Last week we ventured out on a trip to Salem, Massachusetts to kick off the start of spooky month 🎃👻🧛. We enjoyed amazing weather, ate great food, learned about the Witch Trials, and took in all the quaint New England core buildings and gift shops and streets.
Salem is the perfect spot to step away from campus for a day. While there’s tons to do there and beyond in the general area and you could easily fill a longer trip, Salem is totally doable in one day. If you’re a college student basically anywhere in New England or the New York City area, it’s not too hard to get to. You can drive from campus and park right in Salem or take the train into Boston. Think you and your friends are ready for a witchy day? Steal our day trip to Salem itinerary and then stick around for some frequently asked questions about Salem below.
Day trip to Salem itinerary
We got into Salem right after 9:30am and parked in the Museum Place Garage. It’s only $1.25/hour and it’s so centrally located to everything so it’s a great deal. We were parked for 6 hours and it cost $7.50.
If you don’t want to park there, or if the garage is filled when you go, then next best parking garage option is the MBTA parking lot. It’s really only slightly out of the way from all the things in Salem and it’s $5/day on weekdays, $2/day on weekends – so honestly a steal for parking.
Note that these are the regular pricing for parking in Salem and it’s possible that as it gets closer to Halloween, prices may get raised a bit (or maybe not). But use this at least as a guide, but don’t get mad at me if it’s more expensive on Halloweekend.
First on our agenda for the day was the Salem Witch Museum. This museum includes two exhibit rooms and a fun gift shop too. It’s probably like the museum in Salem in regards to the Witch Trials. And that shows from their ticket sales. Tickets must be purchased online same day – and in October they sell out! Your best bet, especially for October weekends, is to be on the website at midnight to buy your tickets. Treat this like Ticketmaster – don’t just assume you can get there whenever and still get in.
The museum is closer to a show than a museum. There’s no photo or video allowed inside so we can’t show you what we mean by that. But just know that there are set entry times that you can’t be late for because your entry group will be sitting in a dark room for a visual storytelling of what occurred in 1692. After that first exhibit, your broken into two groups with one group going to explore the gift shop for 10 minutes while the other groups gets a head start in the next exhibit. The second room is much more traditional museum with stuff to look at on the walls and around the room. But it maintains the storytelling narration engaging you about modern day witchcraft.
If you’re totally unfamiliar with the Salem Witch Trials we give this museum a 4.5/5. If you’re pretty well acquainted with everything that happened back then in Salem, it’s more of a 3/5.
After the museum, we took a moment for a Hocus Pocus filming stop. It’s the park where Allison and Max talked. What do you think?
Then we moved on to what became our only meal of the day – it was that good and we were that full! Lulu’s Bakery and Pantry is located over by the waterfront. It’s super cute inside, the food was literally amazing and really great priced too! We each had a huge breakfast sandwich, a tart, a coffee, and took an extra snack pastry to go for later and it was like $20 a person. 5/5 would recommend.
After our meals, we wandered over through the Salem Maritime National Historic site. Usually you can see a replica (the original is inside the Peabody Essex Museum, also in Salem) of the Friendship of Salem – a very old, but very pretty and plain old cool ship – but when we went it was covered up by tenting as it’s currently undergoing restoration work on weekdays.
Just past that, we arrived at our next stop: The House of the Seven Gables. The museum offers tours of the 1688 mansion that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. If you aren’t familiar, that’s the guy who wrote The Scarlet Letter. The museum also includes Hawthorne’s birthplace home which once sat a few blocks away but was relocated to be a part of the joint museum.
We opted to get the grounds passes which allow access to everything except the actual house of the seven gables. So we walked through the pretty gardens which overlook the waterfront, went through Hawthorne’s birthplace home, and got to poke through the gift shop. Because you get to see a bit less, the grounds passes are $15 during October. For the guided tour through the house and access to all the grounds as well, it’s $30 in October. If you choose to visit Salem outside of October and spooky month, all the pass options here are cheaper since it’s not there peak season.
It was a solid 3.5/5 experience. There could have been more to see and do, but on a day with good weather like our it was a gorgeous spot to enjoy the waterfront and the flowers and sunshine. And to be fair, we did pick the passes that offer less to do, so perhaps the full tour experience would feel even cooler. We’ve heard there’s a secret staircase inside.
