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Looking for things to do in Salem MA in October 2024? Considering a Salem Massachusetts Halloween experience? You couldn’t have chosen a better destination for spooky New England fall fun!
While there are so many things to do in Salem at any time of the year, October is when things get especially witchy, magical, and memorable.
I have visited Salem many times and in many seasons, and as an avid lover of New England, I’m here to tell you how to have the most epic Salem October experience.
In this guide, I include the best things to do in Salem Massachusetts in October, such as The Witch House, Hocus Pocus film sites, and the House of Seven Gables, plus my personal tips for visiting Salem in the fall.
You’ll even find a ready made Salem itinerary at the end, if you’ve got a few days to explore.
Let’s dive in, witches!
Is Salem MA Worth Visiting in October?
Yes! Salem MA is definitely worth visiting in October.
Most infamously known for its witch trials and witchcraft hysteria of the 1690s, Salem attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, the vast majority of them arriving in October. From Salem’s dark history to modern-day witches, Salem Massachusetts remains a fascinating city.
Undoubtedly, the near-perfect fall weather, stunning fall foliage, plus the addition of Salem’s “Haunted Happenings” events and the overall atmosphere means that the best time to go to Salem is October.
However, everyone else thinks so, too!
This is without a doubt a CRAZY time of year in the area. The crowds get incredibly thick as the leaves turn gold, and you’ll definitely be waiting in line for some of Salem’s top attractions. Parking is a challenge, and you’ll need to book accommodation well in advance.
Still, visiting Salem MA in October (especially near Halloween) is something many travelers want to check off their New England bucket list.
So if you’re ready to brave the crowds, read on. And if you’re keen to visit at another time of year, the same great activities and recommendations still apply. Hint hint: these are the best things to do in Salem Massachusetts in ANY SEASON!
PS scroll all the way to the end of this post for my ready made Salem weekend itinerary so you won’t have to worry about missing a thing!
Can You Do a Day Trip to Salem?
You can absolutely do a day trip to Salem and this is an excellent option in October, especially if you haven’t booked Salem accommodation well in advance.
My recommendation is to stay in Boston and take the train into Salem for a spooky October day trip. When you take the train you will avoid the nightmare that is trying to park in Salem in October. You’ll take the MBTA Commuter Rail from North Station and be in Salem in under an hour, ready to start your Salem day trip adventure.
Tips for Visiting Salem in October – Witch City Wisdom
As someone who has traveled to Salem in October, I have learned what to expect during this pinnacle of Salem’s high season. Here are some of my best tips for making the most of your visit:
- Plan ahead. Book accommodation well ahead of time (a year in advance when possible) and book all your tours and tickets ASAP.
- Go in September or better yet, November! Yep, you heard right! You can still have an incredible Salem experience if you don’t go in the month of October. In fact, the town has found tourism has begun soaring more than ever beginning in summer and continuing through fall. So if you’re keen on having Salem *a bit more to yourself* consider going after the foliage season has died down.
- Start EARLY in the day. I visited Salem in fall 2022 and took the earliest train from Boston that I could. This gave me a good hour to walk around a fairly empty downtown Salem and—as a blogger—it was the only way I was able to grab some photos without people in them! The early bird definitely gets the worm in this case! Set your alarm clocks and fly!
- Get into the spirit and dress up! It’s spooky season and this is Witch City, after all! Don a witch hat, step into something sparkly and stunning. If you’re looking for an excuse to wear a costume to Salem or to dress a bit more wild, go for it. You definitely won’t be alone!
- Have patience. There’s going to be crowds if you visit Salem during October. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going, have patience and grace with others, and always keep your sense of humor about you!
Best Things to Do in Salem MA in October
1. Take a Walking Tour
Salem has such a rich and complex history. To make the most of your experience, it’s important that you get a good overview of the town’s past. The best way to do that is through a walking tour of Salem, Massachusetts. There are plenty to choose from! I think the best tours in Salem MA not only offer history connected to the Witch Trials, but will also cover other elements of Salem’s story.
This 2-Hour Salem History Walking Tour is one of the highest-rated Salem day tours in the area. Lead by a local guide, the tour takes you to all the iconic sites of Salem, including landmarks like the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, the Burying Point, the McIntire Historic District, Hamilton Hall, and Pickering House. You’ll hear about the Salem Witch Trials as well as the city’s past as a Native American settlement and its role in the American Revolution.
