Wicked Fun Things to Do In Salem, MA
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Wicked Fun Things to Do In Salem, MA

Getaway Staff

The Salem Witch Trials might still haunt the old seaside town of Salem, Massachusetts, but the so-called “Witch City” is so much more than just witches. It’s a city rich with history, otherworldly entertainment, spectacular shopping, and excellent dining and nightlife options. With quaint cobblestone streets bumping against quirky old buildings, Salem casts a spell on its visitors with a surprise around every corner. Best of all, it’s walkable. No matter what you squeeze into your visit, the opportunities to have a wicked good time are truly endless.


01 Get spooked at the Salem Witch Museum

Salem witch museum, the most popular witches American city famous by its history, Salem, Mass, USA

Most locals would agree that no first-timer’s visit to The Witch City is complete without a spell in the Salem Witch Museum. From stage sets to tours exploring the 1692 Salem Witch Trials that put Salem on the map worldwide, you will learn a lot about the city, including a bit about witchcraft in the modern era. Sure, the special effects might be a little dated—the booming voiceover during the presentation is Vincent Price’s voice on tape—but that’s all part of its enduring allure.


02 Snap a selfie with Samantha

CivArmy / Wikipedia Commons

Even if you aren’t a fan of the iconic 1960s TV series Bewitched, you’re probably familiar with the star of the show: a blonde witch named Samantha, played by Elizabeth Montgomery. The bronze statue erected in her honor sits smack dab in the middle of downtown Salem, surrounded by the cities’ cafes, bars, quirky shops, and restaurants.


03 The Satanic Temple

From the outside, this tourist attraction is a modest little house with a hanging shingle for a sign. Can't it be too scary, right? Well, looks can be deceiving, especially when the little hanging sign says "The Satanic Temple." Part of the Salem Art Gallery, visitors can step inside the Satanic Temple for a look at a dark underworld of art that few every day people have ever seen. Visit the Satanic Temple and prepare to be impressed, moved, and maybe just a little bit uncomfortable.


04 Find "The Friendship" at Pickering Wharf

Pickering Wharf DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

If you make your way to the picturesque harbor off Congress Street, you’ll come upon an imposing 171-foot replica of the type of merchant ship that made Salem a global leader in the spice trade of the 18th century. Although it usually operates as a permanent museum, the boat is a fully functioning US Coast Guard-certified vessel that makes special sailings at various times of the year. After you’ve marveled at this maritime wonder, walk down the rocky causeway to the historic Derby Wharf lighthouse, which has been sending off signals since 1871.


05 Peabody Essex Museum (PEM)

Hailing as the longest continuously running museum in the country, the Peabody Essex Museum combined two of Salem's institutions (East India Marine Society and Essex Institute) to create a high caliber museum with small-town accessibility. But don't let the location of this museum be misleading. PEM is far more than another witch museum. Whether popping in for an hour or meandering through exhibits for an entire day, PEM has something for witch and non-witch enthusiasts alike.


06 Tour The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA. Mr.TinDC / Flickr

This historic homestead from 1668 was made famous by Salem-born author Nathaniel Hawthorne in his 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables. The house got its name from—you guessed it—its seven gables. Now a museum and a designated National Historic Landmark District, The House of the Seven Gables has long been one of Salem’s essential stops.


07 Beat the high scores at Salem Willows Arcade

Young couple are walking to the dodgems at a funfair with their arms round each other. SolStock / Getty Images

Nicknamed “The Willows” by residents, this picturesque harborside park is a sharp contrast to its famous old-school amusement park. The arcade is packed with vintage games that have been plugged into their respective wall sockets since the 1980s and 1990s, giving it a nostalgic vibe with just the right amount of creepiness. There’s also a mini-golf course, a few rides, and yes, all the greasy food you can gorge yourself on. Be sure to try the world-famous chop suey sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like.


08 Misery Islands

Decayed Pier, West Beach Beverly, Massachusetts, USA

Don't let the name fool you. Although a visit by Captain Robert Moulton in the 1620s was less than enjoyable, this destination is anything but depressing. The island, only accessible by boat, has 2 1/2 miles of trails and limitless land to explore. Guided tours, concerts, and even yoga are offered all year. Or for those not following a clock, just pack a picnic, paddle on over, and take a nap in a field. Sorry, Captain Moulton, life isn't so miserable on the Misery Islands anymore!


