Traveling New England | An All Seasons Travel Guide to Salem, MA

Salem, Massachusetts is known for its 1692 witch trial past and gained even more fame for all things “witchy” with the 1960’s television series, Bewitched, and of course the 1990’s movie, Hocus Pocus, with those fictional Sanderson sisters. There is a reason why no matter where you live around the globe, Salem is called “The Witch Capital of the World.” October is the busy season for the Witch City as it aligns with the spookiest month, but there is so much more to this historic waterfront destination. This North Shore town has something for everyone no matter the season.

Visiting this November, I had to share with you an Food, Art, & Cultural Guide to Salem full of museums, maritime history, great places to dine, and places to stay. There’s something for the foodie, history buff, and art lover too. It really is a destination for all seasons.

I was thrilled my friend, Kate Hammer, joined us on this two day trip to experience Salem with the experts from Destination Salem. Here’s what we did this November and it’s unexpected in such a good way!

Our Accommodations

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Kate and I arrived Friday night to our accommodations at The Hawthorne Hotel. Named after the famed author, it is considered the grande dame of hotels in Salem. It’s location is in the heart of the historic district and you can walk to the waterfront district or jaunt over to all the shopping, restaurants, and museums just steps away from its front entrance.

This hotel has gained recognition and induction into the Historic Hotels of America. Touches of the past are all around you, and if you have an appreciation for the olden times, then details left untouched like the antique mail chutes, original architectural woodwork, and lots of old photos on the walls will be eye candy for you. It’s very quaint and any hour of the day in the lobby you will see people sitting around talking together. A lot of the hotel rooms have tall ceilings and windows. The rooms and bathrooms are on the smaller side, since it has the older original footprint. The beds are extremely comfortable; that’s always so important. I appreciate a hotel with luxury linens and towels.

This hotel offers two dining options, The Tavern and Nathaniel’s Restaurant.

We dined in The Tavern and enjoyed the autumnal menu and the cozy fireside dining. We did not have time to try Nathaniel’s, but the live piano music and crowd sure had us both curious.

Our third night, we stayed at Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites, which is one of the more modern day hotels built in the 1990’s. It offers in-room amenities like Keurig coffee makers, fridges, and robes. It’s location is right by the wharf, so the waterfront is steps away.

Day One

After I started my day with room service, I headed downstairs to join our new friends from Destination Salem. Our first stop of the the day was to one of my favorite places this trip, Jolie Tea Company. We had the curtain drawn salon room to enjoy a High Tea.

It was delightful and the tea selection is quite extensive. I loved the Jaqueline Kennedy Blend. The atmosphere is airy, colorful, and has Parisian flair. All the small bites were delectable.

After we indulged in Jolie Tea Company, we walked over to the Peabody Essex Museum, also known as the PEM. This was a real treat. The PEM has undergone two major renovations and offers not only Salem’s maritime history, but some pretty incredible exhibits. We viewed the Native Peoples Exhibit, The Maritime Exhibit, The Fashion & Design Exhibit, the Japanese Pottery Collection, some incredible art installations, and the Figurehead Exhibit which is housed in the original part of the museum. You could really spend all day here. We only had a couple of hours, so our tour guide, Barbara, took us to some must-see spots. They have done an amazing job curating exhibits that honor the past but merge with present day makers and artists. The PEM is a museum I highly recommend when you visit Salem.

Our next stop was into Pamplemousse, a wine shop with an extensive selection of wines, craft beers, and bites for your charcuterie board and gatherings. We had a Beaujolais wine tasting (tis the season!) and local beer tasting. Salem is home to two beer companies. The East Regiment Beer Co. IPA was my favorite. I’m not a big beer drinker, but I enjoyed it and I think it would appeal to you if you are more of a wine enthusiast.

After a day walking around the cobblestone and brick walkways of Salem, we freshened up and had a lovely dinner at Adriatic, an Italian and Mediterranean restaurant. Everything I had was delicious. I would recommend any of the homemade pastas, the burrata, the fig and prosciutto appetizer, and the flatbread. They have a great wine selection too. Also, be sure to get the dessert. The Pistachio & Rose Water Cake is delightful.

Day Two

We started our second day with Salem Food Tours AM Coffee Walk. This is on my must-do list. Our tour guide, Karen, was upbeat and knew her Salem history backwards and forwards. I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved this so much! First, we met at Roseadela’s Cafe. Freshly brewed coffee and pastries are a great way to start the day. Everything looked sinfully delicious!

We sampled a breakfast muffin and pistachio croissant. I will be dreaming about that croissant! Off we went with our coffees in hand to learn about the history of Salem. Karen took us by so many historical buildings and we ended our tour with a spice tasting at Salem Spice Shop. The owner treated us to warm cider made with his own blend of mulling spices and we sampled some amazing salts and seasonings.

Our museum stop of the day was to The House of the Seven Gables which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous book. The tour of the home was interesting and the interiors are period to the home with examples of Colonial and Georgian architecture with historic wallpapers, paint, and furnishings.

After that tour, we dropped by the Salem Arts Association where you can shop and support local artists, photographers, jewelry designers, and makers. They have several galleries and more gift items on the lower level of the building. We were ready for lunch, and headed to Finz Seafood & Grill for some clam chowder and seafood. It’s located in the Waterfront District and is just a short walk from the Salem Arts Association. They have a large menu full of seafood, sandwiches, and sushi.

Since this trip was to feature some foodie fun too, we stopped into Kakawa Chocolate for an afternoon chocolate tasting. They presented hot chocolate in a wine tasting order and it was fun to try the different variations and indulge in some chocolates. The goat cheese and sage truffles were amazing!

We had some time for shopping after our chocolate tasting, so Kate and I stopped into some boutiques we’d been eyeing while we were out and about. Salem is proud of its small shops and boutiques. There really is something for everyone. Yes, there are all the witchy shops, but there’s a lot of home decor, soap, and clothing boutiques to enjoy too. A couple to note are Spruce Home for decor and kitchen wares and Modern Millie for vintage clothing. There are so many more, we just didn’t have time to visit them—next time!

For dinner that night, we tried Turner’s Seafood This supper club style restaurant is in an awesome building! It has fireplaces, a full seafood bar, and plenty of seating in an intimate atmosphere. This building is the former Lyceum Hall, a lecture hall that is credited with the day in history that Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his experimental telephone by making a phone call from Salem to Boston. Kate and I both agreed our husbands would love this place. The menu was definitely their style! The bar menu is great too. Kate and I both raved about our dinner cocktails.

If you had to condense this into a smaller itinerary, here are my top favorites from this trip:

Salem Food Tours AM Coffee Walk

Jolie Tea Company for High Afternoon Tea Service

The Peabody Essex Museum

Dinner at Adriatic for Italian Fare

During our visit, Kate and I both observed a few stops we definitely want to come back for another time. The Merchant is an 11 room luxury inn and the interiors look so well done. Dinner at The Ledger Restaurant looks like a fun experience and we were told it has a great menu. I’d personally love to check out some of the shops we didn’t make it to and learn more about the maritime history too.

If you’d like more behind the scenes of this Salem trip, be sure to follow along on my Instagram where I will be sharing all of these locations in videos, stories, photos, and reels.

I’d like to thank the team at Destination Salem for hosting us. It was a lovely experience!

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