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Destination Guide: Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts
Allianz - Salem, Massachusetts

Many American towns claim haunted histories, but only one was home to the real-life horror story of the Salem Witch Trials. The hysteria began in 1692, when three women were accused of practicing witchcraft. Eventually, more than 150 men and women were jailed on related charges, and 20 executed.1

Today, this coastal town north of Boston is a mix of solemn history and campy tourist attractions— and much more. Explore the picturesque harbor, local lighthouses, a recreated pioneer village and a pirate museum. October is the peak month for tourism in Salem, and reservations for some attractions and restaurants may be hard to obtain. Also, check the Salem tourism site for the latest updates and rules related to COVID-19.

Here’s your five-minute guide to planning a getaway to historic Salem, Mass.

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3 of the Best Things to Do in Salem

  1. Walk through 400 years of history. Options for Salem walking tours abound. Choose a day tour of historical sites, a lantern-lit ghost tour, or one of the wilder offerings that focus on the city’s supernatural side.
  2. Learn about the Salem Witch Trials. Begin with a visit to the Witch House, the home of witch trial Judge Jonathan Corwin, and the Salem Witch Museum. The Witch Dungeon Museum offers live re-enactments of the trial of Sarah Good and a guided tour of a replica prison.
  3. Tour the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion. Known as The House of the Seven Gables, after the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel it inspired, this rambling seaside mansion continues its legacy as a settlement house by serving local immigrant families.

3 of the Best Hotels in Salem

If you’re visiting Salem for the atmosphere, you need a suitably historic place to stay. The Salem Inn occupies the 1834 home of Captain Nathaniel West, as well as the Peabody House and the Curwen House. You’ll find 40 historic rooms (choose carefully; #17 is reportedly haunted), all of which include complimentary breakfast.

The Hawthorne Hotel in downtown Salem is nearly a century old, but the rooms are stylish and inviting. The hotel’s home to the well-regarded Nathaniel’s Restaurant and a cozy, wood-paneled tavern.

Visitors who prefer a modern vibe should check in to the Hotel Salem, a boutique hotel with a vibe that pays homage to vintage New England department stores. Budget travelers can opt for a micro-room; suites will suit those who like a little more space. The Hotel Salem also has the town’s only rooftop bar.

3 of the Best Restaurants in Salem

One of Salem’s best restaurants is Ledger, a fine-dining spot in the 200-year-old Salem Savings Bank building. Traditional 19th-century dishes, such as Long Island duck and wood-grilled chicken, are given a 21st-century refresh.

A laid-back local favorite is Spitfire Tacos, which serves creative combinations: black bean with sweet potato, salmon with avocado and even baked brie with raspberry preserves and arugula. Vegan and vegetarian options are available.

Find fine fish at Finz Seafood & Grill and enjoy the harbor view. Finz is known for sushi, sashimi, and local seafood like sea scallops and haddock.

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