When I visited Salem, Massachusetts, it was like being in a real haunted movie. Halloween in Salem is certainly a bucket list item. However, if you can’t make it out for the spooky holiday, it is still worth a visit any time of year.
Located in beautiful New England, Salem is home to tons of history. With museums, art galleries, mansions, tours, and more — there are so many things to do in Salem MA. Let’s dive into its witchy past, while learning more about what makes this Massachusetts town so great.
Coolest Places To Stay In Salem MA
- Best On The Water: The modern Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites is in the heart of it all. Located right on the historic Pickering Wharf and within walking distance of downtown Salem, the Salem Waterfront Hotel is the perfect base for your next getaway, and offers all the luxuries and exquisite service of a metropolitan hotel.
- Best Historical Lodging: The Salem Inn immerses you in the history and charm of Salem, one of New England’s oldest treasures, while providing the most modern amenities to keep you comfortable. The Inn features 40 guest rooms in three historic homes. Each room is named to reflect some aspect of Salem’s unique history: famous historical figures (the Derby Room), paranormal activity (the Haunted Room), and locations (the Southfields Room).
- Best For Foodies: The Hawthorne Hotel, in the heart of downtown Salem, offers two great onsite dining options. Nathaniel’s Restaurant at the hotel allows our guests to dine in historic fashion for breakfast and dinner. Their other restaurant, Tavern on the Green, offers a variety of New England pub-style food for guests.
The House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables was built in 1668, and would ultimately become a beloved National Historic Landmark. This place became famous thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables. What really makes this 1668 New England colonial mansion special, is the beautiful story it tells for three generations of the Turner family.
With beautiful views of the Salem Harbor, you can bring your family and step inside and have a first-hand experience of The House of the Seven Gables that inspired the romantic novel. The museum also has a great gift store for Salem souvenirs.
Bringing the kids to Salem, MA? This should be on your list!
Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum is one of the best art museums to visit in Salem, MA. For a small coastal town, the origins of this museum are fascinating, dating back to 1799 with a focus on India. World culture was brought here, as it was started by sailors who had reached Cape Horn. Here you can find art from Asia, America, Africa, India, and more.
With more than 840,000 pieces of art — and with everything from artifacts to scriptures — so much can be explored. The mission is to link the past to the present, which is why it is so fascinating to see in person. This museum is more than culture and art. It tells a story of marine life with American history, and how that’s connected to the world.
This Essex Street museum is open to the public Thursdays-Mondays from 10am – 5pm. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Salem MA!
If you have seen the movie Hocus Pocus, then you will instantly recognize Allison’s house! The Ropes Mansion is now operated by the Peabody Essex Museum, but the real story behind the Ropes Mansion remains unquestionably haunted and peculiar.
From mobbings to fires, guests claim they can hear Abigail’s agonizing screams from her burns. This is a must-stop for anyone who loves a little superstition and ghost stories.
Old Burying Point Cemetery
The Old Burying Point Cemetery is also known as the Charter Street Cemetery. While it is the oldest cemetery in Salem, it is also one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States. This is also the site where the leading Salem Witch Trials Judge John Hathorne was buried. It’s also home to Salem’s most notable residents, such as the Massachusetts Governor John Brooks.
Aside from visiting the tombstones of Salem’s most prominent people, they say if you stick around, you can catch the ghost of John Hathorne. It’s partly why it is deemed as one of the most haunted places in the country, and certainly Salem. Besides other tourists that come here, you’ll also find ghost hunters and ghost tours here.
Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Also located off Charter Street, you will find the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Actually placed on Oberty Street, here you can see the dedication to the 20 victims of the 1692 witch trials. The sight is powerful, with the name of each victim marked on a granite bench, means of execution, and execution date. These benches sit in front of three granite walls that stand four feet high.
Here you can, unfortunately, imagine the grievances of being at the Salem Witch Trials. The granite reads their statements and on purpose cut off, “God Knows I Am Innocent,” representing the shortening of their lives and the lack of concern or care for their innocence. This is a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience worth visiting in Salem.
