Salem is known for being the ultimate New England destination for the entire month of October, and while that’s a really fun time to visit, a Salem day trip makes for a great excursion year-round. With so much history, waterfront scenery, beautiful streets, and awesome restaurants, there’s plenty to do that doesn’t involve anything spooky (but there’s also plenty of spooky to go around if that’s your reason for visiting!).
This post will be all about how to plan the perfect Salem, MA day trip, including my tips for visiting, ideas on things to do, and if visiting in October is actually worth it. With that, let’s begin!
Taking a day trip from Boston? Definitely consider taking the ferry to save you the hassle of parking!
🛳 Click here to check out the Boston → Salem ferry!
Is Salem, MA Worth Visiting?
Salem, MA is definitely worth visiting, whether it’s for a day trip, or a weekend getaway. It’s packed with New England charm at every corner with countless things to do that vary from historic walking tours and museums, to beautiful lighthouses and charming neighborhoods.
Salem is also part of the North Shore region of Massachusetts, and makes for a great home base to explore the coastline of Cape Ann and surrounding areas.
Is Visiting Salem, MA In October Worth It?
Having been to Salem in October, as well as other times throughout the year, I personally think Salem is worth doing once in October. There is an undeniable energy in October, and it’s really exciting to be a part of. It is, after all, one of the ultimate Halloween destinations in the entire world!
During the month of October, the town has Haunted Happenings events every single day, which includes special Halloween tours, activities, fairs, and parties. The entire town is also perfectly decorated to celebrate the season, and so many houses go all out with really amazing decorations.
Tips For A Salem Day Trip In October
✓ Plan for crowds. October is most definitely the most busy and crowded time to visit Salem, and weekends especially will be the most packed. The busiest weekend tends to be the weekend closes to Halloween, which is also when the Halloween Ball takes place.
✓ To avoid crowds, try to visit on a weekday in October. Having been to Salem in October both on a weekday and a weekend, I can confirm that weekdays are less crowded! It’ll still be busy, but not quite as bad.
✓ Plan and book your tours and activities in advance. Many will sell out a few days beforehand in October, especially on weekends.
✓ Have a plan for how you want to get to Salem. Traffic getting there and around in October is very busy. If you want to drive in, arrive as early in the day as you can, and have a plan for parking. See the next section in this post for tips on where to park!
✓ I also recommend taking the ferry from Boston if that’s where you’re visiting from, as Salem is very walkable, and you won’t really need your car once you park downtown. The ferry is a bit expensive, but I think it’s worth it to avoid parking and traffic, especially on an October weekend! Just remember to book your return ticket, too, which is done separately!
Best Places To Park In Salem
My personal favorite place to park for a Salem day trip is the South Harbor Garage, which is located between the Maritime National Historic Site, and the center of the main part of Essex Street.
It’s also convenient to get to The House Of Seven Gables from this garage. I typically always find spots here if I arrive in the morning, and I think the daily/hourly rates are reasonable.
The town of Salem has an entire page on their website with information on parking. Click here to read more about parking in Salem.
Ideas & Things To Do On A Salem Day Trip
If you’re wondering how to plan your Salem day trip, here are the absolute best things to do in Salem, MA. You likely won’t be able to see and do everything on this list in a day, but you’ll be able to tackle most everything since Salem is pretty small and easy to walk around. Scroll down below to read my suggested itinerary of how to see as much as possible during your Salem day trip!
1. Visit The House Of Seven Gables
Made famous as the setting of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s book of the same name, The House Of Seven Gables is an actual historic landmark you can visit during your Salem day trip. Built in 1668 by Captain John Turner, a highly successful maritimes businessman, this waterfront home has 350 years of history and stories to share during tours.
Not only can you tour the inside of the house, you can also walk around the gorgeous and extensive coastal gardens, and take in views of Salem’s harbor front the front lawn of the property, which are worth the price of admission alone.