Another option, The Salem: History & Witchcraft Day Tour, is more focused on the trials themselves. You’ll visit important sites like the Old Burial Ground Cemetery and Witch Trials Memorial, and you’ll hear the stories of the accused witches from your local guide; this is considered one of the top Salem MA witch tours.
2. Visit the Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum is one of the essential things to do in Salem, Massachusetts in October. This is actually known as the most visited attraction in Salem, and with good reason.
The first part of the Salem Witch Museum tour is truly bewitching, pun intended. You are shown into a large theatrical-type space and seated in the center with many other guests. Once everyone is seated, you are shown a presentation that lasts approximately 20 minutes. This is a masterful (and a bit frightening) storytelling operation that shares a dramatization of the Salem wittch hunt through a combination of tableaus, dramatic lighting, and spine-tingling narration.
While there are no physical actors, the tremulous narrator, alongside voice actors and sound effects, brings these mannequined tableaus into vivid life.
Recently, I read an article calling the Witch Museum a tourist trap. I strongly disagree.
My husband and I found it riveting and intense; in fact, it is much more emotional than a regular museum. Its simple and even slightly vintage approach works. Nothing modern or fancy is needed to tell this story. Connecting you with the characters of the witch trials, it makes you acutely aware of the horrible things which happened here.
Following the presentation, you enter the modern witch museum, which examines the way witches have been viewed throughout history. With knowledgeable and entertaining guides, it’s a good way to cap off your visit.
3. Tour the Salem Witch House
Not to be confused with the Witch Museum, the Salem Witch House is absolutely worth a visit. Though Salem is full of history, this building is unique in that it is the only still-standing structure with direct ties to the witch trials—plus it just looks incredibly spooky and Salem-esque!
This house was once home to Jonathan Corwin, who served as a judge in the witchcraft trials of 1692. The Witch House was also the site of family tragedy and Judge Corwin himself was known as being pretty harsh and unyielding, so it may come as no surprise that this is one of several possible haunted places in New England.
Inside the Witch House, you can take a self-guided tour. There is plenty to see and study, and information lining the walls shares the history of both the witch trials and the time period in general.
With so much detail, you can really imagine what it was like to live in a home such as Judge Corwin’s.
There are a few guides within the house who are extremely knowledgeable and readily answer any of your questions.
Salem travel tip: I recommend arriving to the Witch House early in the morning to avoid any crowds and have this fascinating house almost completely to yourself.
4. Check out famous Hocus Pocus film sites
If you’re visiting Salem, MA in October, the season is just perfect to reminisce about your favorite Halloween movie.
I’m talking about Hocus Pocus, that classic Halloween film that features 3 of everyone’s favorite witches: Mary, Sarah, and Winifred Sanderson.
I have loved this movie since it came out in 1993 and Salem is filled with locations where scenes were filmed. I wrote an entire guide to the Hocus Pocus sites in Salem so you can follow along and check them all out!
5. Take a Candlelit Ghost Tour
If you are visiting Salem in October, going on a ghost tour is a must!
To learn more about the local haunts, join in on one of many Salem ghost tours. There are many different options to choose from, but my husband and I went with this Candlelit Ghostly Walking Tour through the Salem Wax Museum.
Armed with tiny lanterns, we followed our guide to sites around the town of Salem and learned a bit of the “hidden” history. This Salem ghost tour had haunted tales, ghostly rumors, and was just the right level of spooky! And, in my opinion, there’s something really fun about wielding your own little lantern light on a dark night in Salem!
You can buy tickets for this walking tour at the Salem Wax Museum. You’ll visit sights including haunted houses, the most “haunted building in Salem,” the site of the old Salem prison, and more.
Want more choices? Check out this list of the top ghost tours in Salem for more detailed information on different ghost tours in Salem, including top kid-friendly ghost tours.
5. Catch the fall foliage
If you’re visiting Salem in October, you’re bound to see some of the gorgeous autumn foliage. The changing leaves add to the beauty of this town and definitely help to set a magical atmosphere.
Though peak foliage varies each year, you’re almost certain to catch some good color during October.
And of course, New England is world famous for its beautiful fall foliage. Considering using Salem as your starting point for an epic fall road trip through the region.
6. Take part in the Haunted Happenings: so many Halloween events!
Clearly, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Salem year round. But only in October can you join in on the famous Haunted Happenings. Salem has got so much on the calendar for October 2024! When planning your visit, be sure to check this calendar to see if any of these special events coincide with your trip.
