Isn’t Halloween such a crazy and fun time of year? Luckily I live near one of the best places to celebrate Halloween: Salem, Massachusetts.
Salem is known for the infamous witch trials of the late 17th century where 20 innocent people were executed after being judged guilty of practicing witchcraft.
Despite its dark history, Salem is now full of whimsical shops, delicious restaurants, and classic New England charm.
And true to its dark roots, Salem comes alive in the Fall to celebrate the dark and creepy holiday known as Halloween.
For tips on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Salem in October, keep reading for my guide to visiting Salem, MA for Halloween.
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How to get from Boston to Salem
More likely than not, if you’re coming from out of town, you’ll be flying into Logan International Airport in Boston, MA. It’s the closest international airport to Salem, MA.
Boston to Salem by car
From Boston, you can drive or take public transportation to get to Salem. Usually MA-1A N is the quickest route from Boston to Salem (and it’s also the scenic route!).
That said, I highly recommend using the Waze navigation app for the quickest route based on traffic, road conditions, and so on.
For more tips on apps to use for road trips long and short, check out my post about the best apps for road trips.
Boston to Salem by public transportation
There are 2 ways to get to Salem, MA via public transportation.
One way is to take the MBTA Blue Line toward Wonderland Station, then take the 450 Bus to Salem Depot. To be honest, this is terribly inconvenient and takes up too much time away from your vacation or day trip.
Instead, I recommend taking the MBTA Commuter Rail from North Station to Salem. You’ll want the Newburyport/Rockport line and a Zone 3 ticket from North Station.
Tickets can be purchased from a kiosk inside North Station or via the MBTA app. The Salem stop is the 4th stop from North Station, so the ride is pretty quick.
Boston to Salem by ferry
You can also get to Salem by ferry through Boston Harbor Cruises.
The ferry operates from mid-Spring to mid-Fall on a set schedule. You can get your tickets on this page.
The ferry runs between 1 Long Wharf in Boston’s seaport district, right by the New England Aquarium, and the Salem Ferry port, located off Derby street in Salem.
Best hotels in Salem, MA
October is THE busiest month for tourism in Salem, MA.
Hotels book up fast and room prices go up the closer it gets to Halloween season, so be sure to book your room as far in advance as you can. Many of Salem’s hotels will open for bookings roughly a year ahead.
For a quintessential Salem, MA experience, I recommend the Hawthorne Hotel. The Hawthorne Hotel opened in 1925 and has welcomed over 1 million guests since. Oh, and they are dog-friendly, too!
The Hawthorne Hotel is located close to Essex Street and a few of the main attractions in Salem. You’ll be able to walk to most of the things you want to do or a quick Lyft ride.
If you’re craving waterfront views, I recommend Salem Waterfront Hotel.
It is located in front of the Pickering Wharf Marina and about a block from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
BONUS: Two doors down from the hotel is Salem’s best coffee shop, Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar. Yes, coffee AND wine. Surely I don’t need to tell you why I love it so much!
For a modern, artistic boutique hotel stay, go with The Merchant Salem.
This small hotel (just 11 rooms) is impeccable decorated and surely to leave you creatively inspired.
As with the other hotels mentioned in this post, it is closely located to the best spots in Salem.
Best restaurants in Salem, MA
Salem, MA might be a suburb, but its food scene is pretty tasty! If you’re looking for a place to eat or somewhere to stop for a drink or 2, keep reading for my recommendations on the best bars and restaurants in Salem, MA.
Gulu Gulu Café is another delicious restaurant in Salem, MA. Gulu Gulu Café features tasty crepes, sandwiches, salads, and other typical cafe dishes.
Whether you’re looking for a filling brunch, snack, or dinner, you’ll definitely leave satisfied after a meal at Gulu Gulu.
If you’re craving seafood while touring this coastal town, I recommend Turner’s Seafood.
Turner’s Seafood features freshly caught New England seafood, including an oyster bar, for lunch and dinner.
Make your weekend cheat day even more epic with treats from Goodnight Fatty.
This sweet food truck is only open on weekend evenings (Fri/Sat 7-11 PM and Sun 5-10 PM) to help you satisfy those late night, weekend cookie cravings.
During these times you can find the Goodnight Fatty food truck parked in an alley off of Washington St., behind Rockafella’s and Ledger.
Caramel French Patisserie is a cozy bakery just outside of the main area where Haunted Happenings takes place. I love their macarons, especially the Fall seasonal flavors, like pumpkin and maple.
Best bars in Salem, MA
Jaho Coffee Roasters & Wine Bar is one of my favorite spots in Salem. The coffee is great, but if you’re looking for a glass of something stronger, Jaho has you covered!
Plus, Jaho is located along the waterfront, so you can take your coffee to go and enjoy it while strolling amidst the ocean view.
One of the coolest bars I’ve been to in the Boston area is Bit Bar in Salem, MA.
As the name suggests, this hoppin’ bar specializes in classic arcade games, like Pac Man, along with thirst-quenching drinks and comfort food. It’s basically like a Chuck E. Cheese for adults, but way cooler.
Things to do in Salem, Massachusetts
While Salem is a lovely day trip from Boston any time of the year, October is my favorite time to visit. Check out these fun things to do in Salem, MA for Halloween.
Salem’s Halloween Party: Haunted Happenings
Haunted Happenings is a collection of events to celebrate Halloween in Salem, MA. The events start around mid-September, though most of the events take place during October.
There’s a half marathon, concerts, costume parties, carnival rides, psychic readings, fair food, film screenings, a beer garden, and much more.
Part of the appeal with Haunted Happenings is that all of the downtown Salem businesses get in on the celebration.