Tip: If you don’t want to pay to see the house, you can get a partial view of it from the street. Just type “House of Seven Gables” into Google maps, and it will take you right there. At minimum, I do suggest you pay for the gardens-only ticket because the grounds and the water views are definitely worth it!
2. Reflect At The Salem Witch Trials Memorial
One of the best things to do in Salem, MA during your day trip is to visit the Witch Trials Memorial. It’s a very simple display next to Burying Point Cemetery with a stone bench for each of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. But as simple as it is, it’s also rather moving and memorable.
3. See The Lighthouse At Winter Island Park
Just outside of downtown is Winter Island Park, where you can visit Winter Island Lighthouse and enjoy views of Salem Harbor. This is a quiet little spot that’s not often crowded, which makes it a great place to venture to if you’re looking for a peaceful moment during your Salem day trip.
While you can walk to Winter Island Park from downtown, it’s almost 2 miles one-way, so it’s best to drive. I suggest you stop here either before parking your car for the day downtown, or at the end of the day just before leaving Salem (as long as it’s still light out).
4. Stop At The Salem Witch House
One of the most famous sites and best things to do in Salem, MA is to visit the Witch House, also known as the Jonathan Corwin House. This house is significant because it’s the only known house in Salem that’s still standing to have direct ties to the Witch Trials, as Corwin was one of the judges during the infamous trials.
The house itself, especially at night, has an eery feel to it, and if you decide to purchase tickets for a tour of the inside, it’ll feel even more spooky because of how cruel the owner was.
Personally, I don’t think touring the inside is worth the price of admission. You’re only able to see a few rooms, and you may leave feeling like, “Was that it?” If you’re a big history buff and want to tour as many historic homes as possible, it may be worth it for you, but if you pay for admission to one historic home, I would suggest The House Of Seven Gables over this.
I definitely think it’s more than worth it to stop by the house to see it in person, and snap some photos. It’s a popular landmark for the town and a really cool place to see, but the tour itself may not be worth it for you.
5. See The Elizabeth Montgomery Statue
This is a fun little stop to make during your Salem day trip, and it’ll only take a few minutes of your time. I especially love it because my mom named me after Samantha on Bewitched, so it has a special place in my heart. But if you’re a fan of the show, or the actress, or just witches in general, be sure to swing by and snap a photo with this statue!
The Bewitched statue can be found at the corner of Washington and Essex in downtown Salem.
6. Walk Around The Salem Maritime National Historic Site
One of the best things to do in Salem, MA is to enjoy the waterfront, and visiting the Maritimes National Historic Site is a great way to spend some time by the water. This area isn’t very large, and more like a small park, but it makes for a scenic walk and allows you some nice photo opportunities.
The Sail Loft is a gorgeous building that’s worth stopping by to see, and you’ll often find the Friendship of Salem ship docked here, which is an exact replica of the 1797 ship used to charter through the East India Trading Company routes.
7. Stroll Over To Derby Wharf Light Station
While at the Maritime National Historic Site, be sure to walk all the way to the end of the path to visit Salem’s other lighthouse, Derby Wharf Station. This is a small little lighthouse, but worth your time during a Salem day trip for some great picture opportunities, and to feel like you’ve escaped from the lively downtown area for a few minutes.
8. Get A Psychic Reading
I’m not sure if I entirely buy into psychics, but I’ve had a reading done during a Salem day trip, and it was eerily accurate! To add to the mystical vibe of your Salem trip, this is something you may want to consider as something fun and different to do!
I chose to have my reading done at Magika, and my husband and I did it as a joint session. And during the reading, the medium knew that myself and my father-in-law suffered from the same illness, that my mother lost her dad when she was young from a heart condition, and that my husband and I would buy lots of land in our future together. At the time, the land thing threw us and we laughed about it, but when we bought our house, it came with 25 acres, which we hadn’t been looking for.
