Back in September 2014, I wrote about some of the places that my wife and I have come to love in Salem since we moved here in the spring of that same year (Salem, MA…It’s More Than Witch Trials). I had mentioned at the end of the posting that I would be providing updates on new favorites and other things that make Salem one of the best places to visit on the North Shore of Massachusetts.
As you may have heard, it’s been tough in Salem (and all of New England) during this past winter. Snow was clogging the streets, a parking spot became more precious than the art at the Peabody Essex Museum, and there seemed to be nobody moving around town other than the snow plow drivers. Like many other areas that were inundated by massive amounts of snow this year, the businesses in Salem suffered from a lack of business, which put their futures in jeopardy. Now, the snow is (nearly) melted and Salem has come back to life. My wife and I recently went walking around town on one of the first warm days we’ve seen in months and it seemed like everyone was out enjoying the warmth and sunshine – many of us were even wearing shorts.
As we move toward summer and those important weekend and long-term getaways, I wanted to tell you about a few more places to visit and things to do in Salem.
Salem Trolley – Website (8 Central Street, Salem, MA)
When you live in Salem, you get used to seeing the red and green trolleys traveling the streets during the warmer months of the year. Don’t get me wrong, the trolleys are a touristy thing to do in Salem and I’m not usually a “touristy” kind of person. However, this is one touristy thing that you have to do when you visit Salem. The tours are very informative and a lot of fun. The tour guides are extremely knowledgable about the history of Salem and some of its more well-known citizens. For residents, the tours are free as long as you get your passes from their main office at 8 Central Street in Salem. For visitors, tickets are available at a number of locations listed on their website or online. The great part is that you can get on and off of the trolley throughout the day for the one-time cost. It’s a great tour and well worth the money to really get to know Salem and its history.
Ye Olde Pepper Candy Company – Website (122 Derby Street, Salem, MA)
If you love chocolate, this is the place for you. From the moment you walk in, you feel like you’re entering one of those old-fashioned candy shops your grandparents told you about with candy in jars, selection as far as the eye can see, and chocolate that takes your taste buds to another level. Granted, they have a secondary location in North Andover, MA, but this is the original. This business, though not in the hands of the same family, dates all the way back to early 19th century. They’re known for their turtles (thanks to a lady named Oprah) and their “Salem Gibralters,” but my wife and I have two different favorites. My wife swears by their caramels and I am a big fan of their “peanut butter pillows” with toasted coconut on top. Whatever you like, just know that everything there is delicious.
Wicked Good Books – Website (215 Essex Street, Salem, MA)
It seems like those big box bookstores are everywhere, but there’s nothing like a locally owned bookstore. Wicked Good Books is one of these stores. Their selection is amazing for such a small location and they’re always willing to help you find (or order) what you’re looking for. I get a kick out of the fact that they not only sell new books, but used ones as well. They also feature a great selection of books specifically about Salem and the rest of the Massachusetts North Shore. Keep in mind that they don’t have a coffee shop or free wifi, but if you’re looking for an honest-to-goodness local bookstore, this is your place and you will not be disappointed.
Ziggys & Sons Donuts – Website (Facebook) (2 Essex Street, Salem, MA)
This place is an institution in Salem and on the North Shore. They’ve been around for nearly half a century and they’re still making some of the most delicious donuts that I have ever tasted. I know that there’s another donut company that claims to have the donut business wrapped up in Massachusetts, but they aren’t even close to Ziggy’s. They have an alternate location in Peabody, MA, but the original is a must. The shop is tiny and there’s a counter with a few stools to sit at. It’s run by one of the best family teams that I’ve ever met. The donuts are kept in an old wood and glass display case until you place your order. They also make other treats like bismarks and other delicious items. Word to the wise: get here as early as you can. The shop opens early and they sell items very quickly. Hours can be found on their Facebook page.
Turner’s Seafood – Website (43 Church Street, Salem, MA)
There are three Turner’s locations, but I don’t consider them to be a chain because they specifically local to the North Shore of Massachusetts. The Salem location, which is my favorite, is found inside of the historic Lyceum Hall. The seafood is some of the best that I’ve ever had, which says a lot because I grew up surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. Along with the outstanding quality and flavors, their prices are also very notable. They are one of the least expensive seafood restaurants to be found in the area, which explains why the wait can be a bit lengthy during the summer and October seasons. Do yourself a favor and try two of my favorite dishes offered on their menu: the raw oysters and their tuna chili. They also offer great items for those who may not be drawn to the fruits de mer.
Bella Verona – Website (107 Essex Street, Salem, MA)
This is the restaurant that will teach you about what Italian food can truly be and why Italians always have smiles on their faces. This was one of the first restaurants that my wife and I dined in when we visited Salem to house hunt. It sits directly across from the historic Hawthorne Hotel and only has a handful of seats. Keeping this in mind, make sure to make reservations before you visit. The interior makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to a small tratoria in a tiny Italian village. They have a core menu, but their specials change with each evening. The wait staff is exceptional and they welcome you to your table with delicious fresh bread and a homemade olive spread that is out of this world. As you would hope with an Italian restaurant, their wine selection is also exceptional and reasonably priced. I can honestly say that you cannot make a bad selection from their menu. Every item is freshly made and the flavors sing with each bite you take. This restaurant is our go-to location for special dinners or just a bit of a “fancy” date night. There is no charge for the romantic atmosphere – it’s free.