On November 23, Macy’s will hold its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. You probably know it as the loud, bright, slick event broadcast on TV before dinner is served and football starts. But the parade’s history is a pretty interesting walk through American history. An annual tradition since 1924, each year it gets a little splashier. The 2017 line-up will feature 25 giant character balloons, numerous floats, and more than 1,000 cheerleaders, dancers, and clowns and tons of people cheering in the streets. So hold on to your balloon strings, here at 16 weird, highly amusing, and fun facts about this only-in-America spectacle.
Four new balloons will debut this year.
New characters being added to the lineup include Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” a new version of the Grinch (he’ll be a “ballonicle,” or balloon that’s attached to and moved by a vehicle), and characters from “Super Wings” and “Paw Patrol.”
Balloons are inflated the night before the parade.
During the afternoon and evening before the parade, the balloons are inflated near the American Museum of Natural History just off Central Park West. The chore has become a spectator event, with people lining the streets and restaurants to watch the entertainment.
No seats or tickets are sold.
There are no designated seating areas for the parade, and no tickets are sold for it, making this a free event. (The bleachers you see on TV are for Macy’s employees.) To get a good viewing spot from the sidewalks, many spectators arrive by 6:30 a.m.
Some floats require as many as 90 handlers.
Hello Kitty looks sweet as candy, but she’s as tall as a 3-story building. It takes 90 handlers pulling her ropes to walk her through the parade.
In the early 2000s, Macy’s added a contemporary twist to the parade.
The retailer worked with artist Jeff Koons to feature funky balloons by contemporary artists such as himself, Takashi Murakami, and Keith Haring; the floats are now known as the Blue Sky Gallery.
Marching bands face stiff competition to get in.
Approximately 300 bands apply to appear in the parade each year, but just 12 are selected, making it quite a point of pride to be chosen.
Goodyear used to make the balloons.
For nearly six decades, Macy’s partnered with rubber company Goodyear to design and make all of its balloons. But in 1984, Macy’s took the job in-house. The Superman balloon – one of the last made by Goodyear – was also one of the longest at 100 feet.
In 1971, there were no balloons.
A torrential downpour grounded all of the inflatables for the first time ever. NBC aired clips from the previous year spliced in with the live feed.
President Kennedy was shot and killed just four days before the parade.
Macy’s grappled with canceling the event in 1963, but apparently the Kennedy family called to insist that the show must go on.
A nationwide shortage of helium once caused the parade to be held up, literally.
In 1958, the U.S. government asked Macy’s to forgo using helium due to a severe shortage of the gas. (It’s also used by scientists.) Macy’s agreed, but planners didn’t let that stop the parade – they used cranes instead to hold up balloons, which were inflated with air.
The parade was canceled during World War II.
The helium shortage wasn’t the only time Uncle Sam came calling. In 1942, the parade came to a stop when World War II broke out and rubber from the balloons was donated to the war effort. It didn’t start up again until 1945, after War’s End.
Bounty hunters once vied for balloons after the parade.
For the first few years of the parade, Macy’s had no plan for deflating balloons; they were simply released at the end of the route. From 1929 to 1932, the company attached tags that offered $25 gift cards to anyone who returned them. The crowd went crazy: Bounty hunters shot them down; two aviators caught balloons them mid-air. But when a 60-foot tiger balloon landed on a house on Long Island, a vicious tug of war erupted before the animal was shredded into pieces. The next year, parade officials corralled balloons themselves.
The first parade was thought up by employees.
It was 1924 when a group of Macy’s workers first asked the retailer to put on a parade about giving thanks and in celebration of the forthcoming Christmas season. “Many in the group [were] first-generation immigrants wanting to show pride in the new place their families [called] home,” explains Macy’s website.
In 1928, some balloon handlers floated off the ground, too.
Helium was used for the first time in 1927 to keep balloons afloat. But getting the technicalities right was still a work in progress. As a result, the following year, some balloon handlers were lifted 10 feet off the ground, and stayed that way for the length of the parade.
Each balloon fits into a 12-by-8-foot box, and takes just 15 minutes to deflate.
Because the parade’s floats and balloons have to be stored at a warehouse (an old Tootsie Roll factory) in New Jersey, the balloons come apart in sections and then are folded up, placed in boxes, and shuttled across the Hudson River to wait for their next appearances.
