20 Things To Do In Salem MA

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One of the most famous towns in the United States, Salem, Massachusetts, is packed full of spooky, fun, and historic sights. Founded in the 1620s, Salem has had plenty of time to develop some incredible cultural attractions. Salem takes advantage of its infamous heritage as the site of the most notorious witch hunts in history.

You’ll find many museums, gift shops, tourist attractions and tours dedicated to Salem’s spooky past. Halloween sees the whole town come alive in a way you can’t experience anywhere else and there’s plenty to enjoy outside of that too.

From its vibrant arts scene to its colourful maritime history, there’s far more to Salem than just its association with witches. Even if you have little interest in the town’s supernatural heritage, you’ll have no trouble finding tons to keep you occupied, however long you’re in town. Here are the best things to do in Salem, Massachusetts, whether you’re drawn to its chequered past or want to see some of its other attractions.

Salem, Massachusetts

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20 Things To Do In Salem

1- Visit The Witch House

salem jonathan corwin house
One of the things to do in Salem is to visit Jonathan Corwin’s former home.

With its striking black façade and quirky architecture, you’ll have no trouble finding the iconic Witch House on the corner of Essex and North Streets.

Built in the early 17th century, the Witch House was the home of Jonathan Corwin, a judge who presided over the infamous Salem witch trials.

The house is now a museum full of exhibits on the trials and life in 17th-century Salem.

Visitors are welcome to explore by themselves or take a guided tour, such as:

Special events are also held throughout the year, particularly on the solstices and equinoxes and, of course, Halloween.

Swing by 310 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

2- Admire The Pickering House

salem massachusetts
As a reasonably sized historic city, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Salem ma.

Salem is full of historic houses, such as the Daniels House and Pickering House.

Built by John Pickering around 1660 and home to generation after generation of Pickerings until it was finally handed over to a new family in 1998, the Pickering House is thought to be the oldest home in America to stay within a single family.

It’s a beautiful example of first-period colonial architecture.

Several parts of the house and façade have been altered and extended over the centuries.

As such, the Pickering House is an impressive testament to the various architectural fashions Salem has seen through the years. If you’re a fan of historic architecture, you may like this tour.

Head to The Pickering House, 18 Broad St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

3- Look Around The Peabody Essex Museum

One of the USA’s oldest art museums, the Peabody Essex Museum is home to over a million items.

Housing works from across the world, there’s plenty to appeal to any art lover, no matter your preferred style or subject.

It has a special focus on Asian art, with one of the largest collections of its kind in America.

In addition to its varied permanent collection, frequent special exhibitions provide even more to enjoy.

Check ahead to see what events and exhibitions will be running during your stay.

Go to 161 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

salem trolley
Riding the Salem Trolley is another fun thing to do in Salem.

If the historic spookiness of Salem isn’t thrilling enough, explore the fantastical horrors of Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery Monster Museum.

The creepy museum is packed with wax figures of various iconic monsters, from vampires to werewolves, and various monster movie artefacts.

The impressive displays are crafted by professional movie special effects artists and there is a well-stocked gift shop where you can pick up some spooky trinkets to take home with you.

The gallery is at 217 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

5- Sail By The Salem Maritime National Historic Site

things to do in salem massachusetts waterfront tall ship moored next to old timber building
An iconic thing to do in Salem, Massachusetts, is to explore the waterfront. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer. 

Salem has more to its history than just witches.

The Salem Maritime Historic Site is preserved as a testament to the town’s maritime heritage.

Marvel at the Friendship of Salem, a full-scale replica of an 18th-century cargo ship moored along the Derby Waterfront.

Stroll further along the waterfront to visit the Derby Wharf Light Station, a 19th-century lighthouse.

Many of the historic houses and buildings around the Maritime Historic District have been preserved, with some converted into museums for visitors to explore.

Go along to 160 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970, USA.

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6- Browse The Salem Witch Museum

things to do in salem ma witch museum
Visiting the Salem Witches Museum is one of the main things to do in Salem ma. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer. 

Salem’s accused witches are the town’s biggest attraction and best-known figures.

Head into the Salem Witch Museum to learn more about the infamous Salem witch trials and the 19 victims who were found guilty and summarily hanged.

Immersive exhibits allow visitors to dive into the dark history.

The rest of the museum is dedicated to a broader history of witchcraft worldwide and throughout history into the modern day.

Find it at 19 1/2 N Washington Square, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

7- Wander Around The Salem Witch Village

Opposite the town’s historic cemetery, the Salem Witch Village is a fun attraction housing various exhibits on the history of witchcraft.

Visitors can enjoy a museum tour guided by a real-life witch who provides personal insights into the facts and fiction of many legends surrounding witches. Discover more witchcraft hysteria on this tour.

Head into 282 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

8- Venture Into The Witch Dungeon Museum

The Witch Dungeon Museum leads visitors through live re-enactments of the Salem Witch Trials.

This is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for an immersive experience to get a feel for what went down in Salem all those centuries ago.

Enter at 16 Lynde St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

9- Take A Break In Salem Willows Park

Need a quick break from all the walking and sightseeing? Then, head up to Willows Park for the afternoon.

The leafy waterfront park has a great view across Beverly Harbour, so you can while away some time watching the boats drift around the busy waterway.

Several cafes are dotted around the park, and food trucks and vendors often set up there, so you’ll have plenty of refreshments.

Kids can split their time between playing on Fort Pickering Beach or heading into the Kiddieland and Willows Arcade amusement centres.

