Rockport, Massachusetts: Classic New England

Rockport Massachusetts

Rockport Harbor

If you’re looking for a picture perfect, classic New England town, then Rockport, Massachusetts is the destination for you. Located just one hour north of Boston, Rockport is an easy day trip that offers seacoast charm, fun shopping, tasty seafood, and colorful art.

Bearskin Neck Rockport Massachusetts

Bearskin Neck

Most of the action in Rockport centers around Bearskin Neck, a long street of old fisherman and lobster shacks that have been transformed into a picturesque shopper’s alley.  You won’t find any name bands here; it’s all local artists and owners.  So you can truly shop locally, and there’s something for everyone, from nautical gifts, to soaps and silversmiths, to home and kitchen accessories.  I recommend the Rockport Candle Company where all the candles are hand-poured and where you’ll find inventive scents like Salt Water Taffy, Buttered Lobster, Summer Crush, and Cocktails by the Sea. When you’re done shopping, head all the way to the end of Bearskin Neck for incredible views and a walk out onto the rock jetty.

Roy Moore Lobster Rockport Massachusetts

Roy Moore’s Lobster Co.

Helmut's Strudel Rockport Massachusetts

Helmut’s Strudel

Feeling hungry?  Rockport has many options for dining and dessert.  If you’re craving seafood, head over to Roy Moore’s Lobster Company.  You have two options: a full service restaurant (called Roy Moore’s Fish Shack) or the seafood market and eatery.  Today, we went for takeout, ordering a lobster roll, fish cakes, and stuffed clams and then walking to the end of Bearskin Neck to sit on the rocks and enjoy the scenery.  Who needs fine dining with these kind of ocean views?!  For dessert, you could get ice cream, but I would recommend the apple or cherry strudel from Helmut’s Strudel Shop.  During our last trip, we split a flaky delicious cherry strudel and savored every bite.  Of course I ended up with powdered sugar all over me, but it was well worth it!

If you have a sweet tooth and are looking for something to bring home, then stop in at Tuck’s Candy Factory.  They’ve been making candy on the premises since 1929, so you know it’s got to be good!  There are two locations: one combines a candy counter and fun gift shop, while the other is strictly candy.  At the latter, you might even catch them making salt water taffy, a classic New England treat!

Looking for other activities in Rockport?  Try these add-ons:

1.Fit in some beach time.  Front Beach is on Main St, while Pebble Beach is on Penzance Rd.  Both are very small (so you’ll likely have a lot of company), and the latter is quite rocky.  But they’re a close choice to cool off.

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2. Visit the Paper House.  It’s a house made entirely out of newspapers!   You’re probably not going to see anything like it again.  Just go because you know you’re curious now! 40FED3AF-31F6-4DA8-B9BF-83AEF852CB10

3. Spend some time at Halibut Point State Park.  It was a once a quarry but now offers easy trails with incredible cliff and ocean views.

4. See a concert or live music act at the Shalin Liu Performance Center.  There’s no back stage here, just a stunning view of the ocean through huge windows right behind the performers.  See their schedule by clicking here.

Locations

Jetty Rockport Massachusetts

Jetty at the End of Bearskin Neck

The Rockport Candle Company is located at 45 Bearskin Neck.

Roy Moore Lobster Company and Eatery (take out or plastic tables) is located at 39 Bearskin Neck, while Ray Moore’s Fish Shack (restaurant) is at 21 Dock Square.

Helmut’s Strudel Shop bakes and sells at 60 Bearskin Neck.

Tuck’s Candy Factory has two locations: gifts and candy at 15 Main St. and the other that sells strictly candy at 7 Dock Square.

The Paper House is located on 52 Pigeon Hill St.

Halibut Point State Park is located on Gott Avenue in Rockport.

The Shalin Liu Peformance Center holds shows at 37 Main St. in Rockport.

Rockport Massachusetts Map

Click the map for driving directions to Rockport.

What to do in Rockport Massachusetts

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The Best and Worst Places to Visit in Salem, Massachusetts

There are so many things to see and do in Salem, Massachusetts.  How do you know which to go to and which to avoid? I’ve been a local resident for my entire life, a history major and teacher, and a lifelong traveler.  So allow me to be your guide to visiting the Witch City.  

