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When you think per­fect small town for a spooky fall trip, you might think Sleepy Hol­low or Ami­tyville, but we think Salem, Mass­a­chu­setts.  Home of the infa­mous Salem Witch Tri­als that plagued the tiny town in the late 1600s, today it’s quite pos­si­bly the most bizarre blend of quin­tes­sen­tial New Eng­land charm and over-the-top occult that you could ever hope to find.

My broth­er and sis­ter-in-law live in Salem, which is con­sid­ered a sub­urb of Boston, and their apart­ment is a beau­ti­ful­ly ren­o­vat­ed loft in what used to be the Salem Jail­house, if you can believe it.  Always in the mood for a good skin-tin­gling sto­ry, when they first moved in, I asked if it was haunt­ed.  My broth­er, ever the cyn­ic, rolled his eyes and told me I was crazy. 

We made a trip to vis­it them on Hal­loween last year, and we found the ener­gy of the bustling lit­tle town very bizarre, creepy and charming.

Look­ing for a fun, fam­i­ly-friend­ly fall trip to take this year? Salem is an awe­some option and these are the things that should def­i­nite­ly make your list! 

 

 

 

 

Salem Witch Trials Memorial

 

If you’ve spent any amount of time in a high school Eng­lish class then chances are pret­ty good that at some point or anoth­er you had to read The Cru­cible by Arthur Miller, a pop­u­lar play about the witch tri­als that Salem is so famous for.

It’s one thing to read about the tri­als, but it’s anoth­er to see the loca­tion where they hap­pened and the stone walls of the Salem Witch Tri­als Memo­r­i­al bear­ing the names of the 26 peo­ple who stood tri­al for witch­craft and were ulti­mate­ly con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death. 

Per­haps not for lit­tle kids, it’s a must-see for fam­i­lies with old­er kids, if for no oth­er rea­son than to show that those crazy things you read about in Eng­lish Lit did actu­al­ly happen. 

 

 

If your family is looking for a fun Fall getaway that incorporates some of the Spooky factor of Halloween, your best bet is Salem, MA. Read about all the fun things to do there with kids!

 

 

The Burying Point

 

I know it’s a bit weird and morose, but I con­fess to being a suck­er for ancient ceme­ter­ies, espe­cial­ly those that have a lot of his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to them.  The Bury­ing Point Ceme­tery (also called Char­ter Street Ceme­tery) is locat­ed just on the oth­er side of the Salem Witch Tri­als Memo­r­i­al and is one of the old­est ceme­ter­ies in the Unit­ed States.  It con­tains the final rest­ing place of many of the judges and mag­is­trates who over­saw the tri­als, along with oth­er notable fig­ures from the time.

We total­ly get it if star­ing at head­stones isn’t your thing.  But if you hap­pen to appre­ci­ate the his­to­ry like I do, the Bury­ing Point is worth a walk-by. And in the fall, with the sur­round­ing oak trees chang­ing col­or, the ceme­tery itself is haunt­ing­ly beautiful. 

 

 

derby wharf lightstation

How cute is this lit­tle lighthouse?

 

 

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Derby Wharf Lightstation

 

For those look­ing for a respite from all the mys­ti­cism and mad­ness, then the Der­by Wharf Light Sta­tion is a must.  Locat­ed down by the water, a safe dis­tance from all the ghouls and gob­lins, the small light­house is sit­u­at­ed at the end of a long spit of rocks and total­ly walk­a­ble.  Per­fect for a morn­ing or after­noon stroll, and if you walk all the way out to the end and turn and look back, the autum­nal view of Salem is noth­ing short of post­card perfect. 

 

Pro Tip: Stop for cof­fee and a Cook­ies ‘n Cream Hot Choco­late at Jaho Cof­fee Roast­er & Wine Bar before­hand so you and the kids have sus­te­nance (and a lit­tle sug­ar) for your walk!

 

 

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Bewitched After Dark Salem Walking Tours

 

If you’re look­ing for an enter­tain­ing and edu­ca­tion­al way to expe­ri­ence Salem, then we say skip the muse­ums and instead do a walk­ing tour of Salem with Bewitched After Dark.  Their inter­ac­tive walks are a per­fect way to learn about the town and also walk off any lin­ger­ing ener­gy the kids might have after that hot choco­late from Jaho.  Con­sis­tent­ly ranked in the top walk­ing tours of Salem, the tours are host­ed by locals who have an expan­sive knowl­edge not just on the witch tri­als, but also on Salem’s colo­nial and mar­itime his­to­ry as well (yes, that includes pirates).  Add to that a lit­tle bit of folk­lore and leg­endary haunt­ings, and you’ve got your­self the mak­ings of a wicked good time. 

For those that are maybe a lit­tle fear­ful of walk­ing the streets of Salem after dark or have lit­tle ones in tow who like­ly won’t make it past eight (go ahead, blame it on your kids), they have late after­noon walks as well. 