09 Ride a bike to Winter Island

Fort Pickering Lighthouse Salem Massachusetts Sunrise

Avoid Salem’s traffic and confusing one-way streets by renting a bike instead of driving. Pedal your way out to Winter Island, which is not actually an island but a peninsula that juts into Salem Harbor. There, you can walk out to the lighthouse, relax on one of the three beaches, have a picnic, rent a boat, and even go camping. Be sure to check out the spooky abandoned airport hangar and dilapidated army barracks while you’re there.


10 Hocus Pocus Tours

Wear comfortable shoes because this tour is ninety minutes of walking but will feel like it's over in a flash or the wave of a wand. The Hocus Pocus guide will delve into the fascinating, if not terrifying, history of Salem. Walk on the same ground where real people were tried, executed, and buried in the name of Puritanism. The best part of the 90 minutes is that even though the tour may be all true Salem history, it's also a haunted adventure. Only the brave need attend!


11 Wander through the Witch Trials Memorial

Witch Trials Memorial, Salem alohadave / Getty Images

When you visit the Old Burying Point on Charter Street, you'll see some of the oldest graves in the country nestled amongst craggy old trees that look straight out of a horror movie. The Witch Trials Memorial is tucked in beside the cemetery, behind a low stone wall. It’s so understated you could easily overlook it if you didn’t know it was there. There, you can pay your respects to the victims of the witch trial victims, each of which has their name and cause of execution etched onto individual stone slabs.


12 Satisfy your sweet tooth in America’s oldest candy shop

Salem, Massachusetts, USA. 10/27/2015. America's Oldest Candy Co. since 1806

Open since 1806, Ye Olde Pepper Companie on Derby Street is the oldest commercial candy store in the country. Every piece of candy is still made fresh and in-house, using the shop’s original 19th-century recipes. Spoiled for choice and stuck on which sweet to savor first? Try some Salem Gibraltar, which was invented by the shop’s original owner, a shipwreck survivor named Mrs. Spencer.


13 Have dinner and drinks at the historic Hawthorne Hotel

Just off Salem Common, you’ll find the century-old Hawthorne Hotel, named for Salem’s own Nathaniel Hawthorne. Within this elegantly restored landmark is a cozy dining room called Tavern on the Green, with wood walls and an enormous wood-burning fireplace that keeps the New England chill at bay. The menu offers fresh seafood and traditional pub food, and when you get thirsty you can enjoy draft beer and an award-winning cocktail or two at the bar.


14 Go on a ghost tour after dark

Skull engraved on tombstone in Salem MA

While there are plenty of daytime walking tours of The Witch City, it’s safe to say the most thrilling ones happen after dark. There are countless options for ghost tours of any imaginable variety, especially as the Halloween season draws near. All of them are ghoulishly entertaining, yet educational at the same time. Hey, it’s just Salem doing what Salem does best.


15 Witch Dungeon Museum

Visitors to Salem are usually looking to be immersed in all things Witch Trials, and a visit to the Witch Dungeon Museum will not disappoint. Enter the museum and expect to be engulfed in the mayhem that ultimately resulted in the trials and executions of 20 people found guilty of doing the Devil's magic. This isn't an exhibit. This is a live re-enactment of real events based on actual historical manuscripts. After visitors live through the emotions of all involved, they can tour the dungeon itself. This is the most realistic portrayal of the events that made Salem famous.


16 Salem Willows Park

Row of benches facing the water while the sun is setting By Drea Dizon / Getty Images

A delightful oasis in the heart of Salem, Salem Willows Park is a must-visit for those seeking a tranquil retreat. Nestled by the ocean, this 35-acre park is a haven of picnic grounds, sports facilities, and charming beaches. The Kiddieland area, featuring a carousel dating back to 1905, is a hit with the little ones. Whether you're picnicking under the shade of the willows or simply soaking up the ocean views, Salem Willows Park offers a refreshing break from the city's bustling witch-themed attractions.


