Simply billing Salem as “The Gateway to New Hampshire” does in some respects deny the town’s desirability as a destination in its own right. From the oddity of “America’s Stonehenge” to the thrills at one of the Granite State’s historic amusement parks, the Massachusetts-bordering Salem offers a variety of activities perfect for a summer weekend escape, without the hassle of a long drive.
There are a number of chain hotels in Salem, but the Park View Inn (109 South Broadway, 603-898-5632, www.parkviewinn.com, $69-$129) also offers an inexpensive option for spending the night in town, complete with complimentary continental breakfast. The
Salem Holiday Inn (1 Keewaydin Drive, 603-893-5511, www.holiday
inn.com, $135.89-$208.85) beckons families with indoor and outdoor pools and is a quick stroll from Hedgehog Park, a recreation area featuring a small playground and walking trails. A short drive away in Hampstead you will find the quaint Stillmeadow Bed and Breakfast (545 Main St., 603-329-8381, www.still-meadow.com, $135-$165), a classic 1850 Victorian home with three quaint bedrooms, the perfect setting for a quiet romantic escape.
Sammy J’s Breakfast Cafe (144 Main St., 603-894-5395, breakfast entrees $2.99-$7.39) is a local favorite for starting the day, serving up traditional fare with a twist such as banana pancakes and kielbasa omelets at rock-bottom prices. Get there early, as the tiny eatery has only a half-dozen tables. Outdoor picnic table-style seating is also available. Lunch at Jocelyn’s Mediterranean Restaurant and Martini Lounge (355 South Broadway, 603-870-0045, www.jocelynsres
taurant.com, sandwiches and entrees $7-$18) offers a variety of wraps, seafood dishes, and ethnically-inspired cuisine that pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s long list of specialty martinis and mixed drinks. The Colosseum Restaurant (264 North Broadway, 603-898-1190, www.thecolosseumrestaurant
.com, dinner entrees $11.95-$34.95) has taken top honors for four straight years in New Hampshire magazine’s annual “Best of New Hampshire” reader poll. Here classic Italian dishes await, including steaks, veal, and pasta.
DURING THE DAY
Enjoy more than 85 rides and other attractions at Canobie Lake Park (85 North Policy St., 603-893-3506, www
.canobie.com, $33 general admission, $24 guests under 48 inches), including the popular Untamed roller coaster, the largest to debut in New England over the past decade, and Castaway Island, a water park suitable for visitors of all ages. The mysteries at America’s Stonehenge (105 Haverhill Road, 603-893-8300, www.stonehengeusa.com, $11 adults, $7.50 children ages 6-12) linger to this day. This collection of caverns and stone structures, some of which may have been aligned to serve as an astronomical calendar, is billed as most likely the oldest man-made construction in the United States, though its exact origins remain unclear. On June 20, the attraction celebrates the solstice with a special sunrise to sunset opening. Open since 1906, Rockingham Park (Rockingham Park Boulevard, 603-898-2311, www.rockinghampark.com, $1 clubhouse admission, children ages 12 and under free) is the oldest horse racing venue in New England. Both live and simulcast races are featured seven days a week, in addition to special events — including a food truck festival June 30 (noon-4 p.m.) — throughout the year.
The Mall at Rockingham Park (99 Rockingham Park Blvd., 603-894-4411, www.simon.com/Mall/?id=347) is the largest mall in New Hampshire with almost 150 familiar stores and restaurants. For cocktails and other tavern activities, including karaoke, billiards, and darts, hit Sayde’s Bar and Grill (136 Cluff Crossing Road, 603-890-1032, www.facebook.com/pages/Saydes-Bar-Grill/222800704765), or for a more refined evening, swing by Margie’s Decorative Painting Studio (112 East Broadway, 603-898-2092, www.paintwithmar
gie.com) where you can participate in a class, or simply view some of the art created by owner Margie Sheehan and her students.