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Halloween hotspot: spending a day in Salem

(Daniel Mennerich/ Flickr)

(Daniel Mennerich/ Flickr)

Come the month of October, Salem, because of the 1692 witch trials fandom, becomes a tourist hotspot for both spooky endeavors and Halloween-inspired activities alike.

Despite the town’s somewhat small area and quaint attitude, every year when the leaves begin to change and the pumpkin spice craze hits everyone by storm, something changes. The small town with fewer than 45,000 people north of Boston becomes a metropolis for witches, goblins and vampires alike. It makes a metamorphosis from its everyday suburban charm into a real-life Halloween town.

Because sorting through this fantastically-themed madness can become something of a cobweb, here’s a guide for all things fall-themed, horror-inspired and costume-encouraged in Salem.

Activities 

Salem Witch Museum

The Salem Witch Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Salem – and rightfully so because of its pursuit in examining and preserving the memory of those killed in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Museum visitors can experience the historical relevance and brevity of the situation through 13 life-size stage sets, realistic figures, spooky lighting and a stirring narration as they witness the mystique of the Salem Witch Hunt.

The Witch House

The Witch House is another very popular museum in the heart of Salem. As a matter of fact, it’s the only home in Salem with direct ties to 1692 as it was home to the famous witch trials Judge Jonathon Corwin.  The Witch House prides itself on being far spookier than its counterparts, existing in candlelit cottages at forest of Salem’s edge. The house was moved 35 feet to its current location when the street was widened in 1940.

Salem Wax Museum

The Salem Wax Museum offers an experience similar to that of other wax museums, with a haunted twist. Here you can find an open, gallery-style wax museum with 50 London-made wax figures. The figurines in the museum specifically depict important and historical people and situations from Salem’s founding in 1626 though the horrors of the Witch Trials in 1692.

Trolleys

Signature trolleys that look as if they were taken right out of a picture book are an ultra-touristy alternative to trotting around town on foot. And if you’re looking to cover more ground with the guide of an expert, consider a trolley ride that will allow you to observe things from a different perspective and possibly even stay dry from the rain (as a coastal town, Salem can often be chilly and damp).

Salem Spins

Salem Spins is a bike share program that offers both rental bikes for the day and a more environmentally friendly approach to traveling around town. Salem Spins operates out of the Hawthorne Hotel and the Boston Harbor Cruises ferry office.

Friendship of Salem Ship

The Friendship of Salem Ship commemorates Salem as a part of the post-colonial trade. The ship is docked at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site – a dock established in 1938 as the first such site of its kind in United States. Sailing schedules for the ships next take off can be observed at the Friendship of Salem Facebook page.

Places to eat 

Tavern in The Square

Tavern in The Square offers your typical pub-style atmosphere with the addition of Halloween flair in the haphazardly draped cobwebs and shrunken skulls balancing on the restaurants chandeliers. Menu favorites include a variety of year-round drafts and hard ciders and the ‘bid dig fries,’ which can be most easily described as extremely loaded waffle fries for extremely hungry guests.

Rockafellas

Rockafellas is a crowd favorite – at times as much as a two-hour wait – so reserve your table early! The restaurant prides itself on its reliable combination of bar food favorites and live entertainment including rock, salsa, country, jazz and big-band groups.

Shopping

Artists Row

Artists Row is a stretch of open storefronts featuring Salem’s best artists with a festival-type atmosphere. Here you can find things like an assortment of expressive ceramic pumpkins, handcrafted wooden wonders and charismatic vendors happily chatting about their own masterpieces.

Moravian Book Shop and Gift Gallery

Moravian Book Shop and Gift Gallery houses a large variety of books, ghost tours, quirky souvenirs and even tasty treats for onlookers to admire and bring home to family members. The Moravian Book Shop features an expansive collection of Moravian stars and stars of Bethlehem.

Coffee and Treats

Jaho Coffee and Tea

Jaho Coffee and Tea offers a menu compete with “Zodiac teas” if you’re feeling astrological and their signature scarlet espresso with “hints of spicy dark chocolate, hazelnut and coconut notes” which produces something of a crème brûlée finish. This shop is famed for their artisanal coffees and roasts.

Witch’s Brew Café

Witch’s Brew Café offers a rustic-meets-medieval feel with brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert and coffee options. Some of the café’s specialty desserts include: ‘lemon ripieno’ which is lemon sorbetto served in the natural fruit shell and the ‘mini New York Cheesecake’ flavored with a hint of vanilla – which is simply what it sounds like.

Overnight Stays

Not ready to leave Salem? Popular inns and hotels in Salem include The Merchant which is the epitome of eclectic style and charm, The Salem Inn which offers a historical stay with antique fixtures, and the Salem Waterfront Hotel and Marina for a seaside view.

Gina Lopez can be reached at gmlopez@umass.edu.

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