Wander to 165 Fort Ave, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

10- Tour The House of the Seven Gables

custom house salem national martime site
An aerial view of Custom House at the Salem National Maritime Museum site.

Just along from the Maritime Historic District is the iconic House of the Seven Gables.

Built in 1668, the striking waterfront mansion inspired the gothic romance novel of the same name.

Visitors can tour around the house, which has been outfitted with period furnishings for an immersive historical experience.

Fans of the novel can also visit author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace right next door and his office just down the road in Custom House.

Go to 115 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

11- Pop Into The Salem Witch Board Museum

things to do in salem shops colourful wooden shop fronts
Wandering around the ‘witchy’ shops is one of the fun things to do in Salem Massachusetts. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer. 

Dedicated to one of modern witchcraft and occultism’s most controversial tools, the Salem Witch Board Museum has one of the best collections of Ouija boards worldwide.

Every surface is covered in an array of spirit boards, with a few other esoteric objects to look out for.

Head in at 127 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

12- Admire The Works At Herb Mackey’s Metal Sculpture Yard

The yard of one Salem local has been turned into an eclectic outdoor sculpture gallery thanks to his hobby of crafting elaborate creatures and abstract forms out of old scrap metal.

Being a private home and not an official museum, there are no consistent opening times to explore the yard.

However, many works are displayed on and around the outer fence, and it’s easy to peek through at those that lie within.

Some items are even for sale, so you could score a truly unique souvenir.

Look around 10 Blaney St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

13- Pay Your Respects At Proctor’s Ledge

As fun as tales of witches and conspiracies are, it bears remembering that several innocent people died in the Salem witch trials.

The Proctor’s Ledge memorial is at the site where the accused witches were hanged.

The understated memorial is a stone semicircle inscribed with the names of the nineteen people found guilty of witchcraft.

It’s reasonably close to the city centre, so you can easily squeeze in a quick visit between sightseeing.

Stroll along to 7 Pope St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

14- Explore The Burying Point 

things to do in salem mass
Going to a cemetery is one of the classic things to do in Salem.

Charter Street Cemetery, locally called the Old Burying Point, is one of Salem’s oldest burial grounds.

Dating back to the town’s founding, it’s the final resting place of many notable locals, including the Salem witch trials judges who sentenced the people accused of being witches to be hanged.

Information plaques and maps will help visitors find their way around to the most historically significant headstones.

Notably absent are any of the victims of the trials.

Being found guilty of witchcraft meant they were not permitted to be buried in the cemetery.

Head in at 51 Charter St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

15- Spend A Moment At The Salem Witch Trials Memorial

Although the victims of the Salem witch trials are not buried within the Charter Street Cemetery – they were buried in secret by their families, and their whereabouts remain unknown – the Burying Point does host a memorial for them.

At the northeast corner of the cemetery is a small, stone-walled square.

The names and some personal information about those accused of witchcraft are inscribed into the granite walls.

Walk by 24 Liberty St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

16- Discover The Real Pirates Of Salem

things to do in salem candy
Buy a packet of ‘The Original’ Salem Black Jacks. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer. 

Witches aren’t the only nefarious figures in Salem’s heritage.

The city also has a history of piracy, with the notoriously successful Black Sam Bellamy frequenting the waters nearby.

The Real Pirates Salem museum recounts the adventures and exploits of the region’s infamous buccaneers.

Visitors can see a range of displays and exhibits, such as the world’s only authenticated pirate booty.

Make sure to swing by the gift shop to pick up your own treasure too. Find out more.

Go over to Forten Park, 285 Derby Street #5 Charlotte, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

17- Escape Into The Forest River Conservation Area

If you tire of hopping between historic sites and spooky attractions, take a break, recharge, and reset in the fresh air of the Forest River Conservation Area.

Covering 26 acres (10.5 ha) of marshes and woodland in south Salem, the Forest River Conservation Area boasts over 1.5 miles (2.5 km) of trails to explore.

Start the adventure at 408 Loring Ave, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

18- Marvel At The Punto Urban Art Museum

If you appreciate street art, you should wander around the Punto Urban Art Museum.

Spanning three blocks just south of the town centre, the Punto Urban Art Museum is an open-air gallery of stunning, vibrant murals splashed across the buildings.

While some murals are permanent – for now – many are just temporary exhibitions to be painted over by the next artist.

It’s always worth wandering around the neighbourhood to see what new works have popped up.

Wander around 91-1 Peabody St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

19- Stop In At The Halloween Museum of Salem

best things to do in salem ma cafe
The shops and cafes in this atmospheric town follow the ‘witch’s’ theme. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer.

Halloween in Salem is a year-round event, especially at the Halloween Museum.

More of an art installation than an educational centre, the museum mostly consists of creative displays of Halloween decorations and spooky scenes.

Among the displays are some interesting artefacts like movie props, including some used in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The Halloween Museum of Salem is at 131 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970, United States.

20- Head Out On A Ghost Tour

things to do in salem ma
Looking for things to do in Salem (ma)? Here are 20 of the best.

Hear the spooky stories about ghosts and ghouls while exploring Salem with maximum efficiency and make sure you don’t miss out on anything.

Not only will you see all the major sites and historical locations, but your guides will be able to offer titbits of insider information you may have otherwise missed out on.

Here are some options:

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Steve Burden is an avid traveller and experienced writer. As a former pro wrestler, Steve used to travel frequently for work throughout the USA and Europe. Having spent the last decade travelling all over the world in search of new sights and experiences, he has turned his love for travel into a new career helping others decide on the best places to visit, as well as what to see when they get there.