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Looking for the best things to do in Salem, Massachusetts? Salem is blessed with interesting history related to witchcraft and maritime so there is no shortage of haunting stories and coastal activities to do. It is also the birthplace of the National Guard. This guide details what to do in Salem all year round as well as seasonal events.
If you plan to visit Salem in October expect crowds and increased accommodation prices, especially around Hallowe’en.
Check out this where to stay in Salem guide for haunted and historic hotel options.
We’ve grouped Salem’s attractions by location below so you can maximize your time and start to build an itinerary with the types of activities that suit your travel style.
We’ve also included food options.
Part of your Salem itinerary will involve going inside local houses for a tour or observing the architecture from the outside.
Most of these properties are referred to with a title such as the John Ward House.
Salem is also an ideal day trip from Boston in the fall if you’re pressed for time.
Best Things to do in Salem, MA
Salem Commons and Hocus Pocus Filming Locations
This leafy green space is in the center of Salem downtown is where you can enjoy take out lunches and escape the crowds.
A lot of the excitement about visiting Salem comes from the filming locations that appear in the 90s movie Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy who play The Sanderson Sisters.
There is one location close to the Commons called the former Phillips Elementary School.
The red bricked building at 86 Essex Street was the school in the movie.
Check out our full guide to Hocus Pocus locations.
Salem Witch Museum
Salem Witch Museum (19 1/2 N Washington Square) was founded in 1972 and is housed in a church building.
The museum details the history of witches and witchcraft in the US and abroad.
Exhibitions also give a voice to the 200+ victims accused of witchcraft between 1692 and 1693 in Salem and surrounding areas.
As every good educational resource does, the Salem Witch Museum also discusses modern day witch trials and deconstructs the pattern that they follow.
A visit to Salem Witch Museum is also a must-do for anyone who visits Massachusetts in fall.
Roger Conant Statue
This dramatic statue of Roger Conant standing on top of a stone is located close the Salem Commons.
While the statue makes him look like a wizard, he is actually a founding father of Salem.
Before Conant ‘discovered’ Salem, the area was home to the Naumkeag band of the Massachusett tribe.
The North River, which runs through Salem, is also known as theh Naumkeag River.
Essex Street Pedestrian Mall
Looking for Hallowe’en tricks and treats as souvenirs?
You’ll find that at Essex Street along with a bookstore, pharmacy, museums, bars and places to eat.
It does get crowded at this pedestrian shopping hub.
Located in the Witch City Mall (1 E India Square Mall), Cinema Salem is a community cinema theater which shows old and new movies.
As you’d expect, horror movies are often on the line up.
Check out what’s on here.
The Hawthorne Hotel (18 Washington Square) is one of the filming locations for Bewitched.
The Grand Ballroom and Mezzanine also features in the 2015 movie, Joy with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert Di Nero.
You may also like our guide to haunted hotels in New England!
Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum (161 Essex Street) is the oldest continually operated museum in the US.
PEM has collected artwork for over 200 years from around the world and showcases maritime, American, Asian, Oceanic and African art.
Mediums vary throughout the museum and include painting, sculptures, installations, furniture, movies and books.
Pickman House is located just behind the museum at Charter Street.
Salem Witch Trials Memorial
An open air memorial dedicated to the 20 victims of the Salem Witch Trials can be found at Liberty Street.
Names are inscribed on bench-like stone structures coming out from the wall.
Visitors leave flowers to show their respect.
You can also do this self-guided audio Salem Witch Trails tour which narrates each location using GPS.
Salem Wax Museum
Salem Wax Museum (288 Derby Street) is a compact gallery which depicts the story of the witch trials with plaques and wax models.
Here you can learn about accusers and victims such as Dorothy/Dorcas Good, the youngest to be accused of witchcraft at the age of four.
Shop at the Trolley Depot
Pick up art from local makers, stickers or the elusive Salem sweatshirt at Trolley Depot (191 Essex Street).
Elizabeth Montgomery Statue
Twitch your nose in true Bewitched style as you pass the Elizabeth Montgomery statue on Essex Street.
This beautiful bronze statue sees Samantha Stephens sitting on her broom with a crescent moon in the background.
The 60s TV show was filmed in Salem during season 7.
The Witch House
The Witch House Tour (310 1/2 Essex Street) is the most popular thing to do in Salem.
You may recognise the 17th century gray building with pointy roofs as this is the image often used to when promoting the town.
The Witch House is the only building with a direct link with the Witch Trials of 1692, although many others will make less confident links.
This was the home to Judge Jonathan Corwin from 1640 until 1718.
Corwin was the local magistrate and civic leader called upon to investigate the accusations of witchcraft in Salem and neighboring towns.
As the Court of Oyer and Terminer, Corwin had the power to research so-called felonies and decide – life or death.
Ultimately, he sentenced 19 people to their death at the gallows and one victim was pressed.
Every one of the 20 accused pleased not guilty including the first to be hung, Bridget Bishop.
While you are walking around Salem you will see black houses unique to the area.
Salem also features in our guide to things to do in Rockport for The Witch House.
Ropes Mansion is another Hocus Pocus location.
This time, the Georgian mansion at 318 Essex Street was used as Allison’s house.
Max and Dani stumble across Allison and the house when trick or treating, then the three decide to investigate Salem at night.
Ropes Mansion was owned by the Ropes family and is one of the most documented houses in New England.
Four generations of Ropes have lived here, including Nathaniel Ropes and the three unmarried sisters he left the house to in 1893.
