If you’re planning a trip to Boston and have a few days to spend in the city, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Salem Massachusetts. The drive is only 30 minutes away, and is so worth the visit.
Salem Massachusetts is a coastal city famous for its 1692 witch trials, during which several locals were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft.
Salem is also known for its Maritime history as well. It’s such a charming little town, and learning more about the history outside of the Witch Trials was such an amazing experience.
On the blog, I will share how to spend one day in Salem Massachusetts. You can easily see most of Salem’s main attractions in one day, which makes it the best day trip from Boston.
*Another fun day trip from Boston is Plymouth Massachusetts. Read our guide to visiting Plymouth with kids, I share the top things to do in one of America’s most historic towns.
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How to get to Salem from Boston
- Salem Massachusetts is an easy day trip from Boston, and is only about a 30 minute drive away. There are parking garages in Salem, all within a walking distance to all the main attractions in Salem.
- You can also get to Salem from Boston by train on “the T”, which is a commuter rail that connects both cities. The journey takes about 30-35 minutes on either the Newburyport and Rockport lines, which depart from Boston’s North Station, and makes a stop at the Salem Depot.
- Another way to get to Salem from Boston is by ferry. During the Summer and fall, Harbor Cruises operates a ferry from Long Wharf to Salem. An adult roundtrip ferry ticket costs $45, and $35 for kids 3-11.
*Check out this post on our Guide to Visiting Boston with kids. I share all the fun things to do in Boston, and how to make the most of your visit.
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Best time to visit Salem Massachusetts
Since Salem MA is known for the Witch trials, one of the best times to visit is in October, during the Salem Haunted Happenings event.
This is probably one of the most popular times to visit Salem, and if you’re planning to visit during this halloween celebration, be prepared for crowds!
We were told by the locals that it gets really crowded and busy at this time of year. We visited in the summer and it was nice to experience the town without the crowds.
If you’re planning a visit to Salem in October, make sure to plan ahead of time and book hotels and tickets to attractions ahead of time.
I also recommend visiting in early October, the closer you get to Halloween, the more crowded the town gets.
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How to get around Salem Massachusetts
One of the best ways to explore Salem Massachusetts is on the Salem trolley tour.
This hop on-hop off tour takes you to all the main attractions in Salem MA, and the tour guides were pretty knowledgeable with the towns history.
You can purchase tickets at the Visitors Center, or on one of the trolley stops.
You can easily explore Salem on foot, but the trolley tour is so worth it, especially when visiting with kids.
Top things to do in Salem Massachusetts
Salem Visitors Center
Your first stop when visiting Salem, should be the Visitors Center. Watch a film, visit the exhibits, and purchase some souvenirs.
There are some Ranger guided programs that you can take part of, which includes a tour of some of the Historic Houses in Salem.
This is also the perfect place to get more information about Salem and all the things to do in the area.
The Visitors center is also the pickup location when taking the Salem Trolley tours, which I highly recommend.
You can purchase tickets on the spot, and the Trolley can be used as a hop on hop off ride when visiting Salem.
The Salem Visitors center is run by the National Park Service, so make sure to bring along the kids Junior Ranger book to get stamped.
You can also pick up a Junior Ranger Book at the Visitors Center, or download one here for the kids to complete and get a Junior Ranger Badge.
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Walk the Salem Heritage Trail
One of the best ways to explore Salem is by following the Salem Heritage Trail.
The Heritage Trail connects all of Salem’s main sites, and it’s the best way to explore the city on a self guided tour.
You can find a map of the Heritage Trail locations in back of The Salem Guide, or there’s one online here.
The trail starts out at the Salem Regional Visitor Center, and meanders it’s way along some of Salem’s most historic spots.
*You can also purchase tickets for the Salem Witchcraft Walking tour here.
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Visit the Salem Witch Museum
One of Salem’s main attraction has to be the Salem Witch Museum. There are exhibits & tours exploring the 1692 Salem witch trials.
Visitors are given a dramatic history lesson using stage sets with life-size figures, lighting and a narration.
The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm, with extended hours in October.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, or purchase them here. Tickets cost $13 for adults, $10 for children (6-14), and FREE for kids under 6.
Tour the Salem Witch House
One of the most important landmarks in Salem, includes the Witch House, which is the former home of Jonathan Corwin, who was a trial judge during the Salem witch trials.
The Salem Witch House is the only building left that had direct ties to the 1692 Salem witch trials, and is now a museum.
You can go on a self-guided tour and explore the Witch House, which is open daily from 10am-5pm (Winter hours are till 4pm from Nov.-March).
Tickets can be purchased at the museum gift shop and cost $9.00 for adults, $7.00 for Seniors, $5.00 for kids (6-14), and free for kids 6 and under.
Visit the Salem Witch Trial Memorials
On your sightseeing stroll through Salem MA, don’t forget to visit the Salem Witch Trial Memorial.
This somber memorial is dedicated to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials, which consists of 20 granite benches inscribed with the name of the accused and the date of execution.
