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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Diaz

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Salem, Massachusetts

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Step into the enchanting world of Salem, Massachusetts, where history and magic intertwine. As I recently celebrated my 10-year anniversary with my boyfriend, we embarked on a mesmerizing journey through this notorious town. Join me as I share our unforgettable adventures and delve into the must-visit attractions, hidden gems, and bewitching secrets that Salem has to offer. From exploring the eerie remnants of the witch trials to wandering through whimsical magic shops and soaking in the beauty of its coastal charm, Salem captivated our hearts at every turn. Whether you're seeking spine-tingling thrills, historical marvels, or simply a taste of Halloween enchantment, this ultimate guide combines my personal experience with insider tips to ensure you have an unforgettable visit. Get ready to immerse yourself in the mystique of Salem, where every corner reveals a story waiting to be discovered.

Things to Do in Salem, Massachusetts

Looking to explore the enchanting town of Salem, Massachusetts but not sure where to begin? Don't worry, I've got you covered with my top picks for the must-visit attractions in this bewitching destination.

Essex Street

When you visit Salem, Massachusetts, make sure to kick off your exploration in the captivating Essex Street. This historic cobblestoned district sets the perfect tone for discovering Salem's incredible attractions. I highly recommend booking a guided walking tour that starts right on Essex Street. Begin at one end, take a leisurely stroll down the entire street, and then venture into the charming McIntire District for more historical wonders.

As you wander along Essex Street, you'll be greeted by a lively pedestrian mall adorned with an array of delightful establishments. Take your time to browse through the souvenir shops, bookstores, and cozy cafes where locals and visitors gather, sharing stories over steaming cups of coffee. Personally, I have a special fondness for the unique stores nestled within the Salem Witch Village. If you're eager to immerse yourself in the enchanting Salem spirit, don't miss the chance to visit Haus Witch or Hex Old World Witchery for a memorable psychic reading. And for those seeking something beyond witchcraft, be sure to explore the simply stunning Oak + Pine, where you'll find an array of gorgeous household items and thriving plants.

Let Essex Street be your gateway to a captivating adventure, where history and magic intertwine to create an unforgettable experience in the heart of Salem.

Old Town Hall

As you take a leisurely stroll through Salem, make sure to pause and admire the historic brick Old Town Hall. This remarkable building, dating back to 1816, holds a wealth of stories within its walls. As you approach, you'll be captivated by the original structure that has stood the test of time.

The Old Town Hall still serves as a public hall on the second floor, preserving its historical significance. Meanwhile, the first floor has been transformed into an art exhibition space, showcasing the creativity of local artists. It's truly a place where history and art converge.

Fun fact: If you're a fan of the popular Disney Halloween cult film Hocus Pocus (1993), you'll recognize the Old Town Hall's exterior. This iconic building made its silver screen appearance, adding an extra layer of charm and intrigue.

And if you're in need of some witchy essentials like a broomstick or cauldron, simply head down Essex Street. You'll find a treasure trove of enchanting shops that cater to all your mystical needs. So, don't miss the chance to explore the Old Town Hall and immerse yourself in the rich history and magical atmosphere of Salem.

Bewitched Statue

As you continue your exploration, make sure to visit the renowned statue of Elizabeth Montgomery riding a broom on Essex Street. This incredible statue pays tribute to her beloved character Samantha from the iconic 1960s TV show Bewitched. You'll find this statue to be one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in Salem, so be sure to capture a picture as a lasting memento of your visit.

The House of the Seven Gables/Turner-Ingersoll Mansion

For literature enthusiasts, a must-visit on your witchy tour is the House of Seven Gables. This historic home, prominently featured in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, now stands as a dedicated museum showcasing his literary works.

Built in 1668 by Captain John Turner, this mansion holds the distinction of being one of the oldest surviving mansions in the United States. It was passed down through three generations of the Turner family until John Turner III faced bankruptcy. In 1782, the house was sold to Samuel Ingersoll, a mariner, and upon his passing, it was inherited by his daughter Susanna. It was during this time that Nathaniel Hawthorne, Susanna's cousin, frequently visited and immortalized the house in his 1851 novel bearing its name.

Inside, you'll find a recreation of the secret staircase from Hawthorne's renowned work, The Scarlet Letter. Some even claim that Hawthorne's presence still lingers within the premises. Built in 1727, the House of Seven Gables serves as a remarkable testament to the prosperity of early Salem and offers a captivating glimpse into early Colonial architecture and Georgian interiors. While photography is not permitted during guided tours, you'll have the opportunity to explore the property's Colonial Revival garden, adding to the overall charm of your visit.