Snoopy has appeared more times as a balloon than any other character in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Charlie Brown’s famous canine pal first appeared in the 1968 parade. Since then, seven balloons have been made in his likeness, and Snoopy has appeared 40 times in the famous parade.
For more than 50 years, the Delaware Antiques Show has brought fabulous functional and decorative arts objects to its curious attendees. Begun in 1963 as a fundraiser for a local hospital, the show has grown into one of the most acclaimed antiques gatherings in the country.
Today, it’s held at the Winterthur Museum, located in Wilmington and focused on early American decorative and applied arts, and proceeds benefit the institutions educational programs. From November 10–12, sixty distinguished dealers will offer some of the finest American antiques and decorative arts, including furniture, paintings, rugs, ceramics, silver, jewelry, and more. Though this show is relatively small, it is mighty – savvy collectors come here to seek out favored dealers and unique treasures they won’t find anywhere else.
If you’re not a diehard collector, don’t fret. The show is still fun to attend, and although the antiques dealers here are truly passionate, a big part of the show is focused on education. A wide variety of objects from public and private collections are on loan every year, creating a gallery-like exhibit space that has included everything from spice cabinets to weathervanes. This year’s exhibit, on loan from the Biggs Museum, features fine and decorative art objects of Mid-Atlantic regional significance from 1700 till the present day. Guest lectures are also part of the program, and the 2017 keynote will be delivered by award-winning architect Gil Schafer III, whose new book, A Place to Call Home, hit the shelves this fall.
If you’re new to collecting – or just curious about historical artifacts – seek out the “Find!” signs that dot various booths. These highlight objects of special interest; allow them to spark conversation with the dealers standing by. Most dealers love to talk shop about their wares and are excited to chat about collecting and their own passions.
Collecting should be fun, not intimidating. Many antiques shows openly welcome newbies, and the Delaware Antiques Show is no exception. Their down-to-earth guide, Tips for New Collectors, offers excellent advice for acclimating to the scene. The first pointer most experts propose? Collect what you enjoy. Whether that’s sailors’ Valentines or ball-and-claw chairs, look around, fall in love, and bring a new treasure home. A big added bonus? The State of Delaware has no sales tax, which should infuse your purchasing with all the more pleasure.
Luaus, big waves, and hula dancing may be the first things that come to mind when you think of Hawai’i, but our Pacific island-state is also very serious about its incredible coffee. For nearly 200 years, Hawai’i has been growing some of the world’s finest coffee beans. This month, from November 3–12, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival celebrates that heritage.
In the late 1820s, a missionary planted the first coffee trees in Kona, the sunny region that stretches down the west side of the island of Hawai’i (a.k.a. The Big Island) on the leeward side of the Hualalai Volcano. Sheltered from the area’s harshest wind and rain, Kona’s rich volcanic soil, semi-arid climate, and year-round warm temperatures make it perfect for coffee to thrive.
By the mid-1840s, the first coffee plantations had been established. Soon, Kona coffee would win international acclaim when it received an award of excellence at the 1873 World’s Fair in Venice. By the end of the century, 6,000 acres had been dedicated to growing coffee. By the time Hawai’i was annexed as a state in 1959, annual crops were worth $6.5 million. Today, about 650 farms cultivate coffee across 3,500 acres in the Kona district, producing 3.8 million pounds a year and valued at $14 million.
This month, the 10-day long Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, which began in 1970, celebrates the harvest. Farms offer guided tours, food tastings abound, and music and dancing and culture are everywhere. Each year, Miss Kona Coffee and Miss Aloha are crowned during academic scholarship pageants. The Kona Coffee Recipe Contest and Cupping Competition bring out the best and brightest in their fields. And, of course, everywhere you turn, there is plenty of that wonderful, bold, dark, and delicious Kona coffee – still known to be among the world’s finest.
If ever there was a magical-looking festival, Loi Krathong in Thailand is it. A celebration to celebrate the release of any grievances from the past, the holiday, sometimes also called the Festival of Lights, is an enchanting event. Held annually across the country (this year on November 3), the festival’s origins are somewhat obscure, but the primary origin story calls it an homage to the country’s many rivers and goddess of water, which run like veins through the land.
