20 Things to do in Salem, Massachusetts

Updated: Feb 28

If traveling in October, make sure to check out any Halloween events via the Haunted Happenings website!


1. Witch House

The home of judge Jonathan Corwin, the Witch House is the only structure left standing in Salem with direct ties to the trials. Touring this house gives visitors the perspective of what life looked like in the 17th and early 18th centuries.


2. Salem Witch Museum

Maybe the most well known attraction in Salem, this museum shows recounting of the events of the trials using audio, lighting, and wax figures. Moving onto the second exhibit, you are given a tour of the history of witchcraft in Europe, the origins of it in film, and insight into the practices of modern day witches.


3. Proctor's Ledge

Outside of the center of town, you will find a peaceful memorial at Proctor’s Ledge, the site of the hangings. Many visitors leave coins or momentos. This sight is best to visit after you have explored town and learned about the witches so that you recognize the names. This memorial isn’t very busy making it the perfect spot to pay your respects.


4. Burying Point and Salem Memorial

This cemetery does not have any of the bodies of Salem witches in it, as they were not allowed burying rights, but it does have those of many of the judges or others who were alive at the time of the trials. Right next to the crumbling headstones is the Salem Witch memorial. Designed using inspiration from the Vietnam memorial, this beautiful granite work displays the name of each victim, their date of death, and means of execution. It is somber but a must see.


5. Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum will be of interest to anyone that visits Salem. With exhibits on the 1692 trials and beautiful immersive lighting art, ongoing Asian and maritime art, and art that reflects Salem through the ages, this museum has something for everybody. Be sure to visit the amazing Yin Yu Tang House, a late 18th-century home from the Anhui region of China that was transported to Salem (separate reserved entry time required).


6. House of the Seven Gables

This house was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel of the same name. Guided tours are offered of this 17th century home, gardens, and grounds, allowing you access to a colonial revival garden and the exterior of other historical buildings that have been relocated to the property.


7. Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Discover the past at the United States first ever named National Historic Site where nine acres of land and twelve historic structures preserve over 600 years worth of the area's maritime history. Tour the Friendship of Salem, a replica of the 1796-1797 ship, the Custom House and more. Self guided digital tours are available on the National Park Service website.


8. Ropes Mansion and Garden

The home that Alison from Hocus Pocus lives in is not only an icon film landmark but a historical one as well. Tour this Georgian Colonial mansion built for a merchant in 1727 or take your required photo opt out front. Then head back to the beautiful colonial revival gardens which are free and open to the public.


9. Witches Brew Cafe

Come here for the name alone, but stay for the warm, liquored coffee cocktails. Witches Brew Cafe is a pub style restaurant that has a cozy interior and provides outdoor, covid safe seating. Located near the House of the Seven Gables and the waterfront, it is easily accessible. Be prepared, anywhere you go to eat in October will have a small wait.


10. Winter Island Park

Although October is a little cold to take advantage of Winter Island Park’s camping opportunities, it is still worth a visit. Visit the eerie ruins of a 17th century coastal defense fort, Fort Pickering (1663-1976), and also the site of Execution Hill where over the course of about fifty years four public hangings took place, the last of which occurred in 1821.


11. Enjoy the Waterfront

One of Salem's best features is it’s natural northeastern coastal beauty. Take in the sunset downtown with a view of Derby Wharf Light Station or pack a picnic to Salem Willows Park. While in Salem, you must partake in the enjoyment of the local seafood at restaurants across the town.


12. Ride the Trolley

Not only does the trolley provide useful public transportation with fourteen stops between the town's most memorable locations, it does so in style. Since 1982, The Salem Trolley has provided hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tours to the community at an affordable rate. Additionally, they provide a Tales and Tombstones night tour to show you Salem’s spookier side.


13. Spooky Shops

Shopping in Salem can provide you with local artisan goods, spooky decor for Halloween, or your real life witch talismans and botanicals. Walk down Derby Street, Front Street, or Essex Street to hit up many of the best store fronts. Some of my favorites are Hauswitch, Vampfangs, The Coven’s Cottage, and Oak + Moss.


14. View Historic Homes

Salem has beautiful colonial architecture around every turn with many homes adorning plaques with the year that they were built. The Pickering House, located on Broad Street, was built in 1660 and is the oldest home not only in Salem but in the United States. After checking this out, walk down the nearby Chestnut Street - you won’t regret it!


15. Enjoy Downtown

In the month of October, downtown Salem is treated to art and light exhibits, creating perfect photo opportunities. At any time of year, exploring downtown allows you to shop local New England goods, admire beautiful colonial architecture, and even gaze upon the iconic Bewitched statue.


16. Take a Ghost Tour

There is more supernatural history to Salem than just the witches alone. Ghosts from all eras are known to linger in this town. Experience these tragic, mysterious, or downright scary stories with an evening guided walking tour that gives new perspective on the buildings you might not have even glanced at during the day.


17. Jaho Coffee

Jaho Coffee offers both the classic staples as well as unique and inventive options of coffee and tea. In addition, they offer smoothies, pastries, and small sandwiches. Enjoy their indoor or outdoor seating or take it to go and walk to the Derby Lighthouse. This is the perfect spot to refuel during your day to keep your energy up.


18. Fall Foliage

If visiting in October, which I highly recommend, nothing compares to the fall foliage of New England and people flock from all over the world to experience the vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. All throughout Salem you will be treated to the sound of crunching leaves under foot.


19. Pioneer Village

The first living history museum in America (circa 1930) and built to represent Salem, MA in 1630, Pioneer Village shows a range of dugouts, wigwams, thatched roof cottages, and even a governor’s house. On weekends throughout the summer and into fall, they offer guided tours.


20. Finz Seafood

Being on the coast of the North East means that you are legally required to consume seafood. Better yet, do it right on the harbor at Finz Seafood! Local seafood purchased daily and a fresh raw bar solidify that this will be one of the best meals of your trip.


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