Some tips that I had read about getting an authentic psychic reading were helpful before our session, so here are some things I suggest:
- Do your research and check claims that a medium makes before booking. If they claim they can talk to the dead, or make predictions with 100% accuracy, then they’re probably not legit.
- Don’t provide anything but your name (and phone number if they require it, which most will) when booking your appointment.
- Don’t tell the medium why you’re there. Keep it vague and say, “I’m just interested to know what you see or feel.”
- Try not to show emotion, or give indication of whether or not the medium is right or wrong.
- Take everything with a grain of salt. If they say something that goes against your gut instinct, rely on your own intuition. Even mediums admit that what they feel or see is not always accurate, or is misinterpreted.
I’m glad I did this experience once! It was fun, and added some mystery to one of our mystical Salem day trips in October.
9. Go On A Hocus Pocus Tour
While most of the sites that are in Salem from the movie Hocus Pocus can be found on your own, and are free to visit, if you want to take the stress out of planning each stop, this is an awesome place to take an official tour.
During the guided tour, you’ll go to 5 filming locations for the movie and get some great expert knowledge on Salem’s past and how it became known as the Witch City. If you’re a big fan of the movie, this is one of the best things to do in Salem, MA.
10. Get Some Homemade Chocolates & Fun Candies
Salem is home to two really amazing chocolate shops: Harbor Sweets and Ye Olde Pepper Companie, and they’re both worth visiting on your day trip! Also, there’s a very fun candy store called Curly Sue that you’ll definitely want to have on your radar.
Harbor Sweets is an adorable little shop that makes their own chocolates in small batches, and also sells some luxury and speciality chocolate brands for an amazingly curated chocolate feast at your fingertips!
Be sure to get some sweet sloops, which are little sailboat-shaped almond, buttercrunch and toffee chocolates that were invented in the neighboring town of Marblehead. But you can also pick up anything from caramels and truffles to chocolate sauces and dips while here.
Ye Olde Pepper Companie is the oldest candy shop in the country, so obviously, you’ll want to make a stop here, too 😉 This sweet little shop still uses original recipes that have been handed down over many generations, and you’ll find everything you could possibly want here.
At Pepper Companie, you’ll want to keep an eye out for Gibralters, which is a special rock candy invented in Salem, as well as Blackjacks, the first stick candy to be produced and sold in the U.S.!
Finally, be sure to pop into Curly Sue Candy Shop to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings. They have one of the best gummy candy selections I’ve found, and this is especially perfect if you happen to visit during Halloween. They change out some of their candies seasonally, so no matter when you visit, you’re sure to find something that you can’t leave without.
They also have a great mix of traditional candies, too, for those who prefer all the classics.
11. Sip On A Lobster Martini At The Lobster Shanty
My favorite restaurant in town is The Lobster Shanty, which is a casual restaurant that has awesome comfort food and seafood dishes. One of the best things to do in Salem, MA is to order a lobster martini here, which will come with a giant lobster claw garnish (which will make for the perfect photo opp!).
Some great menu items here are the lobster roll, crab cake sandwich, lobster grilled cheese and fish ‘n chips. They also have vegetarian menu selections and great cocktails!
12. Find All The Historic Houses
Being that Salem was one of the earliest established colonies in the New World, there are plenty of historic homes that are still standing around town, and one of the best things to do in Salem, MA is to walk around and take a self-guided tour of the houses.
All the historic homes will display a plaque with the date the house was built, and usually the original owner’s name and occupation. Just walking around and reflecting on how long these houses have been around, and the fact that they’re still standing and being used today, is an incredible experience on your Salem day trip.
My favorite neighborhood for touring historic homes is right by The House of Seven Gables. At the intersection of Derby and Turner, walk on Derby toward Carlton, and explore that area. One house in particular I really like in this area is the Stephen Daniels House, located at 1 Daniels Street.