Today, the holiday marks a ritual of absolution, a time to say goodbye to any misfortunes of the past year, and hope for upcoming luck. Participants create small boats – float-like structures made from banana tree trunks, bread, or sometimes Styrofoam – then make a wish and set them free, with a lit candle and incense upon their back. Celebrants often place locks of hair, nail clippings, or even bits of old clothes on the “boats” as a symbol of sending off the past. If the boat floats off out of sight, it’s a sign of good things to come.
Made in the shape of lotus flowers, the krathong, or boats, represent symbols of Buddhism, Thailand’s primary religion. The candle represents knowledge and wisdom, the incense is purity, and the flowers stands for praying monks.
Regardless of religious affiliation, though, anyone is invited to participate, and visitors can join local revelers at various rivers and ponds and other waterways. Hotels also offer rituals, too, often right in the pools on their properties. In addition to Bangkok, the island of Sukhothai holds a massive celebration. In Chiang Mai, and across northern Thailand, Loi Krathong, which is held all over the country, coincides with the lantern festival called Yi Peng, where thousands of floating lanterns are released into the sky.
Each year, Loi Krathong is held on the night of the full moon during the twelfth lunar month (usually November by the Western calendar), at the end of the rainy season and the rice harvest. With its thousands of floating, flickering candles, dancers, and flowers everywhere, it’s a mesmerizing sight.
With all the quirky bacon products that have flooded the Internet, it’s pretty clear that bacon marketing jumped the shark some time ago. But bacon itself? Never. The smell, the flavor, the joy… Bacon is just one of life’s great pleasures. Which is exactly why the town of Easton, Pennsylvania hosts the PA Bacon Fest each year. One of the region’s most popular events, the weekend-long celebration attracts more than 150 vendors, 12 musical acts, multiple stages, and 80,000 attendees to this small city located just an hour from New York and Philadelphia.
PA Bacon Fest came to be as a natural extension of the Easton Farmers’ Market, which claims to be America’s oldest continuously operating open-air market, dating all the way back to 1752. Food vendors who source locally and incorporate organic, all-natural, artisan, and pasture-raised products are given top spots in the fest’s popular farm-to-table area.
The family-friendly, non-profit event (a $2 donation donation is suggested at the door) includes a pig roast, pig racing, hog calling, live music, kids’ events, and tons of food, and, as you might imagine, it smells amazing. Visitors come from across the country for chef battles, culinary demos, and hilarious costume contests. (Here’s a good one: A guy dressed as a strip of bacon wearing a “To hale with kale” sign.) As if this lineup couldn’t get any better, additional events include the Kegs Eggs & Bacon, Bacon & Brew, and Cheek to Cheek Pork & Bourbon Pairing tastings. Not for the faint (or clogged) of heart, a bacon eating contest will also be held. If you prefer to get your weekend off to a more healthy start, consider joining the Racin’ Bacon 5K road race. Whatever you do, though, come hungry; you won’t be getting out of this pork-a-palooza without needing to loosen your belt.
When my seven-year-old son asked me to take him to a haunted house attraction along the boardwalk in Santa Cruz while we were on vacation, I happily obliged. That was stupid. It wasn’t even *that* scary, but 1) I hate horror movies, haunted houses, and being freaky scared and 2) who even takes a seven-year old into a house of horrors? Bad decisions, Mommy. Bad. Decisions. Which further begs the question of why I would pitch this story, when researching it would mean I’d have to find the goriest, most heart-stopping, anxiety-inducing haunted houses that exist in this free country of ours? It’s not like the Internet doesn’t have pictures of these places posted on its pages, you know. And you can’t un-see that stuff. Anyway, if you’re the kind of person who likes that sort of thing, here you go. I guess I’ve obliged the horror-seeking once again. Whoops.
Dent Schoolhouse, Cincinatti
Charlie the janitor was not a nice guy. Legend has it he killed the children who taunted him. Now, his spirit haunts the Dent Schoolhouse, where his crazy, creepy. clown friends and other tortured teachers roam the hallways, too. This house of horrors is located in an actual school built in 1894, so the lunch room and gym are appropriately grim, but it’s the basement and boiler room – Charlie’s personal domain and gore factory – that will really get you screaming.
