17 miles NE of Boston, 4 miles NW of Marblehead
Settled in 1626, 4 years before Boston, Salem later enjoyed international renown as a center of merchant shipping. Today it's famous around the world because of a 7-month episode in 1692. The witchcraft trial hysteria led to 20 deaths, 3-plus centuries of notoriety, countless lessons on the evils of prejudice, and innumerable bad puns ("Stop by for a spell" is a favorite slogan). But there's much more to the city, which embraces its history as a thriving seaport, a literary inspiration, and a vital partner in the post-Revolutionary War China trade.
The city abounds with witch-associated attractions, plus nearly as many reminders of Salem's seagoing legacy. Historic sites associated with Nathaniel Hawthorne complement the sorceresses and sailors. And one of the finest cultural institutions in New England, the Peabody Essex Museum, is a must-see for lovers of art and artifacts. Salem is a family-friendly destination that's worth at least a half-day visit (perhaps after a stop in Marblehead) and can easily fill a day.