Guide to Salem, Massachusetts
Salem Massachusetts had been on my list of places to visit for quite some time. In fact probably since I first saw the film Hocus Pocus, I decided I wanted to visit a place like in the film.
I researched USA at Halloween and found out a lot of the film was recorded in Salem so add that to the history of the Witch Trials it was looking like the best place to visit for Halloween. Plus everything I was reading about Halloween in America was saying that Salem was the best place to visit in the USA at Halloween.
My only problem is I can not pronounce Massachusetts so when I was trying to explain it was not to be confused with Salem in Oregon everyone laughed at me when I tried to say Massachusetts so I just said on the East Coast near Boston and I think they knew where I was talking about.
It wasn’t until I was doing research that I realised that there were actually a lot of things to see in Salem. I was only doing a day trip to Salem from Boston since I had left it too late to find a place to stay so there was so much I didn’t get to do.
Why is Salem the best place in USA to visit for Halloween?
It is due to the history of the Salem witch trials in 1692 which was a series of hearing and prosecutions of people who were believed to be practicing witchcraft. You can find out more about the Witch trails if you visit the Salem Witch Museum but in the meantime, you can look at the information on their website it really is interesting stuff.
In 1982 the city had its first Halloween festival and it was so popular they made it the tourist town it is today. Salem in October has a month of Halloween celebrations with psychic readings, Halloween balls, ghost tours and live music.
Getting to Salem
Train to Salem – I travelled from Boston to Salem. It was easy, I had done some research online and the train was the most affordable option for me, costing $7.50 each way. This was the first time I had used the train in Boston, it was simple I just went to the ticket desk, bought a ticket, I asked where to go and she pointed me in the right direction.
I would recommend doing a day trip to Salem if you are visiting at Halloween unless you book early as everywhere was fully booked. It is easy to do it as a day trip as it only takes about 30 minutes away from Boston.
I thought the train was going to be busy as I visited Salem on the Sunday before Halloween which turned out to be the 30th October, but I was surprised that it wasn’t jammed packed I managed to get a seat. I didn’t feel claustrophobic as I can when I am in crowded places.
The train station is very close to the town, I wasn’t sure of where to go so I just followed the crowd and ended up in the heart of Salem.
Ferry to Salem – There is also the option of getting the ferry to Salem this is more expensive at $45 for a return and does take longer but it is another fun way of travelling to Salem. Do bear in mind though it was very cold when I visited in October so you will need to wrap up warm if you are going on the ferry.
Driving to Salem – I don’t personally drive so don’t really pay much attention to how to drive to a location, but I did notice a big carpark near the station. The traffic was moving quite slow though so if possible I would travel by public transport as it is so easy to use.
Getting around Salem
Salem is really walkable, it is flat and most of the attractions are near each other, so a car is not needed to get around. Since I visited so close to Halloween there were a lot of volunteers helping people with directions and offering advice. There were police manning the main crossing section, it all felt very safe especially for a female travelling solo.
If you are visiting at a quieter time I would suggest starting at the visitor’s centre to get your information and bearings. There is also a heritage trial around the town and if you follow this you will be taken to most of the attractions in Salem. During Halloween there are so many guided tours which are also available in off peak periods and they are so interesting, so I would recommend doing them.
There is the Salem Trolley you can use to get around Salem if mobility is restricted. This was sold out when I was visiting Salem and in fact I never even saw it. I think you can get to places of interest in Salem easily walking and I am lazy so it is not often I say that.
Salem at Halloween
A parade opens the October festivities and there is a Carnival on Derby Street mid to end Oct with Ferris wheels and other rides. The streets are buzzing with stalls selling merchandise and delicious foods. I loved my trip to Salem, it was just how I imagine Halloween in the USA to be and would recommend anyone to go during the month of October.
So many people were dressed up in Halloween outfits it was such a cool thing to see. I love the film Hocus Pocus and whilst I was doing the cemetery tour some drag queens came into the cemetery dressed as Winifred, Sarah, and Mary it was brilliant.
The atmosphere was excellent when I visited the day before Halloween. However, I do recommend booking tours in advance if you want to do any as they were all sold out when I got there. I had luckily booked my tours a week before but even then, a lot were sold out. Since I visited the actual weekend of Halloween it was obviously at its busiest.
I was told that apart from October the town of Salem can be very quiet as this is its peak time there can be crowds. However, I didn’t find it too busy, I didn’t go into any of the museums as I had my tours booked and just didn’t have the time to do anything but the ones I walked past only had small queues and they were moving fast. Although I did have a friend who visited the day before on a Saturday and she said there were queues everywhere.
I enjoyed walking around all the stalls they had everything from witch’s hats to t-shirts to art work. If I didn’t only have hand luggage I could have bought so many cool things.
The highlight for me was the tour with a real witch, our guide was so informative and willing to answer any questions. At the end of the tour of the town we held a ritual for those who lost their lives in the Witch Trials. I think it was more touristy than anything serious, but it was fun. We had to turn to the North East South and West whilst the witch was chanting something.
We then got to pick a gem from a collection. I am really into gems so I picked one that felt the most energetic to me and when I got home I found out it was a Citrine gem stone which has lots of health healing benefits so I have now added this to my collection of gem stones.
Can you visit Salem if its not Halloween Season?
Of course you can still visit Salem any month of the year, I was told it is a lot quieter and doesn’t have the same buzz there is at Halloween but it would still be a lot of fun to do all the tours as they are so interesting.
