“Oh boooOOooOook!” Okay, while this isn’t going to be as detailed as the Sanderson Sisters’ spell book, I did want to give you a comprehensive guide to visiting Salem, Massachusetts. Whether you’re making the trip during spooky season, or any other time of the year, there’s lots to see, do and eat. Scroll down for all the details.
WHY VISIT SALEM?
Not just a Halloween destination, Salem is fun to visit any time of year. There’s loads of interesting history in throughout this city, beautiful coastal scenes, and tasty things to eat. Just a quick trip from Boston, it makes for a perfectly socially-distanced destination, or even an ideal spot for a weekend getaway with your bestie or partner.
HOW TO GET THERE
Probably the easiest way to get into Salem would be driving. If you’re going for a day trip during peak season, expect traffic, and know that if you park at a meter, you’ll get a ticket if you stay at the same meter for over two hours even if you add more money. There are a few streets that have night time residential parking, where you can park from 7am – 5pm. If you get to town early, look first on Essex Street near the Ropes Mansion, as this is close to some photogenic and historic homes, and a 15-25 minute walk from most sites in town. There is also pretty reasonable overnight parking lots as well. You can find all the parking info you need here.
If you are a bit closer, and prefer to travel on two wheels, there are a couple trails that make up the Marblehead Rail Trail created from abandoned railroad lines of the Eastern Railroad Company. You can take the Salem Spur follows a line built in 1839 from Marblehead towards Salem. Once, you’re in Salem, it’s just called the Salem Bike Path.
If you’re heading up on the weekend, the MBTA has $10 weekend fares for the Commuter Rail! Tickets are valid all weekend long for travel on all lines between all zones. You can take the Commuter Rail to Salem via the Newburyport/Rockport lines from Boston’s North Station or from cities to the north like Gloucester, Rockport, and more. Weekend tickets may be purchased in person or on the mTicket mobile app.
Another way to reach Salem from Boston is by water via the Salem Ferry. In just under an hour and is equipped with enclosed and open-air seating, tables, and restrooms, making the trip a quick and comfortable one. The ferry departs from Long Wharf in Boston, and docks in Salem at Blaney Street, both of which are within walking distance to most of the local attractions. The ferry runs seasonally and rates vary so be sure to check out the Salem Ferry website before planning a trip.
WHERE TO STAY
Right in the heart of the action, you will find The Hotel Salem. This is a 44-room boutique hotel situated on Essex Street in Downtown. They have roomy suites and cozy micro-rooms that fit any budget, but no matter the size, all the rooms are cute and stylish. It is also home to Counter (pictured above), and The Roof, which is a great outdoor hangout with cocktails and tacos. Need I say more?
WHERE TO EAT
Always my favorite part of exploring a city, the food! I guarantee I’ve missed a few joints in this roundup, but there is a healthy mix breakfast, lunch and dinner spots to tide you over for a couple days of exploring.
2 Lynde Street, Salem, MA 01970
Oh I am a sucker for French cuisine, and Chef Aaron Chambers’ menu is a breath of fresh air in Salem. I enjoyed every dish I tried, but was partial to the pate, whipped ricotta, and tuna (all pictured below). I reckon you’ll like anything that you order. And don’t leave without noshing on some of the homemade bread.
288 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970
Looking for something a bit more casual. Grab a slice or a whole pie at Bambolina. Their classic Neapolitan pizza is a crowd-pleaser; especially the Soppressata. They also have tasty pastas for those who want to keep a whole dish to themselves – I recommend going with the Rigatoni.
Coffee Time Bake Shop
96 Bridge St, Salem, MA 01970
Want to go where all the locals go to get their caffeine fix? A little bit off the beaten path, this is the spot to grab your morning coffee and donut if you are in town on a day trip. Their house made pastries are class, so you better grab a couple cookies to save for later.
41 Lafayette St, Salem, MA 01970
If you’re a fan of Bambolina, there is an Asian street food spot in town under their tutelage as well. I wouldn’t say it is super traditional, but you can’t go wrong with the beet pickled eggs, lobster rangoon, and some ramen.
283R Derby St, Salem, MA 01970
Outdoor dining is king at the moment, and you can’t go wrong with a bit of biergarten action at Notch Brewery. I’m a fan of their Raw Powder, which you can get year round, but don’t skip out on the seasonal brews. Voll Projekt: Hefeweisse is a good bet for Fall. Snacks are traditional German fare, like pretzels, sausages, and pickled veggies.
Sea Level Oyster Bar
94 Wharf St, Salem, MA 01970
This double-decker restaurant, right on the water, is a natural stop for seafood lovers for lunch in the midst of exploring all the sites. If you can get a seat upstairs with a view, that’s definitely an added bonus to your meal. Do not sleep on the peel & eat shrimp – easily the most satisfying thing on the expansive menu. Round out your meal with a dozen oysters and some snacks, like fried pickles, and you’ll be rearing to go for the rest of your day of sightseeing.
Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar
197 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970
If you’re in need of a mid-day jolt, the options are endless at Jaho. On my last visit here, I actually stopped in to do a little work in the midst of meetings, and was thankful for there free WiFi, outlets, and socially distanced seating. Not a coffee drinker? No problem They have several flavors of matcha, and tons of great tea options. They have tasty little snacks as well. The flan and chia seed pudding don’t disappoint.
WHAT TO DO
While Salem is small, there is plenty to do; namely tours, museums, a bit of shopping.
Tour the Witch House
310 1/2 Essex Street Salem, Massachusetts 01970
Tours of the Corwin House, now known as the Witch House, connect elements of everyday life with the events punctuating history’s timelines. The Corwin family took part in the most famous Witch Hunt in American History, and their house is the only structure you can visit in Salem with direct ties to the 1692 Salem witch trials. If you’re lucky enough to score a tour ticket ($9), you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the history, and people, behind the trials.
HausWitch Home + Healing
144 Washington St, Salem, MA 01970
A trip to Salem is not complete if you don’t swing into this little gem of a store. I was first introduced to this spot by my friend Holly, and now make a point to stop in and discover some of their curated collection of gifts, including witch wares, candles, and more. They also currently have a psychic portal that allows you to still receive intuitive and psychic support in the midst of a pandemic through the magic of Zoom.
Peabody Essex Museum
161 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970
Lots of history of local, national and international significance has happened in Salem outside of the famous witch trials. Alexander Graham Bell completed the first successful long-distance telephone call from Salem in 1877. Parker Brothers produced Monopoly here. The list goes on! Learn about these and more in their Salem Stories exhibit, open until October 2021.
Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours
180 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970
Keen on learning while getting your steps in? A walking tour is for you. I’ve had the pleasure of taking a couple over the years, and for the most part, they’re all pretty good. However, there are some that rise above the rest, and the team at Bewitched Walking Tours crushes it. As a result, they do sell out quite fast, and generally, I recommend getting tickets for October the month prior. Pro tip: bring a hot beverage with you, and wear an extra layer because New England weather can really catch you by surprise.
MY FAVORITE PHOTO SPOTS
Y’all knew I wouldn’t leave you hanging on the best spots to snap a pic. Whether you want a moody vibe for an outfit pic, to capture the spirit of Salem, or to see spots from your favorite Halloween flick, I have you covered.
John Ward House (photographed above)
9 Brown St, Salem, MA 01970
This black house gives me all the spooky vibes. This National Historic Landmark is one of the best-kept 17th-century buildings in New England. The green door and minimalist walkway make for a perfect photo. This spot is not nearly as busy at the Witch House, but still gives you a similar shot.
Dickson Memorial Chapel at Greenlawn Cemetery (photographed above)
9 Brown St, Salem, MA 01970
Built in 1894, this building is Salem’s only High Victorian Gothic work of architecture. While modest in size, it still makes for a compelling photo, and is an off-the-beaten-path photo spot for those looking for something a bit different.
Derby Wharf Light Station (photographed above)
At the end of the pier in South River
Up until a couple years ago, I didn’t even know that there was a lighthouse in Salem. But, this little guy is so cute, and worth a walk down the pier for a visit. Part of the Salem Maritime National Historical Site, this square tower lighthouse was built in 1871.
Pedrick Store House – aka the Sail Loft (photographed above)
9 Brown St, Salem, MA 01970
Pedrick Store House was built in 1770 just across the harbor from Salem, in 1770 by Thomas Pedrick. Just around the corner from Sea Level Oyster Bar, it’s worth taking a peak before or after lunch, and is a particularly photogenic structure in town.
HOCUS POCUS SITES
What you have allllllll been waiting for! The vast majority of the scenes from Hocus Pocus were shot on-site in Salem, and as such, attract a lot of visitors who want to see their favorite scenes from the film. Below are a handful of the most memorable locations that you can visit.
Ropes Mansion (photographed above)
318 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970
Also known as Allison’s house in the movie, this mansion is home to a gorgeous facade, but also has lust-worthy gardens in the back as well. While you won’t be bobbing for apples on your visit, there is still plenty to explore.
Old Town Hall
32 Derby Square, Salem, MA 01970
Right in the heart of town, you can visit the location where Bette Midler “puts a spell” on all the parents at the town Halloween bash.
Dani & Max’s House
4 Ocean Ave, Salem, MA 01970
If you’re going to visit this home with the iconic lookout tower, it is now a private residence, but the owners seem to be cool as cucumbers, and will let you respectfully take photos. This particular home isn’t super close to downtown, but is an easy bike ride.
N Washington Square, Salem, MA 01970
A few scenes from the movie were filmed here. Most notably the first scene where Max flirts with Allison. This park is also a good place to stop and eat those pastries I told you about if you need a bit of a break.
98 West Ave, Salem, MA 01970
The most historic looking location would have to be this living history museum located at Salem’s Forest River Park, where Binx is featured in his hunky human form before being turned into a cat. Side note, did anyone else have a huge crush on Binx?! Just me? Cool cool cool.
If you made it through this guide, you’re properly read for a trip to The Witch City. Enjoy!