Witches and Pirates in Salem, Massachusetts
By Meg Brunson
Way back in high school, I loved learning about the Salem Witch Trials, which is why I made sure we stopped in Salem, Massachusetts! Affectionately called "Witch City," Salem is a very tourist-y city with a pedestrian mall full of halloween-like shops, complete with street vendors and costumed characters like Mr.Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Once Upon A Time), Mike Myers (Halloween), and a Zombie! We loved getting lost in the commercialization of the Witch Trials - but also wanted to explore some of the historically significant information.
One of the things that we learned, is that much of the actual artifacts from the late 1600s were destroyed in a fire, so the museums in the city are not traditional museums... instead, they have attempted to recreate what once existed.
We opted to visit 3 museums: The Witch Dungeon Museum, Witch History Museum, and New England Pirate Museum because they had a combo-ticket option available. The nice thing about Salem, is that the city is relatively small, so we were easily able to park near the visitor center and walk to all of the museums. Even our 4 year old walked the walk without complaints!
First, we visited The Witch Dungeon Museum. At this museum, the tour started with a play taking place in the court house. The play explained waht happened during the trials before we proceeded into the dungeon in the basement. The dungeon was designed at-scale to show us what the actual dungeons looked like at the time. One of the actors from the play guided us through the tour where we were able to take all the time we needed to explore the different exhibits.
Then, we stopped at the Witch History Museum (right in the center of the pedestrian mall). This museum also started with a solo-performance introducing the history of the Witch allegations. This museum was also in the basement and shed light on what was happening in Salem that caused the allegations of witchcraft. While, we COULD have visited this museum first (since I do believe it preceeds the information discussed in the Dungeon Museum) but the order did not matter much - the information was easy to process, even for the kids, either way! My oldest LOVED this museum most. She enjoyed the figures positioned in silly ways, depicting the dancing in the woods. The kids all had fun interacting with the various scenes and listening to the guide tell historical stories that seemed too far-fetched to be true (which is one reason why I enjoyed learning about this back in high school).
And we finished our day at the New England Pirate Museum. Salem (like Boston) is another port city, so there is a lot of meritime history including piracy. The museum had a lot of similarities to the Witch History Museum and the Witch Dungeon Museum. Though it was not in the basement, it was in a part of the building with dim lighting. Our family recently learned a lot about pirates when visiting the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum in North Carolina, and it was interesting to learn about some of the different pirate stories further north along the same coast.
Tips for a Great Trip:
- Each child is unique: One of my four kids (the 8 year old) was a little nervous given how dark some of the exhibits were, but it was not anything like a haunted house. There were some exhibits that showed violence (crushings, decapitations, etc.) as it relates to the history of the Witch Trials, but they were not overly realistic and my kids were not intimidated by them. I do think it's worth noting that you should consider each child individually when deciding whether or not to visit.
- Educational Curriculum: ensure that you're making the trip educational by taking advantage of the resources provided to you by the Witch Dungeon Museum and the New England Pirate Museum - perfect for homeschoolers, school groups, and all interested parents!
- Don't forget the combo ticket! You will save $8 when you buy a combo ticket to visit all 3 museums and they're all easy to visit in one day while still leaving room to do other touristy stuff in Salem like just browsing the pedestrian mall area!
The Witch Dungeon Museum, Witch History Museum, and New England Pirate Museum are recommended destinations if you are visiting Salem, Massachusetts! They do a fantastic job of combining history with the fun and silliness of Halloween, in a campy and memorable way. You can learn more about the three museums, and the combo tickets at http://www.witchhistorymuseum.com/
Read about some of the other adventures we're having on our Year-Long Road Trip!
© 2019 Meg Brunson
Thanks to the Witch History Museum for sponsoring this review. All opinions expressed are my own. See more on Instagram!
Meg is a mommy blogger, Facebook marketer, and much more. She is a mom to four kids who live full-time in an RV exploring the US! As a former Facebook employee, Meg remains a Facebook addict and handles KidsOutAndAbout.com's Social Media Marketing in addition to providing freelance services for other small businesses on how to best leverage Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Meg also hosts the FamilyPreneur Podcast, a podcast for parent entrepreneurs raising entrepreneurial children. Learn more about Meg at MegBrunson.com!