When you think of visiting Salem, Massachusetts in October your mind is going to go to witches, ghosts, spooky places and LOTS of pumpkins. Now while yes, if you visit Salem in October you will get all of those things, but there’s more to Salem, Massachusetts than just Halloween. I’ve been visiting Salem since I was 16 and one thing I can promise is that if you do a bit of wandering you’re bound to come across a hidden (or not so hidden) gem. The hidden gem I stumbled upon yesterday was probably one of the coolest things to do in Salem.
I stumbled upon this amazing thing to do in Salem completely by chance. Steph and I ran to a gas station and while I was walking over I noticed some street art. Of course I made my way over, which lead me to a path leading along a river, of course I walked to that too. Clearly I have adult ADHD and am distracted by pretty views and all things involving bright colors lol. Well while walking along the river path I noticed a VERY COLORFUL mural on the backside of Flatbread Company.
By that point, I was in full blown “wherever my feet take me mode” which means that as soon as something catches my eye I was off walking towards it so ya’ll better keep up. Sure enough, when I looked to the left I could make out huge murals a street over. If you follow me on Instagram then you probably know how obsessed I am with all kinds of street art and especially giant murals. Prior to this visit, I had spent every trip to Salem doing your standard spooky things. I would visit the Witch House, the Witch Dungeon Museum, I’d check out the harbor, or shop in all of the amazing local shops. You could imagine my surprise when I wandered 5 minutes from the touristy city center, wandered to a huge mural and noticed that I was SURROUNDED by a neighborhood covered in art.
I’m talking SURRRROUUUUNNNNDDDEEEDDD. Everywhere I turned there was another piece just as unique as the last. Even entire buildings painted with colorful, vibrant façades. Now while I was shooting some of these stunning finds my adult ADHD kicked in again and I noticed a glimmer of hot pink down an alleyway. I know this is probably the point where you’re thinking “Oh God Chantel please don’t go down the alleyway.” BUT, putting caution to the wind I went down the alleyway. LOL. Sorry Mom!
Honestly though, I’m glad I did because the alleyway was COVERED in art and opened up to a parking lot with GIANT murals adorning the side of these buildings. It was an interesting contrast to see a vibrant, modern piece along a traditional Salem building. It was a new perspective than the historical landmarks that Salem is known for. Seeing this art made the identity of the city so much larger for me. Salem to me has always been more than just Halloween and the Salem Witch Trials, it was a small city with multiple layers to its identity and it felt like I was peeling back and unmasking one of those layers.
Once I was home and looking up all of these different artists I noticed when checking out these pieces I realized that they came from all over the United States. There were artists from Miami all the way to San Francisco, all coming from around the nation to put their stamp on Salem.
I’ll take the guesswork out of finding this spot by telling you where you can find these pieces. If you go to Lafayette Street you can find works of art in an alleyway between Adea’s Meditteranean Kitchen and the Lafayette Hotel. You’ll see the massive laughing emoji, head down that alley for so much more. There are also pieces along the side of Witch Dr. Glass Blowing Studio and across the street.
Prior to finding this serious gem I had visited Salem at least 5 times. This small area of art took me completely by surprise and there was not one person around us. Now let me put this in perspective. During October Salem gets about 500,000 visitors. The city center during this time is CONSTANTLY packed, even on a rainy day. I’m talking so packed that you’ll need to wait in line to get into shops or even to get into the famous cemeteries. No joke. The fact that there was not one other person in this area soaking in all of this art was shocking to me. Which made me realize that this art deserves to be appreciated just as much as all of the other attractions of Salem. I felt like I had been let in on a little secret because there weren’t even any people heading towards the direction of the art. The tourists of Salem stick to the three main streets of Salem and spend their entire visits wandering around the city center instead of seeing what Salem truly has to offer.
This area was no more than a street up from where everyone was. The neighborhood was lively with music and laughing overflowing the streets from the local barbershop. This was probably one of my favorite parts of this visit. Not elbowing through crowds lining up to buy their “Salem t-shirts”, it was getting a true taste of what local, Salem life is like.
Now this is where I want to say that if you’re not willing to go outside of the touristy areas you won’t be able to fully understand a location. Stumbling upon this artistic neighborhood put Salem in a whole new light for me and made my appreciation for the city even deeper. Salem is a lot more than Halloween and all things spooky. The city offers so much more. Which is why if you want to do a something cool in Salem then wander a bit and see what you find.