Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Let me start by saying that Salem, Massachusetts is one of my favorite places in the world to take a mini-cation. My wife and I have actually attempted to make it our annual Wedding Anniversary trip; however we all know where everyone has been the last couple of years… I lovingly call them, ‘the ones that don’t count’. We were finally able to make it out for another visit this weekend – which means the first thing I do, is call my friends at Destination Salem aka Haunted Happenings during October’s Halloween Season. Needless to say, Salem is open for tourism year-round (Download your FREE travel guide HERE) and to be blunt… if you don’t like BIG crowds – plan your trip in September, November; or literally ANY of the other nine months other than October! Seriously, there is NOTHING cooler than experiencing the world famous witch country in the midst of spooky, sweater weather season; but if you have a phobia of large crowds – I can promise you’ll be very unhappy. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar, Salem is like Disney for people who enjoy the darker things in life! No, you don’t need to be a part of the Satanic Church in order to enjoy a fun family weekend out and about in this spiritual playground of the bewitched and damned… Quite simply it is a place that EVERYONE can enjoy; however you’ll have just a wee bit more fun if you’re into witches, ghosts, ghost hunting, incredible history or those who’re just looking for a fun scare! Have I mentioned how much I truly LOVE this place?
So we started out early to make sure we’d be on time to meet up with our friend Kate (Fox) from Haunted Happenings (had to shout her out because she is simply the BEST – I like to call her the Mayor because everyone knows her). Our itinerary for Saturday was jam packed with a plethora of cool things to do, places to visit, and tasty things to EAT… I love to eat. Our first stop would be the legendary, Red's Sandwich Shop for breakfast! To say that this spot was an absolute WIN would be an understatement... Everything was utterly perfect! Our waitress was beyond sweet and uber helpful in making the right choices for our first time – a great start to a positive experience. Honestly, it is one of the first things I look for when dining out as the wait staff is the quite literally the first line of
defense. The food can be fabulous; but if the service is bad or inattentive – it completely ruins the entire experience! Thankfully, Red’s cast of sweet, friendly and knowledgeable staff made our short time with them feel like a vacation in itself. I normally don’t drink, especially first thing in the morning; but I figured – why not? I opted to go with the drink whose name caught my eye… the #FreeBritney!!! I cannot begin to tell you the extent of flavor that was in every single sip of this drink – not only was the name awesome; but once it permeated my tongue… every single taste bud stood at attention and took notice! What was IN the drink Brim? You may ask. Here it is, a coconut infusion with pineapple, strawberry puree, coconut milk and topped off with champagne. Sweet and delightfully delicious – I’m declaring this the perfect morning drink! Seriously, smooth and deliciously dangerous because it’d be really easy to get lost in these bad boys. Moving along to the food… oh yeah – the FOOD! I truly enjoyed every morsel of the Steak-tips (which came with eggs, home fries and toast) which was ridiculously flavorful in a BIG way! These babies were marinated and cooked to perfection – seriously love at first bite. I attempted to nibble as to not rush through it; but to no avail, I damn near ate them whole. The home fries were chunked, lightly seasoned, and were soft and tasty. Meanwhile, I’d opted to also try the Pumpkin French Toast (doused with whipped cream and sprinkled with graham)… Whoa – first let me say that
I am not normally a fan of pumpkin bread, coffee and things of that nature; but when in Rome, right? The aroma hits you before they even hit the table – once they do, you are encapsulated in the moment, as you are unsure if you should devour them; or worship the beauty of the presentation. Extremely flavorful and filling, not one crumb was left on the plate as every morsel was sucked up almost immediately. My daughter ordered the pancakes and a hot chocolate (super creamy and chocolaty). As they delivered the cake – it was bigger than a pan! Literally larger than her entire head – HOLY HUGE, just like they do everything here at Red's! Meanwhile, about three minutes later – they brought out an additional two pancakes… because they came with three! Needless to say we took the extra to go, because as hard as she tried (she really did), she couldn’t even finish one! Fluffy, fantastic and recommended. My wife indulged in the Chorizo Omelet which was divine as well – legit, every offering was better than the last there. The omelet was stuffed – it wasn’t a sad omelet like many places serve… there were chunks of taste-bud pleasing chorizo that delivered a generous, yet not overwhelming kick - uber delicious! Seriously, this spot is the place to be and we can’t wait to dine there again!
