From the Witch Museum to the House of Seven Gables, Salem, Mass,, is most famous for its haunted happenings — particularly when October rolls around. But it’s much more than that these days and the tide has turned for this former colonial port from witch stakes to steaks that are done just right. With a happening food scene to arts and a plethora of family activities, any time is right for a visit.
Just ask anyone at Lark Hotels, a boutique chain that opened up 12-room Merchant two years ago and is expanding its fleet of properties with a second — The Hotel Salem — this month. Featuring blue and green accents from New England interior designer extraordinaire Rachel Reider, the nautical themes pay homage to Merchant’s former life as the home of a former sea privateer and the city’s role in the spice trade. Whether its smoky, salty or sweet you’re after, a quick walk across the street brings diners to Ledger, where the staff is just as enchanted with what they say is a haunted building as they are with the menu at this latest edition to the city’s dining scene. Locally sourced produce, meats and seafood (but of course!) all feature, in addition to a family-style supper menu available each night.
While Ledger’s elevated concept may not be for the youngest of kids, Kokeshi — which translates loosely from Japanese to “baby doll” — is sure to delight with its paper crane tree, colorful murals, manga, geisha-like parasols hanging from the ceiling and kid-friendly ramen bowls. Wash it down with a local draught at nearby Notch Brewery and Tap Room, where under-21 are welcome with a parent, or try another local beer at Bit Bar, where kids are also welcome to join parents prior to 8 p.m. for old-school pinball and arcade games that make Dave & Buster’s look like child’s play.
Music and monster movie buffs can delight in horror movie posters and props courtesy of Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett at Peabody Essex Museum, which supplements a year-round exhibition space chronicling the region’s maritime heritage and East Indies trade. Little one will dream of dressing up like samurai after checking out the rare Japanese artworks and centuries-old swords. Those who have the stamina may opt for an easy 1.5-hour sunset harbor cruise on the Mahi Mahi line, or littler legs will opt for wheels over sails and go for an hour-long narrated trolley tour through the city (though everything is within walking distance here).
Really ready for Halloween? Handmade Turtle Alley offers hand-made chocolates, or give in to the lure of Witch City no longer and get into the dress-up game with costumes for the whole family at WitchPix. There are furry capes and frilly frocks for photo shoots with all shapes and sizes — even the littlest of family additions (well-behaved pets are welcome, too!).