When you mention Salem, Massachusetts most people immediately think of the famous Witch Trials that took place here in 1692. This hysteria and the events surrounding the witchcraft claims and trials made Salem a household name.
The town has since chosen to embrace this heritage so that others can learn from it. Due to that, you will find many of the things to do in Salem, MA are centered around this brief, yet dark part of Salem’s history.
But that’s not all that Salem has to offer. Look beyond the historical Salem Witch Trial era and you will find a great city with a unique New England town with a fascinating history waiting to be discovered.
Salem is one of the easy day trips from Boston. Of course, I would recommend doing what we did and spend a couple of nights in Salem!
Salem boasts beautiful architecture, a thriving food scene, historical sites, and load of outdoor activities for you to enjoy.
Keep reading to explore all of the things to do in Salem!
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Things to do in Salem, MA
Tour the Witch House
One of the best things to do in Salem if you are interested in the Witch Trials is to pay a visit to The Witch House.
This house was home to Judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges who presided over the Salem Witch Trial. History tell that Judge Jonathan Corwin would bring the accused to his home to examine them.
The home was built in between 1620 and 1640 and was owned by the Corwin family until the mid-1800s.
This is the only building in Salem still standing that has direct ties to the trials, thus making it a must-do for history lover.
Visitors can tour the home and learn all about the history associated with it including the family and the historic furnishings still contained within.
The Witch House is open daily from 10 a.m. until 4:40 p.m. and offers both guided and self-guided tours.
You will find The Witch House at 310 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Visit the Salem Witch Trials Memorial
The historical Witch Trials of Salem resulted in 20 innocent people being executed because of the hysteria of the time.
This tragic event in Salem’s history has been memorialized at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.
The Salem Witch Trials Memorial, which is located next to the Old Burying Point Cemetery, is a stone wall containing 20 stone benches each containing one name of the accused witches.
Take some time to learn about the symbolism associated with the Salem Witch Trials Memorial during your visit. It is truly fascinating.
One of the facts that I loved is how the memorial is right at the site of the old cemetery, where several of the accusers were buried. The wall surrounding the memorial is broke in the back on the part facing the cemetery. This serves as a reminder to those that accused and killed the witches so that they may never rest in peace.
The address for the memorial is 24 Liberty St., Salem, MA 01970.
Tour the House of Seven Gables
The House of Seven Gables, made famous by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne, is one of the best things to do in Salem, MA.
Seven Gables was originally built in 1688 for Captain John Turner and stayed in his family for three generations. The house was also the birthplace of acclaimed author Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The House of Seven Gables has undergone numerous renovations over the years, including the one in the early 1900s where the seventh gable was added back onto the house.
Today the home has been altered to more closely match the description in Hawthorne’s book, it is still fascinating to explore.
During your guided tour of the House of Seven Gables, you will learn all about the history of the home and even get to climb up the hidden staircase!
You will find the House of Seven Gables in the city at 115 Derby Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Stroll Through the Old Burying Point Cemetery
You will find the Old Burying Point Cemetery set just behind the Witch Trials Memorial. The oldest cemetery in Salem, there is definitely a lot of history here!
It is in the Old Burying Point Cemetery that you will find the final resting place of many of the people associated with the Salem Witch Trials. The most notable of which are Mary Corey, one of the accused, and Judge John Hathorne, one of the judges during the trial.
You can roam through the cemetery and check out the tattered and worn gravestones or you can take a history tour if you want more in depth information.
Take note that you might also hear this site referred to as Salem Street Cemetery.
You will find the cemetery on Charter Street, Salem, MA 01970.
See Some Art at the Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum, also know as “PEM,” is a well known and respected art museum.
Being that it is one of the largest art museums in the country, it is no wonder that the Peabody Essex Museum also contains one of the largest collections of Asian art in the United States.
The Peabody Essex Museum houses over 1.3 million pieces of art in its collection as well as 22 historical buildings.
In addition to the permanent pieces in their collection, the Peabody Essex Museum also showcases a variety of rotating exhibits.
The museum also contains an exhibit that allows visitors to fully explore what happened during the Salem witch trials. One of the unique displays of this exhibit is the tribute to Elizabeth How, one of the first women to be found guilty of witchcraft and subsequently hanged. The display features designs from famed fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
Peabody Essex also includes several historical properties throughout the city, most of which are on the National Register of Historical Places. Some of these properties include the John Ward House, the Daniel Bray House, the Plummer House, and the historic Ropes Mansion which we talk about more below.
