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Although well known as the “Witch City,” Salem often surprises guests with its abundance of art and culture, Colonial history, beautiful architecture, and a thriving dining scene. While visiting, don’t miss one of the largest museums in the Northeast, the Peabody Essex Museum. Explore Salem’s legendary connections to China, Japan, India and beyond through the museum’s vast collections. You’ll also find a 200-year-old Chinese house from rural China and outstanding collections of American art and maritime art and history. The Peabody Essex Museum is open year round as are popular sites such as the Salem Witch Museum which program has translations in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Russian available, and The House of the Seven Gables. The latter is one of several sites that illuminate the life and times of Salem’s own Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of America’s first men of letters. The 1668 Turner-Ingersoll Mansion that inspired the novel The House of the Seven Gables as well as Hawthorne’s childhood home are preserved at this National Historic Site on Derby Street.
Seasonal options include the Witch Dungeon Museum, New England Pirate Museum, Witch History Museum, and the historic Salem Willows amusement park. A number of tours are available including the Salem Trolley, Schooner Fame harbor tour, and several walking tours. Budget-conscious guests can enjoy free activities like the Ropes Mansion gardens and the Witch Trial Memorial, or, for a small fee, take the house tour at the Stephen Phillips Museum on 34 Chestnut Street, where the carriage house shelters two Pierce-Arrow automobiles and a Model A Ford.
When your appetite heats up, enjoy fireside dining at the Hawthorne Hotel or a trip to Pickering Wharf where you will find martinis and “new” New England cuisine at Finz Restaurant and Sea Level Oyster Bar, prime rib specialties at Victoria Station, or pub fare at the Salem Waterfront Hotel’s Regatta Pub. All enjoy views of Salem Harbor, home to the Friendship, a replica of a 171-foot three-masted Salem East Indiaman built in 1797. The Friendship is owned by the National Park Service, and when she’s not under sail, is open for tours. Other NPS sites include the Salem Maritime National Historic Site on Derby Street and the nearby Saugus Iron Works Site, just southwest of Salem, which offers seasonal self-guided and public tours.
As you make your way beyond modern-day Salem, you’ll discover neighboring towns that were previously part of the city’s boundaries. Danvers, formerly known as Salem Village, is the location of many historic buildings and homes with direct ties to the 1692 Witch Hysteria, including the Rebecca Nurse Homestead house and gravesite. In Marblehead, one of the most affluent communities in the country, wander the quaint shops and cafés and stroll through stunning Abbot Hall, where Archibald McNeal Willard’s patriotic painting “The Spirit of ’76” hangs, or the Jeremiah Lee Mansion, an opulent example of pre-Revolutionary Georgian architecture. Well-known American women like Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and inventor Lydia Pinkham called the seaside city of Lynn home. A visit to Lynn should include a stop at the Heritage State Park with its nearby up-and-coming art scene. Leave plenty of time to visit the homes of other important Americans’ including George Peabody’s home in his namesake town, Elizabeth Richards Horton’s home and the international doll collection at the Wenham Museum, and the 1714 Parish Meeting House in Lynnfield. Plan to discover Beverly’s bustling downtown Cabot Street, with boutiques, coffee shops, and a vibrant art scene. Music lovers will delight in the variety of performances held at the stunning theater-in-the-round venue at the North Shore Music Theatre.
Greater Salem’s inland towns of Topsfield, Hamilton, and Middleton offer everything from quiet country roads, to fresh farm stands, to chic polo clubs and are well worth a leisurely drive. Of course, any time of year the miles of coastline that trace Nahant, Swampscott, Marblehead, Salem, and Beverly offer gorgeous views of the rugged New England shore.