Please note that the numbers below are not a ranking but simply meant for organizational purposes.

The Worst Places to Visit in Salem

1. The Witch House

Although it is the only structure still standing in Salem that was involved in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, it is not worth paying to visit.  Your self-guided tour includes only four rooms. There are no historical artifacts on display that are worth the admittance price of $8.00/person.  The exhibits contain minimal information and are very poorly presented. I first visited several summers ago and was deeply disappointed. I recently visited again, to give the historic home another shot, but, once more, I was frustrated with the poor quality of the exhibits.  I spent less than 10 minutes there. If you’re looking to visit a historic home connected to the Witch Trials, I strongly recommend going to the Rebecca Nurse Homestead instead. I’ll tell you more about it below.

2. Witch History Museum

Even the name of this place is misleading because it’s not a museum at all.   Being a teacher, I was admitted for free and was told that the beginning of the visit was an “accurate, live presentation”.  We were ushered into an auditorium with wooden pews for seats. A single female tour guide took the stage dressed in “colonial” attire that looked more like a cheap Halloween costume.  She began to recite a speech, which had obviously been memorized, with utter lack of any type of enthusiasm. The presentation was so horribly dull that I considered leaving. I stayed only because I wanted to be polite.  When the guide was finished, she led us downstairs into what seemed like the basement. I was hoping for historical exhibits, but, instead, there were only old, musty scenes filled with sad, outdated mannequins and wax figures.  Each scenario is supposed to make you feel like you’re present at settings that represent various events in the Salem Witch Trials. Instead, you’ll feel more like you’re in an obsolete haunted house. I thought it couldn’t get much worse until the guide pressed a button and an ancient and scratchy, narrated voice told the tale of the scene.  When we moved to the second display, I really wanted to leave, even though I had been admitted for free!. However, once again, I stayed out of politeness to the guide. By the end of the tour I feel like I wasted an hour of my life that I’d never get back. If you’re looking for history or information about the witch trials, do not go to the Witch History Museum. See my choices below for more worthwhile places to visit below.

3. The Witch Dungeon Museum

Again, don’t be fooled by the name of this location.  No witches were imprisoned here, and it’s not a museum. The Salem Jail where the witches were incarcerated was torn down long ago.  Instead, you’ll experience another poorly presented talk by a tour guide and more out-of-date scenes (only this time with animatronic figures) and recorded narrations, all of which should have been retired years ago.  Nothing is new here. It’s the same thing and story as what you’d see at any of the witch tourist traps in Salem. Don’t waste your time or money.

4. Salem Witch Museum

When I was younger, I visited the Salem Witch Museum with my family and friends.  When I visited again as an adult, I was surprised to find that nothing about the presentation there has changed in over 30 years.  You’re seated in a circular room, and after the lights go down, you’ll experience a recorded narration with information about the witch trials. It is accompanied by . . . you guessed it . . .  more scenes with wax figures and mannequins that are decades old. Again, nothing you wouldn’t have already seen and heard at another witch tourist trap. After the presentation, a guide takes you through some informational exhibits about the witch trials and the stereotypes about witches throughout history.  Even though the location calls itself a museum, there are no historical artifacts from the Salem Witch Trials. I was also disappointed with the guided nature of the second part of the tour. I would have much rather read the information boards, that I was interested in, at my own pace. Simply put, there are far better destinations to learn about the Salem Witch Trials in Salem than at this supposed museum.

5. Salem Wax Museum

It’s not Madame Tussaud’s that’s for sure!  Unless you want to see even more wax figures in sad presentations that haven’t changed in decades, don’t waste your money.

The Best Places to Visit in Salem

1. Best Location to Learn about the Witch Trials: The Rebecca Nurse Homestead

Want to learn more about the Salem Witch Trials and experience the home of an actual victim? Head to the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, which is only minute from Salem. Before you go, find out all the details in my blog post.

