The Getaway
Wicked Fun Things to Do In Salem, MA

The Salem Witch Trials might still cast a shadow over the old seaside town of Salem, Massachusetts, but this historic destination has so much more to offer than the macabre. It’s a coastal city rich with culture, entertainment, and nightlife that’s more hip than haunting. Spend days strolling the cobblestones in Essex Street or take in the beauty of the Waterfront District. Whether you come for the history or the mystery, you can squeeze so much into a day or weekend in Salem.

Advertisement

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 Salem is complete without a spell in the Salem Witch Museum. Explore exciting stage sets or take a tour exploring the 1692 and ’93 Salem Witch Trials that put Salem on the map worldwide. You get a new perspective on the city, including a brief education on modern witchcraft, which is now thriving in the town. Horror fans will love the Vincent Price-esque booming voice narrating some presentations, and there’s always something spooky to take home at the Museum Store.

Advertisement

02 Snap a selfie with Samantha

Essex Street in Salem, MA, is a top destination for shoppers and those wanting to experience the quaint, cobbled streets. It’s also the site of one the town’s most popular attractions, a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha from Bewitched. This show was a big hit in the ‘60s and made witchcraft cute and funny. The statue shows Samantha on a broom flying past the moon. cafes, quirky shops, or restaurants.

CivArmy / Wikipedia Commons

03 Change your perspective at The Satanic Temple

From the outside, this tourist attraction is a modest little house with a hanging shingle for a sign. Step inside and you discover the Satanic Temple (TST) headquarters and Salem Art Gallery. Despite the name, the Satanic Temple is a non-theist organization that promotes benevolence and empathy and stands up to injustice. They’ll often have a flag outside championing a good cause. Visit here for a chance to see the infamous Baphomet statue and learn more about the history of the local witch hunts.

04 Find "The Friendship" at Pickering Wharf

While you may make great friends in Salem, that’s not what we’re referring to here. If you make your way to Pickering Wharf, a picturesque harbor off Congress Street, you may come upon an imposing replica of Friendship, a tall ship used in the East Indies trade. This replica is called Friendship of Salem and is based on a model of the original ship. Visitors can visit the model at the Peabody Essex Museum but the replica is undoubtedly more impressive. 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.

Pickering Wharf DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

05 Go back in time at Peabody Essex Museum (PEM)

As well as the model of the Friendship, there are plenty of other reasons to visit PEM. It’s billed as the longest continuously running museum in the country and brings together the East India Marine Society and Essex Institute to create a high-caliber museum with small-town accessibility. PEM offers different exhibits throughout the year, from educational pieces on equal school rights to fashion and design. Check the events list before you book a visit.

06 Tour The House of the Seven Gables

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 — yes, 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 “must-see” attractions.

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

07 Beat the high scores at Salem Willows Arcade

Salem Willows, or just “The Willows” to locals, is a picturesque harborside park. It’s quite a sharp contrast to the famous old-school amusement arcade at the back of the parking lot opposite. This arcade is packed with vintage games that have been plugged into their respective wall sockets since the 1980s and ‘90s, providing pure nostalgia for gaming fans. There’s also a mini-golf course, a few rides, and, yes, all the greasy food you can gorge yourself on. For even more nostalgia, there’s an original 1905 horse carousel.

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

08 Find happiness at Misery Islands

Decayed Pier, West Beach Beverly, Massachusetts, USA

Don't let the name fool you. Shipbuilder Captain Robert Moulton got stuck here for “three miserable days” in the 1620s, and the name just never went away. Today, the island offers over 87 acres of natural beauty, much of it under land conversation and stewardship. The island is only accessible by boat and has two and a half miles of trails and wild land to explore. Ask locally about guided tours, and events like concerts and outdoor yoga. Or, for those not following a clock, just pack a picnic, paddle on over, and enjoy the wilder side of Salem.

Advertisement

09 Ride a bike to Winter Island

Fort Pickering Lighthouse Salem Massachusetts Sunrise

Avoid Salem’s traffic and sometimes 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 famous lighthouse or take time to relax on one of the three beaches. You can also book in at an RV or tent camping site, the perfect base to enjoy picnics, rent boats, and discover more of Salem’s coast. Be sure to check out the spooky abandoned Coast Guard Air Station with its slowly deteriorating buildings.

Advertisement

10 Have a spell cast on you with a Hocus Pocus Tour

Wear comfortable shoes because, depending on which tour you choose, you might be on your feet for some time. However, these experiences are so fascinating, that they feel like they’re done faster than the wave of a wand. Many guides 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 bit, for many people, is to see the actual locations where Bette Midler and co filmed the 1990s classic supernatural movie.

11 Wander through the Witch Trials Memorial

When you visit the Old Burying Point on Charter Street, you'll see some of the oldest graves in the country. Hauntingly, they’re hidden among craggy old trees that look like they’ve come straight out of a horror movie. The Witch Trials Memorial is tucked in here 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. This is the place to pay your respects to the victims of the witch trial victims. Every one of these mistreated and unjustly tried people have their name and the cause of their execution etched onto individual stone slabs.

Witch Trials Memorial, Salem alohadave / Getty Images

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 freshly made in-house using the shop’s original 19th-century recipes. Try some Salem Gibraltar, invented by the shop’s original owner, a shipwreck survivor named Mrs. Spencer. Or, for something more modern, how about a popcorn pizza? There’s something here to satisfy every sweet tooth.