Derby Waterfront District

If you're looking for a picturesque dinner spot with a stunning sunset view, the Derby Waterfront District is the place to be. You can dine while surrounded by beautiful sailboats. For seafood lovers, I highly recommend Finz Seafood & Grill, where their clam chowder is a must-try. The restaurant is conveniently located near a lighthouse, offering delightful views of boats in the bay.

On the other hand, if you fancy a different kind of historical experience, a visit to Salem Pioneer Village is a must. This recreated colonial village takes you back to the 1630s, showcasing the homes of Native American and British settlers. It's a fascinating glimpse into the early days of Salem's history and the cultural exchange between these communities.

Peabody Essex Museum

If you're looking to add some art to your Halloween-themed exploration, make sure to visit the Peabody Essex Museum. Originally the East India Marine Society, a club for seafarers who collected artifacts from their global voyages, this world-class attraction offers a diverse range of exhibits. With 30 galleries showcasing maritime history, American art, decorative arts, Asian art, and more, there's something for everyone. Take a moment to relax in the stunning atrium, where you can enjoy tea and take in the rotating art exhibitions. Don't forget to explore the garden sanctuary as well.

Within the museum, you'll also find several historic houses, including the remarkable Yin Yu Tang house. This 200-year-old Qing Dynasty house was acquired by the museum in China and reassembled in Salem, providing a unique glimpse into Chinese architecture and culture. Just a block away from the main entrance, on the Crownship-Bentley Lawn, you'll discover Stickwork, an eerie and captivating site-specific installation created by renowned artist Patrick Dougherty. Made from saplings gathered by local volunteers, this artwork adds a touch of spooky magnificence to the surroundings.

As you wrap up your museum visit, be sure to make a stop at Wicked Good Books on the corner of Essex and Derby Streets. This bookstore offers a wide selection of books on witchcraft, warlocks, vampires, and other intriguing subjects that will continue to immerse you in the world of the supernatural.

Andrew Safford House

The Andrew-Safford House, located within the Peabody Essex Museum, is a stunning example of Federal-style architecture. Constructed between 1818 and 1819, this historic house has been recognized for its significance and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It stands as a testament to the classic mansions that adorned Salem during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, showcasing the elegance and craftsmanship of the Federal style.

Salem Custom House

The Salem Custom House, an exquisite example of Federal architecture, holds a significant place in history as a designated historical landmark. Constructed in 1819, it once served as a bustling center for business activities. Notably, renowned author Nathaniel Hawthorne spent three years as a surveyor in the Custom House, drawing inspiration from his experiences there. His time at the Custom House influenced his literary masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, which chronicles the story of Hester Prynne, a virtuous woman burdened with wearing a scarlet letter as punishment for adultery. It's worth mentioning that Hawthorne deliberately added a "w" to his name, coinciding with the name of Judge John Hathorne, a prominent figure in the Salem Witch Trials and infamous as the "Hanging Judge," in order to create distance from that association.

Salem Witch Museum

If you're looking for a unique museum experience, the Salem Witch Museum is a must-visit. Housed in a captivating old church, it goes beyond the traditional museum setup. Instead, it offers an interactive introduction to the infamous witch hysteria of 1692. With thirteen meticulously staged scenes, the museum provides a vivid historical backdrop. It's important to note that while the museum lacks genuine historical artifacts, the immersive experience still captivates visitors. Admission costs $15 per person, and for those seeking more in-depth knowledge about witches, there are self-guided tours available that delve into their perceptions, trials, and tragic executions.

Salem Witch House/Jonathan Corwin House

For an enhanced Salem Witch Trials experience, a visit to the Jonathan Corwin House, also known as the "Witch House," is a must. This renowned destination, built in 1642, stands as the only surviving home with direct connections to the Salem Witch Trials. As part of the distinguished "first-period" houses, which were constructed by the early settlers, it boasts the characteristic steeply pitched roofs of this architectural style.

While no witches resided in the house, it is believed that Judge Jonathan Corwin utilized it as an interrogation space during the infamous trials. However, there is no definitive evidence to substantiate this claim. Today, the historically significant house offers a self-guided tour, allowing visitors to explore its 18th-century period furniture and artifacts. Notably, the house was adorned with glass windows, a luxury in the 1600s, and decorative elements known as "pendils" grace the building's corners, adding to its allure.

Old Burying Point Cemetery

Salem's Old Burying Point Cemetery holds a significant place in history as one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States, established in 1637. The headstones found here bear unique adornments, including angels, skulls, and profiles of children, which contribute to its eerie atmosphere. Amidst the haunting ambiance, one can sense the weight of history that lingers in the air, enhanced by the atmospheric draping of trees.

