Spending time in so many places in the Northeast we have learned a ton. American history is taught in school but it doesn’t always stick. Seeing, touching, and experiencing the locations helps drive the information home. Anxious to learn about the history of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, today was time to get another history lesson. First things first though, packing for the day.
Plan for our day in Salem
Our itinerary included eating a packed lunch to help us stay on track with the budget. Diane, our host, would be joining today too, so our lunch plans included her. The meal plan was egg salad sandwiches and chips. We packed these in the cooler with some frozen water bottles to keep it fresh. The chips were the best part of this meal. Humpty Dumpty brand All Dressed chips, imported to Massachusetts directly from Maine, to share with Diane.
Once we were ready to go for the day with lunch packed away, we headed out to our first stop. The library where Diane worked. The library had a ticket for local residents to borrow that gave a discount at the Salem Witch Museum. Diane picked that up and we were off to the Salem Witchcraft Victims Memorial.
Which witchcraft memorial is which?
There are 2 memorials. One in Salem and one in Danvers.
Either one could have made our list. The memorial in Salem has 4-ft high granite walls surrounding 3 sides of the memorial a bench attached for each victim. The benches are inscribed with the victim’s name and method of execution.
We chose to visit the memorial in Danvers and decided to skip the memorial in Salem on this visit. The Danvers memorial was our first stop of the day.
The Salem witch trials where held in Salem Village. Due to the shame and reputation from the trials, Salem Village changed its name to Danvers after the Salem Witch Trials were over. The memorial in Danvers, put in place in 1992, is across the street from where the trials took place.
The granite slabs, engraved with names, fates and quotes from the victims is solemn sight to see. Even from hundreds of years ago it’s sad to think about what happened and the effect it had on hundreds of lives.
Interesting fact that many people are not aware of, nobody was burned at the stake in the United States. This was a practice in Europe on some occasions during the period, but never here. Before visiting Salem I did not know that fact.
The Salem Witch Museum
Next up, the Salem Witch Museum. This wasn’t what I expected. When I think museum I think about rooms of artifacts you look at and read about. With a few exceptions, almost all museums I’ve been too are self-guided. This was a different experience.
Everyone entered a large room at the same time for a history lesson. It reminded me of the haunted mansion ride at Disney World. Once inside the room you found yourself a seat, or not, and sat through a performance. Around the top of the room were multiple alcoves. Each of the alcoves was representative of a different part of the story of the Salem Witch Trials here in the US. How they came about, what happened to the accused and the unfortunate tragedy that ensued.
This history lesson was much more interesting than anything I learned in history class in school.
Next, you are ushered into another room with timelines on the wall. Looking past the timelines, the room opens up to the museum part of the experience.
This rooms starts as a guided tour to explain what you’ll find here and in the next areas. The tour guide provides additional context to the lessons in the first room. Then they turn everyone loose to explore and see the artifacts at their own pace.
Fine dining on the mall steps
Finishing up at the museum, it’s lunchtime. In November it’s pretty chilly outside in Massachusetts. We had been lucky with a lot of nice days on our trip so far but today was wearing gloves cold. Eating outside was not going to happen. Still, sticking to the budget was a top priority and not wasting food was also on the list.
We headed for the Salem mall hoping to find a good place to eat. I wouldn’t say the place we found was “good”, but we made ourselves as comfortable as possible on a secluded staircase in one wing of the mall. I’m sure we looked a little out of place, but I was never going to see those people again so what the heck.
Salem driving Tour
After lunch we switched gears and took a driving tour of the area. We saw some of the oldest standing houses in the area. The oldest, still-standing, house in the country is in Dedham, Massachusetts. We did not make the drive to see it. That would have taken too much time out of our day. Dedham is south of Boston and we were staying in Danvers which is north of the city. Instead, we took a drive by a few of the oldest houses in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
If you want to be a looky-loo at first period houses, meaning houses built before 1725, this is the area to do it in. There are many 1st period houses in and around the area. This makes it easy to take a look at several and get a feel for what American architecture in that period was like. Another great lesson that’s better than anything taught in history class in school.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
We made a quick stop at the first recognized historic site in the US. The Salem Maritime National Historic Site was established as a Historic National Park in 1938. We got up close and personal with the Friendship of Salem ship and took a quick tour of the visitor center. The visitor center is always one of my favorite ways to check out things to do in the area.
You could spend hours exploring The Salem Maritime National Historic Site if that’s your thing. It has 12 structures over 9 acres along with parks and nature walks. It’s a must see stop if you’re passing through.
It’s time to switch gears and get to the coast. We’re over 1/2 way through our trip at this point and in the next few days it’ll be time to head inland and away from the coast. I love the coast and being near the water. I also have a bucket list goal of seeing the coast in every state that has a coastline. so our next stop, Crane Beach, is going to fulfill that requirement in Massachusetts.
Crane Beach is a pretty, white sand beach, located in Ipswich. It’s a popular beach in the summer. Parking during peak season can come with a pretty hefty price tag if your on a budget. But if you’re plan is to spend the entire day at the beach enjoying the ocean then it’s likely a good investment. Relaxing in the sun and lounging on the beach would have been a no brainer if it had warm out. Given that it was November, there was no parking fee for our stop.
Peak season at the beach includes a lot of amenities. These are great for tourists and locals alike and make a day at the beach with kids enjoyable. Lifeguards, bathhouses, snacks and refreshments, information centers, and outside showers are all available, to name a few of them.
There’s also several miles of hiking trails, rated at a moderate difficulty. Taking a hike will give you a glimpse of the views and wildlife that are present along the beach.
House of Seven Gables
Along the way to Crane Beach we passed The House of the Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home. While we didn’t stop, I wish we had. The House of the Seven Gables was made famous by author Nathaniel Hawthorne. For anyone that likes to read, this is a must see stop. If you don’t, you may regret it like I do.
All in all it was a full day of sightseeing and history lessons that were actually interesting.