Once known as South Danvers, this North Shore city changed its name in 1868 as a tribute to the banker and philanthropist George Peabody, who was born here in 1795.
George Peabody’s birthplace and childhood home has been preserved as a museum, with intriguing details about his early years and artifacts including personal letters.
The city has a dynamic downtown area at Peabody Square, which hosts the International Festival every September, attracting tens of thousands of people.
Peabody is right next door to Salem, a charming port city with culture, plentiful attractions and a dark episode in the 1690s when 20 innocent people were killed after being accused of witchcraft.
Peabody didn’t escape the literal witch hunt during the trials, and three local residents were among the final toll.
1. The George Peabody House Museum
The man known as the father of modern philanthropy was born at this residence on February 18, 1795.
George Peabody (1795-1865) made his fortune as the foremost American banker in London, and is remembered to this day for his many charitable initiatives, from the Peabody Trust housing association in England to Baltimore’s Peabody Institute conservatory and George Peabody Library.
Built in 1790, this Early Republic-style house was purchased by the City of Peabody in 1989, and has an assortment of artifacts relating to Peabody’s life, from letters to newspaper clippings and portraits.
This property is also home to the Peabody Leatherworkers Museum, preserving machines and tools from the city’s tanning industry.
2. Peabody Square
As a community, Peabody was born around the busy intersection of Central St, Lowell St, Main St and Foster St.
In the 1750s what is now called Peabody Square was the site of a church, the source of Peabody’s early name, the South Parish.
In the last few years, work has been done to make Peabody Square more welcoming for pedestrians, and the small plaza here has been reworked as a community hub, able to host live performances and events like the International Festival in September.
If you’re here to hang out, there’s a batch of local restaurants, bars and coffee shops to the east along Main St, while the candlepin alley Metro Bowl is a couple of blocks south on Foster St.
3. Peabody Historical Society
The local historical society was established in 1896 and has extensive collections chronicling more than three centuries of regional history.
The Peabody Historical Society owns eight different properties around the city, and is headquartered at the 1852 General Gideon Foster House (35 Washington St).
You can arrange tours at several properties, including Peabody’s oldest house, the Nathaniel Felton Senior House (1644), which has ties to the Salem witch trials.
Nathaniel Felton Sr. was the first signer on a petition in support of two accused, John and Elizabeth Proctor (more later). Across the road from here, the quaint Smith Barn is a frequent venue for the society’s lectures and workshops, and can be rented for private events.
4. International Festival
Every September, the city’s biggest annual event brings tens of thousands of people downtown to celebrate Peabody’s diversity.
The International Festival has been Peabody’s signature event for close to 40 years, with a slew of civic organizations, live performers, artisans, crafters, nonprofits, local businesses and cultural groups taking part.
On three different stages, there’s a schedule of live music and dance performances for grownups to enjoy, along with a program made especially for kids, featuring character shows, egg tossing and a hula hoop contest.
Food is also at the core of the International Festival, with a mouthwatering selection spanning Greek, Brazilian, Portuguese and much more.
5. Brooksby Farm
In an historic location close to some of Peabody’s oldest houses there’s a working fruit and vegetable farm that welcomes the public spring through fall.
Brooksby Farm grows everything from apples to zucchini, and you can come to pick your own fruit and cut your own flowers in season.
This is all a great time for kids, as the farm has a play yard and barnyard animals, as well as hayrides and a fairytale trail in fall.
Homegrown fruits, flowers and vegetables are not all that is for sale here. The farm store teams up with local businesses, selling jams, sauces, dairy, beverages and a ton of baked goods, including Brooksby Farm’s own apple cider donuts in fall.
6. Independence Greenway
It is possible to bike or walk across much of Peabody, and get to the Northshore Mall, with the help of this 5.3-mile rail trail.
Continuing to grow, the Independence Greenway is on the corridor for the former Salem and Lowell Railroad, which opened in 1850 and was taken over by the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1887.
The first phase was completed in 2008, and runs from the western trailhead at Russell St by the Ipswich River to the Northshore Mall.
When we made this list the Independence Greenway was in the process of being extended from the Northshore Mall east to Peabody Square.
In the western section, much of the path passes through nature, with riparian woods, ponds and public spaces like Lt. Ross Park where you can take a break.
Peabody shares a boundary with city that was one of the major international ports in colonial times.
For many people the name Salem is synonymous with the witch trials that claimed 20 innocent lives in the space of just three months in 1692.
Some of that history bleeds over into Peabody, as you’ll discover at the Peabody Historical Society.