Within this cemetery, you'll discover memorial benches dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Salem Witch Trials. While most victims were hung, Giles Corey met a gruesome fate by being "pressed to death" with rocks. Both Corey's grave and that of Martha Corey, an alleged witch who also perished during the trials, can be found here. Additionally, the resting places of Judge Hathorne and Judge Bartholomew Gedney can be found within these grounds. These judges played pivotal roles in the execution of many individuals accused of witchcraft or practicing witchcraft during that time period.

Witch Trials Memorial

Just a stone's throw away from the Old Burying Point Cemetery on Liberty Street stands the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This poignant memorial was unveiled in 1992 to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the tragic events of the Salem witch trials. Each victim is commemorated with a substantial granite stone bearing their name, method of execution, and date of execution. What makes the memorial even more impactful is the inclusion of their final protests, allowing visitors to read the last words these innocent individuals uttered in the face of injustice.

Ropes Mansion and Garden

If you're looking for a must-visit destination in Salem, don't miss the enchanting Ropes Mansion and Garden. This stunning Victorian home and its meticulously manicured garden were constructed by William Ropes back in 1876. Today, the mansion has been transformed into a captivating museum where visitors can step inside and admire the beautifully adorned rooms furnished with original furniture, paintings, photographs, and other fascinating historical artifacts. As you explore the grounds, you'll be captivated by the diverse array of plant species that adorn this picturesque setting. Fun fact: In the popular film "Hocus Pocus" from 1993, the exterior of the Ropes Mansion was featured as Allison's house, adding an extra touch of cinematic charm to this already remarkable location.

The Dennison Home

If you're a fan of the 1993 film Hocus Pocus, you won't want to miss the chance to visit one of its most iconic locations. While it is now a private residence, the homeowners graciously permit visitors to take photographs from outside. It's important to remember to be respectful when you visit, ensuring that you maintain proper decorum. So, capture the magic of this memorable spot, but always remember to show courtesy to the homeowners and their property.

Coffee Shops in Salem, Massachusetts

Jaho Coffee

Jaho Coffee, located at 197 Derby Street near the wharf, is a popular choice among Salem locals. The cafe offers both individual and communal seating arrangements, making it suitable for various group sizes. You can enjoy a menu featuring sandwiches, gelato, coffee, tea, bubble tea, wine, and beer. Don't miss their delicious croissants and flavorful mocha lattes. While the WiFi is decent, you'll need to log in using a social media account or email. Jaho is a bustling place to meet friends and connect with new people, but be prepared for potential crowds and consider bringing headphones for a quieter experience.

Brew Box

Brew Box is a delightful coffee shop nestled in a cozy corner of Essex Street. What sets it apart is not only its friendly staff but also the exceptional quality of their coffee and diverse menu offerings. The ambiance of the shop perfectly complements the overall atmosphere of Salem. When it comes to beverages, Brew Box offers a wide range of options, from lattes to frappes, and they even have delicious smoothies. Their selection of food items includes delectable bagels and muffins that are sure to satisfy your cravings. One unique feature they offer is the option to sweeten your drink with "cereal milk," which is milk filtered through cereal, providing a distinctive twist to your beverage. Personally, I found their pastries and mocha latte to be among my favorite items. Brew Box is a must-visit spot for coffee enthusiasts and those seeking a delightful café experience in Salem.

Where to Eat in Salem, Massachusetts

When it comes to tourism, Salem is a vibrant town offering a plethora of entertainment and dining options for visitors. One of its standout features is its reputation for exceptional seafood. However, rest assured that Salem boasts a wide range of restaurants catering to various tastes and budgets, ensuring there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Finz Seafood and Grill

Finz Seafood and Grill is a fantastic establishment where you can treat yourself to a delightful dining experience. This nautical-themed restaurant excels in offering a delectable selection of raw oysters, as well as a wide range of surf and turf dishes. Their menu is expansive, featuring an array of seafood and steak options to satisfy every palate. During my visit, I had the pleasure of trying their crab cake appetizer, and it was truly a delight. The crab cake was expertly seasoned and had the perfect balance of breadcrumbs, ensuring it held its shape without compromising its texture. Accompanied by a side of honey mustard sauce, it provided a delightful complement to the crab's natural flavors without overpowering them.