2. Best Tour: The 1692 Witchcraft Walk 

There are so many tours to choose from in Salem, and most are, frankly, disappointing.  The majority involve guides in cheesy costumes that are more interested in scaring you with phony ghost stories than providing accurate and historically up-to-date information about the Salem Witch Trials or the city itself.  Being a teacher, historian, and a paying customer, I expect more than that. I look for tours that present solid historical information along with entertaining storytelling. Thus, my recommendation for the best tour in Salem is the “1692 Witchcraft Walk” from Salem Historical Tours.  Their tour guides are personable, engaging, and knowledgeable. They’ll take you to all of the locations in Salem where the witch trials occurred and explain how and why the witch hysteria happened, all in a manner that’s historically up-do-date and easy to understand. Don’t waste your money on a tour from any other company.   For more information and to book your tour online, please see the website for Salem Historical Tours.

3. Best Historic House: Philips House Museum

Don’t go to just any historic home in Salem. Experience history, not just hear about it, at the Philips House Museum. To find out more about why this historic house blew me away, visit my blog post about it.

4. Best Free Historic Activity: The Ropes Mansion and Gardens

Looking for something free to do in Salem?  Head over to the historic Ropes Mansion and Gardens.  Before you go, check out my blog post about this beautifully-preserved historic home and its glorious gardens.

5. Best Museum: Peabody Essex Museum

If you’re visiting Salem and enjoy museums, the Peabody Essex is your best bet.  The PEM was enlarged in 2019, and their exhibits frequently change. Head on over to their website to find out more about what’s on.

6. Best Location for Kids: Salem Willows Park

If you’ve brought your family to Salem, you’ll no doubt be looking for something to do that the kids will enjoy.  Salem Willows offers old-fashioned, family entertainment and activities that everyone will enjoy. Head on over to my blog post to learn more about the Willows.

7. Best Restaurants and Food Options

Don’t just go to any old restaurant while you’re in Salem.  I’ve got you covered with a blog post about my favorite food (and dessert!) hot spots in the Witch City.

8. Best Scenic Walk: The McIntire Historic District

No visit to Salem is complete without taking a stroll through the McIntire Historic District to see its breathtaking historic homes.  The area encompasses approximately 300 Georgian and Federal-style houses, many of which were designed or influenced by the architect and woodcarver Samuel McInitre.  Walking the entire district covers a little over a mile and takes about 45 minutes. However, if you’re tight on time, take the short walk along Chestnut Street to take in what are, in my opinion, the most beautiful homes. Click here to download and print a pamphlet of the walking tour. While you’re on Chestnut Street, take a tour of the Philips House Museum to see and experience what life as like in one of these stunning architectural masterpieces.

The Philips House Museum: The Best Historic House in Salem

The Philips House Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is my pick for the best historic house in Salem.  Since I was young, I’ve been on countless tours of historic homes, but much to my surprise, I found the Philips House to be something truly special.  Even my husband, who is far from the history buff that I am, said that he was fascinated by the tour.  You might be asking yourself why. Well, the house was donated intact to Historic New England which means that it contains five generations of the family’s furnishings, antiques, art, and everyday items.  I was told by the tour guide that the family never threw anything away (think historic hoarding, haha) but rather put it all into storage. Their accumulation of belongings makes the house very unique in that everything that visitors see actually belonged to the Philips family.  In addition, there are no ropes to separate you from what’s on view, so you can get up close and personal to everything inside this phenomenal house museum.  

We started with a tour of the Philip House’s carriage house which contains three grand antique carriages, three magnificent vintage cars, an adorable child’s pony cart, and a dreamy one-horse open sleigh.  I’m sure you’re singing that last part in your head now . . . sorry! When I first viewed them, I thought they must have been restored because each vehicle is in such extraordinary condition. However, the tour guide informed me that the exteriors and interiors of all of the vehicles have been preserved simply due to the hard work of the family’s former chauffeur and coachman.  Now that’s what I call dedication to the job! The three vintage cars include a gorgeous 1929 teal-colored Ford A (my favorite), a 1924 Pierce Arrow Touring Car, and an incredible 1936 Pierce Arrow Limousine. 

