There's absolutely no better time to visit Salem, Massachusetts than Halloween. If you want to get into the spirit, this is the place to be. I've got the best things to do in Salem during October, or really, any time of the year!
Salem is known as Witch City and you'll notice people dressed up all year 'round. But, there's something special about visiting during the Fall and Halloween!
Salem feels like Halloweentown year round with its witch history. But come October, you'll feel like you dropped in on the set of Hocus Pocus! In fact, you can check out my guide to the Hocus Pocus filming locations in Salem right here or my guide to a New England Fall Road Trip here.
- History of Salem
- Best things to do in Salem, MA
- Walk Chestnut Street
- Take a Salem Walking Tour
- Free Itinerary for New England
- Witch House Museum
- Explore the Shops on Essex Street
- Visit the Salem Witch Museum
- The Witch Trials Memorial
- Meander to Old Burying Point Cemetery
- See the Hocus Pocus Filming Locations
- Head to Connors Farm
- Explore the House of Seven Gables
- Walk Around Derby Wharf & See the Customs House
- See the city dressed up for Halloween
- Enjoy Salem Haunted Happenings
- Peabody Essex Museum
- Take a Trolley Ride
- Check out a Historic Schooner
- Where to Stay in Salem
- Free Itinerary for New England
History of Salem
New England is the best place to visit in the fall, and Salem is the perfect stop to get into a spooky mood. Salem is well known for its witch trials of the 1690s, with 200 people accused and 19 executed. But did you know the TV show “Bewitched” actually put the city on the tourist map!
In June 1970 Hollywood came to Salem after the LA set of Bewitched caught fire. Thinking fast, the writers remembered the Salem witch trials and moved filming to Salem making it the “Witch Capital” of the USA! They stayed at the beautiful Hawthorne Hotel and once the show aired a renewed interest in Salem sprung about with people from all over visiting Salem and learning about the witch trials.
Along with the play “The Crucible,” this brought a lot of attention to the small town of Salem.
Today, witch decals may be found on police cars, stores selling charms and haunted tours. At first, the city's residents were against the kitschy feel of being known for it's witch history, but now, they embrace it. Now, Salem is known as Witch City!
Salem is the perfect combination of history, magic, movies, and Halloween. Really, you'll have a blast no matter your age. Salem Halloween is truly unparalleled.
Salem has sensational fall weather, it's in the heart of many fall activities, it hosts the “Haunted Happenings” event making it the perfect place to visit. Here are the best things to do in Salem, Massachusetts in the Fall, or really, any time of year.
This travel guide to Salem will ensure you make the most of your time!
Here's a map of all the points you'll see:
Best things to do in Salem, MA
Walk Chestnut Street
“The street that pepper built.” At the time, in the 1790s pepper was as good as gold. Salem was a lucrative spot for pepper trades and one of the reasons the city became so wealthy. You can see that wealth on display on the beautiful Chestnut Street.
One of the best things to do in Salem is take a stroll down Chestnut Street. This is one of the most beautiful streets in Salem with its brick sidewalks, gorgeous trees and stately mansions.
Take a Salem Walking Tour
The 2-hour tour leads you to all of the landmark sites of Salem, including the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Old Town Hall, the Burying Point, the McIntire Historic District, Hamilton Hall, the Bewitched statue of Elizabeth Montgomery riding a broomstick as Samantha in Bewitched, and Pickering House. You'll learn about the Salem Witch Trials and the city's history as a Native American settlement and its role in the American Revolution.
There are lots of great walking tours around Salem. Whether you want to learn more about the history of Salem, the witch trials, movie locations, or ghost stories, you can find it in Salem.
Witch House Museum
This dark witch house is often the backdrop for many Instagram pictures in Salem and one of the top Salem attractions.
The Witch House is the only structure still standing in Salem with a direct tie to the witch trials of 1692. It was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin and served as a meeting place for the Salem Village witchcraft hearings.
Today, it is operated as a museum by the City of Salem and open to the public for tours. The Witch House offers a unique and fascinating look into the history of the Salem Witch Trials.
Explore the Shops on Essex Street
Downtown Salem is so lively with fun places to eat, shop and explore. Salem Halloween means shops are decked out with fun goodies, themed movies, and more.
Walking around here you might spot someone dressed up as a witch or wizard any day of the week. You'll find myriad theme shops- everything from spell books, palm readings, crystals, and more. Make sure to go to Old Town Hall, a historic and iconic building dating back to 1816.
Essex Street is the main shopping street in Downtown Salem and has everything from witchy shops to high-end boutiques. If you're looking for a souvenir, this is the place to find it. You'll also find plenty of places to eat here.
Salem Halloween shops really go over the top, so pop in to a few! It's also great people watching. Halloween decorations are everywhere and many people get into the witch hysteria by dressing up.
I highly recommend Turner's Seafood for dinner, delectable dishes! If it's busy, there's also Rockafella's. Not only is the food great, it's also haunted by a ghost!
