Have we got some of the best things to do in Salem, Ma for you!
As seasoned globetrotters, we have a penchant for unearthing the must-dos in every destination we explore.
We’ve trodden the cobblestones of Salem, Massachusetts, and are thrilled to share our top picks of this bewitching city with you.
Salem may be famed for its witch trials, but it’s brimming with so much more. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply drawn to the allure of a town steeped in lore, we’ve got you covered.
Ready to discover Salem’s magic?
Lace up those comfortable shoes for a trip to the past because, trust us, Salem isn’t just a place to visit; it’s an experience to relish.
Are You Planning An Upcoming Trip? Use Our Favorite Resources To Help!
🏨 Accommodation – This is our Favorite
🎟 Tours/Experiences – We enjoy Viator
🚙 Car Rental – We use this One
🌎 Travel Insurance – We recommend SafetyWing
25 Best Things To Do In Salem, Ma
Let’s get straight to business and talk about all the fun things you can see and do in this spooky city.
1. Ghost Tour
Step into the captivating shadows of Salem with the Salem Night Tour!
You’ll follow lamplit streets, soaking up tales of witchcraft, murder, and mayhem, all while exploring sites linked to the infamous 17th-century Salem Witch Trials.
You’ll discover the eerie echoes of the past that still haunt this city, making it one of America’s most haunted towns.
The tour isn’t just about chills, though. It’s also an engaging and entertaining dive into Massachusetts history, offering you a unique perspective on the hysteria of 1692 and beyond.
From the poignant Salem Witch Trials Memorial, with its inscribed stones, to the cinematic charm of Salem’s Old Town Hall, a familiar sight to any “Hocus Pocus” fan, the experience is a fantastic blend of history and mystery.
Peek into the Old Burying Point Cemetery, rumored to be stalked by Salem’s spookiest spirits, and tread softly in the back garden of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, where unmarked Puritan graves whisper tales of the dark past.
Be sure to book ahead, as this bewitching experience fills up fast!
2. Hocus Pocus Tour
Enchantment awaits around every corner as you visit real-life filming locations such as Pioneer Village and Dennison House, spots that will instantly take you back to Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy’s bewitching on-screen antics.
Get ready to tread the grounds of Salem Common, a beautiful green heart of the city, and pass by the iconic Salem Old Town Hall.
Brace yourself for a wave of nostalgia at Ropes Mansion, better known to fans as Alison’s house from the movie.
The tour will spirit you away to Pioneer Village, the oldest living history museum in the United States, where you’ll enjoy time to explore and snap pictures before moving to the next magical location.
Along the way, your guide will share fascinating insights into Salem’s witch trials, maritime history, and other intriguing tidbits that add depth to your movie tour experience.
With the ticket price including a complimentary “Hocus Pocus” souvenir, it’s a fun, spooky, and heartwarming way to immerse yourself in the Halloween spirit (regardless of the time of year!).
3. Old Burying Point Cemetery
The Old Burying Point Cemetery was established in 1637. Also known as Charter Street Cemetery, this cemetery is the oldest in Salem. More than 700 people have been buried here, with the last burial occurring in 1894.
Many of the oldest grave markers no longer exist because they were made out of wood. But be on the lookout for Doraty Cromwell’s marker as hers is the oldest still in existence within the cemetery, dating back to 1673.
Other individuals to find include John Hawthorne and Bartholomew Gedney, both Salem witch trial judges. And Richard More, a passenger on the Mayflower.
4. Privateer Schooner Sailing Tour
Feel the thrill of yesteryears as you lend a hand in traditional seafaring tasks, like raising the sails and steering the boat on this engaging adventure aboard a replica of a historic privateer schooner.
Of course, if you’d prefer to sit back, relax, and enjoy the stunning vistas, that’s an option too!
Your journey takes you around the historic Salem Sound, where pirates, privateers, and men of war have shaped history for 400 years.