Inside the Philips House, the tour begins in the impressive wood-paneled library and the lovely drawing-room.  These two rooms contain some of the family’s extraordinary collection of souvenirs from their travels around the world and a small part of their antique and rare book collection.  Next, you’ll proceed into the dining room where you’ll see how the Philips family dined in intimate opulence and made use of “modern” conveniences such as button under the table to signal to the staff that they were ready for the next course.  I’d love that in my house! But that would require me to have staff . . . oh well. In the pantry and kitchen, you’ll see many curious gadgets and culinary items, a Victorian-era coal range assembled just for the house, menus of what the family ate, and even invoices from grocers about what the family purchased.  My favorite part was when the tour guide opened up the ice chest so that we could see the slot into which a delivery man slid the purchased ice. How cool!  

Upstairs in the Philips House, you’ll wander through a series of the family’s bedrooms, dressing rooms, and turn-of-the-century bathrooms, the latter, in my opinion, being the most intriguing.  In one of the bedchambers, I was excited to be allowed to ring one of the bedside call buttons to alert the servants that I needed something. Unfortunately, no one came to bring me breakfast in bed!  Of all the upstairs rooms, my favorite was the one that once belonged to Stevie Philips when he was a boy. It contains a series of whimsical antique games. The tour guide allowed us to play one of them by releasing two marbles into the chute at the top of the multi-tiered levels and watching them criss-cross down to the bottom where they came out to ring a bell.   Very charming! The tour continued on the third floor where we visited a recreated servant’s room and saw the system of bells (think back to Downton Abbey) that alerted the staff to the needs of the family. I hope that didn’t give my husband any ideas!

Being able to experience a historic home left intact as if the family was still living there truly brings the past to life.  Although our technology has changed, we have so much in common with the people of the past, including entertaining our friends, impressing others with what we can afford, desiring the most up-to-date technologies, playing amusing games, and collecting souvenirs of our travels.  I strongly encourage you to . . . I would normally say visit, but instead, for this home, I will say experience (because it truly is one) . . . the Philips House Museum and make a treasured travel memory that you’ll remember for years to come.

Location

The Philips House Museum is located at 34 Chestnut St. in Salem, Massachusetts. Click on the image of the map below to be taken to specific directions.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A European Palace of Art in the Heart of Boston

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is one of the most unique museums that I’ve ever been to.  And you should trust me because, as a history buff, I’ve been to a LOT of museums! You are, probably, most familiar with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum from the art heist of 1993 when 13 pieces were stolen in a still unresolved crime.  Leaving mental scenes of movie-like robberies aside, if you’re ever in Boston, I strongly encourage you to visit in order to see not only the immense art collection but also to take in the incredible setting: a mock 15th century Venetian palace! Where else are you going to be able to see that in the United States?!

As you enter the museum, the first striking visual is the exceedingly gorgeous garden courtyard filled with blooming flowers and tropical plants surrounded by four walls that incorporate Gothic and Renaissance architectural structures.  The heavenly enclosure is most definitely a place to get your photo taken or to snap a selfie.

All of the magnificently decorated rooms of the three-floored palace surround the courtyard.  Each contains a fabulous array of paintings, tapestries, furniture, lighting fixtures, sculptures and other works of art from all around the globe.  Weaving in and out of rooms, you’ll discover treasure after treasure.  

After her father’s death in 1891, Isabella Stewart Gardner received a large inheritance and began  seriously collecting pieces of art. Working alongside an architect, she designed the current museum as a home in the style of a Venetian palace.  Many visitors believe that the building was disassembled in Italy and then moved, piece by piece, to Boston. In fact, the structure was constructed, in its current location, out of concrete and was crowned with a lofty glass roof held up by steel supports.  To give it a rich, historic feel, antique architectural elements were worked into the building. When it was finished, Gardner installed her art collection and opened her unique museum home to the public on January 1, 1903. Due to its location in the Fens district of Boston, it came to be known as Fenway Court.  Isabella welcomed many famous artists and intellectuals into her home, where they drew inspiration from the phenomenal surroundings. Today, the museum holds over 7,500 individual pieces of art, 1,500 rare books, and 7,000 archival objects that span the entire course of world history from ancient Rome and China to 19th century France.  Wow!