For example, the historic Hawthorne Hotel hosts an annual costume ball and Essex street is lined with booths full of local vendors selling their products.
This month-long Halloween celebration is most definitely a trip to add to your bucket list. As a local, I try to make it at least once a year, if not more!
Things to do in Salem, MA for Halloween
If you’re a fan of escape rooms and Halloween, definitely book time at Twisted Escape Room, located at 207 Washington St.
One of my favorite fun things to do in Salem, MA is to get pictures done at Witch Pix.
At Witch Pix, you can dress up in stereotypical, though glamorous, witch costumes and pose for photographs. It’s a hilariously good time! Witch Pix is located at 172 Essex St. in the Witch City Mall.
A unique way to learn about the Salem Witch Trials and other parts of Salem’s history, is from a performance from History Alive. Check out a few of their performances:
- Cry, Innocent is an immersive experience in which a young woman accused of witchcraft is set before a jury, which also happens to be you – the audience.
- This is Not a Bill takes place in 1854 during the Underground Railroad. The audience becomes part of the Committee of Vigilance and must decide to help 2 self-freed enslaved people hide in Salem or escape further, in order to avoid breaking the law of assisting the enslaved.
- Homestead takes place at The Witch House, where the audience can witness a family rocked by, supposedly, witchcraft.
Haunted houses in Salem, MA
Given Salem’s reputation as THE place to celebrate Halloween in the USA, it is surprisingly lacking in the haunted houses department.
In my opinion, there’s really only one haunted house in Salem worth your money: Gallow Hill’s The Lost Museum.
The Lost Museum is thoughtfully done, full of scares, and, at $15, affordable compared to most haunted houses in the Northeast region. It is located at 7 Lynde St.
Modern day magic and witchcraft in Salem MA
A visit to Salem cannot be done without a visit to a witchcraft shop or psychic! Hex, Magicka or Omen, are 3 respectable and long running establishments that offer readings and sell artifacts for your practice or enjoyment.
TIP: If you’re intent on a reading during the month of October, I highly recommend making an appointment, as there is often a line at these establishments due to the high volume of tourists.
Salem, MA museums
The Peabody Essex Museum is one of my favorite art museums in the Boston area. It is located at 121 Essex St.
In addition to the rotating art exhibits, the Peabody Essex Museum has an Art & Nature Center and several restored historic homes in Salem that you can visit.
TIP: The Peabody Essex Museum is closed on Mondays.
If you’re a fan of classic horror films, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery will be worth your while. The museum is filled with displays and memorabilia from horror films old and new.
Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is located at 217 Essex St.
If you’ve ever wondered what life was like during the Salem Witch Trials, you can get a glimpse at the Salem Pioneer Village.
The village is a living history museum where you can see homes from colonial settlers and Native Americans, as well as actors reenacting life during the Salem Witch Trials.
The Salem Pioneer Village is located at 98 West Ave.
Salem, MA tours
Embarking on a tour of Salem is a great way to see the town and learn more about it.
For a self-guided tour of Salem, follow the Salem Heritage Trail, a red line that runs past the main historical sites throughout the town.
Salem Spirits Trolley takes you on a tour to local breweries, distilleries, and wineries for a (safe) tasting of locally made booze.
Salem Food Tours offers several tours where you can taste your way around Salem. I recommend the AM Coffee Walk, which combines a tasting from local restaurants and cafes with a historical tour of Salem.
Salem, MA historical sites
Tour the House of the Seven Gables, the home that inspired Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel of the same name, in Salem, MA.
During October, The House of Seven Gables hosts 2 performances inspired by Hawhorne, as well.
The performances, The Legacy of the Hanging Judge, and Spirits of the Gables, were written by local author, Anne Lucas. Dates for the performance can be found on the Seven Gables website.
The House of Seven Gables is located at 115 Derby St.
The Pickering House, built in 1660, is Salem’s oldest house. It was home to the Pickering family for many generations.
You can tour the home, along with historical artifacts from throughout the generations that lived there. The Pickering House is located at 18 Broad St.
The Corwin House, aka The Witch House, is the only structure from the Salem Witch Trials that is still standing today.
You can tour The Witch House with or without a guide, as well as participate in regular events that take place at the home. The Witch House is located at 310 Essex St.
Pay your respects to the innocent lives lost during the Salem Witch Trials at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.
The somber, but lovely, Salem Witch Trials Memorial is located at 24 Liberty St. in Salem, MA.
Another spot to pay your respects to the women and men who lost their lives to the hysteria of the Salem Witch trials is Proctor’s Ledge Memorial.
Located at 7 Pope St in Salem, this memorial is the actual site of the Salem Witch Trials hangings.
The Old Burying Point Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Salem, MA, as well as among the oldest cemeteries in the US.
The cemetery opened in 1637 and contains the graves of some of Salem’s notable residents from times past.
The Old Burying Point Cemetery is located along Charter St., just past the corner of Charter and Central Streets.
Don’t forget a costume for your trip to Salem, MA!
If you’re visiting Salem, MA for Halloween, a costume is a must!
Tons of people visiting during this time wear costumes while wandering around the city, so you’ll get a major case of FOMO if you don’t. Check out my favorite Halloween costume ideas below.
If you’ll be attending one of Salem’s many Halloween-month parties, be sure to get your costume or outfit on lock-down well ahead of your trip.
Halloween is a big deal in Salem, MA, so don’t hold back. P.S. Pictures or it didn’t happen.
What will you do in Salem, MA for Halloween?
Let me know what you’ll be up to in Salem, MA this year in the comments below.
For more spooky spots to visit, check out my post on the most haunted places in the USA.
This post was originally published on October 8, 2016. It was last updated on September 8, 2019.