As you glide along these storied waters, the friendly crew will share intriguing tales of Salem’s past and the crucial role played by privateers.
This is an effortless and fun way to inject excitement into your Salem visit.
5. Ropes Mansion & Garden
Found in the McEntire Historic District, the Ropes Mansion was built in the 1720s by a merchant named Samuel Barnard, not the Ropes family as you would expect.
It wasn’t until 1768 that Judge Nathaniel Ropes II purchased the home.
The mansion is representative of the early colonial style, and the gardens are not to be missed. Added in 1912, the gardens sit on one acre and are FREE to visit.
And as stated above, if you have seen the movie Hocus Pocus, this mansion makes a quick appearance.
The Ropes Mansion is said to be haunted.
Abigail Ropes died in 1839 from burns after her dress caught on fire, either from carrying hot coals to the fireplace or from standing too close to the fire itself (there are mixed details on what occurred). Her apparition has reportedly been seen on several occasions.
6. Salem History Walking Tour
Uncover the layered history of Salem, Massachusetts, on an enlightening guided walking tour.
Venture beyond the infamous witch trials and dive deep into a fascinating past that spans from the time of the Puritans to the present day.
As you stroll through the historic district, your guide will unveil riveting tales about Salem’s indigenous peoples, Puritans, and Patriots.
Gaze upon iconic city landmarks such as the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, an evocative symbol of an event that has etched itself in history.
Stop by the Pickering House and marvel at the grandeur of the Ropes Mansion and Gardens. Immerse yourself in the ambiance of stately Chestnut Street, where historical narratives are etched into the very fabric of the architecture.
While you won’t step inside these historical buildings, the engaging storytelling and picturesque exteriors provide a memorable experience.
7. Witch House At Salem
Next up is the Witch House. The witch house is the only structure still standing that directly relates to the Salem witch trials.
Jonathan Corwin purchased this home around 1675. Just a handful of years later, in 1692, Corwin went on to be one of the judges during the Salem witch trials.
It is said that Corwin believed everyone being condemned was guilty from the start and never had an ounce of remorse for what happened during the trials.
Even though it is called the witch house, none of the victims of the trials ever lived within.
It is possible that some of the examinations occurred within the house, though that has not been proven.
8. Craft Spells With A Real Witch
Step into the enchanting world of Salem with a unique tour that combines the city’s historical richness with the craft of real spell-making!
This intimate, coven-style group experience is guided by your very own personal witch, history graduate, and Salem resident.
You’ll immerse in the city’s magic while crafting simple spells for grounding, protection, and happiness.
Discover the authentic origins of Salem, tracing its journey from indigenous roots through the Puritanical culture that sparked the infamous witch trials, the thriving maritime trade era, and the rise of the Spiritualist movement.
Included are special, locally sourced spell materials that you’ll receive as gifts along the way.
Perfect for families, history buffs, and those with a penchant for the mystical, this tour offers a personable experience with a 15-person limit, ensuring plenty of opportunities to ask questions and engage with your guide.
9. Salem Witch Trials Memorial
The Salem Witch Trials Memorial, next to the Old Burying Point Cemetery, is the ideal location to honor those who perished during the witch trials.
The memorial is simple yet powerful.
There are granite walls enclosing the site on three sides. Within those walls, there are 20 benches representing each of the 20 victims of the trials. On those benches are their name, execution date, and how they died.
📎 Tip: Make sure to look down while walking into the memorial’s entrance. Here you will find the victims’ pleads of innocence cut off by the walls symbolizing their early deaths.
10. Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum is dedicated to completely understanding what happened during the witch trials. We lightly use the term “museum” here as it is more for educational entertainment than a true museum.
There are two main exhibits at the museum. The first exhibit is a complete telling of the Salem witch trials in 1692. This is done through sets, mannequins, and narration.
The second exhibit feels more like a traditional museum with plagues to read. This area describes witch trials that occurred in Europe and the evolution of the witch, and how they were persecuted.
