Salem Massachusetts is one of my favorite places in New England and is just a quick ferry ride from Boston. When I was little and we lived in Boston, my parents took day trips to the little town that is packed with history. Fall in New England is known for the vibrant colors and amazing views, but Salem offers even more. I love boats and I love the sea with all of that salty air washing over you. Hey, one of my nicknames is Salty, no lie! I love history, cobblestone streets and hidden passageways in very old houses and imagining the life of the pioneers before me. How difficult their lives must have been and how ‘simple living’ now a days was necessity to live in those days. Salem offers you an amazing opportunity to learn about our ancestors, the pioneers that paved the way and how fear can create chaos with even the ones you love.
A few years ago before moving to the Midwest, a friend and I visited Salem and marked out all of the places we wanted to go and see. We camped on Winter Island where there is one road in and the same road out with the gate being locked at 10pm. As soon as you get to the island, you remember why you are choosing to camp in October in the wicked cold. The views are amazing and if you are lucky to get one of the tent sites that is closer to the water you literally wake up to the slap of salty air in your face with the ocean right outside your zipped door.
Fort Pickering Light still shines brightly guiding ships into the busy harbor and is located at the site of the Fort Pickering Coast Guard Base. The park part of Winter Island has path that goes around the entire island allowing you at some points to be at the highest elevation looking down on the crashing waves. There is one point that you can actually look over a pond and see the sea and there are two doors that lead into a large mound in the ground that is still unknown to me what it could be other than something wicked cool and creepy.
As much as I could sit here for hours and go on and on about how amazing Winter Island is, I will curb the craving to do so and move on to the other spectacular things you can see in Salem. Let me start with this tidbit: Salem Massachusetts EMBRACES the history and you will see a ton of this throughout the town. The entire month of October is dedicated to Halloween and there are festivals, zombie walks and witch’s walking around in every which direction.
As you walk through the heart of town you will see that the main streets are paved with historic cobblestones and vehicles are not permitted. So, that being said, bring your sneakers when visiting! They didn’t build this town for tourists, they built it as a way of living and back then that did not include anything more than a horse.
Now, when you walk through town you are going to see a ton of little shops that focus on embracing your inner witch, and crystals and other forms of spiritual wisdom that may not seem familiar to you. Embrace this whole-heartedly and talk to the people in the shops. Their knowledge about the town and its history is uncanny and is an important part of experience. Look around and see the amazing history that sits in front of you; I can tell you that it is so much older than anything you will see in the Midwest. The original houses and homes, the taverns, very roads that people walked hundreds of years ago.
We took the Trolley around even though we had a vehicle and we were familiar with the area. No need to worry about traffic, they run on the schedule of all of the festivities within town and frankly they are just wicked fun to ride around town. Touch those cobblestones on the old buildings – they are far older than you and hold so much history in those stones. Stop and have some clam chowdah, crab cakes and the detectible lobster stew. Who knew you could have so much fun just walking down Main Street?
We ventured to the Salem Witch Museum, which was a great time to brush up on some of my history and learn some new things as well. They featured the narrative in a way that you felt like you were living the history. From there we ventured to the Salem Wax Museum, which was amazing. Not only was I amazed by the historic replication but also, I was stunned by the amount of detail in the wax portraits. We were guided through and then we were able to walk around and really take in what we were looking at and what history was portrayed. The horror that the witch chaos created is almost unbelievable and the wax structures really let you look back and get a feeling of their fear in the chilly New England air.
Among many other sites we ventured, the last one that we visited stood out the most for me and that was the House of 7 Gables; the notorious house of Hawthorn’s cousin that was portrayed in his famous book “The House of 7 Gables”, published in 1851. The house is staged with appropriate décor, clothing etc. and then there is a secret door. A door that opens up to a staircase that goes far up to the clouds while the stairs get a great deal more steep and narrow. Just when you realize you must climb up to get back down you open a tiny door at the top… and I will let you find what is on the other side when you visit!
I write this while I am over 1,000 miles away and sit here kicking myself for not visiting more often while I had the chance. What made me think to write this you ask? Well, I grew up knowing that cabbage night was the night before Halloween, October 30th. As I began talking about Cabbage night here in Wisconsin, I received quite a few blank stares. After doing so research I have found yet another New England tradition and even how it originated. Find out more about cabbage night here, and read how the one a woman was to marry was decided by hitting him in the head with a head of cabbage. Romantic isn’t it?