Thursday, February 28, 2008

Come to Salem and See the World!

I am so excited to tell you about the first annual Salem Film Fest!

Kudos to Paul Van Ness at CinemaSalem, Rinus Oosthoek at the Salem Chamber of Commerce and their team, which has compiled an excellent schedule of films and special events that begin today.

Salem Film Fest will be a "celebration of international film and music in Salem, America’s first international city." And it will feature
documentaries, feature and short films from around the world. There will be discussions with filmmakers, and parties with world-class musicians in one of America’s most beautiful and historic cities.

The screenings are happening at CinemaSalem and the parties are being hosted at venues throughout Salem. It's an excellent reason to spend some time in Salem this weekend and next week!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Where Past is Present

Have you seen the Ten Free Things to do in Salem list? It's worth checking out, especially since most of the things on the list are available year-round (although the gardens are, admittedly, a bit drab in February).

The best, and first, thing on the list is the free film at the National Park Service Regional Visitor Center. It is the 27-minute film, Where Past is Present. The film provides an overview of the history of Salem and the entire Essex National Heritage Area, which is the 34 communities of Essex County. Whether you are from the area or visiting, it will give you a sense of place and a sense of the historical significance of Salem and its surrounding communities.

For more information on the National Park Service in Salem, visit It is an excellent web site, chock full of "did you know" facts and links to Salem walking tours and brochures.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Cold Outside...

Which makes me want to retreat to a warm corner, preferably by a fire. Here three of my favorite fireside retreats in Salem:

  • The Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel (pictured at left). When the weather outside is frightful, there's no better retreat than this cozy room with an excellent menu.

  • Finz on Pickering Wharf. Grab your favorite 'tini concoction at the bar and get comfy by the fire. You may never want to get up!

  • Capt's Bar & Grill on Pickering Wharf. For winter retreats, I like to sneak into the bar & grill, which is below the formal dining room. The ambiance is cozy and dim - if you're with the right someone, it would be romantic. And the view is one of Salem's best.

Spring isn't too far off. Take advantage of these cozy corners soon. Before too long I'll be writing about dining alfresco and how to keep cool on hot New England evenings!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Salem Events - So much to do!

The calendar on has been active for a little over a month and there is a lot to do in this bewitching seaport. From live music to wine tastings to novelists reading from their latest works. New art exhibits, exhibits that are about to close. Photography. Tattooing. Origami. Jazz. Blues. Rock. Architectural tours. Historic houses. Museums. Theater. And, if you have a princess to entertain this weekend, don't miss the Hawthorne Hotel's annual Princess Tea. Visit the calendar of events at for information.

Check it all out on the calendar.

This is the magic of Salem... in the off-season!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Last Chance for Samuel McIntire!

The Peabody Essex Museum's wonderful exhibit, Samuel McIntire, Carving an American Style, closes on Sunday - and if you have not yet seen it, I recommend finding some time this weekend to get here!

McIntire heavily influenced the architecture in Salem and throughout this region. People who are lucky enough to have a McIntire detail, a mantle, a doorway, in their house are very proud of it! Further afield, McIntire's work is exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and in 1792 he submitted a proposal for the design of the Capitol at Washington, DC (alas, it wasn't chosen). His carvings are beautiful, and we are fortunate that its significance was recognized and preserved through the past 200 years.

The following is excerpted from the exhibit microsite: Samuel McIntire (1757–1811) was one of America’s most versatile artists during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the young nation explored new intersections among ideas, concepts, and cultures to create the foundation of its artistic traditions. Recognized as the architect who transformed his birthplace, Salem, Massachusetts, into the epitome of an elegant American town, after 1795 he also gained prominence as a wood carver. The original design vocabulary that he developed from confident and ambitious experimentation produced one of the first significant carving traditions in the new nation.

McIntire played a major role in expressing the new British neoclassical style, which drew its primary inspiration from the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. He then developed his own distinct version of the style to express the beliefs and aspirations of the first generation of Americans to experience economic, political, and artistic freedom. McIntire worked cooperatively with the town’s leading cabinetmakers, carpenters, and shipbuilders, providing them with carved ornamentation, but his most important surviving carvings are found on furniture and woodwork of his own design done for Salem’s Derby family. His sensitivity to design as a whole produced some of the most beautiful rooms created during the Federal period (1780–1820).

For more on the Peabody Essex Museum, visit The Boston Globe review of the exhibit ran on November 4, 2007. Read it here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chestnut Street Days

The Phillips House has a remarkable collection of home movies, and last night they held a public screening of some of the films shot by James Duncan Phillips (1876-1954). Insofar as attractions in Salem go, The Phillips House is a true gem. It is the only house on Chestnut Street that is open to the public. It operated as a private trust for a number of years, and in 2006 it became the 36th property of Historic New England. The house is definitely worth exploring, it is open weekends year-round, and daily in the summer.

