Every September/October, Mikey and I venture back to my hometown in MA to visit my family and soak up some Fall fun. We always plan a day trip to a new city or area that we’ve never been to. While we were there last, we set aside an entire day to explore Salem, the Halloween capital of America.
Salem of course is known for the Witch Trials of 1692, where more than 20 innocent people were executed over accusations of witchcraft and in turn, caused mass hysteria. If the history alone isn’t scary enough, Salem is known for it’s many haunted attractions. One of them being it’s “Haunted Happenings” Halloween festival that occurs every day during the month of October. The festival includes parades, movie nights on Salem common, costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, and different street vendors that sell various items from clothing and jewelry, to food and beverages.
I’ve compiled a list of places we felt were worth sharing and recommending 🙂
1. The Ugly Mug Diner
Our first stop of the day, and one of our favorites was The Ugly Mug Diner. We had been on the road for a little under 3 hours and we were starving. We both wanted something small since we planned on eating our way around Salem that day, so I had a couple silver dollar pancakes and my boyfriend had a single waffle. We weren’t expecting anything amazing, but they were delicious! And just enough to give us the energy to start our day. I would definitely go back if I’m ever in Salem again and try something else.
2. Gulu Gulu Cafe
After breakfast we stopped by Gulu-Gulu Café which to our convenience, was just around the corner from the diner. It was a very cold, rainy morning so we wanted something to warm us up before we walked to our next stop. I had read reviews about this place on Yelp and apparently their lattes were a must! The atmosphere was very nice, we were able to sit on one of the couches in the lounge area and our waitress waited on us from there. The coffee menu had something for everyone, I got the “Andes Latte” which was chocolate and peppermint. My boyfriend got the “White Cloud Latte” which was white chocolate flavored and topped with a huge “cloud” of whipped cream. Yum!
3. Essex Street
We then set out to do some shopping along Essex Street. This was definitely one of our favorite areas, we must have come back here about 4 or 5 times. One of the things I was most anticipating about his trip was buying a whole bunch of gimmicky witchy items (when in Salem, you buy witchy things…it’s an unwritten rule). I stopped by the iconic Hex store and ended up buying some incense and handmade soap. As much as I loved these shops, it is a tourist area and you’re going to pay tourist prices. My pack of incense was $5.99 and it only had about 10 sticks. Other shops that weren’t on Essex street, were selling 10-15 sticks for $1.00. Essex street was a cool place to walk around and look through, but if you’re considering buying souvenirs I would try and look elsewhere for better deals.
4. Historic Maritime Site
Another favorite stop of ours was the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the first national historic site in America. With Salem being so famous for it’s Witch Trials, people often forget or don’t know that it is rich in maritime history. According to the NPS website,“When the United States was young, ships from Salem helped to build the new nation’s economy by carrying cargo back and forth from the West to Asia. The historic buildings, wharves, and reconstructed tall ship at this nine-acre National Park tell the stories of the sailors, Revolutionary War privateers, and merchants who brought the riches of the world to America.”
The historic site is home to the Friendship of Salem, a 171-foot replica of a 1797 East Indiaman, built in Albany, New York in 2000. The ship serves as a museum mostly, allowing visitors to get on board with the museum director who will give you a brief history about the ships design and it’s voyages free of charge. This is a stop I highly suggest, it’s very informative and it doesn’t cost you a penny. You’re free to take photos and enjoy the scenery, which we did very much. From the wharf, you will have great views of the ship, the Derby Wharf Lighthouse, the U.S Custom House, the Narbonne and Derby houses, and much more. Remember to bring your camera!
