There are very few Halloween vacation destinations that rival Salem, MA. But is Salem worth the visit during other times of the year? Over the course of two posts, I will give you a small peak into my mid-May Salem adventure.
In a spur of the moment decision, influenced by a beautiful weather forecast, we decided to take a short weekend trip to Salem, MA. From downtown Boston, Salem is only a 30-min trip away via Commuter Rail and costs just $8 each way. Additionally, most conveniently, the Salem Commuter Rail station lies less than a 10-minute walk from the downtown area. If you are coming to Salem from out of town, unfortunately, Boston (16 miles south of Salem) is the closest international airport. A car/ taxi ride to Salem is about 45 minutes away (and like $50 cab fare at the time of this writing).
Every October, Salem, MA embraces its spooky past (specifically the Salem Witch trials of the late 1600s) and transforms itself into a Halloween town (more here). On these days, one can find people dressed in costume at all hours and the local shops are black, orange, and witchy all over. There are street performances, outdoor markets, and the Halloween spirit is in the air. Without Halloween, what is Salem anyway?
Today, Salem is mainly known for witch-related attractions as well as tours through historical homes.
If you do plan to visit Salem (or anywhere else in New England), the best time would be in the warmer months.
My visit was great overall (the beautiful weather certainly helped!)… but things also got unexpectedly dicey at one point (see the “Fort Pickering” section below for the deets)…. In this post, I will give an overview of Salem’s outdoor activities.
There is much to do in the far-off corner of the city home to Salem Willows Park. This outdoor green space is located on the water’s edge with great access to the beach, as well as a scenic overlook. Additionally, this busy little stretch of land has a video arcade, eateries, and mini golf for young children.
Fort Pickering was a fortification against the Dutch in the 1600s and later on it was used to protect privateering activities in subsequent wars. Today, it is in remnants and there is not much to see save for a few gated up entrances. Regardless, the spot provides an expansive water view and access to Waikiki Beach. The Fort is located on Winter Island (not technically an island). To get there I walked across a land bridge and along a sidewalk through a woodsy path. While the road is easy and safe enough to follow, I spotted a coyote along the way — yikes! (And, yes, it was a coyote, not a dog. It was large, wolf-like, totally unsupervised, and without a collar.) Luckily, for me, the beast did not block my path, but on my walk back I came prepared. They say that to ward off a coyote one should “act big,” yell, and throw things at it. The last thing I would want to do is to engage with a wild animal, but just in case I stuffed my jacket pockets with rocks like Virginia Woolf and picked up half a picket fence post as my bludgeon like a common woodland hoodlum. Luckily (for the coyote), our paths did not cross on the way back.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Just east of downtown Salem lies a plush green space near the coast. According to the National Park Service website, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site is the first of its kind in the United States — established on March 17, 1938. While the site stretches across the city, on the small green section near Derby St., one can visit the Friendship of Salem boat and the Patrick Store House (neither of which were open during our visit, probably due to COVID-19).
Overall, there is much to do in Salem out of doors. I haven’t even mentioned that there are walking tours (one of which even takes place at night) that will help orient you in the city and its history. On my trip, I found Salem to be a very walkable city. On a bike, one can get across the city quickly using the bike path and also reach neighboring cities, such as Beverly. If you are coming from outside New England, just a walk around the downtown neighborhoods can be a fun way to see the historical architecture.
More to come next time!