Are you looking for things to do in Salem, MA? Look no further! This guide shares the top sights for a day trip to Salem, MA whether you’re visiting in October or any time of the year. Plus, I’ll share recommendations on where to eat and which hotel in Salem, MA I stayed at.
What to Do in Salem, MA
Walk the Heritage Trail aka the Red Line
The Red Line is literally a red painted line on the sidewalk that takes you on a self-guided tour through Salem. An easy starting point is the National Park Service Salem Regional Visitor Center (2 New Liberty Street) which includes a free 27-minute film, Where Past is Present, that aims to provide an overview of Salem and Essex County history.
Explore the Peabody Essex Museum
This museum is the oldest continually operated museum in the country. Isn’t that amazing? It features collections of art and culture from around the world including Asian, Maritime and Native American art, as well as regular guest exhibits and programming.
Visit the Salem Witch Museum
You’ll learn all about the history of the Salem Witch Trials. The museum is entertaining, interesting and insightful. It gives you a quick but thorough history of the Salem Witch Trials, plus you’ll learn about other moments in our history that were similar.
Explore Howard Street Cemetery
Howard Street Cemetery is the burying place of Giles Corey. It’s also near the site of his execution. The significance of Corey’s execution in the Salem witch trials is that his accusation and death was so shocking it became the beginning of the end for the mass hysteria and accusations of the time. He was an elderly, devout male who didn’t fit the typical profile of accused witches. He was executed to death by crushing. As he died, instead of denying his guilt, he kept asking for “more weight” and supposedly cursed Salem and the men leading the execution. It is rumored that his spirit roams this cemetery.
Stop at the Witch House
The Jonathan Corwin House in Salem, known as The Witch House, was home to Judge Jonathan Corwin and is the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the witch trials. It has a stunning 17th century New England architecture and the inside of the home is set up to look just as it did when Corwin’s family was living there.
Get Spooked at the “Haunted” Hawthorne Hotel
The Hawthorne Hotel is just down the street from the Salem Witch Museum and you could easily pop in after your tour. The hotel has a great fine dining experience and an elegant bar so it’s honestly a nice place to rest for a bit during your travel. The rumors around its haunting is that the ghost of a woman is haunting the sixth floor and can be seen roaming the hallways and even rooms if you’re (un)lucky. There are also spectral hands in Room 325 that have been rumored to “touch” guests and a phantom child crying in the hallways. If you ask kindly, you might be able to walk along the 6th floor hallway. And if you really wanted to spook yourself, you could book a room for the night.
Eat Some Good Food! – Here’s Where to Eat in Salem, MA
Some of the places we enjoyed:
Kokeshi – Pan Asian restaurant with lots of noodle dishes. Very filling and a relaxing ambiance.
Flying Saucer Pizza Company – This was right by the Bewitched Statue and they offered some pizza by the slice including vegan options. They have a fun menu with lots of vegan-friendly picks.
Goodnight Fatty – Massive cookies! They also have some outdoor seating. Great spot to relax for a few and end your night with something sweet.
Sightsee Hocus Pocus Filming Locations
While Hocus Pocus was mostly filmed in Los Angeles, the exterior shots were filmed here in Salem. Some of the iconic filming locations include:
Opening scene set in 1600s Salem with Thackery Binx – Pioneer Village, 310 West Ave
Max and Allison’s School – Phillips Elem. School, 56 S. Washington Square (now apartment buildings in the old school)
Dani & Max’s House – 4 Ocean Ave. This is a private residence! The owners are said to have good attitudes towards tourists, but be mindful that this is someone’s home and keep a respectable distance from their property if you do stop by.
Allison’s House – The Ropes Mansion, 318 Essex St.
Explore Essex Street
Essex street will be bustling during the fall season, but anytime of year you can find quite a few shops to pick up souvenirs and other goodies as well as other restaurants and bars. A few to keep an eye on are Gulu-Gulu, The Roof, Wynott’s Wands, The Coven’s Cottage and more. You can also find the Bewitched Statue on Essex.
Tour the House of the Seven Gables
In 1668, John Turner built the house on Salem Harbor that is best known today as The House of the Seven Gables. It was the inspiration and setting for world-renowned author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel of the same name.
Enjoy Sweets from America’s Oldest Candy Company
Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie was founded in 1806 and is still making old-fashioned sweets to this day. You can visit their flagship Salem store and enjoy chocolates, fudge, salt water taffy and more. It’s a perfect place to pick up some one-of-a-kind gifts.
Looking for Things to Do in Salem, MA at Night?
Try an evening guided tour!
There are quite a few “haunted” walking tours, but the one with the best reviews has to be the Bewitched Historical Tour. They have tours starting at 7 pm with groups no larger than 45. The tours last 2 full hours which is longer than most. Be sure to wear comfy shoes and layer up if you’re visiting in the fall or winter.
Bar Hop! Enjoy the Unique Bars and Nightlife in Salem, MA
Far from the Tree Cider House – it’s a brewery solely focused on craft ciders. They have a large outdoor patio.
Notch Brewery – They focus on session beers which means they’re easy to drink. The perfect spot to enjoy a few.
The Roof – As the name hints, this is a rooftop bar. Enjoy the fresh air and views of Salem.
Bit Bar – We will always stop for an arcade bar.
How Much Time Will I Spend in Salem?
Salem, MA makes a perfect day trip. We arrived in Salem in the afternoon and were able to check off our list for sightseeing that evening. If you’re visiting in October or closer to Halloween, I imagine you won’t be able to see as much or you’ll need to spend an extra day for sightseeing because of crowds.
Where to Stay in Salem, MA
We didn’t stay in Salem during our trip. It made more sense financially and timing-wise to stay outside the city in Peabody. We stayed at the Peabody Marriott which I was able to cover with Marriott points. The hotel was clean, cozy, and had free breakfast, plus a pool and hot tub. It was a short drive into Salem from the hotel and we were able to park in the middle of the downtown area in a parking garage.
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide of things to do in Salem, MA! There are lots of unique things to do in Salem, MA and so much history to enjoy. If you have any additional recommendations please drop a comment below.
Save this Salem Travel Guide by pinning one of the images below!