13. Walk Around Pickering Wharf
Close to the Maritime National Historic site is Pickering Wharf, which is a small harbor-front destination with shops and restaurants. This is also where a lot of boat and sailing tours dock (including Schooner Fame), so if you’re looking to head out onto the water, this is a great place to check out.
While here, stop for lunch or drinks at Longboards, and snag an outdoor table with a water view. And if you’re in the market for some souvenirs to remember your Salem day trip by, the Marble Faun Books & Gifts shop is a cute little place with some unique finds and some lovely paper goods.
14. Stroll Along Chestnut Street
Chestnut Street is one of the first planned streets in the country, and I think one of the prettiest streets to visit during your Salem day trip. Originally planned in 1796, and then renovated in 1803 to make the street wider, it’s currently lined with gorgeous homes, and trees that will provide tons of color in the fall.
If you visit during peak foliage season in October, this is definitely a place you’ll want to visit to see the fiery red and orange color lining the entire street, which will make a great backdrop for a photo.
15. Visit The Shops & Boutiques
One of the best shopping areas in Salem is along Essex Street, where you’ll find tons of shops and restaurants. There’s also a section on Essex called the Pedestrian Mall, which is where you’ll find the Essex Peabody Museum, and as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is a pedestrian-only walkway. This is a great area to stroll through if you’re looking to visit the local stores and grab a bite to eat during your Salem day trip.
Best Shops In Salem, MA To Check Out
- Wicked Good Books – A small but absolutely charming little bookshop that I love visiting each time I come to Salem.
- The Cheese Shop Of Salem – More than just cheese! A really lovely little stop to make to peruse not only amazing cheeses, but also wines and specialty foods. A great place for stocking your pantry.
- 100 Derby Store – Of all the gifty-type shops in Salem, this is my favorite because it’s reminiscent of an old country store, and also features some locally-made items.
- Oak + Moss – A gorgeous homewares boutique that sells live plants, and a beautifully curated selection of gifts and things for your home.
16. Set Sail On Schooner Fame
One of the best things to do in Salem, MA is to head out onto the harbor waters on Schooner Fame, which is a replica of a significant ship that set sail during the The War of 1812. Fame has five daily charters to choose from in-season, and you’ll learn about the history of the ship, get some amazing views from the harbor, as well as try your hand at hoisting the sails if you’d like!
The Schooner Fame crew also allows you to bring snacks aboard the ship (just no coolers to allow rooms for all guests aboard), and they also have snacks and drinks available on the ship for the duration of the cruise.
17. Explore The Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum is a nationally-recognized, incredible destination that’s dedicated to the preservation of history, art, science and nature. It’s also one of the oldest operating museums in the U.S. that’s known for having one of the largest collections of Asian art.
Here at the museum, you’ll be able to admire paintings from the 1700s, walk through the Art & Nature center and visit the Museum Garden. You’ll also be able to see the model ship that was used to build the Friendship of Salem. It’s absolutely worth your time during a Salem day trip, especially if you have a particular interest in history and art.
18. Make Your Own Broom
The Witchery in Salem is a great place to visit to make the ultimate souvenir to bring home: your own, handmade, customized broom!
Workshops to make your own broom can be made online, and take about an hour. You’ll get to pick your own broom handle, embellishments like dried flowers, and then learn how to put it all together. When you’re done, you’ll walk out with a new piece for your home to remember your trip by.
Pro Tip: The Witchery also offers bookbinding workshops, if that’s more your speed!
19. Explore The Town By Trolley
If you’re looking for an easy tour around town, Salem Trolley is a great one to consider. This hour-long narrated tour takes you through many of the best sites to see, and includes history and fun facts along the way to learn something new.
Pro Tip: The trolley tour is not designed as a hop-on/hop-off tour. They’ll sometimes allow visitors to use it that way when it’s not busy, but generally in the fall, it’s required that you experience it as the one-hour tour.
What’s The Scariest Thing To Do In Salem, MA?
Doing anything at night in Salem will automatically be scarier. Add in a ghost or spooky stories walking tour, and you’re sure to get goosebumps!