Advertisement

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 — author of the aforementioned The House of the Seven Gables. Within this elegantly restored landmark is a cozy dining room called Tavern on the Green. Guests sit among wood walls and by 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.

Advertisement

14 Go on a ghost tour after dark

Skull engraved on tombstone in Salem MA

With its modern nickname of The Witch City, Salem has plenty of supernatural events to satisfy the most macabre-minded of visitors. It’s safe to say the most thrilling ones happen after dark, including the many ghost tours. There are countless options for spooky tours of any imaginable variety, especially around the Halloween season. All of them are ghoulishly entertaining, but many offer educational insights at the same time. Get your ghost on while learning something new about Salem.

Advertisement

15 Walk through history at the Witch Dungeon Museum

Visitors to Salem usually have at least a passing interest in the Witch Trials, and a visit to the Witch Dungeon Museum does not disappoint. Enter the museum and expect to be engulfed in the mayhem that ultimately resulted in the trials and executions of the many people found guilty of witchcraft. Unlike some museums, the focus here isn’t exhibits. Visitors get to see 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 Find tranquility at Salem Willows Park

We already mentioned the Salem Willows Arcade, but if you’re looking for the reason Salem is called City of Peace, surely you can find it in Salem Willows Park. The Willows is a delightful oasis nestling by the ocean. There are 35 acres of greenery, picnic grounds, sports facilities, and even charming beaches. 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 rush of the city.

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

17 Discover more about witchcraft at Salem Witch Village

Step into the mystical world of witchcraft at the Salem Witch Village. This unassuming, brick-fronted building leads guests into a unique attraction that offers a blend of entertainment and education. The hosts have successfully woven together the city's rich witchy history with just a dash of kitsch. The experience is guided by a practicing witch, so you’ve got an expert on hand to help you separate the facts from the fiction. Salem Witch Village promises an enchanting journey into Salem's supernatural past.

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

18 Explore the city’s ocean-faring history at Salem Maritime National Historic Site

This site offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's seafaring past. Wander through historic buildings and wharves, and you might see our old friend, 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 Work up an appetite and hit a Salem Food Tour

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. Book the tour, and you’ll get to sample local delicacies and more exotic fare, all while learning about Salem's rich culinary heritage.

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 Take a nautical adventure on 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. Sailing on the Fame takes around 2 hours and is available from May through October.

salem boat Jessica Lutz / Getty Images

22 Get back to nature in Salem Woods

When the witch trials feel too bleak, and city life gets too busy, the woods are calling. Salem Woods used to be common land for livestock, but now is a natural haven enjoyed by hikers, birders, and Boy Scouts. As you explore the many trails, you'll be enveloped by the tranquility of nature, making Salem Woods a perfect spot for outdoor relaxation.

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

23 Take yer maties to New England Pirate Museum

Step into the world of pirates at the New England Pirate Museum. Engage in an exploration of Salem's seafaring past, bringing to life the tales of infamous pirates like Captain Kidd and Blackbeard. 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.

24 Embark on a Journey with the Salem-Boston Ferry

Add even more 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.

25 Combine recreation and history at 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.

26 Visit the Salem Pioneer Village for a 1630 experience

Step back over three centuries to a time when Salem was a new world frontier. The Salem Pioneer Village, America's first living history museum, recreates the early settlement with thatched cottages, fragrant herb gardens, and smoky fire pits. It's a place where history feels alive, inviting you to immerse yourself in the daily life of the Puritan settlers. Don't just learn history—live it, in this captivating re-creation of Salem's earliest days.

27 Discover the International Monster Museum

For those who fancy a walk on the wild side of folklore and the fantastical, the International Monster Museum is a must-visit. This quirky museum offers a deep dive into the lore of creatures that haunt our dreams and stories. From the Loch Ness Monster to Bigfoot, explore how these beings have shaped cultures around the world. It's a thrilling adventure that proves monsters aren't just for under the bed.

28 Relax at Dead Horse Beach

Escape the witchy whirlwind of downtown Salem and find solace at Dead Horse Beach. With its gentle waves and soft sands, it's a perfect spot for a family picnic or a solitary stroll. The beach's unusual name belies its peaceful atmosphere, making it a hidden gem for those looking to unwind. Let the ocean's rhythm soothe your spirit in this serene seaside escape.

29 Paddle with Coast to Coast Paddle

Adventure seekers, rejoice! Coast to Coast Paddle invites you to explore Salem's scenic waterways in a kayak or on a paddleboard. Glide across the calm waters, with the sun warming your back and the city's history lining the shores. Whether you're a seasoned paddler or trying it for the first time, there's no better way to see Salem from a new perspective.

30 Tour the elegant Ropes Mansion and garden

The Ropes Mansion is a window into the opulent past of Salem's maritime elite. With its meticulously restored Georgian architecture and a garden that blooms in timeless beauty, the mansion offers a tranquil retreat. Wander through rooms frozen in time, where every antique tells a story of elegance and intrigue. The garden, open to the public, is a floral haven perfect for contemplation and leisurely walks.

Share

Scroll Down

for the Next Article

The Getaway Badge
Sign up to receive insider info and deals that will help you travel smarter.
Advertisement
Advertisement