This is my thirteenth post about our family's visit to New England. I suggest reading the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth posts from the trip before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I was given admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. Some places are free for everyone; we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm share is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
Salem, Lexington, and Concord, Massachusetts
While I am very interested the history of Colonial America, I have to be honest and say I wasn't particularly eager to visit Salem, Massachusetts. Most famous for the witch trials of the 1690's, I was concerned that Salem would have a whole lot of touristy witch stuff and very little to offer with educational value. But I didn't like the idea of just skipping Salem outright. It's one of those things you have to see, even if you know it will be overrated.
I did a bunch of research and decided that the Salem Trolley would be the best introduction to Salem. And indeed, it was. It covered all aspects of Salem's history, not just its worst moment. The tour starts next to the Salem Armory Visitor Center, then winds through Salem.
The tour guide was good, but Salem is a very complicated place. With 400 years of history in one location, our guide was constantly hopping forward or back 100 or 200 years to mention a particular site as we passed it. It was hard to get the whole story straight when we saw a 1600’s witch trial location, then a 1900’s prohibition spot, then a 1700’s revolutionary war location, then a 1600’s cemetery that was moved in the 1800’s, then a modern-day island that is private, then... you get the idea. It was all interesting, but it was a lot to take in.
That yellow building is America's oldest candy company. They are famous for their Gibraltars and Black Jacks.
I was surprised to learn that Salem has a Waikiki Beach.
Love the peacock stained glass.
Everything having to do with witches, historical or otherwise, had a huge crowd.
After the trolley tour, we walked through the Essex St. Pedestrian Mall...
... which was lined with cool figureheads.
I posed with Samantha. Sadly, Trevor had no idea who that is.
We had lunch at the quirky Gulu-Gulu Cafe. The food was very good and the people-watching was excellent.
One more thing to mention that is critical: Driving in Salem is horrible. (It's horrible on a weekday during the summer. There isn't a word to describe how bad it is on a weekend in October.) Traffic, narrow roads, one way streets, construction, double-parked cars, pedestrians cluelessly wandering into streets, limited parking, dead end roads not labeled... it was a nightmare. In retrospect, we should have done Salem as a day trip from Boston after we ditched the rental car. It's a 50-minute ferry ride away and would have saved us a lot of stress if we'd known.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. We weren't yet in Boston and we still needed the rental car to get to our next destination, Minute Man National Historic Park. It marks the location of the first battles of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775. Minute Man NHP is long and narrow, with two Visitor Centers. Start with the one with the blue star, then do the red star afterward.
At the primary Visitor Center, you'll see exhibits that give an overview to the battles of Lexington and Concord.
Do not, under any circumstances, skip the introductory video. It's incredibly realistic and very well done. Different characters and scenes are shown in the doorway and on the other screens and really brings the whole thing to life. We didn't take pictures during the presentation, of course, but this is what the stage looked like while we were waiting and immediately before it started.
After the Visitor Center in Lexington, drive to the second one in Concord. It's smaller, but definitely worth visiting. From there, walk the trail to the Old North Bridge, famous for "the shot heard round the world."
The history is super interesting, but Minute Man NHP is also absolutely beautiful.
Dinner that night was at Revolution Food Hall. Everything was delicious.
We stayed at the Aloft Lexington, which was a great choice. By this point, Day 11 of our trip, we were exhausted after so many days jam-packed with activities. We slept well that night and were even able to sleep in a bit. Our first activity the following day wasn't until 10:00 and was only a 2 minute drive away. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.