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25 historic and spooky things to do in Salem, Massachusetts United States
By Kate McKulley
Looking for fun things to do in Salem, Massachusetts? This historic city near Boston becomes the spookiest city on the planet the month before Halloween!
If you’re a Halloween fan, the Haunted Happenings experience in Salem should definitely be on your to-do list. But even though it’s far from Halloween, Salem is full of cultural, historical, and even spiritual sites. You may have heard of Salem during the Salem Witch Trials: a time of hysteria in 1692 and 1693 when over 200 people were falsely accused of witchcraft and imprisoned. In the end, 20 were executed; five others died in prison. While this was a historic tragedy, Salem used his reputation for witchcraft to take a new direction. Today, besides being one of the best Halloween destinations on the planet, it is a popular center for practicing witches and those interested in the occult. It’s a bit of a weird combination – city steeped in history and New Age hub – but it works in Salem! Salem is a place I know very well. I grew up only 20 minutes in the city of Reading. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time in Salem, exploring its historical side and its wizarding side (not to mention more excursions than I can count!). Salem is one of the more popular day trips from Boston, but there is enough to do here to make it a full weekend getaway. And if you’re here for Halloween, you’ll be glad you had more time!
Finding the best things to do in Salem
Located on the North Shore of Massachusetts, Salem is a small town of 43,000 people that wears many hats. You have one of the main historic harbors in the United States, a hotspot for Boston day trippers, a bustling college town, a hangout for modern day witches, and the craziest Halloween town on the planet. It’s easy to forget Salem in Massachusetts, a state filled with so much cultural wealth. But I think you’re gonna like it here. What are the best things to do in Salem? Definitely go for a walk! Salem has a huge collection of excellent historical tours and spooky tours. Don’t miss a visit to Old Burying Point Cemetery and discover the Salem Maritime Historic Site. How long do you need in Salem? You could probably explore Salem in a day if that’s all you had for the time, but you should give yourself a night or two to really immerse yourself in witch history
There are two main sides of Salem that attract visitors: the historical and cultural attractions of Salem and the haunted, witchy, and spooky attractions of Salem. I recommend discovering both sides of Salem even if you are not visiting during Halloween. Salem particularly excels when it comes to guided tours, and I highly recommend that you take at least one visit. Whether you’re interested in the Salem Witch Trials or maritime history, learn more about modern witchcraft, or hear about vampires and voodoo, there is a tour just for you! Plus, there are tons of historic sites to visit. If you really love historic sites, you’ll love that Salem has so much to offer. But if you’re not the biggest fan of history, I recommend that you don’t overdo the historical attractions. Don’t burn yourself out if it’s something you don’t usually like!
The Salem night tour
When night falls across Salem, it's the perfect time to explore the city’s spooky and sinister past on a haunted history tour. On this top-rated walk through one of America's most haunted places, follow a licensed guide along lamplit streets while listening to legends and true tales of witchcraft, murder, mayhem, and more Visit sites related to the infamous 17th-century SalemRead More
Salem Maritimes National Historic Site
Did you know that the oldest national historic site in the United States is located in Salem? The Salem Maritime National Historic Site was established in 1938. Here, nine acres of land, you can explore 12 historic structures and a ship. The entire historic site is located on the waterfront of the Port of Salem, which has been active since Salem was colonized in 1626. For centuries, it was one of the busiest ports in the country. (Fun fact: when my 12 year old great-grandfather jumped on a boat from Sicily to the United States, that’s where he landed!) As a National Historic Landmark, the site and all tours are free. You can see artifacts and hear stories about people who lived and worked in Salem. Across from the Salem Maritimes National Historic Site is the Custom House, originally built in 1819. High ceilings, staircases, and carpentry create a sense of strength and stability. This is where Nathaniel Hawthorne worked writing The Scarlet Letter and you can see his office
Historical & Architectural Tours in Salem
Salem has tons of guided tours. Here are the best of the historical and cultural tours you can do in Salem. (The spooky and haunted tours are below). This Salem History and Sightseeing Walking Tour is a perfect 2.5-hour introduction to the city’s history and culture (and a great activity on day one). Learn about the Witch Trials as you pass buildings and landmarks such as the Witch’s House, Chestnut Street, and the Rope Manor. Another historic option is this 1-hour tour of America’s oldest cemetery, which takes place at Old Burying Point with a licensed guide. You’ll learn about the people buried here, the history of the Puritans, the grisly looting of graves, and more. Prefer to do things solo? Consider taking one of the self-guided tours of Salem. This self-guided tour of Salem is as easy as downloading the $ 5 tour to your phone. Start at the Ropes Mansion and enjoy a city tour. It works on up to four phones simultaneously, so you can do it in a small group. This self-guided audio tour of the Salem Witch Trials is a great way to learn the history of the event at your own pace. Learn about the events that unfolded, visit the pivotal locations of mass hysteria, and learn how this period of history inspired 20th-century writers like Arthur Miller
Proctor's Ledge was the place of execution of the witch trials thanks to eyewitness accounts who could see the hangings from their homes. In 2017, a memorial was created to honor the lives that ended here. You can visit the small stone memorial on your own. Remember, this is a place of sorrowRead More
House with seven gables
The Seven Gable House is perhaps the most famous building in all of Salem, built by merchant John Turner in 1668 and located on Salem Harbor. In 1851, author Nathaniel Hawthorne published his novel The House of Seven Gables, catapulting it to national fame. The house was owned by various families over the years until the beginning of the 20th century, when the historic preservation of the mansion began. 350 years of history add up to a lot of interesting stories!