Once we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, we came upon one of the city’s most well-known and hilariously funny street performers, Borah. Well, in full – Borah Brewington Snaggletooth XIII. What a hoot – dressed up with similarities to the wicked witch of the west, she was beyond friendly, engaging and entertaining! She is a must see when visiting – so be sure to seek and find. We did a little shopping at the Wynott’s Wands store – which was legit pulled directly out of a Harry Potter film and transplanted onto Essex Street. Next, we were amped to go see our old friends at the world famous Salem Witch Museum. I was thrilled to give Tina (Jordan), the museum’s Executive Director a huge hug as it has been a couple of years since seeing her and her incredible staff! I’ll start by saying that they are always SO good to my family and me, which is beyond appreciated. Now, when you are seeking a history lesson concerning the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 – look no further, because
no trip is complete without stepping foot in this legendary location. First and foremost, the building is overwhelmingly gorgeous – standing tall in the center of Salem, it is just as mystical in the daytime as it is at night! Architecturally speaking, it is just absolutely impressive to look at while walking through the city. The presentation itself is old school - awesome and educational… It literally takes you back to a time where innocent people were senselessly killed for being accused of witchcraft. Again, this is a MUST SEE attraction when in the neighborhood (also, the gift shop is jam packed with really cool and exclusive stuff and things)!
Next on the itinerary was the Salem Kids Tour which is run and hosted by an absolute doll of a woman - Alicia Diozzi, who is also a middle school teacher in the area. Aside from being an absolute pleasure, she was fantastic with the children and told the local stories in not only a way that they could comprehend; but in a manner that was comfortable for kids in their younger years. Funny enough, I learned a lot from this tour as she touched upon things that weren’t just ‘spooky scary Salem’ – for instance, I surprisingly didn’t know that the Parker Bros (Yes, the board game company) came from Salem. Little did I know that my favorite board game, Monopoly - literally came from one of my favorite places to visit! Also, fun-fact (unrelated)… Clue was based on the Captain Nathaniel West’s house and the original version of the game not only has the actual house displayed on the top of the box; but the layout of the game is an exact layout of the first floor of the house! The more you know huh? Anyway, back to the kids… if you are traveling in with youngsters; or are squeamish with the scary origins of the area – make sure to book with Alicia. Trust me – you’ll have a pleasant experience! After the tour, we needed to take a little break and get off our feet. We headed over to the Peabody Essex Museum to take a load off and have a cold drink with a snack at the café within the center of the gorgeous architecture of the museum itself. Please be aware, unless you have special privileges – you will NOT be able to freely walk into this building without purchasing tickets. I would recommend checking the place out though if you have the time as it is ginormous and packed with artifacts you won’t want to miss.
Once we were able to walk again (Yes, there is a lot of walking – wear sensible shoes), we visited the Halloween Museum which was a real kid-friendly, fun and cute spot for a quick run through! It was mind-blowing how many old school Halloween based toys they had spread around the brightly painted, 3D museum. It was a lot of fun reminiscing to be honest. We then strolled on over to the Salem Pirate Museum for their presentation which is an immersive look into pirates and their history. As I’m a huge pirate guy, I found a lot of this experience interesting; however in all honesty – it was a bit crowded. I’d recommend doing this when Salem is not being over-run by hundreds of thousands of
people during October! It was a fun run through though. Note: If you have the chance to visit Bit Bar – it is always a great experience (dinner and vintage video games, you can’t lose). We planned on dropping in to see the new location; however we didn't wind up going in as they were jam packed. I do however recommend visiting if you are in the area - the new building looks a LOT larger and way more accommodating for larger crowds. As we had a little time before catching an early dinner – we opted to do a little shopping in the Salem Wharf area! While walking the streets – a familiar face caught my eye
(aside from Holly Madison who was apparently also in town this weekend)… there was a little ME sticker slapped on the back of a sign! I found a couple of Brimstone stickers around the city which was really pretty cool - although I don't condone damaging public property... I DO appreciate the love! At the wharf, there are a couple of key spots to drop by including, Die With Your Boots On – a cool, dark little gothic meets punk shop with an array of vintage and badass looking stuff in it! We didn’t have too much time to hang out; but we spent enough time to give it a thumbs up. Right next door is a brand new store called, House of Boo – and they have a lot of monster-esque goodies that are fun and kitschy! If you are heading there before December and celebrate Christmas – they have a plethora of cool ornaments for your tree. Note: they don’t have any social media or website up yet – so you’ll have to look for it when you get there.