If you don’t remember much about the Salem witch trials from history class, this is a wonderful location to spend an hour for a refresher.
11. House Of The Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables is aptly named for, you guessed it, having seven gables. Built in 1668, this home is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
The home was made famous after Nathanial Hawthorne, a well-known author, wrote a book based on the house touting the same name in 1851.
Hawthorne himself never lived in the home but was related to and visited family there from time to time.
One of North America’s first known timber-framed homes, the house of the seven gables is now a museum.
12. Pickering House
The Pickering House is not only the oldest house in Salem but is believed to be the oldest home held by a single-family, for more than 300 years. The family lived in the house for ten generations until it was sold outside the family in 1998.
John Pickering first built the house in 1660, and it began as a small two-room farmhouse.
Over the years, the family changed the structure to what you will see today. They added gables, peaks, a unique fence, and more.
Though not substantiated, it is rumored that George Washington visited the Pickering house in 1789 to meet with Colonial Timothy Pickering, who lived there at the time.
13. Friendship Of Salem
This one had to make our list of the best things to do in Salem, Ma, because we love the US national park system and try to visit the sites when possible.
The Friendship was an East Indiaman sailing vessel built in Salem in 1797. It is known to have taken at least 15 voyages to far-off destinations like Russia, China, India, and the Caribbean.
The Friendship was taken in 1812 as a prize of war by the British. It was then sold at auction in 1813, after which it just disappeared from the records. It was not seen again.
The Friendship of Salem, seen today, is a replica of the original sailing vessel and is a National Historic Site.
While it is a fully functioning vessel, most of the time, it is a stationary museum you can climb aboard and look around.
A few times a year the Friendship does set sail. Maybe you will be lucky enough to see it.
14. Salem Custom House
The Custom House sits across the street from the Friendship sailing vessel.
This custom house was built in 1819 and operated until the 1930s. Its purpose was to collect taxes on cargo coming into the USA.
We previously spoke of Nathanial Hawthorne, and he also has ties to the Salem custom house.
Even though he was a well-known author at the time, he could not provide for his family. So he was a surveyor at the customs house from 1846 to 1848.
In fact, he mentions the custom house in his first successful novel, The Scarlet Letter, written in 1850.
Inside the custom house, you will find on display many tools used for the positions held within the house and Nathanial Hawthorne’s office.
15. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
This is completely different than anything else on our list of things to do in Salem, Ma.
But we couldn’t leave it off the list because Jenny is a huge horror fan. So this is right up her alley.
Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is a museum all about horror.
The gallery contains numerous wax figures dressed as horror icons, tons of movie props, and behind-the-scenes information on many popular horror films.
In addition to that, it has a nice collection of autographs on display.
You will find favorite movie monsters from the 1920s through the 1980s slasher films and possibly a few more recent ones sprinkled in.
The gallery rotates its memorabilia, so no two visits will be identical.
16. New England Pirate Museum
Not interested in all the witch fanfare? We have given you several options already unrelated to witches. But this is the first one involving pirates.
The New England Pirate Museum takes you on a guided tour to experience a New England seaport in the 1600s, board a pirate ship, wander through a cave, and check out all the pirate’s booty.
You will learn about the famous pirates Blackbeard and Kidd and even see real pirate treasure on display.
And did you know that many of the pirates during this time were actually from New England?
They often traveled back during the summer months and hid their treasure off the coast.
17. Derby Wharf & Light Station
The Derby Wharf was constructed by Richard Derby starting in 1762.
Over the years, it continued to expand and grow. In 1806 it reached its final (and current) length of 2,045 ft.
At one time, the wharf contained upwards of 20 structures. Now it is just a walking path to the light station and docks the Friendship.
The light station itself sits at the end of the pier. It is unique because it is a square building and is only about 25 ft tall. It is one of the few square-shaped lighthouses in the nation and was constructed in 1871.
You are not allowed inside the light station, but you can take the wharf pathway down for a close-up view.