We learn so much about the Salem Witch trials through movies and books, but theres nothing like visiting it in real life. It was such a sobering experience, and one you just have to experience for yourself.
Visit the Old Burying Point cemetery
Adjacent to the Salem Witch trials memorial is the Old Burying Point Cemetery.
The Old Burying Point Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Salem, and one of the oldest in the United States.
This is the final resting place of several Salem notables, including Judge John Hathorne, one of the principle witchcraft trials magistrates.
Tour the House of the Seven Gables
One of the best places to visit in Salem MA, is the the House of the Seven Gables.
This historic home in Salem was made famous by author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote the novel “The House of the Seven Gables”.
You can go on a 45 minute guided tour of the House of the Seven Gables, and visit Nathaniel Hawthorne’s childhood home as well, which is located within the property.
Tickets can only be purchased onsite and cost $17 for adults, $11 for kids 5-12, and FREE for kids under 5.
This was actually one of our favorite tours we did in Salem, and is so worth the visit! One of the highlights was the beautiful gardens, and the views of the harbor.
Explore Salems Maritime History
Salem is most notably known for it’s Witch Trial History. On your sightseeing tour of Salem, get to know Salem’s Maritime history as well.
Your first stop should be at Salem’s Maritime National Historic Site.
Explore the cities Maritime history by visiting some of the historic buildings, wharves, and replica ships that tells the story of Salem.
The Salem Maritime historic site was established to preserve and interpret the maritime history of New England, which consist of 12 historic structures, and they’re all within a walking distance along Derby street.
Along the Derby Wharf you can visit the Friendship of Salem Tall ship, which was a replica of a ship built in 1797.
The Pedrick store house is also located on the wharf. This historic rigging sail loft was built around 1770, and was relocated to this location from Marblehead MA.
Go shopping on Essex Street
When visiting Salem, make sure to stop by Essex Street and go shopping.
This historic pedestrianized street is lined with a cobblestone and brick walkway, located in the middle of downtown Salem.
You can find lots of attractions, museums, shops, restaurants, and cafes here.
Make sure to pick up some witch souvenirs, they can be found in pretty much every shop in the city.
Visit Winter Island Park
Winter Island Park is a recreational park located just a short drive away from downtown Salem. On your visit, you can explore the historic Fort and Pickering Lighthouse.
There are also camp and RV sites on Winter Island with so many recreational opportunities, including swimming, fishing, camping, boating, and relaxation under the sun.
Go on a Salem Ghost Tour
One of the best things to do in Salem is a Ghost tour. A visit to Salem in October during the Haunted Happenings event is the best time to visit this spooky town in America. Go on a haunted ghost tour of some of Salem’s most spooky places.
Go on a Hocus Pocus movie locations tour
Since you’re in Salem, make sure to go on a Hocus Pocus movie locations tour. Some of the movie spots are located right in the city, and a few are a short drive away. Here is a list of some of the locations right in the city:
- One of the best movie spots to visit in Salem is Max’s House. This is one of the most recognized house from the movie, and it’s just a short drive away. On your visit, make sure to keep in mind that the house is a private residence, so please respect the owners’ property and their privacy. You can find the house on 4 Ocean Ave. Salem MA.
Old Town Hall
- The Old Town Hall is another famous movie spot in Hocus Pocus, and is known as the location of the Halloween Party where the Sanderson sisters sang the “I put a spell on you” song.
- The Old Town Hall is the earliest surviving municipal structure in Salem, dating from 1816-17. It is located in the city center at 32 Derby Square Salem, MA.
- Visit the 18th century Ropes Mansion in Salem, which is known as Allison’s house in the movie. Now owned by the Peabody Essex Museum, you can tour the interior of the home on weekends from 12-4pm. Ropes Mansion is located on 318 Essex Street Salem, MA.
- The Pioneer Village is where the opening scenes of the movie were filmed. The scenes where the Sanderson sisters captured Emily Binx, and turned her brother Thackery into a black cat.
- Pioneer Village is actually a living history museum. Tours of the village are offered during the summer, and the village is open from 12:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through the month of October. Pioneer Village is located at 310 West Ave. Salem, MA.
- There are two other locations that we didn’t get to visit, which is the Phillips Elementary School where Max and Alison went to school. The school is located at 56 South Washington Square in Salem.
- We also missed the Old Burial Hill Cemetery, where Max crosses the towns bullies and loses his shoe. The scene was filmed in Marblehead at the Old Burial Hill, which is one of the most picturesque graveyards in New England. You can find the cemetery in Marblehead just about a 5 mile drive away Salem.
Where to eat in Salem
Reds Sandwich Shop
- One of our favorite spots to have lunch was Red’s Sandwich shop. This is Salem’s most popular restaurant, and is known for their award-winning breakfast and home-cooked meals. Most people order breakfast here, but I enjoyed the Lobster roll and Fried shrimp platter.
Ugly Mugs Diner
- Another great diner place is the Ugly Mug diner, which is the perfect place for some hot breakfast or brunch.