By Claire Crean
If you are looking for summertime fun, Salisbury Beach is the place to go. Of course, there are miles of flat, walkable beach in the town and on the Salisbury Beach State Reservation, but this visit was to see what else we could do at this seaside destination. On the drive in, we saw what resembled grassy plains and my friend even said, “It looks like we are in Africa!” These are the saltwater marshes and mud flats that are part of the eco-system in northern Massachusetts called the Great Marsh, which gives way to soaring ocean views, a busy beach community, and exciting activities.
Our first stop was at Joe’s Playland, a local amusement center and longtime Salisbury tradition that is very hard to miss – literally. There are two different locations—one arcade on the right side of the main street (12 Broadway) and one on the left side (15 Broadway) —both colorful and beaming with life. There is not a moment of silence when you are walking by the arcade. I can still hear the dings, bangs, whirs, and sounds of laughter.
The colorful buildings draw you in to play addicting games and eat delicious snacks, perfect for the entire family. If you want to show your kids classic games like skeeball, the claw machine, and air hockey, then this is the place to visit. They also have new games like virtual-reality King Kong and the app Fruit Ninja brought to life on the big screen. Upstairs is a wide space for vintage games and pool tables for bigger groups with a view of the beach’s roaring surf and lively pedestrian scene.
Donna and Fred Abdulla are the owners of the arcade, which dates back to approximately the year 1919. At the beginning, Joe’s Playland started out as a popcorn stand before Fred’s family made the decision to run an area for entertainment and fun. It is still a family-run business being managed by them, Fred’s brother, and employing many grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. They offer year-round hospitality for everyone to visit and make great memories. Don’t forget to get some cotton candy, caramel corn, soft-serve ice cream at the walk-up counter or fried seafood at Lee’s Seafood, located in the same building at 15 Broadway.
Joe’s Playland staff was incredibly friendly. The man working at a ticket booth had the cutest puppy that he carried on his chest in a bag (best carry-on luggage I have seen)!
After cashing in our tickets to gather prizes, we went across the way to a restaurant named SurfSide, one of the properties owned by Atlantic Hospitality Group. Situated right over the water, you can watch the waves come in under the bar and restaurant’s huge outdoor deck. Inside, the surf motif rules with a clean, modern vibe highlighted by a vibrant blue and orange color scheme. It was a busy Sunday at this popular sunset location so the line for a table was starting to grow. Luckily, it is very easy to reserve a table through the OpenTable app.
Surfside serves seafood, burgers, lobster rolls, chowder and more on its open air oceanfront deck or under its covered pavilion. With a kid’s menu as well as an extensive adult cocktail menu, it has something for everyone. The festive atmosphere also features live music on the weekends.
We sat at an inside table with windows facing the sea and it was breathtaking. We ordered appetizers and drinks. The menu was fantastic. It did not take much to convince us all to try a signature cocktail called “Deep Sea Fish Bucket, made with rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice, lemon sour, and candy Swedish Fish and served in a souvenir bucket we could take home. During our visit, I met Amy Moore, the manager of the restaurant, who. told me a lot about the busy atmosphere, events that they host, and the struggles they faced during the pandemic. Now the business is packed with customers and the summer is in full swing! I am excited to visit this restaurant again and cannot stop raving about the food and drinks we tried there.
Salisbury is the perfect escape for a day or a summer vacation. I plan to return and recommend that everyone do the same.