18. Essex Street Shops
Located near Essex and Central, there are tons of quaint little stores if you are done with the “touristy” stuff and want to partake in some shopping.
While we aren’t personally huge shoppers, we couldn’t leave this off our list of things to do in Salem, Ma, because it has some unique storefronts.
There is plenty of options for everyone, including bookstores, vintage clothing, t-shirts, souvenirs, and of course, occult shops.
You can have a tarot card reading done or get a tattoo.
You can also find food and drinks if you are ready for a meal.
19. Salem Witch Board Museum
As their Facebook page proclaims, this is the “world’s only museum dedicated to the history and mystery of witch boards.”
Don’t know what a witch board is? It is just another name for an Ouija Board; and the museum has quite a few.
They are rotated regularly so you won’t see the same ones on a second visit.
It is quite a small museum in size but has a large number of boards on display, from old to new, from foreign to domestic.
The owner is quite knowledgeable about witch board history in general and can share specific facts about many of the boards as it is his personal collection.
Of all the things to do in Salem, Ma, this might be the one you have least likely heard of, but everyone who has been just raves about it.
Don’t miss it if you are interested in Ouija boards or used the Parker Brothers version as a child.
📎 Tip: See if you can’t find the Ouija board in braille.
20. Peabody Essex Museum
If you enjoy art museums, you must put the Peabody Essex Museum on your list.
If you count the East India Marine Society, founded in 1799, as the museum’s beginning, it is one of the oldest in North America.
The men who joined the society were mariners who had traveled large distances and brought back relics to share in a local museum.
Today, the Peabody Essex Museum includes what remains of the East India Marine Society collection, plus much more. The PEM houses more than 840,000 pieces with a large collection of East Indian and Asian art.
The museum switches its rotating exhibits a couple of times yearly, so there is always something different to experience.
21. Salem Common
Located downtown, the Salem Common is an 8-acre public park.
The area was originally established for military training grounds starting in 1714 (before that, it was a cow pasture).
Over time it became more of the park you see today, and in 1976 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
This area is ideal to unwind and take a break from all the sightseeing.
Numerous benches allow you to relax your feet. And it is a terrific place to enjoy a nice day while people-watching or eating a picnic lunch.
Make sure you look at the stunning gazebo, also called the Salem Common Bandstand, built in 1926.
22. Witch Dungeon Museum
Experience a chilling journey into the past at the Witch Dungeon Museum.
Here, the infamous 1692 witch trials are brought to life in a captivating, thought-provoking way.
Begin with an award-winning performance by a trained actress who provides a riveting narration of the trials based on actual trial transcripts.
After this performance, brace yourself for a guided tour through a realistic re-creation of the original dungeon.
You’ll see lifelike scenes depicting the harsh conditions endured by those accused of witchcraft. As you walk through the dimly lit, eerily authentic dungeon, feel the chill of history and the injustices of the past come alive.
A visit to the Witch Dungeon Museum is a must-do for history buffs and anyone interested in this dark chapter of Salem’s history.
23. Bewitched Sculpture
Taking on a lighter note to witchcraft is a sculpture of the one and only Elizabeth Montgomery.
The sculpture depicts one of the original and most famous TV witches of all time, Samantha Stephens, and it sits in Lappin Park.
Bewitched ran for eight seasons from the mid-60s to the early-70s. And the show has been listed on TV Guide’s top 50 shows of all time.
This show was before our time, and perhaps yours as well, so maybe you aren’t familiar with the character.
But the show made witches popular in the mainstream and discussed important taboo topics of the time.
Samantha gave a little nose wiggle to make her magic work in the show. Like rubbing Buddha’s belly for good luck, why don’t you give Sam here a little nose rub?
24. The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple, despite its name, is not about devil worship.
Instead, it’s a non-theistic religious and activist group that champions the values of empathy, benevolence, and critical thinking.
It uses the symbol of the literary Satan as a metaphor to promote secularism, individual sovereignty, and social justice.