Haunted Hoochie, Pataskala, Ohio
The Haunted Hoochie at Dead Acres bills itself as a “full sensory assault,” so you can expect to be literally grabbed by the throat and fully terrified. Actors, not animatronics, do the shoving and chainsawing here. According to one review, “I got a little blood on me,” is a common comment during the tour.
The Mortuary, New Orleans
This self-guided haunted house takes visitors through a huge, historic, New Orleans mansion that was actually an operating mortuary for 80 years. Surrounded by real cemeteries, The Mortuary is a heart-stoppingly scary setting for the deranged mortician, vampires, witches, zombies, skeletons, and other ghoulish creatures waiting to accost you inside. Whatever irrational fears your head may harbor, this haunted mansion will bring to life. Oh, and there will be live snakes, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders. Also ghosts – the place is said to be crawling with paranormal activity.
Terror Behind the Walls, Philadelphia
This event is so freaky, it already earned its own article on this blog, but no respectable list of terror factories would be complete without it, so I’m mentioning it again. Terror Behind the Walls takes place in an actual abandoned prison that is, of course, said to be haunted. The hidden passages and cell blocks you’ll find yourself stuck in aren’t decorated to look decrepit and creepy, though – that’s the actual interior of the rundown, Eastern State Penitentiary. It’s a massive and intimidating. gothic complex. Better pull yourself together, though, if you’re going to survive the zombie riots, jailbreaks, infirmary experiments, and general carnage going on inside.
McKamey Manor, Nashville and Huntsville, Alabama
The mother of all haunted houses, Makamey Manor, is a truly terrifying, full-immersion experience. Twenty-one and older only, please, plus a 40-page waiver, proof of health insurance, a note from your doctor (not kidding), and a background check are all required before you step inside. Once you do, expect extreme physical contact, as well as lots and lots of blood. You may be dragged, dropped, shoved, gagged, or bonded. Side effects include immense anxiety and wanting to go home. The event used to be a five-hour tour you could do with friends, but owner Russ McKamey has upped the stakes. Depending on how well you do, we’re talking 10 hours or more of barely legal fun.
Stupid Scary Haunted House Locations
- Dent Schoolhouse -Cincinnati, OH
- Haunted Hoochie -Pataskala, OH
- The Mortuary -New Orleans, LA
- Terror Behind the Walls -Philadelphia, PA
- McKamey Manor -Nashville and Huntsville, AL
From Marrakech to Los Angeles, October is filled with annual events and long-awaited openings. Music, visual arts, history, politics, and even fashion are represented in this roundup of the month’s best festivals and exhibits across the globe. Whether you’re wanting or jet set or stay closer to home, here’s the serious cultural collateral that will get your brain – and your body – moving.
La Fiesta des Suds, Marseille, France (Oct 20-22)
If ever there was a cutting-edge international music festival, La Fiesta des Suds is it. The southern French city of Marseille hosts this four-day event at Docks des Suds, the famous music venue and nightclub located in a former warehouse. Diversity abounds among the super-hip lineup, which includes rap, reggae, funk, and soul, plus regional pop genres from Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Headliners include Syrian pop sensation Omar Souleyman, Afro-trap star MHD, and French hip hop duo Bigflo & Oli. Expect to party all night.
Halifax Pop Explosion (Oct 19-22)
Celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this year, the annual Halifax Pop Explosion brings more than 150 artists, comedians, and speakers to various venues across the Canadian city. With a focus on new and innovative music from all over the world, even music aficionados are wowed by the new sounds they discover here. The concurrent HPX Music Conference caters to industry professionals and others who want to connect with musicians and executives over trends and networking.
Amsterdam Dance Event (Oct 19–22)
The Amsterdam Dance Event describes itself as the “biggest club festival in the world,” with 375,000 attendees and 2,200 performing artists. With performances taking place across the city in 120 different venues, this is one massive party. But ADE has a serious side, too; it also runs a professional conference for DJs, producers, and other industry pros. Whichever track you’re on, related exhibitions, documentary films, master classes, and artist talks are held throughout the daytime programming – if you’re awake for it, that is.
Dalí / Duchamp, Royal Academy of Arts, London (through January 3, 2018)
Two heavyweights of the art world, Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp were also good friends. Although their work was remarkably different, the pair bonded over a shared sense of humor and skepticism, which led each to challenge conventional thinking. Dalí / Duchamp brings together roughly 80 works total, including well known painting and sculptures as well as lesser known photographs and correspondence between the two artists. The result is a refreshing take on the work on each.