It's the films I want to write about, though, because they are a testimony to why Salem is such a great destination. Two of the films were shot in 1926, one along Chestnut Street during a fair held to celebrate Salem's tercentenary, and one shot a block away on Broad Street of a parade held during that same week-long celebration of Salem's founding. Watching the films were remarkable because, other than the fashions, nothing has changed. The neighborhood - which has been called one of America's most beautiful streets - remains carefully and beautifully preserved so visitors today can walk, trolley, or drive down Chestnut Street and see the same surroundings as visitors 82 years ago.

We are lucky to have excellent historians like James Duncan Phillips who preserve and retell the stories of Salem's past so well. The films serve as a reminder of how significant Salem's history is. Many of the icons that were celebrated in 1926 are still celebrated today: The Witch Trials of 1692, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone call, Gibraltars (the first candy produced in America), Leslie's Retreat at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Elias Hasket Derby, Nathaniel Bowditch, The Peabody Sisters, and the list goes on.

They were having an awful lot of fun in the 1920's and 1930's as they celebrated Salem's and Massachusetts' history. They had great neighborhood parties with tens of thousands of guests - hundreds of people in costumes, dancing, live music, parades. Not unlike Salem today! In fact, as I was leaving the presentation last night, somebody commented, "When do we start working on the 400th? We only have 18 years to get all of the costumes together!"

For more information on Historic New England, visit

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's Vacation Week!

There is lots to do in Salem during February vacation week - here are a few ideas:

- Explore art and culture at the Peabody Essex Museum. The PEM was ranked one of the nation's top 10 art museums for children. In addition to the galleries that present American art, maritime art and history, and art from China, India, Japan, and beyond, the PEM has an interactive, hands-on Family Center.
- Visit the Salem Wax Museum and spend some time in their Salem Souvenir Factory, where you can create a variety of souvenirs to take home. The Salem Wax Museum's presentation depicts Salem's history from the Witch Trials of 1626 through the Maritime age in the 18th century.
- Explore the Salem Maritime National Historic Site - which includes the replica tall ship, Friendship. This National Park Service site was the first National Historic Site in America and includes a free 17-minute film, To the Farthest Ports of the Rich East, the Friendship, The Custom House, Derby House, and Narbonne House.

The weather forecast for this week looks pretty good for walking the red line, too. You will find all of Salem's attractions and historic sites along the red line, which is painted on the sidewalks of Salem. Stretch your legs off of the Red Line and walk out to Derby Light in Salem Harbor (be warned, it's usually windier and colder on the walk back to Derby Street!) and around Salem Common. If you do get a chill, slip into one of Salem's yummy restaurants for a warming bite to eat.

Discover the magic of school vacation in Salem!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Shopping in Salem

I can't explain how much shopping has improved since I first visited Salem in 1998. Signatures just opened their new space at 181 Essex Street, on the Pedestrian Mall, and it's a great store for women's fashion! Better yet, it completes a really nice block, with Bernard's Jewelery and Pamplemousse ( - the image to the right is from Pamplemousse). Those of us at the ribbon cutting today were marveling at how much shopping we can do during our lunch hours and on our walks from office to car. There is lots of shopping to be done!

If you need a scheduled excuse to check out Salem's retail, watch the calendar on for Girl's Night Out with Mayor Kim Driscoll in early March. Salem Main Streets is working with the Mayor's office to organize a night of shopping and treats geared toward the girls. I'll post the date here, too, when it's confirmed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Visit Salem

Welcome to Destination Salem's new blog about Salem, visiting Salem, what there is to do in Salem, and why you should be making plans to come to Salem.

I should let you know right out of the box that I am the executive director of Destination Salem, which means it is my job to talk about Salem as a great destination. However, I would not be able to do this job if I didn't believe it. And I know Salem is a unique place to spend time. In fact, it's such a great place to visit, lots of people move here after visiting (myself included), and that's the best evidence of a good destination.

Salem has a lot going on. You may know Salem because of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Salem also has an incredible maritime heritage, remarkable architecture, literary history (think Nathaniel Hawthorne), and military heritage. Not to mention the art and culture, shopping, dining, psychics, lighthouses, classic New England vistas, tall ships, cobbled streets... should I go on? I'll talk about all of these things in my posts, but I know attention spans are short and time is shorter, so for now I'll say welcome - to you and to myself - to the new Destination Salem blog.

Discover the magic of Salem!


PS: The picture is of the tall ship Friendship, a replica of the 1797 East Indiaman ship that sailed from Salem to ports all over the world. Friendship is part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Thanks to Colleen Bruce who took the picture.