These sisters turned the house into a museum; today you can tour the 15 rooms with artifacts.
There is also a one-acre Colonial Revival-style garden with over 5000 plants, designed by Salem botanist and horticulturist John Robinson (1912).
The garden features a one hundred year old copper beech tree too.
Ropes House and Garden is free to enter and you can do this audio tour.
If visiting Salem in fall, check out the red ivy of the Devereux-Hoffman-Simpson House (26 Chestnut Street).
Salem Willows Park
Enjoy some seafood and sunbathing at Salem Willows Park, the oceanfront green space.
There’s 35 acres, three beaches, sports courts and a public pier.
Events happen at Willow Park throughout the year such as the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival and the Salem Willows Black Festival.
Salem Willows Arcade
Salem Willows Arcade is located at the the park.
This family friendly Salem activity has bumper cars, Wiffle Ball Batting Cage and Pac Man.
The House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables (115 Derby Street) is a colonial mansion with Georgian style additions.
The gables are the points where the roof meets.
It was built for Captain John Turner in 1668 then owned by the Ingersolls family.
This Salem property rose to fame on the international stage when it was featured in the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel titled, The House of Seven Gables.
Hawthorne was friends with the Ingersolls and spent time in the house.
He used artistic licence though as the version he physically visited never had seven gables, he just liked the sound of it for his novel.
You can visit Hawthorne’s house in Boston too!
Find out more in our where to stay in Boston guide.
While the house is one of the oldest timber-framed mansions in the US, it has been remodelled to satisfy readers.
It is listed as a National Historic Landmark District.
During the house tour you will learn about four centuries of history while traversing some of the 8,000 square feet (700 m2) of the famous home.
Visitors feel The House of Seven Gables tour is worth paying for.
Fans of the author may also be interested in Grimshawe House, which features in the book Dr. Grimshawe’s Secret.
Hawthorne married one of the daughters, Sophia Peabody, who lived at Grimshaw House in 1842.
Graveyards Tour of Salem
Visit the Old Burying Point with a licensed tour guide who teaches you about the figures important to Salem.
The Graveyards Tour lasts for 1 hour and can be canceled up to 24 hours before the tour begins.
Take a Tour of an Old Bed and Breakfast
The Daniels House Bed and Breakfast (1 Daniels Street) is a three story house built by shipbuilders and mariners in 1667.
It was lived in by Stephen Daniels and then Samuel Silsbee.
Later it became a bed and breakfast owned by Catherine “Kay” Gill up until her death in 2018.
The current owners, Patrick Bentivegna and Adele Lee renovated the building and opened it back up as a bed and breakfast in 2019.
However, you don’t need to stay here to see it.
Day and evening tours take place throughout the building.
The Daniels Bed and Breakfast features in our guide on the best places to stay in Salem.
The Salem Maritime National Historic Site
If you’ve seen photos of Salem that don’t involve Hallowe’en then you’ve probably seen part of the iconic The Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
The stark Pedrick Store House building standing next to the the replica tall ship Friendship of Salem is one of the twelve waterfront develops that makes up the Maritime National Historic Site.
This is one of the few free things to do in Salem.
Hocus Pocus House
Another Hocus Pocus location is the White House where the character Max and his sister, Dani lived.
You can see the outside of it at Ocean Avenue however, it is private property so be respectful.
Forrest River Park and Pioneer Village
Forrest River Park is an oceanfront park with a historic concrete slide.
It is also home to a 17th Century fishing village representing Salem in 1630.
It was built in the 1930s.
Salem’s Black Heritage Audio Tour
Visit 24 stops associated with Black heritage in Salem using the UniGuide mobile app.
Just download the free app and choose Salem’s Black Heritage to begin the tour.
Stops feature information about Salem locals such as the Remond family and Tituba, the enslaved girl accused of witchcraft.
The Point Open Air Museum
While your trip to Salem will mostly be centered around the witch trials, if you have time you should also check out the Punto Urban Art Museum at The Point neighborhood.
Towering murals are painted on the end of houses between Peabody Street and Ward Street.
You can research the map here.
Salem Markets and Events
Salem Farmers’ Market
A summer attraction in Salem in the Farmers’ Market.
It takes place on Thursdays from June through to October.
Pick up some bread, veggies and flowers from local businesses all under the same, well, multiple tents.
The Salem Flea
If visiting Salem in summer you will catch the Salem Flea on the third Saturday of the month from May until September.
Over 40 vintage and handmade vendors open shop at Derby Square so you can pick up a cool souvenir to take home.
Salem Night Faire
Salem Night Faire takes place a couple of weekend nights in October.
Over 50 artists, clothing, jewelry, and oddity vendors open shop at the market at Pioneers Village.
Expect live performances and fireside ghost stories as well as hot cider to warm you up.
Salem Haunting Happenings
Things to do in Salem in October are often organized by Salem Haunting Happenings and take place from the 1st all the way through to the 31st.
Events include the Grand Parade, a street fair, costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, live music, and theater shows.
This is a family-friendly festival and a time for the modern witches of Salem to share their beliefs with locals and visitors.
Food in Salem
- Goodnight Fatty for weekend breakfast rolls and cookies
- Turner’s Seafood, Lyceum Hall
- Fountain Place Restaurant
- Flying Saucer Pizza
- Blue Fez for Mediterranean food
- Gulu Gulu Cafe for craft beer and snacks
- Casa Tequila
- Maria’s Sweet Somethings
- Howling Wolf Taqueria
- Longboards Restaurant