Tour the Witch City like a local with Team Harborside’s tips and recommendations
Salem is an experience like no other. Between the art, the food, and the history, it’s certainly a cultural epicenter on the North Shore. Not only is Salem one of our favorite cities to sell real estate, but it’s also our go-to spot for October festivities.
From fine dining and museums to shops and Halloween attractions, this historic seaside town will leave you spellbound. The members of Team Harborside have lived and worked in the Witch City and participated in countless seasonal activities. In creating this guide, we put our heads together to give you the inside scoop on things to do, where to eat, and places to stay to make the most of your visit.
WHAT TO DO: OUR TOP 13 PICKS
Let’s be serious, Halloween in Salem is all about the people watching. Am I right, or am I right? Aside from that, there are countless landmark sites to see that will keep the entire family entertained.
The House of Seven Gables: Book a guided tour of this 1668 colonial mansion made famous by author Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel, The House of Seven Gables.
Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour: This highly acclaimed lantern lit stroll is one of Salem’s preeminent evening activities. Discover the city’s hair raising tales of documented paranormal activity, chilling cemeteries and centuries-old murder.
Crow Haven Corner: Stock up on magical supplies, occult books, herb crystals, spell kits, candles, incense potions and jewelry at the oldest witch shop in Salem.
Frankenstein’s Castle: If a haunted house is what you’re after, then step into the lower dungeon of the Salem Wax Museum and enter the notorious dungeon of Dr. Frankenstein. Spooky!
Hex Old World Witchery: This authentic Witchcraft shop is owned by modern day warlocks and offers a variety of magical home wares, gifts and tools. The shop is well known for its psychic readings and the in-store team of Witches specialize in tarot cards, palmistry, spirit mediumship, clairvoyance, astrology, and past lives.
Twisted Escape Room: In less than sixty minutes, escape from the witch trial judges of 1690s Salem or explore a sunken wreck to find treasure. If you like a fully immersive experience, the Twisted Escape Room will test your wits and problem solving skills.
The Witch House: Home of witch trials Judge, Jonathan Corwin, this 17th century structure is one of the only buildings still standing with direct ties to the witch trials. Tours of this restored home blend information about the fascinating events of Salem’s dark past and life during that time period.
The Witch Dungeon Museum: This unique experience is sure to give you a chill. Grab a ticket to see a live reenactment performance of the 1692 Salem witch trial and tour through a replica dungeon.
The Witchery: Get your crafting on at The Witchery studio where you can create all sorts of hand-made treasures like your own spell book, witch broom, straw witch doll, Ouija board, and more.
Mahi Cruises: There are a variety of autumn cruises out of the Pickering Wharf marina. For a family friendly event, scope out the Haunted Happenings cruise to hear live stories of pirates and haunted islands. For the 21+ crowd, grab your costume and hop aboard the Boo!s cruise for a floating dance party.
Gallows Hill: Using Holograms, ghostly projections, rumble seats, 4D effects and more, Gallows Hill brings to life what the Puritans feared: witches and ghosts. Grab a seat to the interactive main show for an event filled with history, lore, and special effects.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site: Celebrate Salem’s maritime heritage along the waterfront. In this 9-acre park, you can explore historic buildings and the Friendship of Salem, a replica tall ship.
Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery: This unique cinematic wax museum showcases over 60 life-sized characters that were professionally made by Hollywood special effects artists. Peruse the museum and get up close with all of the replica wax monsters.
WHERE TO EAT: OUR FAVORITE LOCAL SPOTS
There is no shortage of places to eat, drink and be scary. With so many incredible options, choosing favorites is a tall order. All of the recommendations below are located in the heart of Salem or a short stroll from downtown.
Sandwich Shops: For a quick bite, check out Gulu-Gulu café, a casual and trendy eatery on Washington Street offering artisan sandwiches and an impressive beer menu. Just up the road is Mr. Crepe, the perfect destination if you’re in the mood for something light and delicious.
Sit down restaurants: There are all types of cuisine in the Witch City. If you’re craving seafood try Finz, Sea Level or Turner’s. For Italian, you can’t go wrong at Bella Verona. To experience a unique atmosphere, head over to Rockafellas, Bambolina or Ledger.
Food vendors: Countless food trucks and stands crop up all around Salem. So if you’re short on time, and craving some pizza or fried dough, plan to hit up the vendors on Essex Street or the Salem Commons.
Something Sweet: What’s Halloween without some candy? You can’t leave Salem without trying the Gibralters at Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, America’s oldest candy company. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with fine chocolates and outrageously delicious desserts at Maria’s Sweet Something.
Breweries: We love the vibe at Notch Brewery where you can get a popular craft beer and hang out in the hip warehouse or outside by the river. If you prefer hard cider, Far From the Tree is a little bit off the beaten path but worth the trek.
WHERE TO STAY: THE BEST PLACES TO CRASH
If you’re bone tired from a day of sightseeing, check into one of these charming inns or hotels. Just be sure to book in advance as rooms fill up quickly.
The Merchant Inn: It’s hard to top this luxury boutique hotel, known for its exemplary restoration and high design (plus a haunted story or two). Fun fact: our real estate team actually represented the buyers of this building before it was converted to an inn.
The Hotel Salem: Smack dab in the city center you’ll find stylish accommodations at the Hotel Salem — complete with a rooftop bar and restaurant.
The Salem Inn: Settle into a unique lodging experience with a room or suite inside one of the Inn’s three historic homes.
Morning Glory Bed & Breakfast: Get away from the hustle and bustle in this restored Georgian/Federal-style home located on a quiet dead end street that’s just a short stroll to the attractions.
Stepping Stone Inn: A stone’s throw from all of the local hotspots, this charming inn is perfectly situated.
The Hawthorne Hotel: The iconic Hawthorne Hotel is a timeless classic. This 93-room hotel is a historic destination in its own right.
BEST PLACES TO SNAP A PIC
Visiting Salem is worth it for the pictures alone! Whether you’re documenting your entire trip or just want to get a few Instagram shots, these tourist sites never disappoint:
Bewitched Statue of Elizabeth Montgomery: At the end of the Essex Street pedestrian mall, you’ll find a tall statue of Elizabeth Montgomery who played Samantha in the popular 60s sitcom, Bewitched. The statue was sponsored by TV Land and is the perfect backdrop to get a selfie.
Salem Heritage Trail: For the ultimate self-guided tour, find the red line on the ground. It connects all of Salem’s main sites. As you weave through the cobble stone streets, there are endless possibilities for photo ops along the way. The Historic McIntire District is a remarkable neighborhood to see and one of our favorite places to photograph.
HOW TO GET TO THE WITCH CITY
With thousands of tourists flocking to the city, you’ll want to have a transportation plan. You can leave the broom at home, because there are plenty of ways to travel to Salem.
Ferry: Boston Harbor Cruises operates a Ferry from Long Wharf to Salem during summer and fall. If you’re coming from Boston, it’s a great way to soak in the autumn foliage and the North Shore coastline.
Train: The MBTA Commuter Rail station is within walking distance of all major attractions. The Newburyport/Rockport line serves the area and additional trains to Salem are added to the regular schedule during the height of the season.
Drive: Traffic will be heavy during the weekends, but it is possible to drive into the city. Be forewarned many of the streets are for resident parking only. That said, there are several municipally owned garages scattered throughout the city.
WHO TO FOLLOW: #WITCHCITY
One of the best ways to keep up with events and calendar updates is by following popular Salem accounts. Here’s who have the deets:
Destination Salem (@destsalem)
Haunted Happenings (@hauntdhappnings)