How to Make the Most of Limited Time in Witch City
An extemporaneous trip to Salem gives us an adventure to look forward to—quickly—but it also means that we are too late to book a hotel in Salem itself. No matter, we will make the most of the time that we do have. Here is how we do it:
- Get there early. We are up and out the door before 7 a.m. in New York, meaning that we are pulling in front of the Salem Witch Museum at about 9:50, just before it opens. Bonus: At this hour, we easily find on-street parking by Salem Common.
- Buy tickets online, maybe. With one of the Youthful Adventurers along with us (indeed, the one interested in all things wiccan), we want to make sure we get into the Salem Witch Museum, so I buy tickets online a day or so before. The plus side: We have tickets for our desired day. The not-so-plus: Ticketholders still have to show up at the museum to get a showtime for the presentation on witches. Also, judging by the number of employees who had to assist the cashier with my scannable ticket, not many visitors seem to be doing this. I am able to rest easy, though, and we are admitted to the first presentation of the day.
- Use time efficiently. Instead of waiting with the crowds for admission to the presentation, we walk quickly to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where we take in the old headstones in what is a very small graveyard. From there, we cruise to the Salem Armory Visitor Center for bathroom breaks and a quick bit of history. We stumble upon the 1684 John Ward house behind the Phillips Library and gardens and take a look at that, the Quaker Meeting House, and a small building that was once an old shoe shop as well as a summer house that is not much bigger, and then go on to the Witch Museum’s show about 1692’s unfortunate events. (The presentation itself reminds this visitor of Disney World’s Hall of Presidents, except the witches’ lips don’t move.)
- Walk and learn. Next, we take a meandering walking tour and appreciate some street art: the statue of Puritan Roger Conant, Patrick Dougherty’s human-sized bird nests (formally called What the Birds Know), and a statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne on the aptly named Hawthorne Boulevard.
- Pick up some charms. We make time to dash into Crow Haven Corner, purportedly Salem’s oldest witch store. I select a copy of D. J. Conway’s Moon Magick and a candle with crystals in it. We admire the witch balls hanging from the ceiling. I am wishing I had picked up a spell cord as well. When in Salem, after all. I take a moment to marvel that the Puritans’ biggest fear has come true: Salem seems to be overrun with witches. To me, that’s a good thing.
- Take a literary turn. Beginning the Nathaniel Hawthorne portion of our day, we cruise through the Custom House overlooking Salem Harbor. We like that Hawthorne had a day job here before he made it big as a writer.
- Recharge. Headed toward the House of the Seven Gables after the Hawthorne book of the same name, we stop first at Ye Olde Pepper Companie for some not-on-our-diet fudge, which comes in many flavors at this place. The sweets are worth our indulgence. We won’t even mention the chocolate-covered potato chips.
- Take an historic house tour. In the House of the Seven Gables, which inspired Hawthorne’s work and was restored in the early 1900s by Caroline Emmerton to fund philanthropic efforts to aid new immigrants, we marvel at life in the olden days, from the low ceilings of some rooms to the secret staircase off the dining room. We are surprised when our own Youthful Adventurer, an avid reader, mentions that she has not covered the Scarlet Letter in high school. Then we notice other teens asking their parents, who is Nathaniel Hawthorne? We wonder when he dropped from the curriculum and contemplate whether adultery is too stress-inducing for today’s malleable minds.
- Add some mixed media to your day. The Bewitched statue of actor Elizabeth Montgomery is next on our agenda, so we make our way to Lappin Park at the corner of Essex and Washington Streets, slowly, as we take our time to pop into various shops rife with occult objets. I am disappointed to learn that Derby Square Books is no more, but Wicked Good Books, which has taken its place, is a viable alternative. I pick up an amusing book of old-time recipes, What Salem Dames Cooked in 1700, 1800 & 1900. I like that pie crusts are referred to as coffins and measurements are along the lines of “1 wineglass of brandy.” These are my kind of cooks!
- Remember the dead. Now that it is late in the afternoon and our feet are a little tired, we head back to our car and then drive to the Old Burying Point for a quick loop around the cemetery where we find some of Hawthorne’s relatives, who are still named Hathorne. (Nathaniel added the w to disassociate himself from one relative who was a less than sympathetic judge to the accuseds during the witch trials.)
Where to Stay
- For romance, choose the Salem Inn, made up of several historic houses, or, in nearby Marblehead, the Harbor Light Inn.
- For convenience and economy, opt for the Hampton Inn Boston/Peabody in nearby Peabody. If you go, be sure to visit Marco’s Italian Restaurant, which is within easy walking distance. As unglamorous as a restaurant in a strip mall might seem, this place is a delight—with contemporary décor, a good bar, and incredible sauce! Really! Go!
Crow Haven Corner, 125 Essex Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
Hampton Inn Boston/Peabody, 59 Newbury Street, Peabody, Mass. 01960
Harbor Light Inn, 58 Washington Street, Marblehead, Mass. 01945
Marco’s Restaurant, 47 Newbury Street, Peabody, Mass. 01960
Old Burying Point Cemetery, Charter Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 24 St. Peter Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
Salem Armory Visitor Center, 2 New Liberty Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
Salem Witch Museum, 19 ½ Washington Square North, Salem, MA 01970
The House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby Street, Salem, Mass.
The Salem Inn, 7 Summer Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
What the Birds Know, an installation at the Peabody Essex Museum on the Crowninshield-Bentley Lawn, 126 Essex Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
Wicked Good Books, 215 Essex Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
Ye Olde Pepper Companie, 122 Derby Street, Salem, Mass. 01970
Planning a visit to Salem, Mass.? You might like these posts:
- Salem, Where Were You during the Revolution?
- Bonus History in Witch City
- Traveling with Witches
- Logging Some Romance
- Are Witch Hunts Good for Tourism?