Salem Harbor is a beautiful spot for tourists to visit. As a local, I never get sick of seeing the colonial homes and sailboats on the water. One of the best ways to experience Salem Harbor is to take the Salem Ferry. It brings you right up to the cobblestone streets of Salem in the heart of the city so you can explore the attractions here.
This ferry to and from Boston also offers unparalleled views of Boston Harbor and the Boston Skyline. Most people think that getting to Salem by ferry would be slow, but actually, with traffic, this 50-minute beautiful ocean ride is just as good as taking your car!
The Witch House, also known as The Judge Jonathan Corwin House, is now a historic museum that was once occupied from 1640-1718. Jonathan Corwin was a judge for the Salem Witch Trials, making this the only structure directly tied with the tragic events standing today.
Daily tours will take you through the home, and you’ll learn more about Corwin’s life, including the fact that he was one of the heirs to the largest Puritan fortunes in New England. Understanding the history of privilege, and how those came to be the judges of the Witch Trials, is very well understood when walking these spooky grounds.
Salem Art Gallery’s Satanic Temple
Salem is really not for the faint-hearted. While this stop sounds scary, it’s personally what I think of as one of the more entertaining spots on the list. The Satanic Temple is a part of the Salem Art Gallery, and is known for hosting a variety of events. Here you can see what is considered to be formal ceremonial events, or attend a lecture or screening.
Understanding the mission behind the Satanic Temple is worth knowing before you go. This is a religious community all over the country that actually seeks to encourage empathy and get rid of tyrannical punishment found in everyday life. The Salem organization just so happens to be a part of the Salem Art Gallery.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Our National Park Service has deemed the Salem Maritime National Historic Site to be America’s first! It was established on March 17th, 1938, with 12 historic structures planned on the Salem coastline within the nine acres of land. Coming here is like experiencing an encyclopedia, rather than reading one. There are more than 600 years worth of maritime history to be uncovered.
With exhibits, programs, tours, and more, this is a great place to keep your family busy when needing some educational activities. If you can’t see every spot because there is simply too much to do, they are also offering virtual tours online.
Custom House is a part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. This Custom House has been around since 1649, and was used to collect taxes on cargo originally from the British Government during the Colonial period. It also was the office of famed writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Now it’s a historical representation of the federal government in Salem during that time.
Here is where you can see the inspiration for The Scarlet Letter, as well as the tools and artifacts used during these times to onboard the cargo.
Breakheart Reservation offers fitness and outdoor lovers something that is just a skip and a hop from Salem! A visit here would make a great day trip.
Located in Saugus, Mass., you can enjoy hiking trails and walking paths around the two lakes and through some classic New England wooded areas. Other fun activities include bike riding, horseback riding, and paddling on the lakes.
History lovers rejoice because Lyceum Hall, the place where Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the first long-distance phone call, is here in Salem. In 1877, Bell called his assistant, Watson, who was located in Boston, in front of the public — changing the world forever. Lyceum halls would be built all over the country after this!
Note that many claim this hall is also haunted, as seen on many paranormal shows, and so it attracts a lot of ghost hunters. This may surprise you considering it is now owned by a fantastic New England seafood restaurant called Turner’s! 1000 percent worth the stop for a bite to eat.
Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum is another dedication to the famous Salem Witch Trials. This is undoubtedly the best place to go to understand things from the witch’s point of view. Family ancestors often hold lectures and talk about their ancestors. Pair this with all the incredible events retold throughout the museum, and you feel like you are practically living through it.
Something worth taking your time in is the museum store. They have cool souvenirs and educational gifts to learn more about the area and the time in wh-itch (pun-intended) these events occurred.
For those who love the sitcom Bewitched, the locals of Salem would agree that the show deserves recognition. That’s why there is a bronze statue tribute to the show, after filming so many seasons in town.
The Bewitched statue is located right in the center of town, so you can stop in a great bakery, like Cafe Patisserie, and grab breakfast and a coffee while marveling at the tribute.
Salem Witch Village
If you are looking for locals’ expertise, then there is no better way to explore the city of witchcraft than from a witch herself!
