Replica of a ship in Salem, Massachusetts

Things to do in  Salem

Must be the season of the witch

Once a bustling seaport, today Salem is best known as the site of the harrowing witch trials that rocked Colonial America in 1692. Visitors flock to this sleepy coastal town outside of Boston for a glimpse into its shadowy past, from haunted history and ghost tours to spooky sites such as the Witch Dungeon Museum and the House of the Seven Gables. But go beyond witches. Other popular things to do in Salem include browsing artifacts at the Peabody Essex Museum or connecting with the city’s seafaring past at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

Top 11 attractions in Salem

Bewitched Statue

Located in Lappin Park in Salem, the Bewitched Statue is a tribute to actress Elizabeth Montgomery, the star of the popular 1960s show, Bewitched. Unveiled in 2005, the 9-foot (2.7-meter tall bronze statue features Montgomery’s character, the fictional witch Samantha Stephens, sitting on a broomstick in front of a crescent moon.More

Salem Witch Museum

At the Salem Witch Museum, relive the tragic Salem witch trials of 1692 through a series of life-size stage sets. See and hear how neighbors turned against neighbors, and learn more about everyone involved. You’ll also get an overview of the evolving perception of witches throughout history.More

Salem Witch Trials Memorial

The Salem Witch Trials Memorial preserves a moment in history, when 17th-century residents of colonial Massachusetts tried and executed women and men accused of witchcraft. The site, a small grassy area surrounded by stone walls and locust trees, is just one of the many witchcraft hysteria attractions in the historical town of Salem.More

Old Burying Point (Charter Street Cemetery)

Also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, the Old Burying Point of Salem is the second oldest burying ground in the United States. It is estimated to date back to 1637. Victims of the infamous Salem With Trials were convicted nearby to the site. Jonathan Corwin and Jonathan Hawthorne, who were both Salem witch trial judges, are also buried here.As Salem was once a major shipping port for “the New World,” this cemetery is particularly historic. A Mayflower pilgrim, one of the first to enter the United States, was claimed to be put to rest here. The grave of former governor Samuel Bradstreet can also be found. The old tombstones remain intact and uniquely carved from the 1600s, presenting a bit of history that has been preserved since that time. A visit is an opportunity to learn about colonial-era history, including burial practices and the lives of some of the important figures laid to rest here.More

House of the Seven Gables

See the house that inspired the novel House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Dating back to 1668, it’s one of the oldest surviving wooden mansions in New England. Overlooking Salem Harbor, the site comprises several historic buildings, gardens, a sea wall, and a large collection of artifacts, photos, and rare books.More

Peabody Essex Museum (PEM)

Opened in 1799—and then called the East India Marine Society—Salem's Peabody Essex Museum (PEM is one of the oldest continuously-operating museums in the US. The museum's sizable collection makes it one of the region's largest art institutions. Holdings include curios from mariners traveling the globe, plus historic homes and gardens.More

Salem Ferry

Travel between Boston and Salem in style on the Salem Ferry. The high-speed catamaran cruises at up to 33 knots, and can complete the journey in less than an hour. With two decks, indoor and outdoor seating, a galley, and restrooms, the Salem Ferry offers a comfortable and quick way to travel between the two historic cities.More

Salem Witch Village

Separate the myths from the facts while learning all about the history of witchcraft through the ages, with a visit to the Salem Witch Village. Tours are led by practicing witches. The village also features an indoor maze and eclectic gift shop.More

Custom House

One of thirteen custom homes built in Salem in early America, the Custom House is known for its appearance in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novelThe Scarlett Letter. As Salem was an important seaport for the United States at this time, custom houses were built to collect taxes on incoming cargo. At first collected for the British Government during the colonial era, the American Government began collecting the funds in 1789. The importance of the structure to the federal government is evident in its elegant design and impressive attention to detail, with its wide staircase, high ceilings, and exquisite wood carvings.This was the last Custom House built to hold these offices. Author Nathaniel Hawthorne did in fact work in the house as a surveyor, and his time there inspired his masterpiece novel. Today visitors can have a look at his former office, as well as learn about the history of the customs process through various exhibits.More
Salem Wax Museum

Salem Wax Museum

As a city perhaps best known for its 1692 witch trials, Salem has a dark history that dates back centuries. Visitors can unpack stories of this colonial era at the Salem Wax Museum. Encounter wax figures from Salem's past in this quaint museum, and check out a small exhibit on the history of Salem, its witch hunt, and maritime industry.More