I wouldn’t mind going back again to explore some more and maybe this time staying over night so I could see what the town it like at a different time of the year. But it was getting cold in October so I might wait until the weather gets warmer.
I would also like to go back to Salem to find the Hocus Pocus filming locations. You can do a Hocus Pocus tour but also if you google Hocus Pocus film locations it gives you the address of the Dani and Max’s house.
It was this house that made me want to visit Salem in Halloween. I didn’t get a chance to find the exact house but a lot of the residential houses looked like in the film and I visited the cemetery that was in a few of the scenes.
There are lots of cool shops in Salem. If you are into witchcraft or even just the idea of healing and spells there is a spell shop for each type i.e one for healing and one for love spells so it is important to go in the right shop for the right sort of spell you are hoping for otherwise there could be some disastrous mix ups lol
Accommodation in Salem
There are only a few hotels in Salem so at Halloween the prices do rise and get booked up early. Unfortunately, I could not find anywhere to stay in Salem when I was planning my visit, but I didn’t feel as though I missed out by not spending the night in Salem. It would have been fun to stay late so I could do a ghost tour at night but on the night, I visited Salem there was a storm coming and the town was cancelling the late ghost tours anyway.
18 Washington Sq, On Salem Common
There are stories that Salem has its very own haunted hotel and if I was going back to Salem I hope I could stay at the Hawthorne Hotel. Not only for the spooky experience but the reviews are also really good.
Salem Waterfront Hotels and Suites
225 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970
Again the reviews are really good on TripAdvisor so this is another place I would like to stay in Salem. People report how it is close to the waterfront and I didn’t get chance to explore this area but still close to the witch attractions in Salem.
Attractions in Salem
For such a small town there are lots of things to do in Salem. Obviously all of the activities are centred around Halloween and witches, but this is the sort of thing I love so I had a great time.
Salem Wax Museum
288 Derby Street Salem, MA 01970
Salem Witch Village
282 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970
Salem Witch Museum
19 1/2 Washington Square, Salem, MA 01970
The Salem Witch Museum is the most popular attraction in Salem and tells the history of the 1692 Witch trials through exhibitions.
The museum is open year-round, every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Presentations are every half-hour from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, with extended hours in July, August, and October. It is recommended you plan to allow at least one hour for your visit.
The House of the Seven Gables
115 Derby Street Salem, Mass 01970
The seaside mansion known as The House of the Seven Gables was built in 1668 for Captain John Turner I, the head of one of the most successful maritime families in the New England colonies. The industriousness of Turner and his descendants in the fishing, trading, and mercantile businesses came to define the economy of Puritan New England and began New England’s maritime tradition. (source: 7gables.org) It is best to check the website for prices and opening hours and it varies throughout the year.
Witch Dungeon Museum
16 Lynde Street
Continuous live shows all day from 10am to 5pm. Award winning re-enactment of the trial of beggar-woman Sarah Good – from the original transcript of 1692. A guided tour of the dungeon – including a recreated village and Gallows Hill
Witch History Museum
197-201 Essex Street
Revealing Salem’s Greatest 300-Year-Old Mysteries! The untold stories of 1692 told through an historically accurate live presentation followed by a guided tour downstairs where you will walk through the forest, meet Tituba in Rev. Parris’s kitchen, visit Old Salem Village and view 15 life size scenes depicting these stories.
274 Derby Street
Salem docks in 1692, board a full-length pirate ship and explore an 80-foot cave. Experience the adventures of New England’s sea-robbers. See artefacts from sunken ships and pirate treasures.
Salem Witch Trial Memorial
Liberty Street Salem, MA 01970
The Salem witch trial memorial is a memorial dedicated to the 20 people who were put to death during the 1692 witch trials. It is an interesting place to visit and did feel a little eerie, but I am not sure if that is because I visited it during Halloween so was in a spooky frame of mind.
The Memorial is handicapped accessible and is appropriate for all ages. It is a nice memorial to sit in and think about what happened all those years ago and worth a visit if you are in Salem.
The Witch House
310 1/2 Essex Street, Salem
172 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970
What better souvenir to get from Salem than you dressed up as a witch. I really wanted to do this but you have to change in the shop and I was too shy as I was on my own. Obviously you are only putting the cloaks on over your clothing not getting naked in the shop.
235 Essex Street
The bewitched statue in Salem is now a popular landmark in Salem but there is a bit of controversy and not everyone agrees that the statue should be there. The 7th series of the TV sitcom bewitched was filmed in Salem and this statue is actress Elizabeth Montgomery who was the main witch star in the show and everyone wants their picture taken with the statue.
Whilst I was there, this is the area that the anti witch people were protesting which is a shame they try to ruin Halloween.
Haunted houses in Salem
There is a selection of haunted houses in Halloween, this year they had Frankenstein’s castle and The lost museum.
Walking tours in Salem
Walking tours in Salem are a great way to explore the town and find out more about the history and the local stories. There are a number to choose from but if you are visiting at Halloween then book in advance as they do sell out.
I did the Salem Witch Walk and it was a tour of the town by a real witch. She was extremely friendly nothing to be scared of and was really open about her faith answering all the questions that people had.
Have you visited Salem, did you go at Halloween or another time of the year? I would love to hear from you get in touch below
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Originally posted in 2017 updated in 2019