About Salem, MA
Salem MA (01970) is an 18.1 square mile city on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Its biggest claim to fame is the infamous history of the 1692 Salem witch trials, which have long shaped the city’s historical and cultural identity — Salem even has the nickname, “Witch City.” These days, Salem has a vibrant downtown and waterfront area complete with Federal Parks, Revolutionary and Civil War forts, 2nd floor balcony bars, casual and upscale dining, and including a massive gathering of tourists for Halloween during the entire month of October known as Haunted Happenings.
Washington Street is perhaps the busiest street in town. It has several bars and restaurants, and it connects to Essex Street, a cobblestone walkway lined with local shops. The Commuter Rail runs underground here, so you can feel the train rumble as you’re dining.
Farther down Essex Street, Ziggy and Son’s Donuts has been a local favorite for decades, not to mention a counterpoint to the regional giant for everyone’s favorite breakfast pastry, Dunkin Donuts. If you’re interested in “pork-centric street food,” there’s no better choice than Back Alley Bacon (follow them on Facebook to get your fill of fun pork puns).
Salem has plenty of historical sites, including the Old Town Hall, The House of Seven Gables, and Charter Street Cemetery, which was founded in 1637. If you’re looking for culture, there’s a regular meetup of Salem writers at the Salem Athenaeum each week as well as special events, and you can relax in the public garden nearby. The Peabody Essex Museum is also a local favorite for its regular exhibits and inspiring events.
Salem is dominated by its downtown area, but there are plenty of homes there. However, the housing market is very competitive because of the popularity of the area.
In the 2016 Presidential election Salem voted voted Blue nearly 3 to 1 over Red
The residential Tax Rate in Salem is on the low/medium side at $14.45 per thousand with an average home tax bill of $5,928 (annual tax on homes range from $4K to $15K in eastern Massachusetts).
Salem has its own MBTA Commuter Rail stop on Bridge Street. The stop is on both the Newburyport and Rockport lines and is wheelchair accessible.
If you commute to Boston via car, there are essentially two routes you can take. The first route takes you up to MA-128 South, where you’ll transfer onto I-95 South and then I-93 South into Boston. The second route takes you to US-1 South to Boston. You can get to US-1 South either via MA-128 or by driving through Lynn.
In the best conditions, each of these routes will take you about 45 minutes to an hour. But during rush hour, you can expect commutes of up to one hour and 30 minutes or more.
While it is possible to cycle into Boston from Salem, it will be a long ride (usually about 2 hours). You’ll also need to cross
Both Uber and Lyft have substantial coverage of the Salem area. Drivers are particularly active on the weekends due to Salem’s excellent nightlife, but you can find them driving any day during the week as well.
There are multiple Zipcar lots around downtown Salem. There is also one near the Salem State University campus.
Salem invested $72.9 million in teachers and schools through its annual budget in 2018.
Salem is home to 6 elementary schools (Bates, Bentley Academy, Carlton Innovation, Horace Mann Laboratory, Saltonstall, and Witchcraft Heights), one middle school (Collins), and 3 high schools (Salem High, Salem Prep High, and New Liberty Innovation). Salem also has an early learning school: Salem Early Childhood Center.
Salem is also home to Salem State University (SSU), a public liberal arts university that was established in 1854. The school is well-known for its Business and Healthcare programs, particularly its Nursing program.
The MCAS Tests from the most recent year shows that Salem’s performance matches the state average for the Proficient category, but Salem is below the state average for the Advanced and Proficient or Higher categories and above the state average for the Needs Improvement, Warning/Failing categories.
Please note “Advanced” and “Proficient” are both subsets of “Proficient or Higher”. The numbers are percentages of Salem students in each testing result category.
Salem is split almost evenly between rental properties and single-family homes. Many of the city’s old townhouses have been converted into apartments.
Nonetheless, there are still some beautiful historic homes located in and around the downtown area. Salem is also flanked by neighborhoods to the north and south that contain single-family homes.
As a smaller city, Salem can’t offer the same kind of nightlife you’d expect in a place like Boston, but it’s difficult to find a better place to wine and dine on the North Shore. Salem is a big tourist destination, so there are plenty of bars and restaurants looking to capitalize on the influx of tourists during the summer and fall. In the warmer months, it’s not uncommon to see throngs of folks traveling from bar to bar in town, and Salem hosts a summer fair that attracts plenty of people both night and day.
In addition to its bars and restaurants, Salem has multiple small clubs where you can see live music, as well as cafes where you can hear poetry readings (if you haven’t already noticed, there are a lot of writers in Salem). Many of the local eateries are independent businesses rather than chains or franchises, and there are several restaurants that feature international cuisines.
All the major cellular networks (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile) have excellent 4G LTE coverage, both in downtown Salem and beyond.
Salem has some city sports leagues, including clubs for baseball, soccer, and running. However, the most popular sports teams in the area are probably those of Salem State University Vikings, which compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III. The Vikings play baseball, basketball, ice hockey, lacrosse, tennis, and more. Salem State University does not have a football team, however.
Downtown Salem is an excellent place for walking. There are newly installed biking lanes on most of the major roads, not to mention renovated and technology-enabled crosswalks. On busy days, it’s common for the Salem Police to direct the flow of foot traffic over Washington street, keeping pedestrians safe. Salem even has a trolley service for tourists.
Nonetheless, walking becomes a more difficult prospect if you live away from the downtown area, such as in the southwest of Salem. You’ll likely need to drive if you want to visit a major supermarket as well. For this reason, walksore.com gives Salem a score of 67, for “Somewhat Walkable.”