Peabody Museum Essex
The Peabody Essex Museum is one of Salem’s greatest cultural treasures. A combination of the old Peabody Museum and the Essex Institute, it was established in 1799 as the East India Marine Society. It is one of the largest art museums in America as well as the oldest continuously operating museum in the country. The museum has an important collection of Asian art as well as Native American art, African and American to showcase New England’s heritage over 300 years. At the Peabody Essex Museum, they constantly challenge the meaning of art, history and intercultural exchange
The Old Burying Point Cemetery
The Old Burying Point Cemetery also known as Charter Street Cemetery, was built in 1637 and is one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States. There you will find the cemetery of the judges of the witch trials of Salem as well as many people accused of witchcraft. A total of 19 people were hanged, one was pressed to death and five died in prison. Also buried here are figures and heroes of the Revolutionary War and many other notable early residents of Salem. Some visitors attempt to capture the ghost of Salem Witch Trial Judge John Hathorne by taking photos at his grave. Some also say
that the spirits of the accused witches still appear in the cemetery. Others claim to hear voices, feel a drop in temperature, or see strange orbs. Welcome to Salem!
Salem Witch Trials Memorial
It is a moving tribute to the innocents executed in Salem in 1692 and 1693. The memorial was inaugurated in 1992, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the witch trials. Each victim of the trials is represented on a large granite stone with their name, means of execution and date of execution. You can read their last words. The memorial is a quiet place to reflect and pay tribute to the lives lost as well as to learn a little more about each person. Keep this in mind – Salem has a lot of places to have fun, but this isn’t one of them
Salem is fun to visit 12 months of the year, but October is when Salem is at its best. This month is Haunted Happenings, a month-long festival leading up to Halloween. Salem Haunted Happenings began in 1982 as a weeklong event leading up to Halloween and has grown steadily every year sinceRead More
Salem Witch House
The Jonathan Corwin House, also known as the Witch’s House, was originally built in 1675. But in 1692, Salem was engulfed in witch trials and the inhabitants of the house ended up playing games. an important role in mass hysteria. As you visit the Witch’s House, you will learn more about the birth of the fear of witchcraft and what ended it. The witch’s house is equipped as it would have been at the end of the 17th century
Have you ever wondered what the Salem Witch Trials actually looked like?
The Witch Dungeon Museum aims to take you back in time to 1692. First, you’ll attend a trial with actors performing a realistic account of the experience. After the reconstruction, you will visit a dungeon. The dungeon is a replica of those used to detain those accused of witchcraft
Located on Salem Harbor, Pickering Wharf is a waterfront trading village. Here you will find some of the best local boutiques, restaurants and stores. It’s a lovely place to take a walk along the water after lunch, find out what’s on offer, and buy the perfect souvenir from Salem. Come back in the evening to enjoy live music! Sail on the Fame of Salem schooner
Take a ride on the Schooner Fame sailboat
You will be able to see Salem from a new perspective on the water. And believe me, originally from the Côte-Nord, our coastline is really pretty! The sailboat ride starts at Pickering Wharf and you can walk up to Beverly or Marblehead – it depends on the wind. Along the way, you see lighthouses, waterfront mansions, forts, and more. You will discover the history of the Fame Schooner and the War of 1812. If you love to be on the water or want to do something unique this is perfect for you. The trips last 2 hours. Alcoholic drinks are for sale on the boat and nothing like sailing with a Dark & Stormy in hand!