Sea Level Oyster Bar

Sea Level Oyster Bar is another exceptional dining establishment with a focus on fresh seafood. Their raw bar offers a diverse selection of menu options that are sure to please. Personally, I can't recommend their clam chowder enough—it's truly one of the best I've ever tasted. The oysters at Sea Level Oyster Bar are incredibly fresh, and they offer a wide variety to choose from. Whether you prefer them fried or raw, the option to enjoy them in different ways adds a delightful element to your dining experience. In addition to oysters, their menu features a range of other seafood items such as crab cakes, shrimp cocktails, and mussels. It's a fantastic place to indulge in a delicious seafood feast.

Gulu-Gulu Cafe

Gulu-Gulu Cafe is an absolute gem when it comes to breakfast in Salem. The combination of delicious food and friendly service makes it a must-visit spot. During my visit, I couldn't resist trying The Lumberjack, a delightful creation consisting of a Belgian waffle, scrambled eggs, and crispy bacon all drizzled with maple syrup. Every bite was a perfect harmony of flavors, with the sweetness of the waffle complementing the savory goodness of the eggs and bacon. It was a genius combination that satisfied my craving for both sweet and savory breakfast options. Additionally, Gulu-Gulu Cafe offers fantastic vegan choices, ensuring that there's something for everyone. And let's not forget their delightful espresso drinks. During my visit, I had the pleasure of trying their special sage raspberry latte, which was both creative and incredibly tasty. Gulu-Gulu Cafe is a haven for breakfast lovers, offering a fantastic dining experience that combines culinary excellence and warm hospitality.

Where to Stay in Salem, Massachusetts

Hawthorne Hotel

If you're planning to spend the night in Salem, the Hawthorne Hotel is the ideal choice. Its Victorian-era charm and intricate details create an atmosphere of old-world luxury while still providing modern comforts. One fascinating aspect of the hotel is its rumored haunting by the ghost of Bridge Bishop. Legend tells us that she was a victim of the Salem Witch Trials and has been seen wandering the halls of the Hawthorne Hotel since 1924. The hotel's paranormal activity has even attracted the attention of professional investigators, adding an extra layer of intrigue to its already captivating history.

The Merchant

The Merchant hotel in Salem is a delightful tribute to Joshua Ward, a renowned sea merchant and privateer from the post-Revolutionary War era. His vision and commission led to the creation of this elegant federal-style building, which now serves as a charming boutique hotel. The rooms are beautifully adorned, and the hotel's prime location is a true highlight. Just steps away, you'll find yourself immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of Salem, with excellent shopping and dining options at your fingertips. Make sure to visit HausWitch for a modern witch shopping experience and savor the delectable Mediterranean cuisine at Adriatic, both conveniently located within a 30-second walk from the hotel.

The Salem Inn

If you're seeking a boutique hotel that exudes the warmth of a private home, look no further than the Salem Inn. This charming establishment offers an inviting atmosphere that is both welcoming and cozy. The rooms are generously sized and adorned with antique furniture, showcasing a unique blend of history and style. Each room is adorned with original artwork and features luxurious linens, ensuring a comfortable and memorable stay. The Salem Inn truly stands apart, offering an ambiance that sets it apart from any other hotel in Salem.

Amelia Payson House

For a delightful and charming stay in Salem, I highly recommend the Amelia Payson House. This beautiful bed and breakfast is located in a captivating Greek Revival mansion, offering a truly unique experience. With only three rooms available, it's important to secure your reservation well in advance. Recently renovated, the Amelia Payson House now boasts luxurious accommodations that perfectly blend modern comfort with historic charm.

Best Time to Visit Salem, Massachusetts

In my opinion, the ideal time to plan a visit to Salem is during the summer months, specifically from June to September. This period offers pleasant and sunny weather, allowing you to explore the city comfortably. Additionally, numerous festivals and events take place during this time, adding an extra touch of excitement to your experience. However, if you're looking to immerse yourself in Salem's enchanting and witchy ambiance, I recommend visiting during the high season in October or November. During this time, the weather is typically cool and crisp, creating a delightful atmosphere for exploring the city.

So, whether you're seeking history, witchcraft, delicious food, or a cozy stay, Salem has something for everyone. Plan your trip during the summer for warm days and vibrant festivals, or embrace the witchy charm during the enchanting months of October and November. Don't miss out on the iconic attractions, delightful cuisine, and unique accommodations that make Salem a truly unforgettable destination. Get ready to embark on an extraordinary journey and discover the magic of Salem!


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I'm Samantha! A photographer and I believe that every picture has a story. As a blogger, I share my travel stories with everyone. I think it's important to document my travels and share my experiences with others. I've been to some amazing places and I've seen some incredible things. I want to share my stories and photos with the world.

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