Modern Salem is a tourist destination where you can delve into the grisly events of the 1690s at museums, magnificent historic houses, locations significant to the trials and the touching memorial with benches bearing the name and details of each victim.
Beyond that, Salem features the world-class Peabody Essex Museum, treasured for its amazing collection of Asian Art. Equally essential is the House of the Seven Gables, the 1668 colonial mansion that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Gothic novel of the same name.
8. Tillie’s Farm Stand
For more than 80 years Tillie’s Farm has produced local, healthy and seasonal produce through sustainable farming practices.
This business is named for one Marian “Tillie” Newhall, who had the idea of turning a wholesale business into more of a community-oriented operation.
The farm opens around the start of April each year, with perennials, annuals, potted plants and hanging baskets.
Come mid-June the fruit and vegetable season is underway, with a cornucopia of produce for the next few months, from berry fruits to tomatoes and corn by the 4th of July.
Fall means chrysanthemums, squashes and of course pumpkins and Halloween decorations in time for spooky season.
9. Leather City Common Park
A green oasis downtown, Leather City Common is a neatly landscaped park with a tree-lined path, benches and a bandstand.
This space was dedicated in 1993, and at the entrance on Lowell St there’s a small monument paying tribute to Peabody’s industrial past.
In the summer months the park is the setting for a variety of community events, in particular the Summer Concert Series event Sunday night, from early July to the end of August.
These concerts are organized to appeal to a big audience, with genres hopping from classic rock to soul and country music.
10. Metro Bowl
First played in Worcester, MA, around 1880, candlepin bowling is a variation on the pastime, distinct to New England and The Maritimes in Canada.
This style involves a small ball that can fit in a hand, and ten tall and narrow pins that resemble candles, which is obviously where the name comes from.
The game is still going strong in the Boston area thanks to places like Metro Bowl, which has 38 lanes, along with an arcade center, pool tables, a tavern restaurant and ample facilities for birthday parties and events.
11. Northshore Mall
At a time when many malls are struggling, the Simon-owned Northshore Mall is in great shape, with high occupancy and more than 160 stores and services.
A few of the many national and international retailers here are Barnes & Noble, Gap, H&M, Sephora, Macy’s, Foot Locker, J. Crew, JCPenney, The North Face, American Eagle JD Sports, and Forever 21.
Like the rest of the mall, the newly renovated food court is both large and full of options, with mall regulars like Chick-fil-A and Master Wok, and a branch of The Cheesecake Factory close by.
12. Meadow Golf Course
In Peabody you can play a round at one of the top public golf courses on the North Shore. A real test for most players, Meadow Golf Course opened in 2001 and is laid out on hilly, wooded terrain with sharp elevation changes that need to be factored into your shot and club choice.
The track is 6,708 from the tips and to make up for some of those blind tee shots, the greens are large so you can keep your score low with an accurate short game.
The carts here are equipped with GPS, and you take in some awesome views from the tee boxes.
13. John Proctor House
One site in Peabody that can be included in a witch trials tour is this First Period colonial house at 348 Lowell St.
For several generations up to the mid-19th century this property belonged to the Proctor family.
John Proctor (1632-1692) was one of the men falsely accused and convicted of witchcraft at the Salem Witch Trials, after he vocally expressed his disbelief of accusers, who had initially pointed the finger at his wife Elizabeth.
Her execution was postponed because she was pregnant, and she was later freed, but John was hanged on 19 August 1692.
A private residence, the John Proctor House, is actually believed to postdate John Proctor’s lifespan, and was home to his son Thorndike Proctor (1672-1758).
14. Danvers Rail Trail
In 2014 this rail trail was extended south to Peabody, and can be accessed under the I-95, along Lowell St in West Peabody.
From here the Danvers Rail Trail continues north unbroken for more than four miles through Danvers, Wenham and Topsfield. Most of the trail is paved with compacted stone dust, a surface ideal for hiking, jogging and biking.
You’ll be traveling on what was once a piece of the Boston and Maine Railroad, which operated from 1836 to 1987.
Interpretive boards will fill you in on this history at the site of former stations, while there’s a parking lot for the trail by Danvers Indoor Sports, a few hundred feet from the southern trailhead.
15. McVann-O’Keefe Skating Rink
This municipally owned indoor rink in Peabody was built in 1974 and serves the community with a packed schedule of affordable public skate sessions, freestyle sessions and adult and youth hockey.
You can also book skating lessons, which are available for all ages and skill levels. Hockey players can take part in casual pickup games and stick time, while there are leagues and tournaments for something more serious.
The rink can be rented for parties or fun on the ice with friends, with special discounts available after 10pm.