This guided tour of Salem Witch Village gives you the ins and outs behind the myths, legends, and truths that occur in not only today’s Salem, but also the path. This is one of the more exciting tours in Salem, and it’s an entertaining and educational way to learn more about the city.
Witch Dungeon Museum
Salem is considered to be the land of witches and pirates, and you can find yourself exploring more history at the Witch Dungeon Museum.
This dungeon offers live reenactments daily of Sarah Good’s trial with the original transcript. Afterward, you get to tour the dungeon! Keep in mind that some of their tours turn a little more spooky the closer you get to Halloween.
To lighten things up again, it’s time to bring you to the best shopping in Salem. Salem has a lot of boutique stores, and Pickering Wharf is home to many of them.
For great bites to eat, you should try Longboard’s Restaurant and Bar or Finz. For those who care more for shopping, Enchanted and Circle of Stitches are both great local stores representing the authentic spooky culture.
Self-Guided Tour of Salem
Salem attracts a lot of rowdy crowds, and trying to go to every museum can add up quickly, which is why sometimes a self-guided tour is best.
All you have to do is download the app, and all of a sudden you are hearing the ghost stories and witch history without having to pay for each museum. The best part? You can pause and start the pre-recorded narrator at any time, which allows you to go at your own pace.
This walking tour has 10 of the major stops from The Witch Museum, Old Point Burying Cemetery, and ending with the Witch Trial Memorial. You can expect this walking tour to be 40-50 minutes if you keep the pace.
Purchase Tour Here: Self-Guided Smartphone Ghost Walking Tour in Salem
Salem Walking Tour
The Salem Walking Tour is about 2.5 hours long and really covers everything you need to know. This tour has a few different landmarks, while still including some of the most famous ones, such as Witch House.
You can also explore Pickering House, Salem Old Town Hall, among others, while taking a deep dive into the history and lives of the people of Salem.
Fame Schooner Ride
The Fame of Salem offers guests a ride on a replica of the first American 1812 pirate ship.
The sailing tour offers guests something unique by allowing them to be as hands-on as they want. Whether you want to help raise the sails, or just relax and enjoy the ride, is completely up to you.
This is a three-in-one package, as you get to see the Salem Harbor, learn about the ship’s history, and learn how to sail too.
Winter Island Park
Visit Winter Island Park in Salem, MA, and explore the natural beauty and history of the area.
At Winter Island Park, you’ll find RV and tent camping sites, a public beach, and the Historic Fort Pickering Lighthouse. Situated on Salem Harbor’s waterfront and minutes from the historic downtown, this is an amazing place to visit.
Winter Island has served the north shore for centuries, today offering a public beach for swimming and sunbathing, fishing, camping, and boating. It includes a playground, a boat ramp, a pier, and more.
Salem in 1630: Pioneer Village is known as America’s first living history museum. Here you’ll find various examples of colonial architecture: dugouts, wigwams, thatched roof cottages, and the Governor’s Faire House.
Culinary and medicinal gardens and a blacksmith shop further interpret early 17th-century colonial life.
The Pioneer Village is a sister site to the Witch House, but tickets must be purchased separately.
Salem MA FAQ
Is Salem MA worth a trip?
Absolutely, Salem, Massachusetts, is worth a visit! You’ll find so much history here, in addition to museums, outdoor adventures, special events, and family-friendly activities. It’s a great city to visit year-round.
Is a day trip to Salem MA worth it?
You can definitely see a lot of the most popular Salem, MA, attractions in a day. A lot of the historical buildings and museums are located within minutes of each other, making Salem a great day trip. With that said, there’s also plenty to do if you can visit even longer.
Was the movie Hocus Pocus filmed in Salem?
Some of the most popular scenes from the first Hocus Pocus movie were actually filmed in Salem, MA. Sites you can visit from the movie include Ropes Mansion, Salem Common, Old Town Hall, and Pioneer Village.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO MASSACHUSETTS
- YOUR MASSACHUSETTS VACATION
- MARTHA’S VINEYARD: 36 Phenomenal Things To Do In Martha’s Vineyard
- NANTUCKET: 20 Fun Things To Do In Nantucket You Can’t Miss
Where To Stay In Salem MA
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