 

 

red house with fall foliage

Could you find a bet­ter depic­tion of autumn?
Pho­to cour­tesy of Trav­el Channel

 

Salem foliage

 

Okay, so dead leaves might not sound like some­thing you would go out of your way to vis­it a town for, but trust me when I say that there is no autumn quite like a New Eng­land autumn.  There’s some­thing about the smell of the crisp ocean breeze cou­pled with the rich red, orange, and yel­low hues that is pure mag­ic.  With the fes­tive atmos­phere and Hal­loween decor all over the town, it’s quite pos­si­bly the most pic­ture-per­fect ver­sion of fall that we’ve ever seen.

 

 

 

 

Goodnight Fatty

 

We nev­er actu­al­ly got to go to Good­night Fat­ty’s because the line was so long it wrapped around the block — that’s how good it is.  But my broth­er and sis­ter-in-law and their friends all rave about the week­end pop up joint that sells the most amaz­ing cook­ies and soft-serve ice cream.  And judg­ing by the smell alone, their cook­ies must be noth­ing short of heaven. 

Part of their charm is that they’re only open on the week­ends, and only in the evening (after 5 on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day, after 2 on Sun­day), sell­ing rotat­ing con­coc­tions you can’t get any­where else, like frost­ed ani­mal crack­er cook­ies, peanut but­ter and Reese’s Pieces cook­ies, and your tra­di­tion­al cook­ie staples.

 

 

Our advice?  Plan ahead and plan to wait.  But from every­thing we’ve heard, that wait is total­ly worth it.

 

 

Wicked Good Books

 

We’re book peo­ple in my fam­i­ly.  And by that, I mean that I’m a book per­son and the rest of my fam­i­ly begrudg­ing­ly allows me to drag them into every cozy lit­tle book­store we hap­pen to cross in our travels. 

So when we passed Wicked Good Books, as we were walk­ing around town, I was instant­ly hooked and had to duck inside, to the audi­ble groans of my kids and hus­band.  But it was one of the more adorable book­stores I’ve ever been in, and I con­sid­er myself a connoisseur. 

As the name sug­gests, the book­store sells all sorts of dark thrillers and spooky spell books befit­ting its locale and also boasts a large sec­tion ded­i­cat­ed specif­i­cal­ly to books about Salem and New England.

Even if you’re not a read­er or in the habit of buy­ing phys­i­cal books (I get it, I’ve got a Kin­dle too), it’s def­i­nite­ly worth a stop, if for no oth­er rea­son than to expe­ri­ence the fun and cozy atmosphere. 

 

 

street in salem mass

Brick on brick on brick!
Pho­to cour­tesy of Salem.org

 

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Walk Around Salem Proper

 

Part of the charm and mys­tique of Salem are the many wind­ing alleys and side streets that, around Hal­loween, can only lead to dou­ble, dou­ble, toil and trou­ble.  For the Har­ry Pot­ter obsessed among us, it remind­ed my kids of Diagon Alley, though maybe a lit­tle bit brighter and more wel­com­ing.  Around Hal­loween, the quaint cob­bled streets are teem­ing with all man­ner of ghoul­ish and masked fig­ures, for­tune tellers offer­ing to read your palms, magi­cians trick­ing crowds with sleight of hand.  The colo­nial brick store­fronts are bedecked with fake cob­webs, witch­es’ brooms, and black cats. And the local cafes and cof­fee shops sell all the fes­tive fall treats — apple cider, can­dy corn, and pump­kin-spiced everything.

I’m not a big Hal­loween fan (I’m more of a Christ­mas and Thanks­giv­ing kind of gal) but even I found myself get­ting in the spir­it in this lit­tle town.  The ener­gy is tru­ly infec­tious and noth­ing short of magical. 

 

When you go

Get­ting from L.A. to Boston is real­ly a piece of cake.  It’s pret­ty easy to find a direct flight on one of the major car­ri­ers.  From there, you can rent a car, take the MBTA com­muter rail train out to Salem, or catch the Salem fer­ry.  The fer­ry takes just under an hour and affords great views of down­town Boston.

We stayed at the Hawthorne Hotel, an his­toric hotel right in the mid­dle of Salem and real­ly enjoyed it.  It was walk­a­ble to every­thing, and though the hotel was old­er, it was very well main­tained and cozy.  There’s also a brand new Hamp­ton Inn near­by, and if you’re look­ing for a place to stay with all the bells and whis­tles, we rec­om­mend the Mer­chant, a styl­ish bou­tique hotel in the heart of the town.  There are also sev­er­al charm­ing B&Bs and fam­i­ly-owned inns around town as well, if that’s more your style.

 

If you’re need­ing a good fall trip that the whole fam­i­ly will enjoy, Salem can’t be beat.  Just go pre­pared for some chills and thrills mixed in with your quaint New Eng­land charm.

 

Mor­gan is a brand design­er and writer who splits her time between man­ag­ing her cre­ative stu­dio, Atlas + Anchor, and writ­ing about her life­long love affair with trav­el. A wan­der­lus­ter at heart, she’s a big pro­po­nent of explor­ing the roads less trav­eled because they often lead to amaz­ing views, mem­o­rable sto­ries, and the most unas­sum­ing but life-chang­ing restau­rants. Orig­i­nal­ly from Ohio, Mor­gan now lives in the heart of Chica­go with her fam­i­ly and is quite pos­si­bly the only per­son with­in city lim­its who hates deep dish pizza. 

 

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