A Salem-Lover’s Tourism Guide

With the exception of Sainte Chapelle in Paris, Salem, Massachusetts, is my favorite place in the entire world. You’d have to be very hard of heart to argue with the winning combination of witches and salt water taffy.

As a youngster growing up in Boston, my mother and I would head up Route 1 every year in October to attend Salem’s annual psychic fair and putter about the town enjoying the lovely fall weather. (Everything they tell you about fall in New England is entirely true, by the way. I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it.)

That yearly outing was in addition to the school field trips and assorted other jaunts I’d make, which makes me an old hand at navigating Salem. And given the overwhelming number of museums and attractions, how to even begin deciding which are worth your while?? To help you out, I’m sharing with you my very own Salem Tourist Loop.

Stop One: The Witch House
Cost for Adult Admission: $10.25

The name of this museum is a touch misleading; the tour focuses much more on what life was like in Salem during the time of the witch trials than it does on the trials, or witches, themselves. Still, though, this tour — which leads you through the home of one of the witch trial judges, Jonathan Corwin, and his family — provides enough information about Judge Corwin’s role in The Unpleasantness to keep the witchier among you interested, and a heap of fun details about life in Colonial Massachusetts for those who are more historically or architecturally inclined.

Stop Two: The Witch Dungeon
Cost for Adult Admission: $8.00

This is PURE CAMP. But actually pretty well done camp. So really what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s the perfect place. The Witch Dungeon is essentially a two-part experience: in part 1, you’ll be treated to a vignette-style reenactment of the trials featuring live actors. Part 2 takes you down to the dungeon, where things will jump out at you FAIR WARNING. Take a Xanax if you’re easily startled.

This is the most Disney-fied of the tours I’d recommend. (If, um, Disney stayed truer to Grimm I suppose.)

The Witch Dungeon’s two other affiliated museums, the Witch History Museum and the New England Pirate Museum, are mostly filled up with wicked cheesy wax figures. Skip ‘em.

Stop Three: House of the Seven Gables
Cost for Adult Admission: $12.50

Wait first. Before you go to The House of the Seven Gables you need to read the book. Read ittttttt. Oh my God it’s so good, you guys, it’s got everything: a bloody ruff! A daguerreotypist!! Hepzibah!!! Also: a gable is the triangular section of wall at the end of a pitched roof, occupying the space between the two slopes of the roof. (They’ll explain that a little more clearly on the tour.)

Okay now that you’ve read it, you can properly enjoy the tour, which actually I think you can enjoy even if you haven’t read the book. Much like The Witch House, there’s a lot of that will be of interest to history and architecture lovers, including a secret passageway that’s thought to have been used to hide escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad.

The short movie at the beginning of the tour is worth watching, and don’t don’t don’t miss the gift shop.

Stop Four: Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

It’s America’s oldest candy company! And also, you know, a candy company, which means I probably don’t really need to twist your arm to convince you to check it out. It’s very charming and New England-y and they have red licorice pipes, which are disgusting and totally my favorite thing.

Get the penuche (pen-eww-chee); it’s a New England thing, sort of a brown sugar fudge? Entirely delicious. Heck, get a giant box of fudge in assorted flavahs, you’re only young once.

I just slipped into local dialect, didn’t I?

Stop Five: Victoria Station

Are you hungry? Or did you ruin your appetite gorging on penuche? Okay then … well, are you thirsty? Yes! Victoria Station is a casual dining-type restaurant, right on Pickering Wharf overlooking the water. This is maybe weird to point out, but their salad bar is amazing.

There used to be a Victoria Station in Boston proper that was made to look like an old boxcar, but now it’s gone and I hate change.

So that’s my basic loop! I included admissions cost information so you could make informed choices based on your budget; tourism can get costly if you’re not mindful! The important thing, though, is to not feel like you need to see everything or be overly scheduled. Wander about, enjoy the sights, visit a few Witchcraft Magick Lifestyle stores … Salem will still be there if you want to go back. Which I would highly encourage you to do!

Photo via Flickr/lee_sie