Salem, Massachusetts: Is It More Than Just a Tourist Trap?

Salem MA main Gingy

Yes! Salem is much more than tourist attractions surrounding the 1962 Witch Trials. While the museums are a bit touristy, we enjoyed walking around the quaint town, exploring the unique boutiques, grabbing lunch at Bonchon, a Korean restaurant, and with more time would have visited Notch Brewery & Tap Room. About a 45 minute Uber ride from Boston, we spent half a day exploring the town of Salem.

Salem Heritage Trail

salem walkways

  • Easily visit landmarks and attractions on Salem’s Heritage Trail by following the red line throughout Salem’s sidewalks. 

Witch History Museum

learning voodoo witch history museum

  • After a live presentation at the Witch History Museum, the tour continues downstairs through 15 scenes. Open April – November every day 10:00am – 5:00pm. $11 per adult to enter.

The beginning: The girls begin meeting in Reverend Parris’ kitchen with Tituba, his slave. Tituba tells stories of her time living in Barbados and begins teaching the girls voodoo and fortune telling.

exorcism salem witch trials

  • When Reverend Parris learned of these meetings, he quickly ended them. No longer allowed to meet at Reverend Parris’ home, the girls began meeting in the forest where they were seen dancing and playing around a fire. Shortly thereafter, Reverend Parris noticed his daughter and niece acting strange. He called Dr. Griggs to examine the girls. Unable to assess an illness, Dr. Griggs declared the girls bewitched and the work of the devil.

Theories of the hysteria: It is believed one of the girls had epilepsy. Gaining attention of the adults, the other girls became jealous and began faking seizures. It was also discovered in the 1760’s that ergot, a fungus found in flour and rye, can cause hallucinations, convulsions, and muscle spasms. Anyone that ingested the bacteria appeared bewitched or present day referred to as stoned.

salem witch trials salem MA

  • Villagers gathered at the meeting house determined to find and punish those responsible for bewitching their children. Fear spread throughout the 13 months of trails resulting in 156 accused, 19 hanged, 1 pressed to death, and 2 dogs hanged.
  • In Europe, witch craft was a state felony punishable by hanging. In the United States, witch craft was viewed as a state felony and offense against the church, therefore, the  bodies of those accused of witch craft in the U.S., but not in Europe, were burned at the stake to purify them for afterlife.  

Witch Dungeon Museum

witch dungeon museum salem

  • A 1962 witch trial in Salem Village is reenacted at the Witch Dungeon Museum using historical transcripts. The performance is followed by a tour of the dungeon.  

Salem Witch Trials Memorial

salem witch trials memorial sign

i am innocent i am wronged
I am innocent. I am wronged.

salem graveyard

  • The memorial was created for the 20 tried and executed of the 156 people accused of practicing witch craft in 1962. My life lies now in your hands. Oh Lord, help me. God knows I am innocent… I can deny it to my dying day. If I would confess I should save my life. I am wholly innocent of such wickedness. I do not plead guilty. 

Ropes Mansion and Garden

Ropes Mansion Salem

ropes mansion kitchen salem

living room of ropes mansion salem

  • Take a self guided tour through the Ropes Mansion, a Georgian style home built in the 1720’s. Open Saturday and Sunday 12:00pm – 4:00pm.  Admission is free. Behind the house is a Colonial Revival garden and a Free Little Library

Essex Street Pedestrian Mall

salem essex street shops

  • Along Essex Street are many shops and boutiques offering physic and tarot readings, souvenirs, herbs, candles, magic, and witchcraft related items. A cobblestone pedestrian mall is in the center of downtown lined with street vendors, restaurants, shops, and attractions.

The Witch House

the witch house salem

witch's house fire

witchs house bedroom and dining room

  • The Witch House was once the home of Jonathan Corwin, a politician, member of the militia, and wealthy merchant. First Town Selectman and Representative, Jonathan Corwin later became a judge and was involved in over 150 arrests, 19 hangings, and 1 pressing to the death during the Salem Witch Trials. $8.25 per person to enter. The tour is self guided.

Salem’s First Church

first church in salem MA

  • The first church in Salem, founded in 1629, still holds Sunday services and church school.

Additional Museums

New England Pirate Museum 

  • Experience life of a New England sea robber on a guided tour through a 17th century replica dock-side village, 80 foot cave, and pirate ship. See real pirate treasure and artifacts, some found in Massachusetts. The New England Pirate Museum is open May – October every day from 10:00am – 5:00pm.

Salem Witch Museum

  • Relive the Salem Witch Trials through 13 life size scenes at The Salem Witch Museum. Next, learn about the ever changing perceptions of witches, witch hunting, and modern day witch craft. The museum is open every day 10:00am – 4:30pm and visits take about 60 minutes.  

Peabody Essex Museum

  • Established in 1799, Peabody Essex Museum is one of the oldest museums in the country. It also displays one of the largest collections of Asian art in the United States combining works from the Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute into one collective museum.

May 2019

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Author: The Traveling Gingerbread

My husband, Mitch, and I have been traveling together over 6 years. Living and working full-time in Pittsburgh, PA, we travel as much as our vacation days and finances allow. We cram each adventure with activities, tours,  and experiences to maximize our time. We always try to visit to a local brewery and can't walk by an Irish pub without stopping in for a pint of Guinness. CREATION OF THE TRAVELING GINGERBREAD: In Tokyo, we smiled every time we saw someone talking on their large, animated phone case. We had to buy one. Having an obsolete IPhone 5, the selection was limited. We purchased a gingerbread off a neglected rack in Shinjuku, Tokyo and The Traveling Gingerbread was born. You can purchase your own gingerbread friend here! The Traveling Gingerbread is an entertaining account of our travels, fun facts, and tips we learned along the way.

4 thoughts

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to Salem, and I like that it’s become a haven for the very people they wanted to destroy. And as you show, there is a lot of history to be discovered there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! It would be a great place to visit in October. I didn’t expect the town to have so many “gothic” dressed people and witch craft and magic stores. There is a lot of history to explore beyond the tourism. It’s a very unique city. We definitely recommend you visit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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