The scariest tours you can take in Salem would be the Mysteries & Murders of Salem Walking Tour and the Salem Voodoo, Vampires & Ghosts Walking Tour. Both are guided tours that take place at night, and go into the spooky history and stories surrounding Salem. Click the links below to book your tours.
Free Things To Do In Salem, MA
One of the great things about visiting Salem for a day trip is that a lot of things are free to see and do. Below is a list of all the free things you can do in Salem:
- The Salem Maritime National Historic Site
- Winter Island Park & Lighthouse
- Derby Wharf Light Station
- Tour the historic homes and side streets
- Take a peak at The Witch House from outside
- Walk through Essex Street and the Pedestrian Mall
- The Elizabeth Montgomery/Bewitched Statue
- Take a peak of The House of Seven Gables from outside
- The Salem Witch Trials Memorial
- Walk around Salem Common
- Walk along Chestnut Street
- The Salem Heritage Trail
Is The Hocus Pocus House in Salem?
Yes! Max and Dani’s house that was featured in the movie Hocus Pocus is in Salem, and can be found at 4 Ocean Avenue.
It’s not located right in the downtown area, but if you walk about a mile outside of downtown, you can see it. It’s important to be respectful when visiting because an actual family lives in the house, so be sure not to trespass, enjoy it from a distance, and be respectful.
Can You See Salem, MA In One Day?
Salem is very easy to see in a day! While it’s a city, most the attractions you’ll want to visit are all located within in a mile or so of each other, making it easy to get from one place to the next. While you can absolutely spend longer than a day here, a Salem day trip is more than doable.
How Do I Spend A Day In Salem, MA?
While a Salem day trip is very easy, it’s still a good idea to have a plan to make the most of your time. Below is a basic itinerary option that you can adjust based on your own preferences, which factors in where each attraction is, and groups them all together to maximize your day.
- Start or end your day at Winter Island Park & Lighthouse.
- Park at the South Harbor Waterfront Garage, and walk to the Maritime National Historic site, and also visit Derby Wharf Light Station.
- Then walk to The House of Seven Gables, and walk around some of the side streets, including visiting the Stephen Daniels House. You can also visit Ye Olde Pepper Companie in this area.
- Walk over to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, then head over to Essex Street and visit the Peabody Essex Museum, or walk the Pedestrian Mall and the rest of Essex Street. As you make your way down Essex, you can also visit Old Town Hall (another Hocus Pocus filming location!), the Bewitched Statue and end at the Witch House.
- Stop for lunch at The Lobster Shanty, which can also be done during your walk along Essex (it’ll be just a few blocks away).
- From either Witch House or Lobster Shanty, head over to Chestnut Street and enjoy this picturesque New England street (I recommend also visiting some of the side streets in this area – they’re all beautiful).
That covers all the major sites! You’ll want to adjust based on your preferences, where you park, and also where you want to eat, and also if you do any tours.
Can You Do A Day Trip To Salem From Boston?
A Salem day trip is very easy to take from Boston. Whether you drive or take the ferry, the journey is only about an hour, which will leave you plenty of time to explore Salem, and not feel rushed. If you’re planning a fall trip to Boston and want to visit Salem for a day trip, I highly recommend it.
How To Get From Boston To Salem
The best ways to get from Boston to Salem for a day trip are to either drive or take the ferry. The drive will take about an hour or less, depending on traffic, and the ferry also takes about an hour dock to dock.
Tip: Keep in mind that the Boston to Salem ferries only run seasonally, so if you plan to visit Salem in the off-season or winter, you’ll likely have to drive.
Is Salem, MA Walkable?
Salem is a very walkable city, and most of the attractions are very close to each other. Once you arrive in Salem, I recommend you park your car for the entire day, and get around everywhere by foot. You shouldn’t need a car unless you’re not able to walk more than a mile, or if you want to drive to Winter Island Park.
