17 miles NE of Boston, 4 miles NW of Marblehead
Settled in 1626, 4 years before Boston, Salem later enjoyed international renown as a center of merchant shipping, but today it's famous around the world because of a 7-month episode in 1692. The witchcraft trial hysteria led to 20 deaths, 3-plus centuries of notoriety, countless lessons on the evils of prejudice, and innumerable bad puns ("Stop by for a spell" is a favorite slogan).
Unable to live down the association, and never forgetting the victims, Salem embraces its reputation. The high school sports teams are the Witches, and the Salem Evening News logo is a silhouette of a sorceress. The city abounds with witch-associated attractions, plus nearly as many reminders of Salem's seagoing legacy. Most are historically accurate, but you'll also see a fair number of goofy souvenirs and opportunistic tourist traps. An excellent antidote to the latter is the Peabody Essex Museum. Salem is a family-friendly destination that's worth at least a half-day visit (perhaps after a stop in Marblehead) and can easily fill a day.