As far as tourism goes, Salem, MA is kind of underrated. I say “kind of” because it is highly praised for witchy-Halloween travel, but passed over as a vacation spot during other times of the year. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Salem during its “off season” (aka NOT Halloween) and still found loads to do even without the spooky madness. In part one of this post, I discussed some of the outdoor activities that one can enjoy in Salem (more here). In this post, I will highlight some fun indoor attractions
First, for some background, Salem, MA is a small, yet historical city of over 41,000 inhabitants located north of Boston on the coast. Although Salem is most famously known for the Salem Witch trials of 1692, it also served as a hub for privateering activity against the Dutch and British (i.e. private ships were commissioned to conduct maritime warfare against enemy forces) as well as an important trading port.
Today, Salem tourism revolves around witches, remnants from colonial America, and maritime history.
The “Witch House”
Salem has a boatload of house museums, but the judge “Jonathan Corwin House” (aka the “Witch House”) is the only still-standing structure with direct ties to the Salem witch trials. The house is big for colonial times, but it is only four rooms (it’s no Breakers mansion [more here]!). Each room is set up with period furniture (note, not the original furniture) accompanied with text cards to explain interesting colonial history. The museum would probably not be so entertaining for small children, as one must do a lot of reading (or listening to the helpful guides) to learn anything interesting. Regardless, for $9 and 15 – 30 mins of our time, this self-guided tour was worth it for the fun (yet, frankly disturbing) facts of life in Puritanical New England.
Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum, a 1993 merger of the Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute, houses art and artifacts from many parts of the globe. The museum, located in downtown Salem, is most prominently known for its Asian and maritime art collections. There was a lot to see and many rooms to explore (even though COVID restricted some access). If you have a real interest in the exhibitions the museum has to offer, the $20 adult ticket price, may just be worth it for you.
Salem Witch Museum
If you want to really get the Salem Witch Trials experience, put the Salem Witch Museum at the top of your list (more here). “Museum” is a bit of a stretch, as tickets to this attraction mean you will get a Salem Witch “Experience.” Customers are ushered into a dark auditorium with a 360-degree stage. The story of the Salem Witch Trials is told through a series of vignettes, staged with life-sized puppets in settings such as at home, in a court room, in the woods, etc. The experience ends with a tour through a small gallery with explanations on what actually caused the witch hysteria and a short history of “Wicca” (pagan witchcraft).
Other well-known museums in the area include The House of the Seven Gables (the setting of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name) and the creepily titled Witch Dungeon Museum. Additionally, Salem is also known for some of its more niche attractions, including The Satanic Temple.
Overall, Salem is a delight! It is easy to walk around the city, the seafood is amazing, and the water views are gorgeous.
In conclusion, the answer is yes, Dear Reader, you should visit Salem outside of October (preferably in a warmer month though).