As you wander around the marvelous structure, you’ll encounter stately rooms full of imposing architectural and artistic pieces.  However, you’ll also come across more intimate spaces that are cordoned off so that only a limited number of people are allowed in at one time.  In those less monumental spaces, you’ll experience close encounters with the most iconic pieces of art, such as Whistler’s “Harmony in Blue and Silver”, Degas’ “Portrait of Josephine Gaujelin”, and Matisse’s “The Terrace, St. Tropez”.  The museum also contains many works by John Singer Sargent who was a frequent guest of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Perhaps, the most famous pieces in the collection are Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait”, Botticelli’s “Story of Lucretia”, Fra Angelico’s “Death and Assumption of the Virgin”, and Titian’s “Rape of Europa”. 

When Isabella Stewart Gardner died in 1924, she left behind a large endowment and specific instructions that her home and collection be put on permanent display “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever”.  Thanks to her passion and generosity, we can continue to enjoy such incredible works of art today.

However, I need to be completely honest with you. I’m no art connoisseur. I know very little about the subject, and, believe it or not, I don’t usually spend too much time in art museums.  However, I found myself really taking my time when exploring the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I felt like, for a few hours, I had left Boston and been transported to Europe, where I was the guest of some historic noble family in their majestic Renaissance palace. I’ve never before visited a museum that evoked that kind of sentiment.  That’s why I believe the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum is an exceptional artistic and historic experience for those visiting the city of Boston.   

Location

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is located at 25 Evans Way in Boston, Massachusetts.

If you’re already in the city, the easiest way to get there is by public transportation. Take the Green Line of the MBTA (or the “T” as, we, Bostonians call it) to the Museum of Fine Arts stop. From there, click the link above to get walking directions.

If you’re driving in from outside of the city, click on the link above to get directions. If you’re visiting on a weekend, you may find metered parking spaces outside the museum. If not, I would advise parking in the nearby garage of the Simmons School of Management at 86 Avenue Louis Pasteur. The museum allows you to receive a discounted rate. See their website for more details.

Fantastic Metal Beasts and Where to Find Them in Salem

Looking for something free and extremely out of the ordinary to do in Salem, Massachusetts?  How about a visit to a yard full of metal sculptures? Yes, you read that correctly.  If you’re visiting Salem or live nearby, you should stop by this outdoor sculpture gallery located in, yes, someone’s front yard.

The remarkable sculptures range from recognizable to, well, rather abstract.  Each of the peculiar pieces of art is made from recycled and reused metal materials that the owner-artist has salvaged or saved.  From giant insects to robots riding rolling machines to mechanized fountains, you can’t help but smile when admiring the rather unique display.  There’s even a large collection of antique and whimsical door knockers assembled on the yard’s fence. Both adults and children will surely be amused by this curious collection.

If someone is home, they’re happy to let you wander around the yard to get a close up look.  If not, you can easily see everything from outside the fence, as we did.

Things to Know

The home is adjacent to a parking lot for the Salem Ferry, but the parking is not free.  You may be able to find a space on the adjacent main road. Otherwise, pull the car over, put on your hazard lights, and enjoy for a few minutes. 

Location

The yard of metal sculptures is located at 10 Blaney St. in Salem, Massachusetts. Click on the link for directions.

Follow the signs for the Salem Ferry 

The Rebecca Nurse Homestead: Historic House of a Falsely Accused Salem Witch

The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is one of the best places to learn about the Salem Witch Trials, but what might surprise you is that it’s not located in Salem, Massachusetts.  Today, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead is located in the town of Danvers. At the time of the trials, Danvers was known as Salem Village and was the epicenter of the beginnings of the witch hysteria.  In addition, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead is the only home of a person convicted in the Salem Witch Trials that’s open to the public. If that’s not enough of a reason to visit, let me tell you a bit of Rebecca’s story which is sure to make you want to.

Despite the fact she was 71 years old and that she was a well-respected and extremely pious member of the community, Rebecca Nurse was convicted and executed for witchcraft in 1692.  After a warrant was issued for her arrest on March 24, a petition signed by 39 members of the public (which is a lot of people in a small village) was presented to the court in support of Rebecca.  Nevertheless, her trial began in June. The accusations levelled against Rebecca were based on so-called “spectral evidence” which involved a witch sending her spirit to torment and torture others. Many prominent people in Salem town (modern Salem) and Salem Village (modern Danvers) testified in her defense.  However, when the young girls, who were paraded in front of the court in every trial, entered the courtroom and saw Rebecca, they broke out into fits and claimed that she had afflicted them right then and there. Not convinced by the evidence, the jury found Rebecca to be innocent. However, those who were supposedly plagued by Rebecca’s spirit continued to be afflicted, and the judges and jury were called back to review her case.  After additional deliberations, which were surprisingly legal at the time, the jury found her guilty of witchcraft on June 30, and she was sentenced to death. On July 19, Rebecca, along with four other women, were hung until dead at Proctor’s Ledge.  