The Peabody Essex is a great addition to your list of things to do in Salem, MA.
For current prices and operating hours, please visit their website.
The address for the museum is 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Stroll Down Chestnut Street
If you love architecture, then I would definitely add a stroll down Chestnut Street to your list of things to do in Salem, MA.
Notated as one of the wealthiest areas in Salem, Chestnut Street is lined with gorgeous historic homes and mansions. Not only that, but the entire street is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
One of which is the Historic New England Phillips House which we mention below.
Another important building located here is Hamilton Hall. The hall was built between 1805 and 1807 and is still a popular venue for social events. The cool thing to note about Hamilton Hall is its “spring” dance floor. It is said that you can dance all night and your feet will never hurt thanks to this unique dance floor.
You will also find The Pickering House in this area. Noted as America’s oldest home, the Pickering House has definitely earned its place in history. Still owned by the Pickering family, this is a fascinating home that allows visitors to step back in time over 300 years.
The house is located at 18 Broad St., Salem, MA 01970.
Visit the Historic New England Phillips House
While you are on Chestnut Street, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of these beautiful homes.
Consider going inside is the historic New England Phillips House, which is now a museum.
Originally built by Stephen Willard and Anna Phillips, this Federal style mansion is a great peek into what life was like in the early 20th century. You will also learn about the historical significance of the Phillips family.
During your visit, be sure to check out the carriage house where there is a collection of antique vehicles.
Guided tours of the New England House take place every 30 minutes. For operating information visit their website.
You will find the home at 34 Chestnut Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Shop at the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall
The Essex Street Pedestrian Mall is a great area to explore during your time in Salem.
Adding a walk through the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall to your list of things to do in Salem, MA is a must.
Explore the “witchy” shops that are located in this area as well as the Elizabeth Montgomery statue that is located here.
There are also several places to eat and common areas to just hang out in at the pedestrian mall.
Take a Trolley Tour
As one of the best things to do in Salem, the Salem Trolley Tours can get crowded, so buy your tickets early.
The trolley allows visitors to “hop-on and hop-off” at Salem’s top attractions. If you want, you can do the complete loop without getting off to learn all about the history of the area.
In addition to the history tour, Salem Trolley also offers a ghost tour, making this one of the Salem attractions not to miss!
Go on a Ghost History Tour
Taking a Salem ghost tour is one of the best things to do in Salem!
As we mentioned above, you can take a ghost tour offered by Salem Trolley or you can take one of the many walking tours that are offered in the area.
While there are many ghost tours offered in Salem, we always prefer to take a guided walking tour at night. There is just something about participating in a walking tour at night that add a little more mystery to the stories.
If you are traveling to the city of Salem with your kids, then I would recommend taking one of the daytime walking tours as these tend to focus more on the history and less on the gore and ghosts.
The majority of the guided tours in Salem will start in the historic district and take you through the streets of Salem and, of course, the Witch Trial Memorial and the Burying Point Cemetery.
Visit the Salem Witch Museum
One of the most popular things to do in Salem, MA is to explore and learn about witchcraft. One of the places to learn not only about witchcraft but also more about the history of the town is the Salem Witch Museum.
The Salem Witch Museum is dedicated to the witch trial that took place in 1692 here in Salem.
Visitors are introduced to the trials thanks to 13 life-size animatronic stage sets that recreate the events of the trials based upon historical documents of the time.
In addition to this exhibit, the Salem Witch Museum also has an exhibit history of witches in pop culture as well as witchcraft practices around the world today.
Overall, this was not one of the best things to do in Salem, MA in our opinion. If you know about the history of the trials, then I would skip this as it is one of the more expensive attractions in Salem.
You will find the museum at 8 Central Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Check Out the Witch Dungeon Museum
Another museum that focuses on a reenactment of the witch trials in the Salem Witch Dungeon Museum.
Your tour of the Witch Dungeon Museum will expose you to what the witch trials were really like thanks to live performances done by actors and actresses. Like the other museums, the events portrayed at the Salem Witch Dungeon Museum are based upon actual historical documents.