Pacific Standard Time, various locations, Southern California (through Jan 18)
Exploring identity throughout place and time, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA brings an extraordinarily broad range of artworks to museums, galleries, and performing arts centers throughout Southern California. This five-month-long collective exhibit primarily focuses on modern and contemporary art; however, a handful of shows also explore the ancient world, including pre-Columbian works and objects, 20th-century Afro-Brazilian art, and more. Inspired by the area’s historical and current demographics, the show implicitly aims to “raise complex and provocative issues about present-day relations throughout the Americas and the rapidly changing social and cultural fabric of Southern California.”
Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris and Marrakech (ongoing)
This month, two new museums dedicated to the revolutionary French fashion designer will open to the public. On October 3, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris opened in the building where Laurent worked for more than 30 years. Rotating exhibitions will show the house’s extensive collection. In Marrakech, a 40,000-square-foot building to open later this month will also house exhibitions dedicated to the designer’s oeuvre, as well as an auditorium and research library. Laurent famously fell in love with the North African city in 1966, and immediately bought a house there. Many of his collections were inspired by the place.
Harvest season yields the sweetest crops – and the best festivals. We recently told you about our favorite spots for leaf peeping and eating throughout the Northeast; now, we’re spreading the love a little wider. Fall means pumpkins, and pumpkins mean fun, so here are our top picks for festivals that pay homage to these plump, happy gourds from coast to coast. From good eats to spooky treats, there’s a little something for everyone.
Circleville, Ohio Pumpkin Show (October 18–21)
Just 25 miles south of Columbus, Circleville, Ohio hosts a stunning fall festival that draws 400,000 visitors each year. Dozens of amusement rides, arts and crafts, and amazing fair food are all part of the draw. But the seven parades – focused on babies, pets, bands, and more – are all worth watching, too. Who will be crowned Miss Pumpkin and Little Miss Pumpkin this year? And how much will th elargest pumpkin weigh? You won’t know, unless you go.
Great Pumpkin Farm, Clarence, New York (through October 31)
The Great Pumpkin Farm‘s first claim to fame came in 1996, when its inaugural World Pumpkin Weigh-off landed it in the Guinness World Book of Records for the first 1,000-pound pumpkin. Since then this festival has continued to grow with rides and events. It’s the perfect place for some wholesome fun, fresh cider, and warm donuts. If that doesn’t sound good enough, head over to Oinktoberfest, a barbecue cook off and beer garden, or enter one of the farm’s wacky contests.
Pumpkintown U.S.A., East Hampton, Connecticut (through October 31)
Pumpkintown U.S.A. is cheerful village of pumpkin people with painted faces full of personality. Open for six weeks each fall, this totally non-scary spot is fun for families or curious visitors – who now come from all over the world to visit. Stroll through this old-fashioned country village, which includes a restaurant, saloon, jail, and church, then hit the Harvest Shop for handmade butters, spreads, candles, and more. Kids will also love the games, face painting, and bounce house.
Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm Pumpkin Fest, Lockport, Illinois (through October 31)
Good old-fashion fun is what you’ll find at Cottonwood Farm’s Pumpkin Fest. This fourth-generation family farm in Lockport, Illinois offers hayride tours of the farm where you can hop off and pick your own pumpkin right off the vine. Dozens of other attractions include zombie paintball, a 15-acre corn maze, a haunted barn, a massive trampoline field, and a visit with farm animals, plus tons of seasonal food.
Craven Farm, Snohomish, Washington (through October 31)
In 1983, Craven Farm created the first pumpkin patch in their region, with a vision of helping kids and families understand the importance of farming. Since then, their fall festival has developed into an agri-entertainment business that has kept the farm economy sustainable, even in uncertain times. Today, the 20-acre pumpkin patch, multiple corn mazes, mini-golf, and loads of other fun and games have delighted locals and tourists alike.
Jack-o-lantern Spectacular, Providence, Rhode Island (through November 5)
This incredible spectacle brings 5,000 carved pumpkins to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Artfully and intricately designed, collections of pumpkins are grouped into themes such as dinosaurs, the ice age, Egypt, Rome, and the history of technology. New this year: A soaring zip line that takes you 115 feet in the air to view the entire event.