Visit the Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Salem. It tells the story of the witch trials of 1692. The museum has life-size figures, stage sets, and narration to tell the story of the witch trials.
Get your tickets to the Salem Witch Museum tour here!
The first part of the tour is a 20-minute dramatization of the 1692 witch trials. I really learned so much more than I knew before about why the witch trials came about. It gave me a much better understanding of the people at the time and why an entire town went on a literal witch hunt.
The Witch Trials Memorial
The Witch Trials Memorial is a tribute to those who were accused and executed during the Salem Witch Trials. The memorial is a simple but moving tribute to the victims of the witch trials.
Meander to Old Burying Point Cemetery
Located right near the witch memorials you'll find Old Burying Point cemetery. Many important historical figures are buried here, including the accused witch Martha Corey and Judge John Hawthorne who oversaw the Salem witch trials. The cemetery is also the final resting place of Salem's first mayor, Roger Conant.
Old Burying Point Cemetery, also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, is the oldest maintained cemetery in Salem and one of the oldest in the world! Walking around here feels like you're about to hear ghost stories of days gone by. So much of Salem's history and important people are buried here.
There are a lot of old gravestones and it's really interesting to read them and try to imagine what life was like back then.
See the Hocus Pocus Filming Locations
No other movie encapsulates Halloween quite like Hocus Pocus. It's my all time favorite Halloween flick! The movie was filmed in Salem and you can see the exact spots where the movie was filmed!
Walk around Salem Common (you might just spot Binx!), check out Allison's Mansion, stroll through the school, and see where the witches put a spell on everyone at the Halloween party. Pictured above is the Historic Ropes Mansion, also known as Allison's Mansion from the movie. This is one of Salem's most visited attractions.
Just a bit out of the city center of Salem you can venture over to Max and Dani's house!
You'll see Halloween decor that the Sanderson sisters would approve of. You can also explore Pioneer Village and feel like you're in the time of witch hysteria during the Salem witch trials! This is a filming location for the movie Hocus Pocus.
Head to Connors Farm
Just outside the city you'll find the adorable Connors Farm. There's a corn maze, fresh and warm apple cider donuts, pumpkins galore, and plenty of activities for adults and kids alike. We tried Connors Farm ice cream and were delighted!
If you want to be a bit more spooked, there is also “Hysteria” a Haunted Farm attraction at Connors Farm.
Explore the House of Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables was erected by John Turner, a Salem sea captain and trader, in 1668 and inhabited by three generations of the Turner family before being sold to Captain Samuel Ingersoll in 1782. During the Golden Age of Sail, Ingersoll died at sea leaving his daughter Susanna, a cousin of famous novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Hawthorne's trips to his cousin's house are said to have inspired the plot and title of his 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables. With 17 rooms and almost 8,000 square feet including its spacious cellars, The House of the Seven Gables is one of North America's oldest surviving timber-framed mansion houses.
Hawthorne, in an effort to distance himself from his great-grandfather, the judge of the Salem witch trials, John Hawthorn, added an additional “e” to his surname.
Walk Around Derby Wharf & See the Customs House
The Derby Waterfront District is the perfect spot for classic New England charm. This is a great area to walk around or get a bite to eat. Also make sure to check out the Customs House. Built in 1815, Nathaniel Hawthorne worked at the Customs House for 3 years. In fact, he featured it in the novel “the Scarlet Letter.”
See the city dressed up for Halloween
One of my favorite things to do is walk around Salem and see the houses decked out for Halloween. Of course you'll see pumpkins on stoops and witches in the windows, but you'll also find some pretty creative and over-the-top displays. It's really a sight to see!
Local shops put their best decor on display – with lights, witches, skeletons, pumpkins and more! You'll find dozens of homes decked out and even more shops. The whole month of October, and September too, you'll find plenty of decor.
Not only is the city dressed up, people are dressed up too! I loved just walking around and exploring. You might even see some practicing witchcraft!
Of course, a great way to see the city is on a guided your. Many of the guided tours will not only point out important places and things to see, but they'll also share ghost stories and haunted tales too. If you don't like scary stories, then take the Hocus Pocus tour instead!
If you want a combination of learning about historical witch trials, ghost stories, and tales of the past take a combination tour. This is a great option, put on by local historians. Hearing the real stories of the accused witches is tragic and interesting. I really learned so much about the trials and stories from the past. The witchcraft hysteria really shaped so much of Salem at the time.
Enjoy Salem Haunted Happenings
If you're in Salem during October there are many events planned for Haunted Happenings that you can check out here. You'll find events for kids like broom decorating, tea parties, and a witch costume parade. There's also events for adults like haunted ghost tours, wicked Bloody Mary Sunday, or even Satanic tea!
This is the perfect place to people watch and have some fun. I'll never get over hearing a girl declare that her “witch friends aren't being accepting and that's just not the witch way.” Lots of people will be dressed up, you can join in too!