At this point in the day – we were already feeling the pain in the legs (Saturday racked up over 12k steps – the ouch is REAL)… So we opted for an earlier dinner as to refuel and refresh before our night tour. Our dinner reservations were for the beautiful Regatta Pub at the Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites – we sat outside in the beautiful and laid back outdoor area, allowing us to relax while still enjoying the Salem atmosphere. There was a lot going on all around the area, so it was a good spot to observe and people watch! Now a little lowdown on the hotel itself - it was built about 15 years ago and the owners… actually own the entire wharf and all the buildings therein! We’d heard a lot of chatter about the food there, and everything we heard was correct! What a delightful experience with a wonderful
staff. We started with a Halloween special that they call the Broomstick Beer Flight which comes complete with four different tastes of flavors from local breweries, as well as a Coven of their favorite candy! The beers were all pretty good; however we enjoyed the ‘Alagash’ which was lighter and was a smooth drink, while the others were a bit hoppier. If you enjoy sampling beer – this is a great (and fun) way to taste their offerings that also include beers affectionately named Fiddlehead, The Witch and UFO. Appetizers are truly the way to my heart (and stomach) – especially when the meter is running low and I need to fill the tank! I am somewhat of a connoisseur of chicken wings, so I opted to give them a try. So let me tell you… the Sweet Chili Sauce on these wings - were a WIN for sure. Fantastic flavor that permeated the inside of my mouth and put all senses on high-alert. In terms of the actual
wing itself – they weren’t crispy (which is my ideal consistency of a wing); but certainly not soggy. BIG and extremely enjoyable. I could've easily killed at least a couple dozen more. We also had the Pork Pot Stickers – Yes please and thank you! Solid pot sticker with a scrumptious sauce that offered a slight kick. Side note – I wanted to get the nachos because they sounded divine; but didn’t want to do anything too heavy… I made a mistake by NOT ordering them as I saw a plate at another table. It took a lot of restraint to not eat theirs… sorry not sorry. Main course was a tough one because I was torn between the steak tips and
the lobster roll – I honestly wasn’t sure that anyone could compete against the tips from Red’s earlier in the day… so I went with the Lobster Roll! I’ll start with the fact that the fries NEED and deserve an honorable mention as they were really, really, SO good! Perfect in my opinion – done exactly the way I like them… not wet noodles and not going to break your teeth – crispy and perfect. I was already starting to get full and shamelessly kept eating them. Now, the roll itself was uber tasty - stacked and packed with loads of Lobster goodness surrounded by a sweet, buttery roll… these are the things that dreams are made of! My wife had the Seared Ahi-Tuna with Arugula Salad and Lemon Ravioli – WINNING. Let’s put the flavor to the side for a moment… the presentation itself was glorious. So much in fact, I myself started doubting my choices. That being said, after receiving a generous taste – the wow factor literally exploded in my mouth… VERY well done! Ten out of Ten. Albeit we were already toast, we were swayed by the offer of Boston crème pie… who could say no? Not me. I honestly could only take a bite, as I was already so full – but I can tell you it was light, fluffy and creamy. Nice end to a fantastic meal!
All tummied up and quasi-refreshed… we headed towards Essex Street in order to catch up with our last stop of the evening – Salem Night Tours. As we had a little extra time before we had to check in, we stopped at the Haunted Happenings Marketplace – a huge street fair that is currently on the Salem Common on weekends throughout October. Loads of creative tents with everything from art, jewelry, tasty treats (if we weren’t already full), and tons of stuff and things for the Macabre! Hint: Make sure you swing by the earlier mentioned Salem Witch Museum at night to get some great photos of the iconic building as it nonchalantly changes colors. It is a beautiful sight to see and a wonderful memory to have – trust me. Ok, so off to the Salem Night Tour. Now, to be completely honest… with my current bad knee – I was already beyond feeling severe pain in my legs; but I’m not a quitter! I was going to make it through the remainder of our day’s itinerary no matter what… even if I had to crawl. Seriously, I considered it! We met up with our tour guide, Elaina who was hysterical and a true pro - she knew right up front that her audience was already over exhausted and cranky! We learned a few really interesting things for all of you ghost hunters out there – so I am going to share a couple of things with you that you should check out.
