Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Enjoying Salem with a Toddler

On our recent trip to Boston to catch a New England cruise, the threat of a strike by Air Canada flight attendants pushed us to move our flight up a few days.  As a result we had a couple extra days to spend in the Boston area. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit Salem, Massachusetts in October and my opportunity had finally arrived!

Salem is best known as the location of the witch trials in which over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned between February 1692 and May 1693.  In all, 20 people (14 women and 6 men) were executed in the mass hysteria. As a result of it’s history, October, and Halloween in particular, is Salem’s busiest time for tourism. 

Many of the attractions in Salem aren’t suited to babies or toddlers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t activities and sights for them to enjoy.  It just meant saving the graveyard visits until B was napping and skipping the haunted houses. October’s Haunted Happenings is a month-long series of events leading up to Halloween, including many family-oriented events such as trick or treating and children’s costume parades.
Things to do

The Salem Visitor Center  is a good starting point for maps and ideas, and is right across the street from Salem’s main parking garage.  Kids can check out models of sailing ships and the wharf area, and there is a small activity center with games, coloring pages and crayons.

Red lines painted on sidewalks make Salem an easy place to explore and they are marked on most tourist maps.  The red lines create four loops through town, passing the majority of Salem’s most important and interesting sites.

Salem Common is a large, well-tended green space; lots of space to run around and a large play ground.  Grab a delicious latte and chocolate chip cookie from Jaho Coffee & Tea on Derby St. and admire the attractive, historic homes along the park’s perimeter while the kids play.

Salem Trolley Tours - B was thrilled to ride on a red trolley bus for a tour of the town.  It’s a hop-on, hop-off tour, so if the kids get antsy, you can hop-off and rejoin the trolley later if you wish.

Great food
We enjoyed lunch at Red's Sandwich Shop on Central Street, a popular and friendly restaurant which serves enormous servings of delicious food.  B asked for pancakes.  At $3.50 for one, this pancake was a bargain… a foot in diameter and an inch thick… B had a big meal for lunch, we ate the leftovers for dinner that evening and still had some left!

Victoria Station on Pickering Wharf has great seafood and a good kid’s menu.  We skipped the offerings on the kid’s menu and ordered B the Boathouse 5-cheese mac and cheese from the appetizer section of their regular menu.  B enjoyed it, and so did we – it was probably the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had, so it was easy to polish off what B left behind.

Yummy treats

Ye Olde Pepper Candy Company on Derby Street is America’s oldest candy store, and is filled to the brim with tempting chocolates, candies and fudge.  Try their famous Gibralters, sugary chunks of rock candy available in lemon and peppermint flavors.

Maria's Sweet Somethings on Front Street has super-cute Frankenstein petit fours, chocolates and ice cream.

Fun shopping

You won't be able to fit a stroller in the shop, but the Derby Square Book Store on Essex Street is definitely worth a visit for discounted books for adults and children. The tall stacks of teetering books bring to mind Dr. Seuss, though the shelves are strategically secured with bungee cords so they won’t fall over.

You can’t beat Witch Tees for cute souvenir t-shirts of your visit.  There is a branch along the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall and another in the Museum Place Mall next to the Visitor Center.

The Happy Sunflower on Pickering Wharf has a huge selection of ornaments, perfect for topping off a gift or decorating your Christmas tree and personalization is free.


Depending on traffic, Salem is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Boston.  There are only a couple of accommodation options in Salem itself, and many more options in nearby Peabody.  

A sturdy stroller is a must for the cobblestone and brick streets.  Automatic doors and wheelchair ramps are few and far between though I found there was never a shortage of people to hold a door or lend a hand getting B’s stroller up or down steps.


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