My friend, her two children, and I visited the Rebecca Nurse Homestead on the anniversary of her death.  The homestead consists of the original house, several outbuildings, and 25 acres (of the original 300 acre farm) of land.  You’ll begin your guided tour in a reproduction of the Salem Village Meeting House where many of the initial hearings of the Salem Witch Trials were held.  The recreation was originally constructed in 1984 for the film “Three Sovereigns for Sarah”, which I highly recommend if you are interested in the Salem Witch Trials.  

Being a historian and educator, I’m not easily impressed by tour guides, but the female staff member of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead was both extremely knowledgeable and exceptionally passionate about Rebecca’s past and the history of the witch hysteria.  In the meeting house reproduction, she began the tour by giving us a very detailed history of the witch trials and a look into the minds of the accused, the accusers, and the people of that community. Although her explanation may have been too comprehensive and lengthy for some, my friend and I were engulfed by the story.  Following the recounting of the trial and execution, we were led into the Nurse home. The tour included four of the oldest rooms of the house. Our guide explained the history of the home, the everyday jobs and lives of the various family members who lived there during colonial and revolutionary times, and the uses of many of the historical reproductions that have been placed in the house to make it come alive for visitors.  My friend’s children, later, stated that the tour of the Nurse home was their favorite part of the tour because they enjoyed seeing where and how people lived in the past.

The grounds of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead also contain a gift shop, located in an old barn, and the family graveyard.  There, you’ll find a number of graves, the Victorian Era monument placed where Rebecca is supposedly buried (see below), and another monument dedicated to George Jacobs.  During the Salem Witch Trials, Jacobs was executed for witchcraft in 1692, but his bones were only discovered, in a drawer of the Danvers Historical Society, in the 1970’s, tested and believed to be authentically his.  Based upon those results, he was reinterred on the Nurse Homestead (since he once lived nearby) during the 300th anniversary of the trials in 1992. The Nurse Graveyard remains the only truly known burial site of someone convicted during the Salem Witch Trials.

In fact, no one actually knows what happened to the bodies of the accused witches.  According to the law and to Christian beliefs of the time, the convicted could not be given a proper burial because they were executed for witchcraft.  Most likely, family members secretly took the bodies away to be buried at undisclosed locations. For example, it is believed that Rebecca’s husband and son whisked her body away from Proctor’s Ledge and buried it in the family graveyard.  Today, a memorial, that was built in 1885, stands at the place where she was supposedly buried.

All of this brings to mind the question: Why was Rebecca convicted of witchcraft after having been deemed innocent? Well, you’ll have to visit the homestead, hear her entire story, ask questions, and find out for yourself.  

Location

The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is located at 149 Pine St. in Danvers, MA. Click on the name for driving directions.

If you plan on visiting, be sure to check their website for their hours since they depend on the season and the day.

The Punto Urban Art Museum: An Unconventional Art Gallery in Salem

The Punto Urban Art Museum is an outdoor gallery of colorful murals painted onto the sides of buildings and walls in the Point Neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts.  We tremendously enjoyed walking around and checking out the vibrant, visually-stimulating, and thought-provoking pieces of art spread over just a few city blocks. Walking along the waterfront and in between various buildings in order to find each of the murals was like an artistic scavenger hunt that even kids would enjoy.  There’s also an app that you can download that provides a handy map of the murals, basic details about each piece, and links to other works by each artist. Just type “Punto Urban Art Museum” into the App Store or Google Play Store.

