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Great Escape: Salem Willows Park

Step back in time for some old-fashioned fun

One weekend last summer, our neighbors introduced us to a new favorite family day trip: Salem Willows Park. Sure, Salem has a great history, and if you're into witches and wizardry, downtown Salem is packed with things to see and do. But Salem Willows has a completely different vibe.

Salem Willows has been a public park since 1858. The beautifully wooded peninsula juts out into Salem Harbor, offering a stretch of rocky beach perfect for exploring. My boys love to collect rocks and look for snails. This year, we may even try fishing from the park's public pier.

The multitude of 200-year old white willow trees provide ample shade for relaxing and/or catching up on your reading, or for a family picnic. If you arrive without your picnic basket, there are several restaurants right there at the park: Genghis Chinese food, Cappy's fried seafood & burgers, Peppy's Pizza, and E. W. Hobbs Ice Cream.

Then there are the arcade, carousel, and kiddie rides. No need to wait for the carnival to come to town! And on Tuesday evenings during the summer, you can enjoy concerts by the North Shore Concert Band at the outdoor bandstand. From 7-9, the 25-piece band under the direction of Dave Benjamin entertains with pop tunes, semi-classical music, marches and hit songs from Broadway shows.

Finally, if you're looking for a little more adventure, try renting a kayak from the Salem Kayak Company or enjoy a sightseeing cruise of the harbor, operated by Mahi Mahi Cruises. Either way, you'll see some of the prettiest coastline in the Northeast.

Salem Willows is located at 167 Fort Avenue in Salem, MA. Because Salem Willows is a public park, admission is free and there is ample free parking, though it probably fills up on nice weekends.

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