Spooky things in Salem
If you're a Halloween fan, the Haunted Happenings experience in Salem should definitely be on your to-do list. Salem is full of cultural, historical, and even spiritual sites. You may have heard of Salem during the Salem Witch Trials: a time of hysteria in 1692 and 1693 when over 200 people were falsely accused of witchcraft and imprisoned. In the end, 20 were executed; five others died in prisonRead More
Salem Witch Museum
To immerse yourself in the With Trials of 1692 and 1693, consider visiting the Salem Witch Museum. Two presentations take place during the museum visit. First, you will learn through storytelling and visible settings about the Salem Witch Hunt. The second exhibit centers around the word witch and how it led to the Salem witch trials. A quick note – among us locals, the Salem Witch Museum is known as the ‘disappointment’ attraction. People are often disappointed when they realize how limited it is. I’m not discouraging anyone from visiting, but do your research to see if this is something you want to include in your limited time in Salem
Historians once believed that the victims of the Salem witch trials were executed at Gallows Hill, but the exact location has never been marked. It wasn’t until 1921 that a historian found evidence that the actual execution took place near the Gallows Hill base on Proctor’s Ledge. The town of Salem purchased the land in 1936 and called it Witch Memorial Land, but no memorial was built. In 2010, historians resumed research and in 2016 confirmed that Proctor’s Ledge was the place of execution of the witch trials thanks to eyewitness accounts who could see the hangings from their homes. In 2017, a memorial was created to honor the lives that ended here. You can visit the small stone memorial on your own. Remember, this is a place of sorrow
McIntire Historic District
If you enjoy exploring historic buildings, be sure to visit the McIntire Historic District, which is home to over 300 historic structures. You can take a walking tour of this area and see many places built by Samuel McIntire, an architect who built houses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The entire neighborhood is just over a mile and takes about 45 minutes to walk. It starts from The Witch House. McIntire himself lived at 31 Summer Street. The road is marked with wheat on the poles and sidewalks. Most of the houses are privately owned and are not open to the public, but there are a few you can visit. One house you can visit is the Phillips House, now a museum. The house was first built in the early 1800s in South Danvers, Massachusetts. A third of the house (which equates to four rooms) was transferred by oxen and logs to Salem. You can also enjoy the historic McIntire district on a guided architecture walking tour. The tour focuses on the McIntire neighborhood
Manor of Cordes
Also known as the Ropes Memorial, the Ropes Mansion is a historic building managed by the Peabody Essex Museum. This Georgian mansion was built in 1727 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. You might recognize this Hocus Pocus house – this is where Allison’s character lived (where her parents threw the Halloween party). Some residents of Salem believe the house and gardens are haunted by some of its former residents. See for yourself, if you dare. The Jardin des Cordes surrounds the mansion and was created in 1912. It is free for the public to use the garden at any time of the day, every day. Ropes Mansion tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays at certain times of the year
Salem has one of the main historic harbors in the United States, a hotspot for Boston day trippers, a bustling college town, a hangout for modern day witches and the craziest Halloween town on the planetRead More
Eat fresh seafood
Salem is a great place to enjoy seafood, and you often get better value than some restaurants in Boston. Finz is located on Pickering Wharf and has indoor and outdoor seating. Here you’ll find fresh, seasonal seafood, sustainably caught where possible, and a raw sushi bar. You’ll also find options for non-seafood eaters. The Sea Level Oyster Bar offers an excellent raw bar as well as a variety of menu options: inventive and classic seafood dishes, as well as pizza and tacos. In 2017, the restaurant received the Best of the North Shore award. The view of the waterfront is great and the cocktail selection is great fun. Dube’s Seafood has been a Salem classic since 1961, serving mostly fried seafood with a few grilled options on the menu. This is one of the cheapest seafood restaurants in Salem and it’s a fun meal
Marblehead is next to Salem, about a 10 minute drive, and worth a visit if you have a little extra time. Although I have visited Salem my whole life, I have never visited Marblehead until 2021! It’s a nice little town to visit. You can easily explore Marblehead on your own, from the historic fort to fun boutiques and cafes. It has the reputation of being one of the chicest and most chic towns on the North Shore, and it is certainly more refined than Salem. Most of the historic houses are covered with decorations of golden fish or seashells; it’s fun to spot them. Want to go on a tour? This literary themed tour of Marblehead will take you along the beaches and coves of Marblehead while sharing the history and stories of the people of the old fishing village. Or try a coastal walking tour of Marblehead is another option when visiting Marblehead. You will take a very scenic route to see the harbor, beaches, coves, islands, ponds, architecture and more. To get to Marblehead I recommend driving or taking an Uber. You can also walk if you feel like it – it’s about an hour’s walk (but not a scenic walk) from one city center to another. Go on a scavenger hunt in Salem
SELF GUIDED TOUR
SELF-GUIDED SMARTPHONE GHOST TOUR This is a Smartphone Guided ghost tour on our walking tour app. Go to the Ropes Mansion, press play and put your phone in your pocket. From there you are guided turn by turn along the spooky streets of Salem. 1 purchase works on 4 smartphones. Once you unlock the tour it does not expire and can be taken anytime.Read More
Salem is fun to visit 12 months of the year, but October is when Salem is at its best. This month is Haunted Happenings, a month-long festival leading up to Halloween.
