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 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
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.
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 best way to learn the history is to take a walking tour. We went with “Witch City Walking Tour” which offered plenty of good stories, witch history, and spooky tales along the way.
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 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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
*GYG Get your tickets in advance!
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.
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!
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!
Enjoy 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!
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.
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