21 Best Things to Do in Salem MA in October 🎃 (Halloween 2023)

Looking for things to do in Salem MA in October 2023? Considering a Salem Massachusetts Halloween experience? You couldn’t have chosen a better destination for spooky New England fall fun!

New England is an excellent region to visit in the autumn months. Known for its over-the-top fall foliage, its pumpkin patches, and its old American history, it’s a great place to celebrate the spooky, atmospheric fall season.

I have visited Salem many times and in many seasons, as an avid lover of New England, I’m here to share my insights on how to have an epic Salem  October experience. 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.

Let’s dive in, witches!


Is Salem MA Worth Visiting in October?

None of New England’s incredible destinations may be quite so suited to the atmospheric fall season as Salem, Massachusetts.

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. 

So YES! Salem is absolutely a spot to include on any New England fall road trip or getaway in any season. Which brings me to the next question:

When is the Best Time to Visit Salem MA?

If you’re wondering when to visit Salem MA, you should know that the honest answer is: whenever you can! 

But if you are reading this article, chances are pretty high you’re considering an October trip to Salem. 

Undoubtedly, the near-perfect fall weather plus the addition of Salem’s “Haunted Happenings” events and the overall atmosphere makes October the very best time to go to Salem.

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!

Tips for Visiting Salem in October

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.
  • Consider staying in Boston and taking the train into Salem: This is actually a terrific idea. A day trip to Salem is totally doable and by taking the train from Boston to Salem you avoid the nightmare that is trying to park in Salem in October.
  • 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!
  • 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!
Want to see Salem without the crowds? Get thee thence at 7am!!!

21 Spooky Things to Do in Salem MA in October

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! We think the best tours in Salem MA will 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.

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.

Spend Time at the Witch House

The Salem Witch House is definitely one of the top Salem attractions. This is a great place to get a historic overview of the witch trials that is factual and straightforward. 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.

The 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!

a grey and spooky image of an early american house in salem massachusetts. pumpkins and foliage surround
Visiting The Witch House is one of the most quintessential things to do Salem MA offers any time of year.

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.

There’s so much detail about daily living in those times, and 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. We recommend arriving early in the morning to avoid any crowds and have this fascinating house almost completely to yourself.

A historic room filled with period furniture; table and chairs lined up in front of the window
A little peek into life in Old Salem MA.

Take a Candlelit Ghost Tour

Visiting Salem in October? Going on a ghost tour is a must!

With its dark past,  it’s no surprise that Salem has a ghostly history. New England as a whole seems to be filled with haunted sites and hair-raising stories.

To learn more about the local haunts, join in on one of many Salem walking tours. There are many different options to choose from, but we went with this Candlelit Ghostly Walking Tour through the Salem Wax Museum.

Armed with tiny lanterns, we followed our tour guide to notable sites around the town of Salem and learned a bit of the “hidden” history. This candlelit tour was just the right level of spooky!

Sign reading \
Taking a candlelit ghostly walking tour is an amazing Salem MA experience!

You can buy tickets for this walking tour at the Salem Wax Museum. You’ll visit sights including the most “haunted building in Salem,” the site of the old Salem prison, and more.

Hungry for more? There are so many ghost tours in Salem MA! Check out this list of the top ghost tours in Salem for more detailed information on different ghost tours in Salem, including top ghost tours for kids. Some of the favorites include the Salem Voodoo Vampires and Ghosts Tour, the adults only (16+) Mysteries and Murders Walking Tour, and the highly-rated Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour.

Catch the fall foliage

If you’re visiting Salem in October, you’re bound to catch sight of some of the gorgeous autumn foliage. The changing leaves add to the beauty of this town and definitely help to set an amazing atmosphere. 

Though peak foliage varies each year, you’re almost certain to catch some good color during October.

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 1692 witch trials 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. We found it riveting and intense; in fact, it is much more emotional than a regular museum. 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.

** Click here to buy your ticket to the Salem Witch Museum in advance and avoid the line!**

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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.

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. 

A white pumpkin decorated with a face sitting on red brick steps
So many interesting things to see in Salem MA!