There is also a replica of the dungeon area that the accused witches were said to be housed in.
For hours and ticket prices, please visit their website.
You will find the Witch Dungeon Museum at 16 Lynde Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Check Out the Hocus Pocus Filming Sites
Fans of the famous Halloween film, Hocus Pocus are in for a treat for sure and would probably say this is one of the best things to do in Salem, MA.
You can take a guided tour or a self-guided tour of the Hocus Pocus filming locations throughout town.
I have to admit, I felt a little like a kid when I visited some of these sites!
Just remember, several of these attractions are independently owned and are private property so please be respectful.
Grab Treats from Harbor Sweets
Not only does Salem’s Harbor Sweets have great candy, but they also have a fun history associated with them.
This New England candy shop has been a town staple for more than 40 years. Here you can find all kinds of delicious hand-made chocolates to choose from.
One visit to Harbor Sweets and you will quickly see why it is one of the top candy brands in the United States.
This is a must do during your time in Salem, Massachusetts!
Harbor Sweets is located at 85 Leavitt Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Visit the Salem Maritime National Historic Site
History buffs will definitely want to visit the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
The Salem Maritime National Historic Site is a National Historic site that consists of 12 historic buildings, and a replica of a tall ship all set on Salem’s waterfront.
Visitors to the Salem Maritime Site can explore the artifacts housed in this fun site. These include the Derby House and Derby Wharf, the Friendship of Salem, and more.
You will find the Maritime National Historic Site located at 160 Derby Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Escape to Misery Islands
Don’t let the name of Misery Islands lead you astray. These islands are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Salem, Massachusetts.
This 87-acre nature preserve earned it’s name when a shipbuilder became stranded on the islands during a snowstorm in 1620.
Today, visitors come to Misery Islands to hike and to take in the spectacular views of Salem and the North Shore.
The smaller of the Misery Islands, Little Misery Island, by wading across the shallow channel during low tide.
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Salem, MA.
Step Back in Time at the Pioneer Village
The Pioneer Village in Salem Massachusetts is a great place to visit if you want to feel like you have been transported back in time.
Don’t get too excited though, the Pioneer Village is actually a theatre set that was built in 1930 to show what life would have been like in Salem, MA in 1630.
The set was opened to visitors in 1930 and has become one of the main attractions in Salem. Here you can tour the first living history museum in the United States and learn all about the life of the first English settlers.
You will find the Pioneer Village at 98 West Avenue, Salem, MA 01970.
Explore Ropes Mansion
There are so many beautiful and historic homes located in Salem’s McIntire Historic District, and one of the best ones is the Ropes Mansion.
This 18th century colonial mansion is owned and operated by the Peabody Essex Museum and welcomes visitors to come and tour the home and gardens.
Named after the Ropes family who occupied the home for more than 100 years, the Ropes Mansion is a tribute to Salem’s past. Here visitors can see many of the home’s original features, specifically the exterior which has been meticulously preserved.
Be sure and add this to your list of things to do in Salem, MA.
Ropes Mansion is located at 318 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970.
Explore Pickering Wharf
Head just a few minutes away from Salem’s main downtown area and you will find the Pickering Wharf.
We recommend taking the time to walk around and explore all that Pickering Wharf has to offer. Here you can shop at the many boutique-style shops before eating a fabulous lunch by the waterfront.
Also located in Pickering Wharf is the replica of the Friendship of Salem ship, a historic ship that has been restored. You can take a free tour of the ship if you would like.
Visit Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site
You will find the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site at 244 Central Street, Saugus, MA 01906.
The Iron Works National Historic Site was started in 1646 by John Winthrop, and he operated the iron works site from 1646 until 1670.
Today the site includes several reconstructed elements including the furnace, the rolling mill, and the forge. In addition to the shop, the site also contained a 17th century home which has also been restored.
Go On a Salem Food Tour
Salem has such a thriving food scene and the best way to be introduced to it is to take a Savannah Food Tour.
Not only will you get to taste delicious foods from Savannah’s restaurants, but you will also get to meet some great people.
Check Out Singing Beach
Located just outside of Salem, you will find one of New England’s top beaches, Singing Beach.
This is one of those attractions that you have to see to believe. The beach gets its name from the melodic sound made when you move your feet through the sand.
