This beautiful waterfront neighborhood has offered residents a majestic opportunity to
escape city life and find amusement in their own backyard for more than 150 years.
The Salem Willows Park remains shaded today by centuries-old European white willows
from which the historic amusement park draws its name. The hilly peninsula that
composes the area juts into Salem Harbor, and has remained a municipal park since its
bequest to the City of Salem in 1858. At one time, patients recuperating at a nearby
smallpox hospital used the area, but it became a summer destination for residents across
the North Shore beginning in the twentieth century.
A Bavarian woodcarver by the name of Joseph Brown created the famous Flying-Horse
Carousel in 1866, however the horses were sold to Macy’s Department Store in New
York City in 1945 to be added to their famous Christmas displays.
Rumor has it that Bay Staters were the first Americans to try an ice-cream cone
introduced at the park by Everett Hobbs and William Eaton in 1906. The park would also
go on to introduce the nation to Spanish “double jointed” peanuts that live on today as
both a nostalgic snack and an integral component to Americana entertainment culture.
For years, the neighborhood has been filled with the smooth sounds of jazz, including
live performances from a young Duke Ellington played in 1923 as well as appearances by
Count Basie and Louis Armstrong who both performed at what is now the Willows
Casino. The park’s musical tradition continues as it hosts a series of popular summer jazz
concerts annually, including the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival. The park is also home to a
number of festivals and events each year, including this year’s launch of the Salem
Today, the Salem Willows still aligns itself with its ancestries. Whether on a trip with
your family, friends, or school, The Willows is perhaps best captured by its famous E.W.
Hobbs popcorn and ice cream stand as well as a popular arcade that remain, including
modern video games as well as vintage pinball machines, classic Skeeball, and kiddie
rides. The carousel still operates as well, offering some of its youngest riders their first
thrilling opportunity to delight in a dash on this classic merry-go-round.
The Willows is also the perfect place to roll out a blanket, pull out the picnic basket, and
enjoy an afternoon under the shade of the park’s enormous trees as you gaze out to Salem
Harbor and the neighboring communities. There are also two beaches that have become a
prevalent destination for the droves of tourists who flock to this part of Salem for a
chance to see its sweeping, waterfront views.