Salem Haunted Happenings began in 1982 as a weeklong event leading up to Halloween and has grown steadily every year since. You will find events happening throughout the month on the events calendar. Some of the events include a grand parade, the Haunted Biz Baz street fair, ghost tours, haunted houses, live music, costume balls and much more! And if you come for Halloween night, you are going to be in for a treat. While there are parties all over Salem, some of the funniest are on the streets, seeing everyone in their costumes! (Almost as much fun? Train rides between Boston and Salem on Halloween night.)
Go on a haunted tour of Salem (ghosts, witches and more!)
When night falls on Salem, it’s a great time to explore the city’s spooky and spooky past on a tour through haunted history. On this popular tour, stroll through one of America’s most haunted places, follow a licensed guide along lighted streets while hearing legends and true stories of witchcraft, murder, chaos, and even more. Visit sites related to the infamous 17th-century Salem Witch Trials, and hear tales of spirits and ghosts at a leisurely pace through the town’s cemetery and historic homes
This haunted historical tour of Salem will take you on a 2-hour walking tour related to the Salem Witch Trials. You’ll learn the history of witchcraft, see some of the Hocus Pocus sites, and hear stories about the legends and hauntings of Salem. If you choose to take the tour at night, you will get some ghost stories. Another option is the Guided Ghost Walking Tour, where you’ll visit eight of Salem’s most haunted places. Your guide will tell you stories about the various spooky places. This is a quick tour of just one hour. For something a little different, the Salem Voodoo, Vampire and Ghost Tour adds voodoo and vampire stories to the history of the witch trials. After taking photos at the haunted sites, your guide will help you decipher if there is any paranormal activity in the photo. Have you ever done this on tour? The Salem Night Tour will take you through town while sharing some of the legends and tales of witchcraft that have happened here. You will visit sites related to the witch trials and learn about some of the ghosts that still haunt the area. Are you curious about today’s witches in Salem, but too shy to ask? Take a tour around Salem with a real witch! For 90 minutes, you’ll explore Salem and several of its historic sites while learning about how witchcraft is used today. Your witch guide will show you some of Salem’s lesser-known witch sites. How about a witch ride in the woods? Talk about maximum scary potential! You will leave downtown Salem and head out into nature. Your wizard guide will tell you about witchcraft and the use of mushrooms and other medicinal plants that can be found in the woods. This 1.5-hour tour is certainly one of the most unique options
Salem is a 36-episode, 42-minute American television series created by Adam Simon and Brannon Braga, inspired by the Salem trials, and aired between April 20, 2014 and January 25, 2017 on WGN America and in Canada on Space2. In Belgium, the series has been broadcast since June 17, 2016 on Plug RTL3, and in France since September 13, 2016 on Netflix. A new vision of the mythical witches of Salem, in 17th century Massachusetts. A daring attempt to unravel the dark and supernatural side of this infamous period of America ...Read More
Count Orlok’s Gallery of Nightmares
Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is a museum of horror, sci-fi and fantasy films where you can see life-size monsters from the movies. During the month of October, there is also a haunted house. If you love horror movies, this is the place for you – you’ll see all your favorite monsters come to life! Are you not a fan of horror movies? This might not be the place for you
How to go to Salem
Salem is one of the most easily accessible towns in Massachusetts. You can get there by train, bus, and even ferry from Boston. It’s a 30-45 minute drive to Boston Logan Airport