5. The Witch House
Home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, The Witch House is the only home still standing with direct ties to the trials and it’s one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Salem. Once inside and your admission has been paid, you are free to explore the many rooms of this historic structure. I loved the creaky floorboards, winding staircases, and the lattice-style windows. In each room there are replicas of pieces of furniture, documents, and articles of clothing from that time. Almost every room had a huge hearth and fireplace, which I found cool too 🙂
6. The Flying Saucer Pizza Company
We had lunch at The Flying Saucer Pizza Company. Again, I found this place using Yelp and it had great reviews. It’s a really funky place with vintage sci-fi movie themed decor, and a life-size figure of Captain Picard…how awesome! We got there at just the right time, they only had one booth open. This was around 12pm and they were super busy, so if you plan to come here I would come perhaps in the late afternoon. The waitress we had was very nice but you could tell she felt really rushed, she was running around non-stop between tables. I felt like telling her to sit with us and relax! Anyway, we ended up ordering a small “Ender” pizza which more than enough for us. This pizza was the most unique and delicious pizza the both of us have ever had. The base was a beer crust and it was topped with slices of cajun chicken, broccoli, scallions, bacon, garlic, and drizzled with a sweet & spicy habanero sauce. This was the best meal we had all day. We left with only 2 slices…
7. Gallows Hill Museum & Theatre
Now, time for the best attraction we paid for all day. Gallows Hill Museum and Theatre is a unique experience…It’s a mix of story-telling, education about the history of witches, ghosts and local legends, topped off with some awesome special effects. The auditorium itself is very small & intimate, and only holds about 15-20 people per show. The audience will encounter witches and ghosts up close as they make their way past the first three rows, using what they call the “fright plank” (a runway extension off the main stage). Other effects they use include eerie fog, glowing orbs that appear in the audience, use of black lights and other creepy special effects, some of them happening right above you. Be prepared to get scared a little! I know I jumped a couple times.
8. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
Another attraction we liked very much was Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside and somehow forgot to take a photo of the outside. This gallery had multiple life-size displays of famous horror film monsters and characters. Some of them including Dracula, Pennywise the Clown (IT), Phantom of the Opera, Regan from The Exorcist, Beetlejuice, Jason, Freddy, Alien, Werewolf of London, Boris Karloff, Alfred Hitchcock, and so many more. It was very dark inside and blacklights were used to illuminate the displays. Fog poured around your feet and over the walls to create and even more spooky setting. Definitely a must if you’re ever in the area and you’re a fan of horror films. I swear those things were so life-like, it really felt like a few of them were looking right at me.
9. Finz Seafood & Grill
We had dinner at Finz Seafood and Grill located on Salem’s historic harbor. The first impression wasn’t a very good one, I had made a reservation for 6:45pm and when we got there they didn’t have a table for us. The hostess said “we’re running behind on reservations” gave me a pager and told us to wait at the bar area. We ended up waiting a good 25 minutes before we were seated. I thought the whole point of a reservation was to avoid waiting? Anyway, the only reason why this place made the list was because the food was very good, and also because the manager was kind enough to serve us free drinks while we were waiting. I wanted something traditional and New England-y so I had the haddock fish n’ chips, and my boyfriend had the baja fish tacos. Both were fresh and delicious. If you were to go to this place I wouldn’t suggest going on a Saturday night, which was when we went. I would try and shoot for a weekday.
10. Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie
And for a sweet way to end this list, how about some chocolate from Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie? I found out while I was there that this is the first commercial candy company in the U.S, they began making and selling confections in 1806. Pretty cool, right? It was a little cramped inside, but that didn’t stop me from looking at all the deliciousness before I made my purchases. I bought a box of peppermint patties ($10.95), 2 dark chocolate cashew turtles ($4.00), and a half pound of rocky road fudge ($6.00)….mmmm. Don’t worry, I had help eating it ;P It was a little pricey, but it is Salem after all and the chocolates are handmade. Everything was delicious so it was money well spent!
To Be Noted
*We did visit the iconic Witch Museum, but it was $25 to get in and for what it was, we felt it wasn’t worth it. The show was done with animatronics (if you could even call them that, they didn’t move), not real actors like at Gallows Hill.
*When we made our way to the Old Burying Point Cemetery, they had already closed the gates for the night. I tried to take photos from outside the gates but it was dark and you couldn’t see much.
*We wanted to check out the famous Hocus Pocus house, but since you can only take photos from the outside we chose to do other activities instead. It was also quite a far walk, and by the time we were in the area it was at the end of the day and we were pooped.
* The House of the Seven Gables was also on our list, but admission was a bit pricey and if we had taken the tour we couldn’t go to Gallows Hill, and we really wanted to go there.
We had an absolute blast exploring Salem. It’s chock-full of history and charm, I’m not gonna lie…I kinda wish I could live there!
Have you ever been to Salem? If not, what intrigued you most on this list? 🙂