During your visit to Singing Beach you will be treated to gorgeous blue water and a small sandy beach.
There is also a concession stand and a bathhouse for you to enjoy.
Visit Breakheart Reservation
Breakheart Reservation is a 600+ acre park outside of the city of Salem, Massachusetts.
Here you can enjoy hiking, biking, or just relaxing in the beautiful landscape. You can also enjoy water activities on the Saugus River which winds its way through Breakheart Reservation.
This park is one of the fun free things to do in Salem also.
Explore the Salem Witch Board Museum
The Salem Witch Board Museum is focused on one of the most iconic items associated with witchcraft, the Ouija board. So, of course, it makes sense that a museum devoted to this board would be found in Salem, Massachusetts.
Visitors can see loads of Ouija boards and learn all about their history.
For those of you feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at one of the Ouija boards in the museum’s séance room.
I always say take things like this with a grain of salt. Exploring these quirky museums and exploring the history of Salem, including the witchcraft allows visitors to get a full picture of the town and its history.
Picnic at the Salem Common
Another one of the free things to do in Salem is to spend a day at the Salem Common.
The Common is located near the historic Hawthorne Hotel and is a great place to spend the day relaxing during your time in Salem.
Let the kids run around on the park or spend the day reading a book under a tree. No matter what you choose, don’t forget to pack a picnic for the day!
If you are visiting the park during October you will be treated to a giant Ouija board that graces the Common during certain weeks of the month.
Here are Some Salem Tours to Consider:
Where to Stay in Salem, Massachusetts
Of course, you can take a day trip from to Salem, but to truly get a good feel for the city you should plan to stay a couple of nights in Salem.
Here are some of the top hotels in Salem for you to consider:
The Hawthorne Hotel
Located right near the Salem Common, the Hawthorne Hotel is one of the most historic hotels in the town of Salem.
There are also a few restaurants located near the hotel, and one inside of the hotel. The location is close to downtown making it easy to walk to the attractions.
Salem Waterfront Hotel and Suites
The Salem Waterfront Hotel and Suites is a great hotel for those of you that want a nautical experience.
The hotel offers guests a restaurant with outdoor seating and is just a few blocks from the downtown area.
The Salem Inn
The Salem Inn is a unique accommodation is comprised of 3 historic homes that have been turned into a historic bed and breakfast.
There are 40 rooms and each comes with free breakfast.
It is said that the Salem Inn is haunted as well, so keep that in mind when booking.
The Salem Hotel
Located right in the center of Salem, the Salem Hotel is comprised of 44 guest rooms. Guests here can choose the room that is best for their needs as rooms range from micro-rooms to suites.
The Salem Hotel is located near sites, restaurants, and attractions.
The Merchant Hotel is where Sheriff George Corwin lived and operated his jail in the 1680s.
Today, the hotel is a great mix of historical and modern. The beautiful interior might make you never want to leave.
Stepping Stone Inn
The Stepping Stone is in a prime location in Salem, near everything you would want to visit!
The rooms at the Stepping Stone will make you feel right at home. When you add the breakfast offered by the Stepping Stone, you might not want to get out of bed!
The Daniels House Bed and Breakfast
The Daniels House Bed and Breakfast is the perfect place to stay for a couple. This charming bed and breakfast is like stepping back in time to the Colonial days. That makes sense since it is the oldest bed and breakfast in Salem!
Daniels House offers well appointed rooms, free parking, free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and more to ensure that you have a great stay during your time in Salem.
Clipper Ship Inn
Another place to consider in Salem is the Clipper Ship Inn. This budget friendly hotel is near the action and offers guests the choice of regular hotel rooms or suites.
With complimentary on-site parking and free Wi-Fi, this is the place to consider if you are wanting a budget hotel near downtown.
Final Thoughts on Salem Things to do
As you can see, there are so many great things to do and explore in Salem, Massachusetts.
Salem is a city that chose to deny its history for a long time until they realized that their history is what makes the a unique city to so many people.
Even if you don’t want to explore the witchcraft side of Salem, you can still find many amazing things to keep you busy during your time in Salem.
The perfect town for history lovers, foodies, and art lovers. Salem truly has something for everyone.
We would love to hear what you think. Comment below and let us know if there is a great Salem attraction that we need to add to our list.
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About The Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.
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