The Howard Street Cemetery along with the corner of Federal Street and St Peter Street is supposedly the most haunted area of Salem. Many, many bad things happened where the building located at 10 Federal Street stands (it is set over the original jail that housed the accused witches way back in 1692). Accused witches were jailed, tortured and murdered on these grounds – then dumped into a hole over by the cemetery… not a fun time back then, huh! Anyway, if you are hunting ghosts – go between 12am – 3am as this is when the activity is often caught.
Turner Seafood is one of the most well-known, world renowned haunted locations. Its location, what is now 43 Church Street – was Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard. Bishop was Salem’s first accused witch to be convicted and was hung (along with her two dogs – who does that?!?) at Proctor’s Ledge on July 10th, 1692. Usual sightings include seeing her apparition often (especially floating in the staircase), people catch a faint scent of the apple orchard, she has been known to take people's silverware while there dining. Dine at your own risk!
Rockafellas Restaurant in the Daniel Low & Co building (231 Essex Street); as well as the second floor are supposedly uber haunted. Many people have seen Daniel Low himself on the second floor (where he had a heart attack and died on February 3rd, 1911 – It is said that his death raised the spirits of the building and the hauntings spiked), inside and outside the second floor – people have caught thousands of orbs on film, and seen repeat ghostly apparition sightings of the well-known Man in Black (who is known to not be very nice), and the Blue Lady; or Lady in Blue (**see below).
Essex Street has hidden, underground tunnels that were built during prohibition. I’m unsure how; but apparently many people died down there and the tunnels are known to echo the sound of footsteps, moaning and indescribable energy that is felt when in the basement of Rockafellas. Many say that this is where the Blue Lady was buried after being murdered by her lover and can still hear her bloodcurdling screams to this day. The stories vary; but in the end – at this point, does it matter? If you’re seeking to find her… you know where to go.
Hope those little tidbits of information help you out in your ghostly searches – there are obviously a LOT more; but these were just a handful to start with… go on the tours to learn more! Note: Also, make sure to check out Black Cat Tours who are fantastic as well. Albeit we were completely spent, we still braved a few shops on Essex before finally heading back to the car. On the way out of Salem, we stopped at the Ropes Mansion to snap a few pics! If you are not familiar with the Ropes Mansion and the Rose Gardens… it is a MUST SEE! It is also Alison’s house in the Disney film, Hocus Pocus. Although we didn’t stop during this trip – only a few doors down is the Witch House (aka the Corwin House) and well worth the visit! Needless to say – we were toast! As Salem was beyond booked, we stayed about 25 minutes out of town… so when we got back, we collapsed!
