If one were to say “Salem” and “holiday” in a game of word association, respondents would most likely reply, “Halloween.” Rightly so! The cool, foliage-adorned lanes of the Witch City are crammed with tourists and locals dressed as ghosts, goblins, and ghouls throughout October. When November arrives, though, the haunted houses shutter for eleven months, the vendors depart for warmer climes, and local soothsayers and restaurants return to business as usual. But not the Hawthorne Hotel.
This elegant, historic guesthouse, which stands adjacent to Salem Commons and a stone’s throw from the statue of its namesake, does not hibernate after October 31. There is much to do in this gorgeous early-20th-century caravansary as the holiday season and new year approach.
The overall ambiance of the Hawthorne is snug and inviting. When patrons walk through the double glass doors under the light green awnings, they are immediately swept into a foyer that is stately and polished without being ostentatious. It is the home many a patron dreams of inheriting from that unknown rich uncle. It is no surprise that this early 20th-century hotel has earned this year’s prestigious Historic Hotels of America Award of Excellence as well as the 2015 U.S. Best City Center Historic Hotel accolade. Saint Nicholas officially arrives at the Hawthorne in early December, usually on the first Thursday. This tradition is as old as the hotel, which was built in 1925. With the help of the Salem Fire Department, Santa appears on the top of the hotel echoing his “Ho! Ho! Ho!” to the crowd of jubilant spectators below.
On the liturgical calendar, November 29, 2015, is the first Sunday of Advent—the four weeks prior to Christmas. The Hawthorne kicks off the yuletide one day earlier in the spirit of charitable giving. The hotel’s second annual Santa Paws encourages people to bring their furry friends to be photographed with Santa on November 28 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The five-dollar donation will benefit Salem’s Northeast Animal Shelter, a no-kill nonprofit haven that works “to unite thousands of rescued animals with the perfect adoptive families.”
Mr. Kringle will return on December 13 and 20 for the Sunday Brunch with Santa. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the jolly ol’ man with the long snow-white beard will be available to hear the Christmas wishes of good boys and girls. A brunch will be served in Nathaniel’s, one of the hotel’s restaurants, along with Sophia’s, an additional dining space behind Nat’s, named after Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife Sophia Peabody. Reservations are required, as this event sells out quickly.
The Hawthorne Hotel is also the place to be on Christmas Eve. Local acoustic favorite Julie Dougherty will be in the majestic Grand Ballroom from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a round of Christmas caroling. Although admission is free, donations, which will support a local charity to be named, will be accepted. From 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., a delicious Christmas Eve dinner will be served, again in Nat’s and Sophia’s.
And the next day, after the gifts and stockings have been opened, bring the family to the Hawthorne for the Grand Christmas Day Buffet. This mammoth spread is the culmination of the holiday season. Every corner of the first floor of the hotel will be brimming with delicious dishes, as the buffet fills the lobby, Nathaniel’s, Sophia’s, the Tavern on the Green, and the Ballroom from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
But the festivities do not end with Christmas. Six days later, the Hawthorne will treat you to another fine meal before you officially ring in the new year. A live pianist will accompany an a la carte dinner in Nat’s and Sophia’s from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Reservations are required.) The next morning, the hotel will host a triothat will set the tone for the New Year’s Day Jazz Brunch from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
But even if you do not attend any of the above mentioned festivities, the Hawthorne Hotel is the perfect local haunt to spend the night while enjoying a Salem winter. Accommodations range from the affordable 100-square-foot Alphonsa Room to their luxurious deluxe suite, The Emmerton.
Whether you are an overnight guest or not, it is hard to not get into the spirit of the season after taking a brisk trek through Pickering Wharf and down Derby Street before ending the evening with a cup of cheer at the Tavern on the Green. This aesthetic pub offers seasonal beers, and a modest selection of wines, and if Allison is working, be prepared to have the best martini in town! Filled with the sights, sounds, and scents of the season, the Hawthorne offers something for everyone.