Pickering Wharf

A quaint waterfront area of Salem, Pickering Wharf is home to a variety of small shops, restaurants, and boutiques lining the harbor. Salem was one of America’s primary seaports, and the marina full of docked boats continues the tradition. Well-marked signs share some of the neighborhood’s history, while the shops feature unique arts and crafts, botanicals, antiques, and souvenirs — many with a boutique feel. Area restaurants feature fresh seafood from the local waters, some with views of the sea from their dining tables.You can take a relaxing seaside stroll down to the local lighthouse, or see some of the historic ships docked in Salem Bay. The historic schooner ‘Friendship of Salem’ is often open for exploration. Or, as the locals do and pick up a fishing pole and perhaps catch your own dinner! Seasonal special events as well as a First Friday shopping night occur frequently.More

Trip ideas

A Spooky City Guide to Salem

A Spooky City Guide to Salem

Top activities in Salem

History and Hauntings of Salem Guided Walking Tour
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Salem Witch Trials Historical Walking Tour
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Bewitched Walking Tour of Salem
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Bewitched Walking Tour of Salem

Mysteries and Murders of Salem Guided Night-Time Walking Tour
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Historic Overview of Salem Walking Tour
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Satanic Salem Walking Tour
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Satanic Salem Walking Tour

Salem Day Tour: Historical Witchcraft Hysteria Walking Tour
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Wandering Witches

Wandering Witches

Sailing on Historic Schooner When And If in Salem, MA
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1692 Salem Night Walking Tour
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Magic Lantern Tour

Magic Lantern Tour

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All about Salem

When to visit

Salem can be enjoyed year-round. To enjoy the town at its liveliest—if also its kitschiest—visit in October, before or around Halloween. It’s busy this time of year, but if you can handle the crowds, you’ll be met with fun seasonal events. Late spring and summer are also favorable times to travel, with warm weather making Salem’s coastal parks especially pleasant. While winters are cold and snowy in Salem, there are many indoor attractions to check out between December and February, as well as lower prices and greater accommodation availability.

Getting around

Located 16 miles north of Boston, Salem can be reached by train via the MBTA Commuter Rail’s Newburyport and Rockport Lines and by the Salem Ferry. Salem isn’t large, so you can easily get around on foot, with the Salem Heritage Trail connecting all the main attractions. Alternatively, hop-on hop-off sightseeing trolleys operate between April and November. Ride-hailing services and bike rentals are also available.

Traveler tips

Despite its spooky reputation, Salem is family-friendly, and travelers with young kids don’t need to expose them to frightening attractions or tours if they don’t want to. Within this historic town, you’ll find many 17th-century homes and buildings that offer visitors a non-sensationalized glimpse into colonial-era life and the Witch Trials of the 1690s. Of course, if you want all the witches on broomsticks, dancing skeletons, and creepy ghouls, you’ll also find them around town.

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People Also Ask

Is Salem worth a trip?

Yes, Salem is worth a trip, especially for history and art lovers. Salem’s 17th-century witch trials are memorialized here, and the House of the Seven Gables showcases colonial-era heritage. The Peabody Essex Museum is among the finest art museums in New England, with eclectic collections sourced from around the globe.

What’s special about Salem?

Salem is famous for a series of 17th-century witch trials that led to 19 executions. The Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem Witch Museum, and Witch House offer a sobering historical take. However, the city now celebrates its witchy heritage with tours, occult shops, creepy galleries, and over-the-top Halloween events.

Is Salem worth visiting?

Yes, Salem is worth visiting. The city is a 45-minute drive from Boston and has a fascinating history, including 17th-century witch trials and bustling colonial-era maritime trade. Popular sites here include the House of the Seven Gables, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Witch Trials Memorial, and Witch House.

Why is Salem a tourist attraction?

Tourists come to Salem for its colonial-era history and landmark art museum. Memorials and tours explore the infamous 17th-century witch trials—Salem’s annual Halloween events are a lighter side of that witchy heritage. Another highlight is the art at Peabody Essex Museum, among the oldest museums in the United States.

How does Salem celebrate Halloween?

Halloween in Salem is a major event, with happenings throughout October. The city goes all out with Halloween decorations, and events include a Haunted Happenings Grand Parade, spooky tours, seances, and pumpkin decorating. Salem’s witch-themed museums turn extra kitschy for Halloween, featuring seasonal decor and costumed staff.

How do I spend a weekend in Salem, MA?

With a weekend in Salem, you can explore the city’s top attractions. Plan to visit the House of the Seven Gables, Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, and Pickering Wharf. For a deeper dive into witch-trial history consider a walking tour of Salem’s major colonial-era landmarks.

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