Headquartered in Salem, The Satanic Temple draws the curious and open-minded.
Its Salem Art Gallery is a public place showcasing exhibits and art installations, often with a satirical edge, encouraging thought and discussion about contemporary social issues.
A gallery highlight is a monumental bronze statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed deity associated with the occult, which stands as a symbol of rebellion against arbitrary authority.
This certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you are interested, this could be a thought-provoking and unique exploration into the preconceptions most of us have about the world around us.
25. Phillips House
Last but not least of the best things to do in Salem, Ma, step into the grandeur of the past at the Phillips House.
This historic Federal-style mansion, now a museum operated by Historic New England, captures how a wealthy Salem family lived during the early 20th century.
As you tour the rooms, you’ll see the Phillips family’s collection of antiques, art, and artifacts from around the world, revealing their cosmopolitan tastes and love of travel.
A 1929 Packard Phaeton in the garage adds a vintage touch to the setting.
But it’s not just about the family’s affluence. The Phillips House also tells the tale of the domestic staff that ran the household, reflecting the social and economic structure of the era.
Admire the meticulously preserved architecture, wander through the beautiful gardens, and discover the stories and lifestyles of the family and their staff.
Our Top Recommendations Of The Things To See In Salem, Ma
Short on time and can’t see everything on our list? If you only have one day in Salem, these are the top things we recommend you make your priority.
Map of The Salem, Massachusetts Attractions
More of a visual learner and want to see everything mapped out? Here is our personalized map of the attractions.
On mobile, click the top right box, and our map will open directly into google maps so you can look around and get directions.
Where To Stay In Salem
Want to stay the night in this historic city? We’ve got you covered with three great choices.
Luxury 💵 💵 💵 – Northey Street House
- Historic Charm: Staying at the Northey Street House is like stepping back in time. This beautifully restored 1809 Federal-style inn brims with quaint charm, from its period furnishings to its welcoming atmosphere. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the rich history of Salem.
- Excellent Location: Located in the Bridge Street Neck Historic District, Northey Street House is just a short stroll away from Salem’s downtown area, allowing easy access to popular attractions like the House of Seven Gables, Salem Witch Museum, and the harbor.
- Personal Touch: This bed and breakfast provides a warm, personalized service you don’t always find in larger hotels. With home-cooked breakfasts, comfortable accommodations, and a friendly host, it’s a homely place where you’ll feel more like a guest in a friend’s house than a hotel customer.
Mid-Range 💵 💵 – The Merchant
- Luxury Comfort: The Merchant is a perfect choice if you’re looking for an upscale experience. Each of its eleven rooms is uniquely designed and lavishly appointed, offering a stylish, modern take on classic New England luxury.
- Historic Elegance: This boutique hotel is housed in a meticulously restored historic building once home to a wealthy sea merchant. It seamlessly blends historic elegance with modern conveniences, giving guests a unique and memorable stay.
- Top-notch Services: From the moment you step through its doors, The Merchant goes above and beyond to ensure a comfortable, enjoyable stay. Every detail is designed to cater to your needs, from the complimentary breakfasts to the attentive staff.
Budget 💵 – Salem Waterfront Hotel
- Stunning Harbor Views: As its name implies, Salem Waterfront Hotel offers beautiful views of Salem Harbor. Whether dining at their on-site restaurant or enjoying a morning coffee in your room, the picturesque harbor setting adds a unique, relaxing touch to your stay.
- Prime Location: Located in the heart of Salem’s vibrant Pickering Wharf neighborhood, you’re within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants, and attractions. It’s the perfect base for exploring Salem.
- Modern Amenities: This hotel provides all the amenities you’d expect from a quality waterfront hotel, such as an indoor heated pool, fitness center, and spacious, comfortable rooms. It’s an excellent choice for those who prefer a more contemporary hotel experience with all the conveniences.