17 Salem Witch Village

Witch House in Salem, MA, USA xeni4ka / Getty Images

Step into the mystical world of witchcraft at the Salem Witch Village. This unique attraction offers a blend of entertainment and education, weaving together the city's rich witchy history with a dash of kitsch. Guided by a practicing witch, you'll delve into the history of witchcraft, separating myth from fact. From spooky tales to frightful fun, the Salem Witch Village promises an enchanting journey into Salem's supernatural past.


18 Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Immerse yourself in Salem's maritime legacy at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. This site offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's seafaring past, with historic buildings, wharves, and the replica tall ship Friendship of Salem. As you explore the site, you'll be transported back to a time when Salem was a bustling seaport, playing a pivotal role in America's maritime history.


19 Salem Food Tours

Embark on a culinary adventure with Salem Food Tours. These tours offer a deliciously diverse exploration of Salem's food scene, taking you on a gastronomic journey through the city's best eateries. From local delicacies to international cuisine, you'll get to sample a variety of dishes, all while learning about Salem's rich culinary heritage. A Salem Food Tour is a feast for both the palate and the mind.


20 Salem State University Performing Arts

For art enthusiasts, the Salem State University Performing Arts offers a vibrant array of performances throughout the year. From captivating theater productions to mesmerizing dance performances, the university's performing arts scene is a testament to the city's thriving cultural landscape. Whether you're a seasoned theater-goer or a first-time visitor, the Salem State University Performing Arts promises an unforgettable cultural experience.


21 Schooner FAME of Salem

salem boat Jessica Lutz / Getty Images

Set sail on a nautical adventure aboard the Schooner FAME of Salem. This replica of a War of 1812 privateer offers sailing trips from Salem's Pickering Wharf, giving you a taste of life on the high seas. As you glide along the waters, you'll hear tales of the city's maritime history and the privateers who once navigated these waters. A trip aboard the Schooner FAME is a journey into Salem's seafaring past.


22 Salem Woods

Footbridge to cross river while on Trail of Ten Falls Loop Hike EyeWolf / Getty Images

Escape to the great outdoors at Salem Woods. This natural haven offers a network of hiking trails, winding through lush woodland and beautiful scenery. Whether you're an avid hiker or a casual walker, Salem Woods provides a peaceful respite from the city's historic sites. As you explore the trails, you'll be enveloped by the tranquility of nature, making Salem Woods a perfect spot for outdoor relaxation.


23 New England Pirate Museum

Step into the world of pirates at the New England Pirate Museum. This unique attraction offers a thrilling exploration of Salem's seafaring past, bringing to life the tales of infamous pirates like Captain Kidd and Blackbeard. As you navigate the recreated colonial-era port, board the pirate ship, and explore the treasure cave, you'll discover a trove of pirate artifacts and treasures. The museum offers a fascinating insight into the lives of the pirates who once roamed these waters, from their daring exploits to their ill-gotten gains. Whether you're a history enthusiast or simply seeking a swashbuckling adventure, the New England Pirate Museum promises a voyage like no other.


24 Embark on a Journey with the Salem-Boston Ferry

Add a splash of maritime adventure to your Salem visit by taking the ferry to the vibrant city of Boston. This isn't just a commute, but an experience that offers a unique perspective of Massachusetts' stunning coastal beauty. As the ferry slices through the waves, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the coastline, a spectacle that's particularly mesmerizing at dawn or dusk.

Upon reaching Boston, a city steeped in rich history and bustling with modern energy, you'll find an array of attractions to explore. Walk the historic Freedom Trail, catch a game at the legendary Fenway Park, or treat your taste buds at the bustling Quincy Market. Boston's eclectic food scene, offering everything from classic New England seafood to global cuisines, is a gastronomic adventure in itself. The return journey to Salem under the starlit sky, with the city lights reflecting off the water, is a sight to behold. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a culinary explorer, or a traveler seeking unique experiences, the Salem-Boston ferry ride offers an unforgettable day trip that beautifully blends scenic travel, historical exploration, and culinary delights. It's a fantastic way to experience the charm of two iconic Massachusetts cities in a single day.


25 Fort Sewall

Steeped in military history, Fort Sewall stands as a testament to Salem's role in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Now serving as a park, the fort offers a glimpse into the past, with hidden spots where troops once took shelter. Historical reenactments bring the fort's history to life, making Fort Sewall a must-visit for history buffs. As you explore the fort, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the events that shaped America's history.


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