If you're in the Boston area and looking for a spooky fun time with the kids, Salem, Massachusetts, is your obvious destination. Best known for witch trials that raged throughout New England in 1692, Salem celebrates Halloween all year around-but the town really puts on a show during the month of October, which is when the city holds ghost- and witch-themed events and tourists turn up in costume.
While there is parking available, the major routes into and out of Salem are small, two-lane roads that get clogged with traffic this time of year. Take the T-or, rather, the Rockport line of the commuter rail-instead. It leaves from North Station regularly, Salem is just four stops away, kids age 11 and younger ride for free (with a paying adult), and it is absolutely the best way to get to this seaside town. You can find schedule and fare information at http://www.mbta.com.
Once you're there, head to the old armory site in the heart of the historic district. Located right across the street from the Peabody Essex Museum (which is also a great place to duck into for a little peace, quiet, and culture), the armory is now home to the Salem Visitor's Center; you can pick up maps and information about must-see sites, and take in a little history before exploring the area.
There are several guided tours available, but if you have small kids in tow it's best to do your exploring on your own, so you can avoid the scariest spots and spend extra time gawking at cool costumes or playing at the park in Salem Common (be sure to visit the decidedly non-spooky sculpture of Sabrina from TV's "Bewitched" there). But if you're in search of a scarier time, here are some of the highlights:
The New England Pirate Museum. Salem may be synonymous with witches, but it was a thriving port for pirates in the late 1600s as well. The museum is filled with artifacts and stories; it's open daily from May through October, and on weekends in November.
The Witch History Museum. This museum is full of life-size scenes from the witch hunts and trials of the late 17th century.
The Salem Wax Museum. A must-see, featuring life-like wax sculptures of people including author Nathaniel Hawthorne, the pirates of New England, the Witch Trials judge Colonel John Hawthorne, and Tituba the supposed "witch" who sparked the hysteria of 1692.
The Burying Point. This is the oldest graveyard in Salem, and it's right behind the wax museum. Markers here date back to the founding of the town in 1637, and inside the cemetery is a special spot with a memorial to the 20 people who died during the witch trials.
If you only have a couple of hours to spend and would prefer to have at least a little guidance, Salem Trolley ($15 adults, $10 kids age 6-17, kids younger than five are free when accompanied by an adult) offers hour-long, narrated tours from April through October. The eight-mile route winds through the town, stopping at 13 spots including the Salem Wax Museum, the House of Seven Gables, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and more (passengers can get off and on at any stop along the route).
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Boston-based journalist and mom and stepmom to five kids who range in age from late teens to pre-kindergarten. Follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat; she blogs at WriteEditRepeat.blogspot.com
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