Living in Witch City
July 22, 2010 8:25 AM   Subscribe

[Salem, MA/Northshore filter] Now that we've found a deleaded apartment, we're moving to Salem. What do we need to know?


Where and what are the grocery stores?

What things will Baby Zizzle love? He is 19 months old currently.

Is there a toy store or book store with a kid's play area right in Salem? You know, bunch of toys, maybe some huge stuffed animals? In other words, where can we take a toddler on a rainy day to play?

What cheap breakfast places are open as early as 7:30 am on Saturday and Sunday? Anything like a Panera or a diner? Please tell me there is one! It's important there is one because this is our very set weekend morning routine!

How are the schools? It's entirely likely we'll be in Salem when Baby Zizzle starts school.

How is the big yarn store up there?

How do we survive October?

Anything else?
posted by zizzle to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Whole Foods in Vinnin Square, Swampscott. Also there's a Stop & Shop there. On 107 in Salem there's a Market Basket - the cheapest supermarket around, go here for most of your stuff.

Crunchy Granola Baby has a play area for kids. It's right downstairs. Also memail me (again), since my son's 18months.

Salem diner I think is open early on weekends. There's a Panera in Vinnin Square as well but I don't know the hours.

October's not so horrible, it's not awesome. Driving down Washington street makes me stabby on a normal day, it's so much stabbier in October, but you can literally count the days until it ends, so bonus.
posted by kpht at 8:30 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He's a little young now, but as he gets older, the Salem Willows will be fun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:40 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For breakfast there is supposedly a big rivalry between Red's and Maria's but for my money Deb's Diner is better, or I can walk to Dotty and Ray's or Leslie's Retreat.
posted by mkb at 8:50 AM on July 22, 2010

Plus, depending on which side of Salem you live on, it might be easier to get to the Panera at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers instead of driving across Salem. Not sure what neighborhood your apartment is in.
posted by mkb at 8:53 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, seconding Market Basket for groceries. It's cheaper and the food turns over faster, so it's fresher. There's also a BJ's on the way there for your bulk goods. we've had spoilage problems with the Stop and Shop in Vinnin.

Mud Puddle Toys just opened a few weeks back on Essex. It looks to be a pretty fun store. They recently redid the play area on Salem Common. There are also beaches (Willows, Winter Island). The Y has a slew of kids programs.

There are a ton of diners. Red's should be a cornerstone of your weekend morning. Also, there is Fountain Place, Taste of Thyme, and Brothers, but that's only if Red's is packed. Also, Coven just opened up and Gulu-Gulu has started serving breakfast at 8. And that's just in the central downtown area!

The schools are pretty good. In elementary school, you have a choice of schools to send your kid to, each with its own theme/focus.

The yarn store is, I'm told, very good. When knitting friends visit they disappear in there for awhile while the rest of us get drinks at the Lobster Shanty.

Depending on where your apartment is, during October it is probably best to avoid 114 like the plague. Get off 128 in Beverly and come down 1A/the bypass to get into town.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:59 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Reds is open super early for cheap breakfast and it is super tasty (the earlier you go the less tourists to deal with, bonus!).

Gulu Gulu just started doing breakfast and opens at 8:00, if that's not too late for you.

Coven does a great breakfast, too, but their website doesn't list hours. I know we've been in there fairly early on a weekend morning (8-ish).

For a pastry/coffee breakfast, Coffee Time is open very early and has seating (and wifi). Their donuts are amazing.

October is actually really fun, I think. Second the driving comment, but I didn't find October to be that much more aggravating than driving in the summer. Plus, in October there are fried food stands that line the Common. Mmmmmm... fried dough and hot apple cider...

We've heard good things about the schools, but don't have a first hand opinion yet because Baby Banjo/Robocop is due to pop out next month, and won't be hitting school for a while. I'll be curious to hear what other people think!

Oh, and Mega Yes to Market Basket- the quality of the food in the Salem one is actually better than the Stop & Shop in Swampscott and the Shaw's up by the hospital, and it is seriously so much cheaper, I grin every time I walk out of there. Don't be put off by the crowds- they move people through the lines very quickly.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:00 AM on July 22, 2010

D'oh, should have previewed, sorry for basically repeating all of Robocop's opinions!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:01 AM on July 22, 2010

Oh, and there's a Mall Tots in the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:07 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: For bakeries, you can't do better than A&J King. It's made in-house and amazing, opens at 7 AM. I like it far better than Coven; Coven's menu, though, is a little more across-the-board, with things like cereal and deli salads, so they do offer more variety. But you can't beat A&J King for a great cup of coffee (or juice) and some really fantastic pastries.

Farmer's Market is Thursday afternoon 4-7 and is small but very nice.

I work at a museum here, and toddlers your child's age love our program PEM Pals, most Wednesday mornings. It usually includes a story, a gallery experience, some art making, and often a super special feature like live animals, a musician, etc. The museum is free to Salem residents. There are lots of other family programs, many for when little ziz is a little older, but right now he might be able to enjoy the interactive Art & Nature Center, with plenty of hands-on stuff.