While one may appreciate the pieces for simply the creative expressions that they are, the outdoor museum is so much more.  Created as a social justice art program, the Punto Urban Art Museum preserves, retells, and displays, the ancestral and immigration stories of over a century of immigration in Salem.   Artists, community members, educators, and non-profit organizations have collaborated to produce the visual storytelling of the various cultures and communities that have called the Point Neighborhood home.  The organizations and individuals that have helped to fund and support the program hope that the artwork will bring new visitors into the neighborhood and will instill a sense of pride of community in its residents, especially the children growing up there. 

Whether you’re a lover of art, an urban explorer, or just a person, like me, who appreciates something out of the ordinary, you will tremendously enjoy a visit to the Punto Urban Art Museum.  Come to see the imaginative and playful artwork and, at the same time, support an incredible community project. 

The Punto Urban Art Museum is located at 91-1 Peabody St. in Salem.  Be aware that Peabody Street is a one way, so you’ll have to go up Ward St. and then turn onto Peabody St.  Click on the link for directions.

Witch City Eats: My Top Places to Nosh in Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts may be a small city, but the variety of restaurants is impressive.  Here are my favorites, listed in order of greatness, in the Witch City.  Don’t visit Salem without eating at, at least, the first two.

1. Caramel

I’m starting with dessert for a very good reason . . . I can honestly tell you that I haven’t enjoyed French pastries this good outside of Paris.  As soon as you enter, your eye will be drawn to the long, glass counter filled with meticulously made pastries of every shape and color.  Just admiring them is a feast for the senses.  I always take several minutes to decide what I want because there are too many good choices.  I’ve also been known to order two desserts just for myself!  Before making your selection, be sure to wander over to the case of scrumptious macarons in a variety of flavors.  The master chef at Caramel comes from South Central France, and the techniques that he uses to magically create the pastries have been passed down to him from his great grandfather who opened a patisserie in France back in 1931. If you love French pastries as much as I do, then run (don’t walk) to Caramel.  If you visit Salem without stopping there, you are seriously missing out!  

2. Boston Burger Company

Do you love a juicy, delicious, big-as-your-head burger as much as I do?  If so, there’s no better place in Massachusetts to get one than at Boston Burger Company!  Mind you, these are not your everyday burgers.  From the “Killer Bee”, with a stack of beer-battered onion rings, honey, BBQ sauce, and American cheese, to the “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”, piled high with mac and cheese, pulled pork, onion rings and BBQ sauce, to “The King”, featuring peanut butter, bacon, and fried bananas, to the “Sophie” topped with prosciutto, goat cheese, candied walnuts, fig jam, greens, and a balsamic reduction, the large menu has something for everyone in your group.  Boston Burger also offers a variety of lip-smacking frappes (milkshakes) and a plethora of options to crank up the flavor on their hand-cut fries.  Why eat regular fries when you can have them covered with bruschetta, garlic parm, Greek or nacho toppings, caramel and cinnamon, or even clam chowda’?  Boston Burger Company also offers appetizers, salads, boneless wings, and sandwiches, but I always stick to their namesake.  The restaurant is very popular, but if you have to wait too long for a table, don’t skip eating there.  Just call in an order for take out and then find a bench or a nice piece of grass to settle in.   Boston Burger is so good that you should resort to all options to eat there!

3. The Clam Shack

If you love classic New England fried seafood, then the Clam Shack is the place for you.  Located in the grounds of Salem Willows and overlooking the ocean, eating at the Clam Shack is a no-frills (think outside picnic tables) experience for your taste buds.  Please do not let the outdoor seating put you off, the seafood here is the best!  The menu ranges from perennial favorites like whole belly clams or clam strips to flaky haddock to (my favorite) fried calamari.  Can’t make a decision?  Then order the Captain’s Combo.  The Clam Shack lets you decide how hungry you are, or in my case, how hungry I think I am!  Choose from a roll, a box, a basket, or a full dinner plate portion.  They even have non-seafood options for you landlubbers. The best thing about the eating there (other than the food, of course) is that you can combine your meal with an enjoyable afternoon or evening at Salem Willows.

Please note that the Clam Shack and Salem Willows are seasonal. They’re open roughly from mid spring through September.