Things To Do Near Salem, Ma
While Salem should definitely keep you busy, there are plenty of nearby attractions to visit if you have some extra time.
Just a stone’s throw from Salem, you’ll find Marblehead, a New England town brimming with charm.
It’s known for its picturesque harbor, historic homes and as the world’s yachting capital.
Stroll through Old Town, explore the shops and galleries, or enjoy fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants. A visit to the Marblehead Lighthouse offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
A bit further afield but still an easy day trip from Salem, Rockport offers the quintessential New England coastal town experience.
Famous for its scenic Bearskin Neck, this bustling peninsula is lined with art galleries, unique boutiques, and eateries.
Don’t miss the iconic red fishing shack known as “Motif Number 1”, which is said to be the most painted building in America.
If you’re staying in Salem, hopping on a train for a day in Boston is a breeze.
You can explore the Freedom Trail, visit world-class museums like the Museum of Fine Arts, feast on Italian cuisine in the North End, or catch a game at Fenway Park.
Boston’s blend of rich history and vibrant contemporary culture ensures there’s something for every visitor to enjoy.
Whale Watching In Gloucester
An exhilarating day trip from Salem, Gloucester is one of the premier whale-watching destinations in the U.S.
Several operators offer tours that take you out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, feeding grounds for humpback whales, finback whales, minke whales, and dolphins.
You can marvel at these majestic creatures in their natural habitat while learning about marine conservation.
FAQs For The Top Things To Do In Salem, Ma
Have a few questions about Salem? Here are some common ones.
Is Salem, Ma, Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Salem, Massachusetts, is a treasure trove of history and culture. You’ll adore the iconic Witch Trials history, fabulous museums like the Peabody Essex Museum, and the spellbinding architecture. Add in quirky shops, delectable dining, and stunning waterfront views, and you’ve got an enchanting destination waiting for your footprints. But remember, a broomstick is optional!
How Many Days Do You Need In Salem?
Two to three days in Salem would be just right. You’ll have enough time to delve into the witch trials’ history, explore the impressive museums, and soak in the town’s unique ambiance. Don’t forget to fit in a spell of shopping and dining – there’s a magic potion of a culinary scene waiting for you.
What Is The Best Month To Visit Salem, Mass?
October is arguably the best month to visit Salem, Massachusetts. It’s the heart of their famous “Haunted Happenings,” a month-long Halloween celebration that transforms the town into an enchanting cauldron of autumn colors, spooky festivities, and all things witchy. But be ready for crowds as witches and warlocks far and wide converge to join the fun.
Is Salem A Walkable City?
Absolutely, Salem is a delightfully walkable city. Its historic downtown is compact and easily navigable on foot. You can stroll from witch trials landmarks to cozy cafes, spellbinding museums, and charming shops in just minutes. Plus, you’ll adore the cobblestone streets, vibrant fall foliage, and waterfront views. Don’t forget comfortable shoes, though, as cobblestones can be tricky.
What Is The Prettiest Street In Salem, Ma?
Chestnut Street in Salem is a sight to behold. It’s considered one of the prettiest in America, lined with grand Federal-style mansions dating from the 19th century. The majestic trees, cobblestone roads, and vintage lampposts create a picturesque charm that’s like stepping into a storybook. An autumn stroll here, with leaves crunching underfoot, is nothing short of magical!
To Finish – Best Things To Do In Salem, Ma
And there you have it!
Our list of the best things to do in Salem, MA, and beyond.
Whether you’re drawn by the chilling tales of the infamous witch trials, the allure of age-old maritime history, or the charming, historic streets begging for a leisurely stroll, Salem truly offers an enchanting blend of past and present that will capture any traveler’s heart.
We encourage you to soak in this captivating city’s rich tapestry of experiences.
So plan that trip, and discover the magic that makes Salem such an unforgettable destination.
If you want to spend more time in historic Massachusetts, consider spending a day in Plymouth to learn all about the Pilgrim’s journey to the New World.