There are certain places which you hear about and that stick with you throughout your childhood. I will admit, that Salem, Massachusetts is one such place for me. I have always been captivated by the witch trials and the hysteria behind them. When I was searching for a place to head to in Massachusetts, Salem was a given. Sadly, we really only had one full day to explore, but we got so much accomplished, learned a lot and had a great time.
Salem – The Good
New England Pirate Museum
Our first stop on our tour around Salem, Massachusetts was the New England Pirate Museum. We had arrived later in the evening the previous night, and had passed this museum, which was not far from our hotel. The boys specifically requested that it be our first stop of the day. What boy can resist a building with scurvy pirates painted on the side, and a rather swabby looking statue standing guard outside?
In the New England Pirate Museum, you can come face to face with legendary pirates like Captain Cook and Blackbeard, while learning about the real live pirates of the colonial era on this truly unique indoor walking tour. Your guide will take you through an artifacts room, a seaport setting and then you can board a pirate ship yourself before entering an 80 foot cave to encounter more dastardly villains of the day. The guides in full on pirate garb really make this attraction something special, and there is a small gift shop located at the entrance as well. The New England Pirate Museum is open daily 10am-5pm May – October and on weekends 10am – 5pm April and November. Tours are $9 for adults and $7.00 for children.
Salem Wax Museum
Located directly across from the Salem Witch Village, the Salem Wax Museum takes you on a journey through the events that transpired during the Salem Witch Trials. Wax figures made with exact details form various scenes through the museum, as plaques at each station reveal what is happening in the scene set before you. The Salem Witch Trials come to life with these life-sized wax figure displays featuring 50 wax figures made in London, and it is a good way for children to grasp a bit more about what truly happened in Salem in 1692. The museum is open year round and costs $8 for adults and $6 for children.
Salem – The Great
The House of Seven Gables
This attraction was truly a surprise, as I had no idea that the actual House of Seven Gables that Nathaniel Hawthorne based his novel on was located in Salem, Massachusetts. When I saw it on the list of area attractions, I drug a rather unwilling group of boys down the street to see it. By the end of our tour though, they were just as engaged as I was, and had no regrets about going.
Built in 1668 by sea captain and successful merchant John Turner, the house remained in the Turner family for three generations, before being purchased by Captain Samuel Ingersoll in 1782, who died at sea and the property passed on to his daughter Susanne. Susanne was cousin to the famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne, and it was her prodding and his frequent visits to the house, that led to his writing The House of Seven Gables. A visit here involves a very informative and in-depth look at the houses architecture and history, as well as a self tour of the other building located throughout the sea-side gardens, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace, which was relocated to this spot in 1958, and the Counting House, a representation of a common place where a sea captain would do his business and maintain his books.
While the tour can be a bit long for young children, there is plenty to see throughout the house to keep most children entertained during the tour. Afterward, the gardens are a beautiful place to wander, and the Counting House is especially fun for children, with hands on displays including period costumes that children can dress up in before heading out to the pretend ship in the gardens so they can be on their way to sail across the harbor! The House of Seven Gables is open January 15th- December 30th with varying seasonal hours, and admission is $13 for adults, $10 for youth 13-18 and $8 for children 5-12.
Salem – The Spooky
Salem Witch Village
No trip to Salem would be complete in my book without running into a few things that were at least a little spooky. In truth, the Salem Witch Village ranks relatively low in spook factor, but is a great mix of both spooky and informative, which works out well for families visiting with children. This indoor guided tour takes you through the history of “witchcraft” in Salem from the Colonial times to modern days. It does dip lightly into a discussion of wicken beliefs, but not in a forceful way.
I enjoyed learning more about why the hysteria of the witch trials was more than likely able to take place, and other ways they tried to tell whether people were or were not witches back in those times. The sets are a bit dark, so children who are scared of dark places by get a bit of a fright, but nothing is loud or overly scary for children here. The Salem Witch Village is open year round, and tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children.
Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
If you love all things spooky, then this is the place for you. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is a horror movie enthusiast’s paradise. Full of memorabilia and information on all of the most famous horror movies of all time, this unique walk-through museum experience is not for the faint of heart. Young children who scare easily at gory Halloween costumes will likely not enjoy this attraction, but with four teen and pre-teen boys, it was a must for our family. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is open March 25th to November 7th from 10am – 6pm, and tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children.
Where to Eat
Centrally located around area attractions and the Salem Old Town Hall, Cafe Graziani is known as “the family place” in Salem, and when you visit, it is easy to see why. A warm authentic Italian restaurant, we were greeted instantly as we walked through the doors. As you sit and dine on fresh sandwiches and made to order calzones and pizzas, it is refreshing to hear regular customers being greeted by name as the owner asks if they want their “regular.” Family owned, it is hard to not come away feeling like family after a meal here.
Ingredients are fresh and delicious while not overly fancy, and prices are reasonable, even for a large family. I had the Italian sub roll sandwich with fresh spinach, tomatoes and mozzarella and it was filling for only $7. The boys samples the pizza which was also freshly made and delicious. Definitely the place to stop in for a quick lunch after touring the city all afternoon.
Flying Saucer Pizza Company
If you’re looking for a truly out of this world dining experience in Salem, Massachusetts, then stop into the Flying Saucer Pizza Company. Close to local attractions and located in a fun area of town with cobblestone and plenty of shops to wander in and out of, the Flying Saucer Pizza Company features exotic pizza menu options with names like Mars Attacks and Morbo the Annihilator. Salads, Space Balls (garlic knots) and desserts round out this stellar menu, and the pizza is absolutely delicious. Hand made and topped generously, we had no trouble chowing down and still having some left for the road. Don’t forget to stop at the Bewitched statue on your way out of the restaurant too.
For information on these and other family friendly attractions, or for help planning your visit to Salem, Massachusetts, visit Salem.org.