Autumn at the Arboretum, Dallas, Texas (through Nov 22)
The Dallas Arboretum is a gardener’s dream, and this stunning fall show has become a nationally acclaimed event, with 4,500 chrysanthemums and 150,000 other fall-blooming plants. This year’s theme, “The Wonderful World of Oz” brings Dorothy and her friends to the arboretum’s Pumpkin Village, with fantastical houses and displays made from more than 90,000 pumpkins, squash, and gourds.
We love to eat at any time of year, but when apples and squash start falling off the branch and vine, we find ourselves especially hungry. Seafood, too, finds its peak in the fall; when coastal water temperatures begin to drop, oysters, clams, and other seafood is at its best. Truthfully, of course, we could probably find an excuse in any season to get together with a group of friends to explore the finer points of culinary trends. But great seafood, craft beer, international chefs, and fine wine seem like an exceptional reason to partake right now.
Apple Harvest Festival
Location: Biglerville, Pennsylvania
Date: October 14–15
Deep in the heart of Pennsylvania, not far from Gettysburg, The National Apple Harvest Festival celebrates one of America’s finest harvests. What better way to celebrate fall than with fresh-picked, crisp fruit straight from the tree? The event also includes an antique car exhibit, more than 300 arts and crafts vendors, hay rides, a petting zoo, and all the foods you can make from apples. This is country living at its best.
Location: Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Date: October 14–15
Here in New England, we take our oysters seriously, and assign them profiles based on “merroir.” (That’s like terroir, but based on where something’s grown in the sea.) Located toward the northern tip of Cape Cod, Wellfleet is well known for its delicious bivalves. The cold, salty waters off its shores yield oysters that are decidedly creamy, sweet, and briny – which has made them famous all over the world. For two days every fall, the town’s streets come alive when the Wellfleet OysterFest brings locals and visitors together to celebrate the region’s famous shellfish with food, art, music, and family fun.
Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival
Location: Newport, Rhode Island
Date: October 18–19
Even though summer’s crowds have dwindled, Newport, Rhode Island continues to stay lively, and the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival celebrates the best the season has to offer. The free event brings entertainment, family activities, and world-famous cuisine from top Rhode Island restaurants together beside the city’s wharves and surrounding yachts. Honoring the “harvest of the sea,” the festival offers seafood specialties – such as clam chowder, stuffed quahogs, clam cakes, fish tacos, and raw oysters – all hauled from Rhode Island’s local waters.
Harvest on the Harbor
Location: Portland, Maine
Date: October 16–22
Among foodies, Portland, Maine has become a true dining and drinking destination, and its Harvest on the Harbor event brings some of the city’s favorite chefs together for dining and tasting events with a focus on sustainable and locally-sourced food. The week-long event, now in its tenth year, also highlights Portland’s dozens of awesome, local breweries. Added bonus: Harvest on the Harbor benefits Full Plates, Full Potential, a non-profit organization that works toward ending childhood hunger in Maine.
Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Location: Disney World, Florida
Date: November 13
Even if you’re not a “Disney person,” you can still enjoy Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, which runs from the end of August through mid-November each year. Epcot offers more than 35 international food kiosks, plus its themed dining halls, all of which are staffed by people from the countries each restaurant represents, making the food (perhaps surprisingly) authentic. The Food and Wine Festival also brings tasting events, celebrity chefs, cheese and wine seminars, and culinary demonstrations to the park. Whether you go adults-only or take the kids, it’ll be a delicious experience.
Fall Food Festival Dates
- Apple Harvest Festival -Biglerville, PA; Oct. 14-15
- WellFleet Oysterfest -MA; Oct. 14-15
- Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival -Newport, RI; Oct. 18-19
- Harvest on the Harbor -Portland, ME; Oct. 16-22
- Epcot Food and Wine Festival -Orlando, FL; through Nov. 13
Among the oldest settlements in New England, Salem, Massachusetts was once the home of rich sea captains and Revolutionary privateers, and became a seafaring power after the Puritan era. Notable examples of our country’s earliest styles of architecture are on display here, as are cultural institutions such as the Peabody Essex Museum – with its world-class collection of art and artifacts. Salem is also the birthplace of both the National Guard and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
None of these things, however, are what people think of when they think of Salem.