4. Flatbread Company

Seafood not your thing?  Do you have people in your group with special diets or food allergies?  Don’t worry because I’ve got you covered!  Flatbread Company serves pizza (and more) made from organic ingredients, that are sourced from local farmers, cooked to perfection in a natural, wood-fired clay oven.  They’re happy to make substitutions in any of their meals and have menu items that cater specifically to vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free diets.  Try “Mopsy’s Kalua Pork Pie”, with smoked pork shoulder, free range chicken, mango BBQ sauce, pineapple, whole milk mozzarella, parmesan, garlic oil and their own herb mixture.  If your mouth isn’t watering yet, imagine digging into the “Punctuated Equilibrium” featuring a ton of veggies and imported Kalamata olives or the “Jimmy’s Free-Range Chicken” with black beans, cilantro tomatoes, roasted corn, mozzarella and parmesan, jalapenos, and a sour cream lime drizzle.  It makes me want to phone in an order right now!  You can also design your own pizza from a wide variety of organic toppings, and Flatbread even has gluten free crusts, that my friend attests are the best she’s ever had.  If all of this wasn’t enough, you can enjoy waterside, outdoor seating, and . . . get ready for it . . . connected to the restaurant is a small candlepin bowling alley.  How fun!  Make a day, an afternoon, or even a date night out of it.  Flatbread Company is my number one choice for pizza in the Witch City, if not in the entire North Shore of Massachusetts!

5. Passage to India

Looking for something more exotic and full of Asian flavors and spices? Passage to India will take you on an amazing food journey from the northern to the southern parts of the Indian Subcontinent without ever having to leave your seat.  Every meal is served fresh and features spices that are ground in-house.  I recommend starting with the vegetable pakoras, the meat samosas, or the delicious coconut soup.   For a main course, I recommend the flavorful Chicken Mango or the creamy Lamb Korma.  If you’ve never tried a dosa before, I highly encourage you to order one.  Picture a thin and very long crepe, made of ground lentils and rice, stuffed with meat and/or vegetables of your choice, and served with sweet coconut chutney.  I dare you to try finishing it in one sitting!  I may have once or twice J.  Passage to India also offers a plethora of vegetarian options, and don’t forget to partake in some made-to-order naan bread with your meal.  Go for the Kashmire Naan that’s loaded with raisins, cashews, and coconut.  I think it’s more like dessert than a side course, but that’s an even better reason to enjoy it!

6. Turner’s Seafood

For slightly more upscale seafood dining, my “go to” place is Turner’s Seafood.  Turner’s began as a wholesale fish company in 1954, and one of their fresh fish markets continue to exist today right inside the restaurant located in the old Lyceum Hall building.  Whether you’re enjoying lunch or dinner, start with fresh-shucked oysters, steamers, tuna sashimi, lobster or shrimp cocktail, or cherrystones and littlenecks from their raw bar.   Alternatively, try the award-winning lobster bisque or cherry pepper calamari.  For main courses, Turner’s has a variety of fish dishes, fried seafood, pastas, and even a sandwich board.  They also feature New England lobsters (both regular and lazy-man’s, as I call it), a made-to-order New England bouillabaisse, and many gluten-free options.  If you’d like to have a lovely, sit-down, New England style dinner, you can’t beat Turner’s Seafood.

7. Ye Olde Pepper Companie

No, I’m not sending you to store that sells peppers or spices.  Ye Olde Pepper Companie is actually the oldest candy company in the United States (since 1806).  If that’s not enough of a reason to visit, their chocolates, fudge, salt water taffy, caramel corn, and other old fashioned candies are hand-made using original recipes that have been passed down through the generations.  I dare you to walk into the store, take in the intoxicating aroma of chocolate and sweets, and leave without buying anything!  If you plan on visiting the House of Seven Gables, Ye Olde Pepper Companie is located right across the street.  How convenient!

Locations

Click on a name to be taken to a driving or walking map.

Caramel is located at 281 Essex St. in Salem, MA.

The Clam Shack is located at 200 Fort Ave., Salem Willows Park, in Salem, MA.

Boston Burger Company is located at 133 Washington St. in Salem.

Flatbread Company is located at 311 Derby St. in Salem.

Passage to India is located at 157 Washington St. in Salem.

Turner’s Seafood is located at 43 Church St. in Salem.

Ye Old Pepper Companie is located at 122 Derby St. in Salem.

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