Category Archives: Salem

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 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.

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.

The Ropes Mansion: A Hidden Gem in Salem, Massachusetts

Looking for something free to do in Salem, Massachusetts?  Built in 1727 and renovated in 1894, the Ropes Mansion is a historic home that is owned by the Peabody Essex Museum and is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for free self-guided tours. 

I consider the Ropes Mansion to be a hidden gem of Salem because the interiors remain intact, meaning that all of the furniture, furnishings, art, and personal items of the family are still contained in the house today.  As you wander around the first and second floors, you won’t find any ropes (no pun intended) separating you from what you see.  That means you can get close up to everything, including the dining room table set with pretty Chinese porcelain and glassware from 1847, the gorgeous 1833 piano and beautiful parlor game table in the ornately decorated drawing room, and the family’s extensive China collection in the cupboards.  After a fire damaged the mansion in 2009, the Peabody Essex Museum restored the home using the family’s extensive diaries, records, and letters so that visitors can experience the home as if they were guests of the Ropes family.

In fact, each room of the Ropes Mansion tells a part of the nearly 150 years-long story of the family.  To me, the most interesting part of that history was that the last of the Ropes heirs, several brothers and three sisters, all remained unmarried.  I enjoyed theorizing with the many friendly and knowledgeable docents about why they remained bachelors and spinsters.  In any case, the three unmarried sisters, Sarah Ropes, Mary Pickman Ropes, and Elizabeth Orne Ropes, inherited the home and returned from Cincinnati to take up residence in Salem. 

Between 1893 and 1894, the sisters renovated the mansion in the popular Colonial Revival style and updated the bathroom and kitchen with the latest technologies.  As you explore that 1894 bathroom, make note of the original fixtures, and in the “modern” kitchen,  marvel at the state-of-the-art (for the time) interior plumbing, hot water heater, copper storage tank, and gas-burning stove.  Now that’s what I call a late 19th century fixer upper! 

Upon the death of the last of the sisters in 1907, the mansion and its contents were turned into a trust, which specified that the home be opened as a museum.  That’s why the Ropes Mansion is largely intact today.

Heading upstairs, you’ll find two bedrooms that appear as if the family has just stepped out.  The original four-poster beds are still made up with the family linens and bedspreads over the original mattresses.  Books line the shelves, washing pitchers and basins stand ready to be filled by servants, and personal beauty and grooming items are laid out for the morning routines.  The sadder of two bedrooms belonged to Elizabeth Ropes Orne who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24.  Her room contains many of her personal possessions including a heart-warming collection of seashells from her travels, and, chillingly, a medicine box with a recipe for a cough remedy, that may have provided her with some relief before her untimely death. 

Unlike the bedrooms, the other upstairs rooms are set up in a museum format to display a collection of the family’s keepsakes, valuable furniture, and precious items.   To me, the most intriguing artifacts are several tourist souvenirs from mid-19th century Salem, including a silver spoon featuring the image of a witch and a wooden cup from what is now called Witch House.  On the other hand, the creepiest items have to be a set of mourning jewelry and a portrait of one of the sisters that was painted after she died.  The Victorians definitely had a strange, but intriguing, fascination with death!

After your tour of the inside of the Ropes Mansion, don’t leave the grounds without enjoying the gorgeous formal garden, that was added to the home in 1912.   Like the house, the botanical garden was designed in the Colonial Revival style by the botanist and horticulturist John Robinson.   He planted more than 150 different varieties of plants, some of which were very rare and provided by the Arnold Arboretum of Boston.  Today, two of the plants which have survived from that time are the rhododendrons along the walkway fence and the huge copper beech trees in the side yard.  Continuing in that tradition, the staff of the Ropes Mansion have maintained the stunning garden which you are highly encouraged to explore.  In such a beautiful setting, take the time to savor a quiet moment of serenity in the busy tourist city of Salem.

Location

The Ropes Mansion is located at 318 Essex St. in Salem, Massachusetts. For more information, about the house and other surrounding historic homes visit their website.

Salem Willows: An Afternoon of Old-Fashioned Entertainment

Salem Willows Arcade

Since I was a little boy, I’ve been going to Salem Willows Park and Arcade, although it’s been in existence for much longer, since 1858! Located just 10 minutes from downtown Salem, the Willows, as locals call it, offers a plethora of activities for both young and old alike. Our first stop is always the arcade, which features both modern and classic games, including our favorite, skee-ball!  Collect tickets to cash in for fun trophies . . . err . . . prizes, as mementos of your day.

Clam Shack Salem

Getting hungry? While there are plenty of food options, including pizza, Chinese, and American, the best that the Willows has to offer is seafood. And there’s no better place to get it than at the Clam Shack. You wouldn’t know by just walking by, that this tiny shack has some of the best seafood on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Here, it’s take out only, but once you have your food, you can settle into the adjacent picnic tables, find a seat in one of the historic gazebos, grab a bench with an ocean view, or bring a blanket to have a picnic. The seafood is, obviously, the best thing on the menu, and they’re known for the fried clams, their namesake. A meal at the Clam Shack alone is worth a trip to the Willows!

Carousel at Salem Willows

Next stop, take a ride on the historic carousel. The Salem Willows Carousel dates back to 1905 and features a menagerie of animals including horses, buffalo, camels, sea monsters, lions, greyhounds, and even a St. Bernard!   It’s a must for both adults and children.  C’mon grown ups; you know you want to ride it!  In the adjacent kiddie-land, here are other old fashioned rides and even a small miniature golf course.

E.W. Hobbs Popcorn Salem Willows

Our final destination is a treat that is, to the best of my knowledge, unique to Salem Willows. Head all the way down the row of arcade buildings until you reach the end that’s closest to the water.  E.W. Hobbes has been located in this historic building since 1897. They sell ice cream and popcorn, but the treats to get are the popcorn bars. I’ve been eating them since I was a kid! The bars come in a variety of flavors, but my personal favorites are the chocolate and the molasses and coconut. Unwrap the wax paper, break off a piece, and crunch away. I can taste them right now! While you’re savoring every bite, meander around the park for fantastic views of the ocean and Salem Sound. You might also catch some live music from the band shell.   The Willows hosts a variety of events throughout the summer and fall. Check the schedule at their website.

If you’re in the Witch City, stop by Salem Willows Park and Arcade for an afternoon or evening of good, old-fashioned entertainment that the entire family will enjoy.

Location

Salem Willows Park and Arcade are located at 165 Fort Ave in Salem, Massachusetts. There’s plenty of parking. If you don’t have a car and are visiting April through October, the Willows is stop #9 on the Salem Trolley. You can get more information about the trolley on their website.  Click on the map for directions.

What to do in Salem Massachusetts

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