There are magic shows, cabarets, and the Haunted Happenings Marketplace which is held in Salem Common, featuring live music, street performers, food trucks, and more!
Looking for the metaphysical? There are crystal workshops, presentations on myth and ritual, spiritualism tours of Hammond Castle in nearby Gloucester….the list goes on.
As Halloween approaches, there is also a slew of Halloween balls: epic parties you won’t want to miss. You might just “dance, dance, dance, until you die!“
7. Explore the Witchy Shops
Part of the fun of traveling to Salem, Massachusetts is simply wandering around the town and enjoying its many unusual shops and businesses.
This photo above is from an amazing (but also sort of frighteningly intense) shop in downtown Salem. Immediately I walked in and felt like “there is an energy in here.”
The shop is inside an old bank, and is called BlackCraft Cult. The decor is just so striking and the merchandise fits so well in this setting. It’s worth a visit.
There are campy souvenir stores, of course, but there are also small magical shops that have a much more authentic feel. These are truly worth a visit due to their enchanting interiors and the unique array of goods inside. If you’re interested in a palm reading, tarot, or other services, there are plenty of options to be found throughout Salem as well.
There are also stores that celebrate local arts and crafts or culinary goods. And many, many delicious restaurants, breweries, and bars. I recommend:
- Turner’s Seafood – literally the best meal I have ever had in Salem, and in the coziest restaurant.
- Howling Wolf Taqueria – Awesome Mexican joint with very affordable prices. Great margaritas. The food was excellent and the restaurant very crowded–showing just how popular it is!
- Gulu Gulu Cafe – Great for a tasty cup of coffee or a yummy breakfast or lunch. The interior of the cafe is very quirky, and I just love their canine logo.
- Mercy Tavern – A cozy, newer spot in town which felt off the beaten path, and served up delectable dishes. My husband had a juicy cheeseburger while I had outstanding New England clam chowder (complete with crab cakes), and we both enjoyed a local cider from Far From the Tree. Apparently their mac n’ cheese is also to die for!
8. Wander through the Old Burying Point Cemetery
There are many Salem points of interest you will come across during your stay. The town of Salem is not huge, and as you explore, you’re bound to find dozens of places in Salem Massachusetts that intrigue you.
One such place is the Old Burying Point Cemetery, also known as the Charter Street Cemetery. With some notable figures buried here (including accused witch Martha Corey), it is worth it to spend some time exploring the very, very old graves here. This cemetery is the oldest in Salem, established in 1637.
Witchcraft judge John Hathorne is also buried here. Hathorne was known for being harsh and perhaps not always entirely impartial. Though Hathorne never expressed regret later in life for the outcome of the trials, his descendants seemed to have distanced themselves from the family name, including his famous literary great-grandson, who added one letter to his surname to become Nathaniel Hawthorne.
*Please note: Reservations are now required to visit this historic cemetery. Head to their website for more information.
9. Pay Your Respects at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Just next to the Burial Point you will find the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This is a simple stone memorial that was created in 1992 to memorialize the victims of the trials.
The witch hysteria saw 20 innocent people executed. Here, they can be remembered, with stone benches carved with each victim’s name, as well as date and manner of death. There are often flowers, little trinkets, and other items set upon the stones, left in tribute to the victims. It’s a somber and quiet spot to remember the people who were so cruelly executed during the Salem witch trials.
While this is certainly an emotional stop, it is one of my favorite places in Salem. There is something realy simple and gentle about the space.
I recommend reading The Crucible before your trip to Salem. Alternatively, watch the film version starring Daniel Day Lewis. While not necessarily historically accurate, the inclusion of real victims as characters in the play brings the events alive in stark, vivid detail. It helped me feel more connected to the victims and their story, in the powerful way that good art should.
10. Pop Into the Peabody Essex Museum
Though not necessarily “witch-related,” the Peabody Essex Museum is a great stop during any visit to Salem, and something of a hidden gem.
During a visit a couple of years ago, my husband and I were able to catch the fantastic “It’s Alive!” exhibit that was on display. This was a vintage sci-fi and horror film poster exhibit of the collection of Kirk Hammett, guitarist for Metallica. My husband, a sci-fi fan and author, was especially excited for this exhibit, but I ended up loving it too!