There are also stores that celebrate local arts and crafts or culinary goods. And many, many delicious restaurants, breweries, and bars. We recommend:

  • 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 we were quite fond of their canine logo.
Outdoor cafe table with red umbrella
So many cool places to eat during your Salem Massachusetts trip!
  • Mercy Tavern – A cozy, newer spot in town which felt off the beaten path, and served up delectable dishes. Nathan had a juicy cheeseburger, Amy had outstanding New England clam chowder (complete with crab cakes), and we enjoyed a local cider from Far From the Tree. Apparently their mac n’ cheese is also to die for!
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Pink corner building with American flag and a sign saying \
A Salem MA tourist will not go hungry, that’s for sure!

Do Some People-Watching & Enjoy the Haunted Happenings

Salem attracts some fun characters! You can have a great time just watching all the unique folks moving by. The whole city of Salem gets into the spirit of the season.

October is busy with the Haunted Happenings, tons of events and celebrations are happening every day, and everywhere you look are festive Halloween decorations.

Life sized mannequin of a witch standing outside of a store in Salem
So many cool Halloween decorations to be seen while visiting Salem MA in October!

Check out Famous Hocus Pocus Movie Sites

Are you a child of the late 80’s or early 90’s? Chances are you grew up watching Hocus Pocus, a classic Halloween film set in Salem starring Bette Midler. I loved this movie growing up—and truthfully I still do—so when we visited Salem I had to see the local spots where the movie was filmed.

Allison’s House in the Hocus Pocus movie, aka the historic Ropes Mansion in Salem

If you’re visiting Salem, MA in October, the season is just perfect to reminisce about your favorite Halloween movie.

There are many film sites in the region, including the Hocus Pocus house, and you can see them on your own with no tour. I wrote an entire guide to the Hocus Pocus sites in Salem so you can follow along and check them all out!

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.

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Tombstones in old graveyard at sunset
The Old Burying Point Cemetery, one of the top places to visit in Salem MA.

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 people executed. Here, they can be remembered, with stone benches carved with each victim’s name. There are often flowers and other items set upon the stones. It’s a somber and quiet spot to remember the people who were so cruelly executed during the Salem witch trials.

Pop Into the Peabody Essex Museum

Though not necessarily “witch-related,” the Peabody Essex Museum is a great stop during any visit to Salem. During our visit a couple of years ago, we 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 Nathan, being a sci-fi fan, was especially excited for this exhibit, but I ended up loving it too!

Exterior of the Peabody Essex Museum

It was really thought-provoking to see the evolution of sci-fi and horror film posters and marketing approaches over the years.

Alien museum exhibit
Not all of the stuff to do in Salem MA is strictly witch-related!

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.

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!

HIstoric grey hgouse in Salem, MA
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Salem Massachusetts not directly tied to the Salem Witch Trials
Red building with sign reading \
Don’t visit Salem MA without at least seeing this storied place!

Stay in a Haunted Inn

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 we stayed, does have some stories of ghostly experiences in the main inn, I was quite relieved that our stay was spirit-free! As a matter of fact, our stay was really lovely. We 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.

Old fashioned canopy bed with white covers and lace canopy

Historical building in Salem, MA
The Salem Inn is one of the best places to stay in Salem MA in October or any time of year.

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.

Want some more options? Check out our posts on where to stay in Salem MA and top vacation rentals in the area.

Outside front of white historical building in Salem, MA
Planning a Salem MA vacation? There are so many great options for where to stay in Salem!
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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.

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Say hi to Samantha at the Bewitched Statue

The Bewitched statue as seen from behind, looking out toward downtown Salem

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. 

Ride the Salem Trolley

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?!

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Explore 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 any time of year, for sure.

Admire the amazing 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 boast the same beauty. Here are some photos of some of my favorites.

Spy the epic Halloween decorations

Halloween is awesome in many destinations, but Salem really does it up! Many of the homes in the area decorate for the season in an epic way. And you’ll want to spend some time during your Salem trip seeking out some of these great spots. 

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. 

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

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 and its strong drinks. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy after a day of exploring. Happy haunting!

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 our suggested books below. Happy travels!

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