Top 5 Things to Do in Salem Massachusetts

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Check out or latest Podcast episode! Today we’re covering the top 5 things to do in Salem Massachusetts. Check out the full transcript below.

Full Podcast Episode Transcript:

This was the recording transcript so things might’ve changed a bit between the recording and publishing.

Today we’re having a look at everyone’s favorite weird town: Salem, Massachusetts. So get on your pointy hats, grab a smudge stick, and put on some Omnia – this is the top 5 things to do in Salem, Massachusetts.

 The Salem Witch Museum

5) If you’re anything like the rest of the 100,000 tourists who flock to Salem during Halloween, the first place you’re going to visit is the Salem Witch Museum. Honestly, look at that building. That’s exactly what you want Salem to be like. Inside you’ll find a gigantic open room featuring wax figures straight out of Walt Disney’s nightmares (or maybe his fantasies – that dude was weird). These grotesque and frankly comically outdated figures are the perfect introduction to this super weird city. A raspy, British voiceover is going to tell all about the 20 people who were ‘s hanged and pressed, not burned, to death in the witch trials of 1692 as the wax tableaus are lit in a circle above and around you – the conclusion of which ends on everyone’s favorite strange badass: Satan himself. After the main presentation, you’ll be led into a back room where a tour guide will walk you through an exhibit exploring the perceptions of Paganism and Witchcraft throughout the ages and the modern day. Pop out into the gift shop, grab some brochures on your left on the way out, and let’s jump into some more weirdness.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site 

4) The reason people go to Salem over and over again only has a little to do with witches. This town really is a super strange hodgepodge of huge historical and cultural influences. Like, did you know that Salem was at one time one of the most pre-eminate seaports in the United States. Some people even speculate that had the witch hysteria never occurred, Salem might these days have a reputation for being one of the larger trade hubs on the east coast. At number 4, you should really check out the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. This National Historic Site features a 171 foot replica of a 1797 East Indiaman ship, a 17th  century home, and The Custom House which features a surprisingly fascinating collection of stuff surrounding Salem’s financial history as well as the office of potentially the city’s most famous native son: author Nathanial Hawthorne who was, by the way, a descendant of one of the judges in the witch trials which is probably why his work was so guilt-ridden and gloomy.

 The House of the Seven Gables

3) Speaking of Nathanial Hawthorne, one of the more interesting sites in Salem is featured prominently in his work, “The House of the Seven Gables.” This 1668 house is off the beaten path enough as to not be swarmed by the seasonal tourists but close enough to be easily walkable. There’s a gorgeous garden out back, an incredible tour, some super cool programming if you’re a local. There’s even a black cat named Lucky that wanders the grounds and houses the reincarnated spirit of Witch Trials judge John Hathorne – ok, I might have made that last bit up.

 The Lobster Shanty

2) At number two, we’re getting away from the witchy part of Salem and jumping right into the center of town. Lest we forget, Salem is an east-coast town just a scouch north of Boston. And what are east coast cities really well-known for? Great seafood. Salem is no exception and there are a bunch of choices for you. My personal favorite is in the shadow of the best building featured in the Salem classic Hocus Pocusthe Old Town Hall. The Lobster Shanty is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s small, has some indoor and outdoor seating, a great staff, and the best seafood in town. My personal favorite is the lobster Rangoon and cod and chips, although a close second is the traditional lobster roll. There’s also a selection of incredible burgers if seafood isn’t your thing. Some of my favorite memories from Salem have happened on the patio at the Lobster Shanty with a cold glass of beer. Whether you’re there for the Halloween season or not, this famous little spot is my go-to whenever I’m in Salem and it should be yours too.

 Crow Haven Corner

1) You like weird things, I like weird things. So let’s get honest with each other. So far we’ve covered witch history, maritime history, an old house immortalized in fiction, and the best spot for seafood in the area. But what’s the reason we really go to Salem? If it’s on Halloween it’s to party with the other weirdos, of course. But if you’re drawn to the city itself, it’s probably because Salem is a nexus (some Pagan people say it’s literally a leyline) or crazy energy. The city draws all manner of off-center people and many of them end up setting up shop there. And in my opinion, the queen of these modern, witchy entrepreneurs is Laurie Cabot. If you’ve visited Salem and love all the contemporary witch shops and Pagan flare, you have Cabot to thank. She arrived in the early 70’s in a time when there were no new age shops and the climate was definitely not friendly to the idea of one. Enter Cabot. She set up a shop and a few years later, moved it to Essex Street in the heart of Salem. She renamed her little spot Crow Haven Corner. And guess what – it’s still there. And it’s by far my favorite witch shop in town. I mean there are other close contenders: Pyramid Books and The Coven’s Cottage come in a close second and third and you should definitely check those out too if you can. But there’s something about Crow Haven Corner. If you’re tall like me, you’re going to find yourself ducking around a lot to avoid the various talismans and art pieces hanging from the ceiling, but that’s all part of the charm. In this cozy old house, you can get a reading, sample some herbs, oils, and incense and all the other things you’d expect from a witch shop in Salem. Crucially though, you can also check out The Salem Witch Walk which is one of (and in my opinion the best) guided tours in Salem. Take a walk on this tour and you’ll get to participate in an actual pagan ritual led by an active practitioner as well as get introduced to a few witch-specific spots around town. This is the perfect ending addendum to the 1692 experience you got at the Salem Witch Museum and rounds out your Salem visit with a bit of contemporary lore. Crow Haven Corner is on my must-visit list every time I’m in Salem and is staffed by some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable staff members in town. Be absolutely sure to stop by this shop whether you’re in town for Halloween or the off-season.

That’s all for today weirdos! Be sure to subscribe for more strange videos and please spread the word to all your odd friends. My name’s Joel and is that a dancing cat behind you?

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