Our initial plan for a first stop wound up being a wash, which was unfortunate; but it is what it is. As we only had 1.5 days to do everything we wanted to do while in the area… we had to keep it moving! We took the extra time to discover some of the sights at the Peabody Essex Museum – which as I mentioned earlier – WINNING. We had enough time to enjoy the Japanese arts, Salem Stories and some American art history! We wanted to hit the Chinese house that was relocated from overseas and rebuilt INSIDE the museum… next time – I’m on it. We skipped breakfast, probably because we were amped to visit one of our favorite restaurants in Salem, Finz Seafood and Grill. For those who have not been so lucky to have dined here – you are missing out… for real. Shout out to my pal Brian, the General
Manager who always ensures I am well taken care of whenever we visit! I’ll also preface with the fact that EVERY dish that is served has an incredible presentation – so those who like to document their food (like me), this is a perfect opportunity to get some incredible edible pics. We started with our favorite appetizers which included the Crab Cake – a nicely portioned cake of epic proportions! The divine blend of flavors including apple slaw, freeze dried corn and a mustard remoulade, combined with the tasty cake itself – guarantees every bite is delicious. We are also HUGE fans of the Street Corn Shrimp, which is exactly as wonderful as it sounds. If you, like my wife and I – have a penchant for Mexican Street Corn… you’ll do
cartwheels over these tasty little morsels of lightly fried, crispy shrimp! Tossed in sweet and spicy aioli and sprinkled with corn and cotija cheese… I could eat these nonstop – so it was not easy for me to share; but I reluctantly did, LMAO! Main course was a big blend of everything that is good in this world on one table… well, almost everything – we didn’t have any bacon. We had the Finz Lobster Maki – shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado topped with delectable lobster and flakes of tempura as well as scallions, teriyaki sauce and a sweet red pepper sauce that will blow your mind! We also indulged with the Half and Half Maki (spicy tuna and spicy salmon), and a Lobster California Roll (seasoned lobster and crab) – both were fabulous. I had the Sirloin – a cocoa and Kona crusted 14oz grilled sirloin, cooked to perfection. Saying that I devoured this piece of meat is disrespectful – I savored every last bite, at times coating the meat with the
mashed potatoes that dripped with the intensely delicious house demi-glaze… YES. My wife had the Grilled Swordfish – a hearty helping of sweet swordfish meat, nestled in a sea of parmesan risotto with a splash of an apple cider gastrique. WINNING. Although we knew we shouldn’t – we flirted with the dessert menu… then it took us home and had its way with us. We indulged on an outrageously decadent Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, doused with chocolate sauce, caramel and vanilla ice cream; as well as a Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee that had so much flavor – it did a tango on my tongue! That Brulee and I tangoed, and we tangoed hard. No regrets. Again, if you’re seeking a beautiful restaurant with a fantastic aesthetic inside and out, with helpful, knowledgeable staff – and the food is top notch… Finz is your new favorite spot – just saying.
Next we have another MUST VISIT right on Derby Street passed the Pickering Wharf Marina (You’ll see a really TALL Ship which is part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site called the Friendship - she is actually a replica of an East Indiaman Merchant Ship). Although the Marina is a beautiful place for photos (make sure to snap a few) and the Friendship is pretty badass… the place I want you to go is sweeter than both! Head over to the brand NEW Chocolate Pantry where all your chocolaty needs will be covered… with, well – more chocolate! Amy, the owner – is an absolute joy… bubbly, beautiful and as sweet as the candy she sells… you are guaranteed to find something you will love. The key here is that all of her product is the real deal… a perfect blend of new innovative and old fashioned European chocolate will knock your socks off! Some suggestions are the Lotus Cinnamon & Caramel and Lotus Dipped in Chocolate (Lotus is a specific style of cookie), Walnut Dragon, Pistachio Crème and get this… chocolate covered cotton candy!!! Honestly, you can’t lose here… we had the opportunity to sample a whole bunch of these
unbelievable morsels of love – WIN. We then headed over to visit my pal James over at Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery which is one of the best… if not THE best Monster Museum I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. They have quite a few new additions since the last time I visited (between 7 or 8), and it is well worth the visit if you are a fan of the Horror genre. One of the coolest things about this hotspot – is that everything inside is a part of James’ personal collection… it is a very extensive collection! It would not be a trip to Salem without visiting Orlok’s. Funny enough, right outside the museum is where our new friend Borah was set up doing her thing!!! We watched as Borah entertained the large groupings of people who enjoyed the antics of Salem’s favorite witch. Our last stop for the day before heading back to New York – and a rite of passage for anyone visiting (it was my daughter Hailey’s first time), we stopped over at the infamous Bewitched Statue for a few photos. After a few gift shop and booth raids… it was time to head back to New York!
If there is one thing I know… you will have an incredible time visiting Salem and I implore you to give it a shot. Everything is so rich with history, life, death and that grey area in-between – you’ll find something for anyone. Whatever you are seeking to find – I hope that my ramblings assist you in finding it… I know what I’ve gained over the years – and it is truly priceless. Thank you again to everyone who took care of my family and I during our visit… we love and appreciate you! Until next time…
LISTEN to the New Episode of Within Brim's Skin - Spooky Salem Halloween Ep. #133
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