Is There Uber In Salem, MA?
Yes, Uber is available in Salem. If you’re visiting in October, there will be higher than average wait times, as traffic is more congested. However, it’s pretty easy to navigate year-round.
Day Trips From Salem, MA
One of the great things about visiting Salem is that you’re able to take so many day trips to surrounding areas along the North Shore region of Massachusetts. You could easily make this a stop on a longer road trip through the coast of Northern MA, and visit some amazing places. Below is a list of all the beautiful towns that are easily drivable from Salem along the North Shore:
- Marblehead (10-15 minute drive from Salem)
- Manchester-By-The-Sea (25 minute drive from Salem)
- Gloucester (30 minute drive from Salem)
- Rockport (35 minute drive from Salem)
- Essex (30 minute drive from Salem)
- Newburyport & Plum Island (45 minute drive from Essex)
- Portsmouth, NH (1 hour drive from Salem)
Here are some posts you may find helpful while planning a trip to this area:
- Best Things To Do On Cape Ann
- Best Things To Do In Rockport, MA
- Best Things To Do In Marblehead
- Cape Cod vs. Cape Ann
- Best Things To Do In Newburyport, MA & Plum Island
If you’re not taking a Salem day trip from Boston, you can also get to Boston’s downtown in less than an hour from Salem, and visit the South Shore, which consists on the cute towns of Scitute, Cohasset, Hanover and Plymouth.
Best Time To Visit Salem, MA
October is the most popular and busiest time to visit Salem, and lots of events happen throughout the month to celebrate Halloween, and the town’s ties to all things spooky.
But Salem is actually a really great place to visit year-round, and if it’s not important to you to experience the Halloween festivities, June, July, August & September are also great months to visit, with November being my favorite time of year for a Salem day trip.
In early November, there’s often still some beautiful foliage around (even if a lot of it is on the ground), and the crowds have thinned out, making it more enjoyable to walk around. A great weekend to visit Salem is the first weekend after Halloween, as a lot of houses will still have their Halloween decorations up, and it still feels very much like October.
What Is Salem, MA Known For?
Salem, MA is most known for the infamous Salem Witch Trials, where 19 innocent people were sentenced to death by hanging after being accused of witchcraft.
Salem also has a deep and rich history in New England maritimes, and recently, President Obama signed a bill that officially recognized Salem as the birthplace of the National Guard.
Best Restaurants In Salem, MA
If you’re looking to dine at the best restaurants during your Salem day trip, below is a list of my favorite places to eat while visiting:
- The Lobster Shanty – I know I’ve already mentioned this as one of the best things to do in Salem, MA, but it bears repeating! You’ll often find people lining up here for a table, which speaks volumes about how great the food is.
- Howling Wolf Taqueria – Fresh and delicious Mexican-inspired food and yummy margaritas.
- Bella Verona – A small little Italian place that’s always packed because the food is that delicious.
- Ledger Bar & Restaurant – A really cool and upscale bar/restaurant with traditional menu offerings and really good cocktails.
- Melt – Awesome ice cream!
- A&J King Artisan Bakers– Great for a cup of coffee/warm beverage and baked goods. Any flakey pastries like croissants are especially great here.
More posts you may find helpful:
- Massachusetts In The Fall: Your Ultimate Guide On What To Do & Where To Go!
- Best Boston Hotels Near The Aquarium
- Best New England Day Trips
- Best Things To Do In New England In The Fall
- Best New England Ghost Tours
- The Perfect New England Fall Road Trip
That’s A Wrap On Planning The Perfect Salem, MA Day Trip
Now that you know all the best things to do in Salem, MA, you’re ready to begin planning your Salem day trip. Hopefully you can see that Salem is a great destination to visit all year-round, but if you’re looking for the ultimate New England Halloween day trip, then visiting in October is definitely memorable. But regardless of when you visit, Salem makes for a perfect day trip getaway.