I've only seen one October here. It's really not bad except for the final nights on the 30th and 31st, and the action is concentrated in the downtown and pedestrian mall. I guess a lot of people just leave town for the weekend, but if you can't, you can probably just hang at the house and avoid most of the nuttiness.
posted by Miko at 9:14 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: And there's a free playspace in the North Shore Mall as well (saved my ass in the doldrums of winter), and on Rt 1 in Danvers there's a place called Little Bears with a huge amount of toys and play equipment AND A FREAKIN BOUNCY CASTLE. It's like $7 for unlimited play.
posted by kpht at 9:14 AM on July 22, 2010

Oops, I borked the PEM Pals link.
posted by Miko at 9:14 AM on July 22, 2010

Oh, and Coffee Time bakery for the sweet stuff, plus a great egg sandwich on homemade biscuit.
posted by Miko at 9:16 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: And for fuck's sake, NEVER GO TO THE MARKET BASKET ON ENDICOTT STREET IN DANVERS. Go to the Salem one by Target on 107. I have left my carriage there and walked out with tears streaming down my face. It is packed beyond reasonable every time I go, people will hit you with their carriage, cut you off, smash your fingers in haste, and it takes so long to get down the aisles, and then you realize that every cashier has 4 people in line with overflowing carriages. It is not worth going insane because it's convenient when you're already at the mall or something.

Sorry. I think I have PTSD from that place. The other one's newer, anyway, and the carriages actually function properly.

Oh but you know what's awesome in that same plaza? Savers, the Used Book Superstore, Children's Orchard (secondhand), and Ocean State Job Lot. It's like a tiny zone of AWESOME SAVINGS.
posted by kpht at 9:20 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

And by "in the same plaza" I meant the Endicott St, Danvers plaza near the Liberty Tree Mall. Hi, I've just had a full cup of coffee!
posted by kpht at 9:21 AM on July 22, 2010

Kpht- is the Market Basket by the Target on 107 dramatically less packed than the one on Endicott Street? I have seriously low tolerance for grocery store aggravation and have been getting by fine at the Endicott one, but if the other MB is even less of a pain in the ass then I will start going there! The parking lot for the one on 107 has always scared me off so I've never ventured in.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:26 AM on July 22, 2010

Banjo - during the days, it's much easier for me to get around in the 107 one for sure. But this was last year, I haven't been in awhile since Gloucester got its own Market Basket. It's not like it's empty, but it seems bigger and doesn't hit critical mass as easily.
posted by kpht at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2010

Wow I just realized that I said "downstairs" instead of "downtown" about Crunchy Granola Baby. It's downtown. The play spot is in the back of the store. Don't mind me, it's been a loong day...
posted by kpht at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2010

Living in Witch City

You should know that Salem Village (in what is now Danvers), rather than the current town of Salem, was where the witch trials took place.
posted by nicwolff at 6:23 PM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: That's nice, nicwolff, but the current city of Salem has nearly 100% of the witch tourist attractions, calls itself Witch City, a neighborhood and elementary school called "Witchcraft Heights", the Witches as the high school sports team, and has a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery downtown.
posted by mkb at 6:36 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, that's why if you're going to be a local you should know that it's all bullcrap :)
posted by nicwolff at 9:13 PM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Not so much, nicwolff. I walk by where Giles Corey was pressed to death every day. Hell, you can rent a luxury condo next to the site in Salem. The accusations and accused were in Salem Village (Danvers), but the trials themselves were in Salem Town.

This is not to say that Salem doesn't have a habit of co-opting the macabre. We have a Lizzy Borden "museum" (even though she whacked in Fall River) and a slew of vampire/movie monster tourist traps.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:52 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing all the other advice, esp. Market Basket for groceries.

Red's does a good breakfast, and the Salem Diner by the college is very tasty. Check out Bagel World on Canal St. for excellent bagels.

Seed Stitch on Front St. is the local yarn store. I find it a bit high-end, but they're pleasant.
Other LYSes are Abbot Yarn in Beverly, which has a better selection of basics. There's also A Yarn Over Marblehead, in Marblehead. Coveted Yarn in Gloucester is really worth the drive, as they have a great selection and amazing prices.

October is....October. I've lived here, through two, and worked through another two. You can either embrace it, or tolerate it. My advice: get to know the back roads through Peabody, Lynn and Swampscott for getting out of the city without touching Washington St. The only really horrendous times in October are the Grand Parade which is at the beginning of the month, and Halloween itself. Unless you're living right downtown or in Juniper Point you'll be able to avoid the tourist traffic and get in and out of the city with no problems.

Welcome to Salem!
posted by bryghtrose at 6:44 AM on July 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

This is all very helpful and wonderful! Best answers all around!

Once we're up there, we should have a Metafilter Baby/Kid meet-up in September/October!!!
posted by zizzle at 11:19 AM on July 23, 2010

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