Walking and shopping
Then it was time for our longest walk of the day. It was only like 10 minutes, so not actually long, to be fair. It was time to head to the true heart of downtown Salem. Here we got to explore some of the cute shops and stores around. Explore with your heart and go into whatever speaks to you, but if you want recommendations on our favorite stores we visited at this point, try these:
- Emporium 32
- Wicked Good Books
- The Magic Parlor
Amongst all the cute statue is another witchy-pop culture icon. The statue of Samantha from Bewitched sits in a cute little park here. It is in commemoration of the 7th season of the show having been filmed in Salem. When we were there is was a hot spot with tons of people stopping for a quick photo with the statue.
Then it was on to more sightseeing. We stopped outside the Witch House at Salem. It was sold out for the day before we could grab tickets (but for reference, it costs $9). The building alone is a great spot to take some spooky pictures. Plus, this museum is especially interesting because the actual building was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who oversaw the executions of 19 of the excused witches during the Trials.
Just up the block we went to the Ropes Mansion and Gardens. It’s only open inside on weekends currently, but the gardens were open and so pretty! In Hocus Pocus, this mansion was Allison’s home where the party was held. And even if you visit on a day it’s closed, you can still get that iconic shot since it’s outside. Plus it was totally free to just be outside and take in the street and the gardens. Even without knowing what the inside is like, we’d still give this one a 4/5.
We rounded out the day of activities with some more shopping. This included our favorite shops of the day Oak + Moss and Spruce Home. Both were super light and airy and cute. Not very witchy, spooky vibes, but definitely worth the visit to. Oak + Moss is a plant store and it was filled with all kinds of great plants, pots, and plant care. But it also had lots of other cute stuff to, including socks, stickers, decor, and other gifts and trinkets.
Ending the day
At this point in the day it was late afternoon and we were getting tired and were somehow still full from our breakfast/lunch at Lulus. So we decided not to stick around for a dinner in Salem and instead headed back to the car to go home. If we had stayed for dinner though, we were going to go to Turner’s Seafood. On the whole the day was great. We saw a lot without doing so much that we wound up feeling rushed and stressed. It was casual while still be exciting, interesting, and entertaining.
Map of our trip to Salem
Overall we’d give a trip to Salem in October 5/5 witches 🧙♀️. Hopefully we already answered your questions of what to do and what to see in Salem, Massachusetts throughout the itinerary. Still have more questions on taking a trip to Salem? See below for some of the most frequently asked ones.
Frequently asked questions about taking a trip to Salem
How far is Salem, Massachusetts from Boston?
Salem is just 25 miles from Boston and is pretty easily reachable. With Boston area traffic, you can anticipate a drive from downtown into Salem to take you a little over an hour.
When is the best time to go to Salem?
For true Halloween vibes, the best time to go to Salem is obviously in October. And the closer to October 31, the better. And clearly maybe people agree because October is significantly busier for tourism in Salem than any other month. If you care less about the Halloween experience and want to avoid the crowds, there really isn’t a bad time to visit. We would recommend early September or anytime in the spring to enjoy nice New England weather and maximize the walkability of the area. September is also a great way to sneak in a “fall/Halloween” visit a little early before the crowds arrive and some museums raise their pricing. But for peak foliage you’ll need to be in Salem around mid-October most years.
Is Salem, Massachusetts haunted?
I don’t know, is it? You’ll have to see for yourself if you sense any presences around you 👻
Is Salem, Massachusetts safe?
Salem is true quaint New England vibes. While we recommend you maintain awareness of your surrounding and be smart in anywhere you travel to, there are no significant concerns to traveling in Salem specifically. If you’re trip to Salem is going to be in October you likely won’t experience a moment with no one else around as there will be tons of other visitors. And you know, safety in numbers, but also stay aware to avoid pickpocketing and other crowd concerns.
Where to stay in Salem, Massachusetts?
There are plenty of great hotels for a stay right in Salem. But you can also easily stay outside the town and just head in for a visit. Try searching places like Boston for a city trip, or towns along coast like Newburyport, MA for coastal town trip vibes.
How to get to Salem?
Salem is very easy to access. If you’ll be flying in, the closest airport is Boston (BOS). The commuter rail heads right to Salem so you can connect from the silver line of the T, Boston’s public transit, right at the airport onto the commuter rail and be from the airport to Salem in under an hour. There’s also the option to catch the ferry from Boston to Salem. It’s a 50 minute ride starting at $25.
There’s also the option to take the train into Boston, and then take any of the routes from Boston to Salem we just mentioned. Through the Amtrak lines, Boston is connected all over the country. From Portland, ME the ride takes about 2.5 hours. From NYC, the ride takes about 4.5 hours. And from Washington, DC the ride takes 8.5 hours.
If you’ll be driving in, we already shared our favorite parking spot in Salem above. But the drive itself is also super simple. No matter where you’re coming from you’ll likely be taking either 95, route 1, or route 1a into town.