The mere mention of this city north of Boston conjures witches, sorcery, and the supernatural. When the residents of Salem held the Witch Trials in 1692, they probably didn’t know they were forever sealing Salem’s fate. During the mass hysteria, 19 people (mostly women) were hanged and one was crushed to death for allegedly practicing witchcraft. So it’s somewhat ironic that, in the modern era, Salem has become a sort of mecca for Wiccan, warlock, and sorcerer types.
Wizard shops, psychics, wax museums, and other hokey tourist traps cater to visitors year round, but in October, Salem turns into full-blown Halloween Town, with a grand parade, street fair, ferris wheel, haunted houses, and so much more. All of which is to say that this historically odd place has undeniable charm – and for anyone who loves Halloween and American history, Salem in October is on their bucket list. Skip the frightfully obvious hocus-pocus, and dig in to the best the city has to offer. Ironic as it is, this historically odd place, as they say in the region, is a wicked good time.
The Witch House
Salem is unusual even among historic New England in that every major early American architectural style – Post-medieval, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate – is well represented here. Post-medieval buildings are the earliest type found in New England; the first English colonists would have built in this fashion. Massive central chimneys, gabled roofs with steep pitches, and diamond-paned leaded windows are all typical of the style. The Witch House – home to Judge Jonathan Corwin, who oversaw the infamous 1692 Witch Trials – is a stellar example. Tour the home to explore the quotidian details of 17th-century life, as well as the extraordinary events that made Salem famous.
“Cry Innocent: the People vs. Bridget Bishop”
“The year is 1692. Bridget Bishop has been accused of witchcraft and you are on the Puritan jury.” So begins this historical reenactment and interactive theater experience that invites the audience to play along in the testimonies, cross-examinations, and eventual judgements of Salem’s accused citizens. This “empathic imagination” experience encourages the audience to engage with history, so that they “might broaden their understanding of the present and gain a fresh sense of purpose within their own era.”
Peabody Essex Museum
The beginnings of this museum date back to 1799, when a group of Salem sea captains founded the East India Marine Society and filled their headquarters with “natural and artificial curiosities,” collected on their global trips. Today, the museum’s diverse collection of 1.8 million works still includes some of those very first objects, as well as paintings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, and more from the 1700s through the current era. A 2003 expansion made PEM one of the biggest museums on the east coast, with tons to offer art lovers of all stripes.
It’s Alive! from the Kirk Hammett Collection at PEM
Kirk Hammett, best known as the guitarist from Metallica, happens to be an avid collector of classic horror and sci-fi movie posters, which he credits as being part of his own creative inspiration. On display through November 26, It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection shows off dozens of posters, electric guitars, monster masks, and sculptures that recall the golden age of Hollywood and provide some interesting insight into the evolution of the genre.
As one might expect, not just warlocks but also wizards galore roam the streets here. Just steps from the Peabody Essex Museum is Wynott’s Wands, a delightful Harry Potter–inspired shop where any old Muggle can browse the stacks and stacks of boxes containing artfully hand-carved wooden wands.
House of the Seven Gables
Born in Salem on July 4, 1805, Nathaniel Hawthorne would write his world-famous novel The House of the Seven Gables – which explores themes of romance, guilt, atonement, and the supernatural – based on inspiration from his native town, and named for this very house. Built in 1668 on the edge of Salem Harbor for one of the richest families in the Thirteen Colonies, the house is now dedicated to Hawthorne’s life and work, and to local history.
Herb Mackey’s Metal Sculpture Yard
Just beyond the ferry landing, local resident Herb Mackey creates imaginative creatures from found objects. Mackey makes frequent additions to the collection, which lives in his yard, much to the delight of locals and visitors alike.
Salem is filled with Colonial-era burying grounds that feature beautiful headstones with fascinating engraved folk art and lettering. Howard Street Cemetery is said to be where Giles Corey – a victim of the Witch Trials – was gorily pressed to death under the weight of rocks slowly piled upon him after he refused to stand trial. The Broad Street and Charter Street cemeteries also have ties to the hysteria of 1692, with members of the court buried here. Behind the latter is the Witch Trials Memorial, a quiet space commemorating the innocence of those killed and acknowledging the injustice of the events.