Located north of Boston, Salem offers fun fall attractions, amazing restaurants, great public transportation, and more to families, retirees, and young adults moving to the City of Witches. Check out these 11 pros and cons of living in Salem!
Pros of Living in Salem
There are several pros of living in Salem, an active city with small-town vibes, that you won’t get anywhere else. Take a look at these benefits of Salem living!
Pro: Salem Has Convenient Public Transit
No car? No problem! This Massachusetts city is surrounded by tons of public transportation options. The MBTA Commuter Rail and Bus system has an extensive network of buses and trains that provide easy commutes to nearby Boston, as well as easy travel throughout Downtown Salem. Get beautiful views of the New England shoreline when you hop aboard the Salem Ferry and travel across the Massachusetts Bay. Residents, visitors, and commuters can easily get around Salem with Salem Skipper, the affordable rideshare minibus. Salem is also extremely walkable and bikeable, and thanks to plenty of Bluebikes Salem bike-share stations scattered throughout the city, you can get around town without having to worry about parking.
Pro: Salem’s Rich History
Salem is a tourist town, and every year hundreds of thousands of people travel from across the country to learn about the infamous Salem Witch Trials, which occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and mid-1693. Having since inspired other witch media—including famous American play The Crucible, episodes of Bewitched, Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, and more—the area is now home to historic sites and museums for history buffs and Halloween lovers to visit. Tour the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, the judge in the trials, at the Witch House. Explore life-size diorama scenes depicting the stories of the 1692 trials at the Witch History Museum. Learn more about the community’s hysteria at the Salem Witch Museum. Experience a live reenactment of the Salem Witch Trials and tour the dungeon at Witch Dungeon Museum. Pay respect to the witch trials’ victims at Salem Witch Memorial. Or take a mystical audio-guided tour about witchcraft fact and fiction, view wax figures of people from the trial at the Salem Wax Museum, or browse the shops in the Salem Witch Village.
Pro: Famous Museums
There are plenty of Salem museums to visit and explore whose subject matter go beyond the famous trials. See more than 840,000 works of art from all around the world, or visit exhibitions like Bats! and Japanomania! Japanese Art Goes Global at the Peabody Essex Museum. Board a pirate ship, roam the artifacts room, and meander through the 80-foot cave for hidden treasure at the New England Pirate Museum. Visit America’s first national historic site to check out the Salem Armory Visitor Center, tour the historic buildings, and head to the Derby Wharf Light Station at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Take an educational walking tour through Salem’s El Punto neighborhood to admire over 75 large-scale murals at the Punto Urban Art Museum. Or walk through the halls of the Phillips House, a Colonial Revival mansion on Chestnut Street.
Pro: Popular Salem Festivals
There’s always something to do in this Massachusetts city, especially with a variety of popular Salem festivals scheduled throughout the year. View independent documentaries, shorts, and features, or attend filmmaker Q&A’s at Salem Film Fest. Celebrate all things arts and culture with live music performances and dancing, pop-up art exhibitions, mural competitions, magic shows, and more at Salem Arts Festival. Enjoy a week full of fun activities such as Movie on the Common, Ice Scream Bowl, and the farmers market during Salem Heritage Days. Do some gift shopping at the holiday marketplace, catch a ride on the holiday trolley, or attend the free holiday concert during Holiday Happenings. Attend a remarkable celebration of the written word full of poetry readings, workshops, and panels at the regional Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Or celebrate diversity and inclusion with a slew of events, vendors, and a parade starting in Salem Common during the North Shore Pride Parade & Festival.
Pro: Plenty of Outdoor Recreation
Stay active while exploring the many Salem outdoor recreation spots! Dock your boat for a fun day at the beach, take a stroll through the park paths, and have an outdoor picnic at Salem Willows. Go walking, swimming, and kayaking at Dead Horse Beach. Explore the bike paths, go for a dip in the swimming pool, and let your kids run around the playground at Forest River Park. Go camping, visit the historic Fort Pickering Lighthouse, and relax on the beach at Winter Island Park. Play a challenging round of golf or a doubles match of tennis when you become a member at Kernwood Country Club. Or explore over 248 acres of trails, wetlands, and marshes at Salem Woods Nature Trail.
