening an additional 40,000 square feet of gallery space and a beautiful new garden and exhibitions this summer include Gold Rush: Daguerreotypes of Early California (April 4-July 12, 2020), Konstantin Dimopoulos: The Blue Trees (April 21-November 1, 2020), and Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion (May 16-September 7, 2020). Save some time to explore PEM’s maritime and Asian export art collections or to visit Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house located on the museum campus.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site, 160 Derby Street, Salem
Wander this National Park which preserves one of America’s most influential ports and discover the history behind the buildings, wharves, and the replica vessel Friendship, all of which played a large role in establishing trade between the young American nation and the Far East. Ranger-guided tours of the site are scheduled daily, and reservations can be made through the visitor center at 2 New Liberty Street. (978) 740-1650 | nps.gov/sama
Schooner Fame of Salem, Pickering Wharf Marina, Salem
Fame is an authentic and active replica of a War of 1812 privateer. The schooner sails daily from Pickering Wharf and provides a unique setting for a tour of the islands, lighthouses, and forts surrounding Salem. (978) 729-7600 | SchoonerFame.com
The House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby Street, Salem
Discover the secrets of the House of the Seven Gables, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel. Admission also includes access to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace, spectacular seaside gardens, and a unique Museum Store. (978) 745-0991 | 7Gables.org
Red’s Sandwich Shop
15 Central Street, Salem
If you’re looking for the real Salem, try Red’s Sandwich Shop for breakfast or lunch. John and Lisa and the friendly staff of Red’s welcome you to Salem’s most popular landmark for over 50 years. The hearty food has won many awards over the years-most notably for the North Shore’s best breakfast, best luncheon, best coffee and best bagels. Red’s also won the Heritage Days’ Chowderfest and has been praised on the Boston Globe’s “Cheap Eats” and on the Phantom Gourmet’s “Hidden Jewel”. (978) 745-3257 | RedsSandwichShop.com
The Salem Inn, 7 Summer Street, Salem
The Salem Inn is comprised of three historical homes: the Captain West House, the Curwen House, and the Peabody House, blending the warmth and charm of yesterday with the comfort and convenience of today. Located in downtown Salem, the Inn is easy walking distance from historic attractions, museums, shopping and restaurants. Be sure to ask about the family suite! (978) 741-0680 | SalemInnMa.com