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.
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!
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.
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.
Please note that Salem Willows is a seasonable destination open from roughly April to the end of September.
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.