Pro: Endless Family-Friendly Halloween Activities
When you live in Salem, you get to be in the spooky spirit! Known for being a great Halloween town, nearly half a million tourists visit Downtown Salem yearly for Salem Haunted Happenings. Take a scary boat ride filled with pirates, monsters, and more at Haunted Happenings Harbor Cruise. Start October by watching spooky floats, vehicles, and performers march down Central Street for the Grand Parade. Enjoy evenings of thrills and chills with events like Tales of the Macabre and Haunted Fables at the Gables at The House of the Seven Gables. Visit locations associated with the witch trials and listen to scary stories when you hop aboard the Salem Trolley for Tales & Tombstones. Take a photo in front of Ropes Mansion, which was used in the filming of the 1993 Disney film, Hocus Pocus. Or attend bookbinding, broom making, and spell jar workshops before getting a tarot reading at The Witchery.
Pro: A New England Foodie’s Paradise
As a city on the New England coastline, you’ll find loads of great local restaurants in Salem that range from comfort food dishes, to delicious fresh seafood. Start your morning with brunch items like the Chipotle Hash Benedict, The Elvis Waffle, and Classic Egg Sammich at Ugly Mug Diner. Craving Mexican food in Salem? Try the Carne Asada Fries, Wing Fiesta Quesadilla, and the Pollo Con Chorizo at Howling Wolf Taqueria. Enjoy freshly caught New England seafood like the Seafood Paella, Crab Stuffed Haddock, and Lobster Angel Hair Pasta at Finz. Make reservations for date night and order the Duck Breast, Squash Bisque, and the Chocolate Blood Tart for dessert at Ledger Restaurant & Bar. Try traditional Moroccan-style dishes like the Chicken Fassi, Shrimp Tagine, and Couscous Royal at Blue Fez Restaurant. Or enjoy gourmet hot dogs like the Kimchi Dog and Icelandic Dog while sipping vintage cocktails like the Applejack Rabbit and Gold Rush at All Souls Lounge.
Cons of Living in Salem
While there are many positives about life in Witch City, there are some important things to consider before relocating here. Read below to learn more about the cons of moving to Salem.
Con: High Cost of Living
With median home prices sitting at $379,400 and median rent prices at $1,325, housing in Salem is expensive—though still typical for living in Massachusetts. Though Salem’s cost of living is 32% higher than the national average, it’s still a much more affordable option than living in neighboring major Northeast cities like Boston and Cambridge. Additionally, Salem has plenty of economic advantages to help cushion higher costs, including an income per capita 33% higher than the national average and a low unemployment rate of 3.1%. Along with an accessible job market—with top employers like North Shore Medical Center, the City of Salem, and Salem State University—people moving to Salem can find budget-friendly living.
Con: Bad Traffic
If you are thinking of living in Salem, one of the major drawbacks to consider is longer commuting times. On weekends and during tourist season, there is a heavy influx of tourist traffic, which can impact residents’ daily errands. Because Downtown Salem has limited parking and is not very car-friendly, locals recommend utilizing Salem public transportation and its bicycle-friendly roads, which are nationally recognized thanks to the Salem Bicycling and Shared Path Advisory Committee and residents’ ongoing care.
Con: Fewer Education Opportunities
If you’re thinking of moving your family to Salem, one of the biggest things to consider is access to education. While there are currently about 4,000 students enrolled in the Salem Public Schools district, many of the schools perform below the Massachusetts average due to their student-teacher ratios. While true for some institutions, residents can send their kids to highly-rated public schools such as Saltonstall School and Salem High School, or private schools like The Phoenix School. And though local higher education is more concentrated in other parts of New England, this Massachusetts city is home to Salem State University. Plus, it’s one of the top public universities in the north, offering undergraduate programs in nursing, business, psychology, and computer science.
Con: Intense Seasonal Weather
Before moving, you might want to decide if Salem’s weather is suitable to your lifestyle. Located along the Northeast coast of the U.S., you can expect hot summers with temperatures reaching above 80 degrees. Along with added humidity, Salem’s proximity to Massachusetts Bay gives it a higher likelihood of experiencing tropical storms and hurricanes than other cities more inland. Fortunately, the city has resources available to prepare for any storms. Winters in Salem are cold, with temperatures often dipping below 20 degrees and an annual average snowfall reaching 42 inches. However, Massachusetts winter festivals like Salem Frozen Fire Festival, Christmas in Salem, and Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival help keep the snowy season fun.
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