There are so many beautiful places to see in Massachusetts. It’s one of those US states that have a little bit of everything; even if it’s much smaller than some of its siblings! Though, size isn’t everything – the relatively small city of Salem is a testament to this. Trust me, there are so many historic and best things to do in Salem that you’ll end up being spoilt for choice.
Best of all, Salem is relatively close to the gorgeous city of Bostontoo. Salem is only around 35 minutes from the centre of Boston by car, and around 30 minutes by train (on the Newbury/Rockport line).
This all makes Salem an incredible city to visit when exploring Massachusetts; especially if you’re interested in the city’s infamous history and the Salem Witch Trials, dating way back to 1692.
Anyway, without rambling any more, take a look at some of the very best things to do in Salem when you visit. It’s an amazing spot for a day trip. Have fun exploring.
1.) Peabody Essex Museum
Interested in art? Then you’ll want to head over to the Peabody Essex Museum. Nestled right in Salem, it houses collections of American decorative art and contemporary art from Japan, China, North America, Korea, India and the Pacific Islands. It’s incredible to visit and has heaps of history that are not just interesting to history buffs.
One of the most notable pieces in this place is the ancestral home of the Huang family which is two centuries old. It was brought and reassembled in the museum and is so incredible to see.
Best of all, the historic houses in the complex of Peabody are also open to the public, so if you want to learn more about different cultures or know about history in general, this is one of the perfect places for you.
Just remember it closes on Tuesday and Wednesday, so plan around these days.
2.) The Salem Witch Museum
Dedicated solely to the Salem Witch Trials, the Salem Witch Museum is one spot you have to visit when in the city. Although it’s a little quirky and kitsch, that’s what makes it totally special in my eyes.
Just don’t be expecting the Smithsonian and you’ll have a great time. Visits will take around 30 minutes and totally easy to arrange on the day of your visit to Salem.
Afterwards, take a ramble around the city centre of Salem and spot the Town Hall and many other historic buildings that have stood for centuries.
3.) Jonathan Corwin House (The Witch House)
The Jonathan Corwin House.. or known locally as the ‘Witch House’ is one of the most important buildings still in existence from the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s.
This all makes it one of the best things to do in Salem when you visit, especially as it has been so well preserved after being the former home of the judge, Jonathan Corwin.
Showcasing 17th-century architecture, the building has been carefully preserved in its original appearance.
Best of all, you can even join a self-guided tour of ‘The Witch House’ which was Corwin’s home. Plus, you’ll get to learn more about judge Jonathan Corwin, too.
Also, don’t forget to book this totally informative Salem Witch Trials guided walking tourtoo. The guides know all their stuff on the Salem Witch Trials and make the whole walk so informative. We loved it.
4.) Fort Seawall
Way back when Fort Sewall played an important role in the War of Independence (1644) and is steeped in history. Although technically not part of downtown Salem, it’s only around a 10-minute car ride and one of the best things to do in Salem whilst you’re entering or leaving the city.
Nowadays, you can stroll the seawall and gardens before hopping into Barnacle Restaurant for their yummy crab legs.
To this day, you can still visibly see the spots where the troops hid out. Along with that, there are some recreations made to help show what it was like during the centuries past.
It’s a totally interesting place to learn, especially if you’re interested in US history.
5.) Witch Dungeon Museum
Open in the warmer months (from April-November), visiting the Witch Dungeon Museum is one of the best things to do in Salem if you’re interested in the witch trials and a quirky and cheesy reenactment of the historical events.
Yes, it’s a little more camp and quirky but a pretty fun little experience that doesn’t take too long at all.
This all being said, if you want a more serious and deeper understanding of the witch trials, this will likely be a place to miss. I’d say it’s a little more on the entertainment, rather than the information side. So, go with that mindset and you won’t be disappointed.
Once inside, there is a dramatised witch trial, and mannequins also act as a jury (which is pretty cheesy but hey).
6.) The House of the Seven Gables
Nowadays a museum, The House of Seven Gables occupies a colonial mansion from the year 1688 that’s so incredible to see. It even gained notoriety when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his novel titled The House of the Seven Gables. Do you know that one?
Originally, the place was built for Captain John Turner, it stayed in his family for three generations. As the years passed, the house was remodelled, and a lot of things were added to it until it was restored as a museum in the 1900s for us all to enjoy.
Nowadays, visiting is one of the best things to do in Salem, especially when booking a ground pass or a mansion tour. Give yourself around 90 minutes to fully enjoy the House of Seven Gables.
It’s well worth a gander.
7.) Salem Witch Trials Memorial
For those not in the know, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial is a solemn reminder of the twenty women and men who were executed in 1692; all in the name of witchcraft.
To commemorate their death, 20 stone slabs were made where the names of the people accused were written. Along with their names, the execution date and the execution method are also stated.
It’s a pretty solemn experience but well worth visiting when walking down Charter Street.
8.) Salem Haunted Happenings
Visiting in October? Then you’re in for a treat! This is when Salem truly comes alive… or should I say dead!
Whatever the case, Salem Haunted Happenings occurs manually in October and is well worth taking part in when you visit.
You’ll join hundreds of thousands of others, dressing up and exploring the spooky haunted mansion. Oh, and don’t forget about the market stalls and tours that go on throughout the Haunted Happenings.
It’s fun for all the family and one of the best things to do in Salem if you visit in October.
9.) Ghosts, Witches, & Warlocks Tour
Another epic walking tour of Salem is the Ghosts, Witches, & Warlocks Guided Walking Tour which offers an award-winning tour which takes about 60 minutes and is solely by foot.
Not only is it totally unique, but it shares the long history of witches and the city’s long history.
Just be sure to book your ticket in advance of your visit. Tickets do sell out at peak times.
10.) Pickering Wharf
Visiting Pickering Wharf is easily one of the best things to do in Salem. Right on the waterfront, it’s a harbourside area, with a gorgeous little marina that’s well worth visiting for a few hours.
Not only that, you’ve got the Salem Maritime National Historic Site right next to the wharf. You’ll even get to see the Friendship of Salem ship’s huge replica.
It is docked offshore and has been restored carefully and is well worth seeing.
Plus, you’ll be able to pop over to the historic Derby House that’s just across the street. If you’re lucky, you might be even able to join a free guided tour.
Oh, and don’t forget to head to the Sea Level Oyster Bar. They have some yummy lobster rolls.
11.) Salem Pioneer Village
Originally built to be a theatre set in 1930, Pioneer Village still exists today and opens its doors in Spring for us all to enjoy in the warmer months.
The village is a whole reenactment of and living history spot that shows off life in Salem during 1630 when Simon Bradstreet and Thomas Dudley’s families, along with John Winthrop.
Now, one of the best ways to learn more is via one of the guided tours. The guides are so informative and really have a passion for local history. don’t expect the shiniest of experiences, but it;’s still worth a little gander whilst visiting Salem.
That being said, the opening times are often flaky, meaning you can easily turn up and find it closed.
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