More to explore:
In 1982, the Salem Chamber of Commerce joined hands with the Salem Witch Museum to conceive an innovative idea – the inaugural Salem Haunted Happenings Festival, scheduled during the captivating Halloween weekend. This collaborative venture emerged with a twofold purpose: to create an engaging platform suitable for all age groups and to craft intriguing activities for the visitors drawn to the enigmatic appeal of the “Witch City.” In its inaugural year, the event witnessed the participation of approximately 50,000 eager attendees, laying the foundation for its subsequent growth.
Set against the backdrop of brisk autumnal air, the Salem Haunted Happenings Festival burst forth, ushering in a spellbinding era of celebrations. With the aim of catering to every member of the family, the festival carved a unique niche for itself, embedding itself within the hearts of those seeking an enchanting Halloween experience like no other. The founding partners held a vision to transform Salem into a realm where history, mystique, and community converged, captivating both locals and travelers in the process.
As the years unfolded, the festival's popularity burgeoned, mirroring the fervor that Halloween ignites in this captivating corner of Massachusetts. From its modest beginnings, the festival swiftly cast a potent spell on attendees, leaving them entranced and yearning for more. As the veil between the worlds grew thin during the festival's nights, its fame soared, propelling Salem onto the global stage as a premier destination for those seeking an otherworldly October experience.
So, from the opening strains of its first chapter to the crescendo of today's spectacle, the Salem Haunted Happenings Festival has evolved into a Halloween phenomenon, an annual convergence of magic, history, and festivity that continues to capture the hearts and imaginations of all who dare to enter its enchanting realm.
Peabody Essex Museum
Nestled in the heart of Salem, the Peabody Essex Museum stands as a testament to the captivating fusion of art, culture, and history. This cultural gem invites visitors on a captivating journey through time and space, where each step uncovers stories of the world's wonders and the human spirit's endless creativity. With its eclectic collection spanning art, artifacts, and curiosities from every corner of the globe, the museum exudes an irresistible charm that beckons explorers and dreamers alike.
Once a home, the Peabody Essex Museum offers history dating back to 1799 when sea captains would bring home treasures and findings from overseas.
Whether you're lost in the intricate details of maritime masterpieces, immersed in the traditions of diverse cultures, or simply basking in the sheer awe of human ingenuity, the Peabody Essex Museum is a sanctuary where the past, present, and future gracefully intertwine.
Take a Trolley Ride
If you want to take a tour without having to move your feet, a great way to take in the city is wit a Salem Trolley tour.
Embark on a delightful journey through Salem, MA, while exploring its finest attractions aboard the iconic Salem Trolley! Covering an extensive eight-mile route, this trolley tour offers a comprehensive glimpse of Salem's top sights. Should any particular spot pique your interest, feel free to disembark and delve deeper into the surroundings. The hour-long tour is both efficient and engaging, making it an absolute hit among kids and adults alike. After all, who can resist the charm of a trolley ride through the heart of Salem's enchanting streets?
Check out a Historic Schooner
Indulge in a classic Salem experience by setting sail on a historic schooner for a beautiful journey. I recommend going at sunset for the best lighting and to capture the coastal beauty of the surroundings. Salem in October, the sun generally sets around 6:30 pm.
The best part? You're welcome to bring along your favorite adult beverage to enhance the experience. To seize this enchanting opportunity, click here and secure your spot on this remarkable sunset sail in Salem.
For those who prefer to keep their feet on solid ground, make sure to pay a visit to the Salem Friendship tall ship resting in the harbor. A true spectacle to behold, this elegant vessel replicates the original 1797 Salem-built tall ship. With Salem history rooted in merchant voyages, the Friendship's narrative took a turn when it was seized by the British during the War of 1812. A glimpse into maritime history that's not to be missed.
Where to Stay in Salem
There are a number of great places to stay in Salem. You might want to opt for a haunted hotel like the Merchant Hotel. There have been dozens of reports of ghosts, and apparently, no one really works at the hotel!
Or if you're looking for something a bit more low key, the Hawthorne Hotel is a beautiful option. It's worth it just to peek inside this historic hotel. Check out the portirat of Hawthorne:
Salem, Massachusetts is a small city with plenty of things to see and do! Whether you're spending just a day or two in Salem, or are planning an entire vacation around the city, there's much to see and do. From history museums to witchy tours and spooky tales of terror…there's something for everyone!
Salem is the perfect place to celebrate Halloween, or really, to get into the spooky spirit any time of the year. The city goes all out for Halloween with events, parties, and parades. If you're looking for a truly spooky experience, Salem is the place to be.
There's nothing quite like a Salem Halloween. Yes, it can get crowded, but it's worth it! Hit up the Salem common, join in on the witch hysteria, and enjoy the Halloween decorations- there's nothing like the Salem Halloween Spirit!
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