It was really thought-provoking to see the evolution of sci-fi and horror film posters and marketing approaches over the years.
If you visit the Peabody Essex Museum, there will certainly be something to captivate you. There are many fascinating rotating exhibits here as well as more permanent collections. The museum building is also quite lovely all its own.
In fall 2023, the Peabody Essex Museum is currently showcasing exhibits on the Witch Trials as well as one on bats. So fitting for the spooky season!
11. Step Into the House of the Seven Gables
Are you a literary fan? If so, you may be interested in seeing the House of the Seven Gables, a structure intimately connected with one Nathaniel Hawthorne. But even without this particular interest, the house is absolutely worth a visit.
A guided tour is lead by a remarkably knowledgeable guide, and you’ll learn more about the history of the house (including how it architecturally evolved over the years).
The best part of all? You get to climb up a secret passageway, a hidden staircase in the walls.
Psst: You’ll also find out just what the heck a ‘gable’ is, if you don’t already know!
12. Stay in a Haunted Hotel, if you dare!
Now, many might believe if you want the true Salem experience, you need to stay in an inn or hotel with a history of paranormal activity. The choice is yours!
Though The Salem Inn, where I have stayed, does have some stories of ghostly experiences in the main inn, I was quite relieved that my stay was spirit-free! As a matter of fact, the stay was really lovely. My husband and I stayed in the beautiful old Currwen House, once belonging to a maritime family.
Our room was perfectly decorated in an old-fashioned style, and it was very comfortable. We especially loved our whirlpool tub.
In the mornings, we enjoyed a fabulous continental breakfast, complete with the most delicious mini cinnamon rolls.
If you’re looking for quality lodging in Salem that has a vintage touch, The Salem Inn is a perfect choice.
13. Take a Sunset Sail on a Historic Schooner
Don’t forget about the water during your time in Salem! Take a break from pounding the cobblestones and hop onto a historic schooner for a relaxing sunset sail on the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy views of Salem’s coastline while you feel the breeze in your hair. You can even BYO adult beverage! Click here to book this sunset sail Salem trip.
If you’re not as keen to head out onto the water, don’t miss checking out the Salem Friendship tall ship in the harbor. This beautiful vessel is a replica of the original 1797 Salem-built tall ship. Operating as a merchant ship, the Friendship was eventually captured by the British during the War of 1812.
14. Pose with Samantha at the Bewitched Statue
If you grew up in the mid 60’s, (or you’re a fellow child of the 80’s/90’s who grew up watching Nick at Nite, like me) you likely were a fan of Bewitched, the beloved television show that starred Elizabeth Montgomery. Montgomery played Samantha, a young, just-married witch whose husband Darren has no idea about her magical powers.
The statue was donated by TV Land and dedicated in 2005. A few of the show’s episodes were set in Salem, and according to Roadside America, the show may have contributed to a resurgence of interest in tourism to the town.
The statue is easy to find, located in Lappin Park, at the corner of Washington and Essex Streets. It’s definitely worth stopping by to grab a photo with Samantha!
15. Hop Aboard the Salem Trolley Tours
One of the best ways to get around Salem MA and to see all the top Salem attractions is to hop on the Salem Trolley!
Touring eight miles around Salem, you’ll see all the top sights in Salem, and you can get off the trolley at any stop if you’d like to explore the area a bit more. This Salem trolley tour is just one hour start to finish and a trolley ride is always one of those fun things to do in Salem for kids but honestly? Who doesn’t love riding on a trolley?!
16. Explore Salem Pioneer Village
Would you like to see more of what 17th century colonial life in Salem was really like? Then visit the Pioneer Village, three acres of living history museum in Salem. An amazing representation of Old Salem MA, you’ll see thatched roof cottages, a blacksmith shop, and more in this incredible recreation of historical Salem. This should be on the list of things to do in Salem in October, for sure.
Hours: The village is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-4 from June 10-October 29 only!
PS: This is another of the Hocus Pocus film sites in Salem; the site of Thackery Binx’s house in the witch village!
17. Admire Salem’s gorgeous historic homes
No Salem Massachusetts October adventure is complete without seeing some of its absolutely gorgeous old homes!
You’ll need to walk away from the downtown area of Salem and explore the residential streets a bit. (Make sure you are respectful of private property and quiet. The residents of Salem will appreciate this as you explore the town they call home!)
