Surviving Sunday in Salem: Prepare for disappointment

It’s officially Spooky Season. What better way to spend it than in the spookiest place of all, Salem?

Sunday is definitely a busier day to visit Salem, but nevertheless, I grabbed a good friend, bought a $10 commuter rail ticket, and was on my way.

With little preparation, I set out to let the town whisk me to wherever I was meant to be, but realized this was not the best plan. As we arrived, we piled out of the train amongst the sea of tourists to explore all of the famous attractions.

My first stop was Front Street Coffeehouse — an endearing coffee shop with wall-to-wall art that made me feel optimistic for the day ahead.

I ordered one of their Spooky Specials — a Boston Cream Mocha, with extra sugar. It was made in ten minutes, but it wasn’t exactly sweet.

I enjoyed mine after adding some sugar, but my friend’s drink got mixed up in the orders and took more than 20 minutes to prepare. Regardless of these hiccups, I would still recommend coming to this quaint coffee shop.

Then, the day started to take a turn. A more organized set of college students would have planned this trip a bit more, but we wanted to explore Salem “spontaneously.”

Consequently, our visit to the Old Burying Point Cemetery was a slight fail as we needed tickets in order to walk around the cemetery. We quickly found out they had sold out for the day, despite it barely being 11 a.m.

Feeling slightly disappointed, we turned around to find something else to tour, because some place was bound to be available, right?

Very wrong.

Passing countless houses that were supposedly open to the public, it was clear that all of them required tickets. And they were all sold out.

The houses did not look as they did online. They looked like they could be found virtually anywhere, with little to no “spooky” features — just a two floor house with a few windows and a door.

After walking along Essex Street, we arrived at the Ropes Mansion, the famous Hocus Pocus house. While again, we weren’t able to walk around inside, the Ropes’s garden was the real winner. Of course, I’m sure that the home itself is a sight to behold, the garden is filled with countless flowers, shrubbery, an adorable archway and a small pond that makes you feel like you’re floating around a fantasy world filled with fantastic flora.

Trying to find more to do, we decided to head back to the main square to attempt one last Spooky Sunday in Salem rendezvous. For all the Harry Potter fans, this one should be right up your (Diagon) alley. Salem features Wynott Wands — a smaller scale remake of Ollivanders Wand Shop from the Harry Potter franchise. From its dark and eerie lighting to the shelves of countless wands, this place felt vaguely like I was heading to Hogwarts.

The town square was crowded with little room to walk as many tourists often stopped to take photos with the characters and actors on the street. The witches and horror characters made the streets feel a bit spookier, but it was safe to say that I was underwhelmed.

As the defeat of the day eroded me, we got in line for one last stop — Gulu-Gulu Cafe. While we waited no less than 45 minutes for a table, we sat on a small couch in the corner to reflect on the day.

As we talked, no one came to wait on us until 30 minutes after we were seated. While I want to say that it wasn’t worth the wait, the “CHEESUS SAVES!” grilled cheese truly did save the day. From the medley of cheeses to the fresh sourdough bread to the house pickles on the side, this simple dish was just what was needed to raise our spirits.

Leaving the town with stomachs full, but little hope, we made our way back to the train and headed home.

Ultimately, here are my takeaways:

Don’t try to be spontaneous “to see where the day takes you,” plan your trip. Get tickets to the houses and museums so you can actually enjoy what the town has to offer.

Do take only a friend or two. Taking more would make it a bit harder to navigate the streets and find a seat at virtually any restaurant or cafe. Be ready to be among hundreds of bustling tourists, but ultimately try your best to enjoy what is available to you.

Perhaps I will try again one day to do a proper trip, but until then, that was how I survived a Sunday in Salem.


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