north shore

In 1692, Salem got all worked up about witches, based on the accusations of a group of pre-teen and teenage girls. They had witch trials, people were imprisoned, and nineteen people were hung from the gallows. After the American Revolution, Salem was a bustling seafaring port, where ships sailed off to India, China and the Spice Islands, bringing back tea, silk, pepper, sugar, ivory, and coffee. For kids, Salem is a beautifully preserved example of New England life in previous centuries.

Salem Harbor - Start your explorations at Salem Harbor. (This is perfect if you arrived by the Salem Ferry, it's just a five minute walk to Derby Wharf.)
Derby Wharf - Check out the Friendship of Salem, a full-size replica of an East Indiaman ship that made fifteen voyages around the world. Kids can take a deep breath of salt air, and imagine warehouses along the Salem wharves, the clatter of goods being loaded and unloaded, carts rumbling back and forth, and smells of wooden ships and spices in the air.
Waterfront - Look back at the buildings along the waterfront, the big red and white Custom House, yellow Hawkes House, Derby House red brick mansion (Elias Hasket Derby was the first American millionaire), and on the corner, the small blue West India Goods Store, originally a retail store for goods from all over the world.
Next to the Orientation Center (with restrooms) are picnic tables by the water.
New England Pirate Museum - All those ships with valuable cargoes were rich pickings for pirates. Take a 25 minute guided tour through scenes of pirates who operated off New England - Black Sam Bellamy (200 million pieces of eight were found in his wrecked ship), Ned Low who captured fourteen ships in one day, Rachel Wall, New England's last pirate and only woman, pirate flags and more. The museum is for older kids, some of the scenes are pretty vivid.
Peabody Essex Museum - This museum dates back to 1799 and was founded by a group of sea captains. The collections are a treasure trove of souvenirs from exotic lands, arts from the Orient, models and paintings of ships. In the Asian Export galleries, look for the fabulous moon bed, ivory fans and toys, a model of a Chinese ship made out of silver, and intricately carved elephant tusk. In the Maritime Art galleries, check out the painted panorama of a whaling voyage, ships' figureheads, and many models of sailing ships, clipper ships, schooners and frigates.
The centerpiece of the museum is Yin Yu Tang, a 200 year old merchant's house, brought from China and reassembled in the museum. Stroll through the house, around the central courtyard (with two water tanks), peer into the reception halls (upstairs and downstairs) and family bedrooms - only women and children lived here full time.
Visitor Center - Across from the Peabody Essex Museum, nip into the Visitor Center to check out the cool model of a typical Salem wharf, full-size dory and other exhibits.
Salem Witch Museum - This is a 30 min. show, with splashy stage sets dramatizing important events in the Salem witch trials - Tituba playing at witchcraft, the girls hysteria and random accusations, people are brought to trial, declared guilty and hanged, later the girls confess that they were "deluded by Satan." In addition, there's also an exhibit about witches throughout history.
Salem Common - Across from the Salem Witch Museum is the Salem Common, with grass and shade trees, benches, and a playground. (If you have younger kids, this is a great place for them to play, while the older kids go into the Salem Witch Museum.)
Witch House - Jonathan Corwin was a judge during the witch trials and lived with his family in this house in 1692. Take a self-guided tour of the house to see how the Corwin family lived - the "hall" where they cooked food and had their meals around the table, a parlor with fancy furniture, and upstairs, a children's bedchamber with a fold down bed and parent's bedchamber. This is a great way for kids to get a feel for daily life in Salem at the time of the witch trials.
Tip: Salem Ferry - If you're visiting Salem as a day trip from Boston, our favorite way to arrive is via the Salem Ferry, a 45 minute ride on a high speed catamaran. To return to Boston, take the commuter rail, the station is a short walk to old Salem.

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