Head down Essex Street from the Witch House and you’ll immediately be struck by stunning facades and lovely architecture. The surrounding streets, such as Chestnut Street, boast the same beauty. Here are photos of some of my favorite Salem homes.
18. Spy the epic Halloween decorations
Halloween is awesome in many destinations, but Salem really does it up!
Some of the streets boasting the best historic homes will also be the same places to find the spookiest and best decorations. My personal favorite is the stately yellow home nicknamed The Yellow Elephant. Also known as The James Braden House, this is one spot where they do not mess around with Halloween decor! Giant skeletons seem to be ransacking the house as a preponderance of gourds spills down the stairway. Truly, truly epic.
You’ll find this gem at 170 Federal Street.
19. Wander around Salem Common
If you’re looking for a leafy, shady park to stroll around in, Salem Common will not disappoint. This is a lovely spot with paths, a playground, a scenic cupola gazebo, and more. In October, it’s also the spot where you’ll find lots of fair-style food trucks. This is a very fun spot to stop by on your visit to Salem, and, as a bonus, it’s also another of the Hocus Pocus filming locations.
Read Next: Top 25 Things to Do in Salem MA with Kids
20. Grab a drink overlooking the rooftops of Salem
Finally, end your trip by toasting with some tasty spirits at this chic rooftop bar. Located atop the Hotel Salem, The Roof is known for its nice views, Mexican dishes, and its strong drinks. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy after a day of exploring.
I really enjoyed my Mexican Street Corn Dip paired with a “Dark and Stormy”. A perfect cocktail for October in Salem, no?
Salem Massachusetts Weekend Itinerary (3 Days)
Only have three days in Salem MA? Follow my ready made Salem MA itinerary to get the best bang for your buck!
Salem Massachusetts 3 Day Itinerary – Day 1
For the first day, I suggest beginning on The Salem Trolley: day tours are available in person on the same day, and run April through November. Plus, it’s only a one hour tour, so it leaves plenty of time to get on with your Salem weekend trip.
You’ll be able to see where some of the most popular Salem sights are located, like the House of the Seven Gables, Charter Street Burial Ground, the Salem Witch Museum, the historic waterfront, and more.
This will help you get a great visual on the town and the places you’ll be seeing during your weekend in Salem!
- The Salem Trolley
- Salem Witch Museum
- Salem Common
- Red’s Sandwiches
- Peabody Essex Museum
- The Salem Witch Trials Memorial
- Old Burying Point
- Tavern Restaurant
- Optional Ghost Tour, if you’re still going strong!
Weekend Itinerary Salem – Day 2
Hopefully you’ve gotten a great night’s rest and you’re ready and raring to go for your second day of Salem explorations, but today will be at a slightly lower pace than yesterday if you follow this Salem MA itinerary exactly.
To begin, let’s fuel up with a nice light breakfast and a great cup of coffee, shall we? Head to Jaho Coffee & Tea for specialty lattes, delicious boba drinks, scrumptious pastries, and of course, a fantastic cup of coffee if that’s all you need in the morning!
PS if it’s noon or after when you’re leaving Jaho Coffee, check out Enchanted of Salem, in the same plaza. It’s a very cool little magic shop where you can find crystals, tarot cards, crystal balls, spell kits, and so much more. Now it’s on for more must see Salem sights!
- Jaho Coffee
- Salem Maritime National Historic Site
- Daniel’s House Inn
- Mercy Tavern
- The House of the Seven Gables
- Ye Olde Pepper Companie
- Go Sailing on a Historic Schooner
- Sea Level Oyster Bar
Itinerary for Salem Massachusetts – Day 3
If you are lucky enough to get a long weekend in Salem, your 3rd day is going to be even more of the can’t miss Salem attractions! To begin your day, let’s do breakfast at Red Line Cafe, one of the cutest coffee shops in Salem.
Crepes are their specialty, and you really can’t go wrong whether you order one that’s sweet or savory. Either way, that and a delicious coffee or tea will fuel you well for your last day in the Witch City!
- Red Line Cafe
- Witch Pix
- Witch History Museum
- Wicked Good Books
- Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
- Bewitched Sculpture
- Gulu Gulu Cafe
There are so many things to do in Salem, MA to discover its mystery and magic. If you want to be even better prepared for your visit, check out my suggested books below. Happy travels!
Suggested Salem Reading:
- The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem
- In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
- The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts
- House of the Seven Gables
More Salem & Massachusetts Travel Planning:
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