We may be known for our Halloween festivities, but summer is an excellent time to visit Salem, Massachusetts! The weather is perfect for harbor tours and outdoor dining, and you’ll find plenty of things to do around town with Salem’s museums and historic sites, unique shops, walking tours, and more!
Getting to Salem for a summer day trip is easy! If you are driving downtown, you can find directions and parking information here. Once downtown, you’ll find most everything you want to see or do is in walking distance (and you could always take the Salem Skipper if you needed a quick ride, too).
Salem is also accessible via the Newburyport/Rockport lines of the MBTA Commuter Rail. A ride on the train is just 30 minutes from Boston’s North Station and a quick ride from points north of Salem.
And another way to get to Salem from Boston is to cruise aboard the Salem Ferry. The ferry leaves from Boston’s Long Wharf, and can get you to Salem in just under an hour.
Please note, masks are required while using public and private transportation in Massachusetts, regardless of vaccination status, including on trains, buses, ferries, and rideshares, and while at stations.
Where to Start
After arriving in Salem, walk or take the Salem Skipper to the Salem Regional Visitor Center at 2 New Liberty Street. (If you drive downtown and park your car here, the garage above the Witch City Mall will be right across the street.) The Visitor Center is currently open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 am-4 pm, and can be a great place to start with maps, information, restrooms, and an introductory film on the Salem Witch Trials.
To help get your bearings and introduce yourself to Salem’s historic downtown, we recommend taking a tour aboard the Salem Trolley. Tickets are available first come, first served, in person right outside the visitor center.
Trolley tours are one hour long, and cover a loop around downtown featuring notable locations from the McIntire Historic District to the Salem Willows and Winter Island with lots to see in between. The first trolley tour departs at 10 am daily throughout the summer, and to make the most of your day trip we’d hop aboard one of the earlier tours available.
Witch Trials History
After your trolley tour, spend some time learning the history of the Salem Witch Trials. There are two museums and attractions nearby that can fill you in on the Witch Trials history. From the trolley stop, you can head toward Salem Common to visit the Salem Witch Museum or continue down Essex Street toward the Witch History Museum.
The Salem Witch Museum features a presentation with 13 sets and a narration based on original documents from the trials. Following the presentation, guests can explore a tour of the museum’s Evolving Perceptions exhibit, which covers the changing perceptions of witchcraft over time.
Tickets to the Salem Witch Museum are available online for purchase the day of your visit. (If you are hoping to time your visit to the museum to follow your tour aboard the Salem Trolley, we’d recommend planning ahead and selecting tickets for over an hour after your trolley tour in the morning, as presentations may sell out.)
On the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall, the Witch History Museum presents the history of the Salem Witch Trials through a guided tour of a recreated Salem Village. Tickets for the Witch History Museum are available in person, and can be combined with the Witch Dungeon and New England Pirate Museums if you are planning to visit all three sites during your visit.
Art & Shopping
Across from where you’ll have picked up the Salem Trolley is the Peabody Essex Museum, one of the country’s fastest growing art museums. The museum is home to art from Salem and around the world, as well as the 200-year-old Chinese house, Yin Yu Tang.
Special exhibitions on view this summer include In American Waters, which features works on the sea by a variety of renowned artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Amy Sherald, Kay WalkingStick, and Norman Rockwell, just to name a few.
Since the museum’s expansion in 2019, an expanded garden space is also a beautiful spot to sit and take in the views between galleries. The exhibition space was also expanded, with new galleries showcasing PEM’s fashion and design collections, and galleries devoted exclusively to Salem history.
For this itinerary, we would spend a couple of hours in the museum. Seeing everything in the Peabody Essex Museum however, could easily fill up most of a day. If you’re inspired to add an overnight stay to your day trip, you can find a list of places to stay downtown here.
As you exit the museum, consider doing some shopping around Essex Street. Nearby, you’ll find Moody’s Home & Gifts, which stocks local handmade and global fair trade gifts.
Down Essex Street is Crow Haven Corner, Salem’s oldest witch shop offering an array of crystals, candles, books, Tarot cards, and more (plus psychic readings). Nearby is District Trading Co., home to unique Salem designs printed on tees, hoodies, cards, and hats with 5% of sales supporting local arts education programs.
And from Essex Street onto Central Street you’ll find Pamplemousse for gourmet gifts and accessories, and Modern Millie, Salem’s local vintage boutique. (You could continue down Essex Street and toward Front Street to find more local shops if time allows. Find a list of all of Salem’s shops here.)
Stop for Lunch
Summer in Salem means dining outside, so our perfect day trip would include a stop for lunch on an outdoor patio. Rockafellas‘ patio overlooks Washington and Essex Street and their menu features something for everyone with seafood, salads, flatbreads, and specialty cocktails.
For sushi lovers, Koto on Washington Street has a small but beautifully decorated outdoor seating area (and we wouldn’t pass up their new boba teas!)
And around the corner on Church Street, Turner’s Seafood has opened up a patio behind their restaurant where you can enjoy the outdoors while ordering up their fan-favorite Asian Nachos, raw bar selections, and classic New England seafood dishes.
If you got a little sidetracked, or want to move this itinerary around a bit in favor of an authentic Italian dinner, Bella Verona opens at 4:00 pm daily, with their expanded patio space right by Moody’s and the Hawthorne Hotel.
Walk Around Town
Salem’s walking tours range from the historical to the paranormal, with something for the whole family in between. Get a glimpse of history that would engage the youngest members of your family with Salem Kids Tours, join Salem Historical Tours for a tour focused on the Salem Witch Trials, or pick up the Salem Witch Walk from Crow Haven Corner to learn about Salem with a practicing Witch as your guide.
If you are not limited to the train or ferry schedules when you depart Salem, you can also extend your day trip by booking a ghost tour later in the evening, as some tours depart as late as 8:00 or 9:00 pm throughout the summer.
To see more of Salem on your own, we recommend one of the following:
- Download the Salem On Your Own app from Hocus Pocus Tours
- Explore the Ropes Mansion Gardens
- Walk the grounds of Salem Maritime National Historic Site
- Follow our Salem Maritime History Walk
The House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables is offering two ways to take in the history of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work and the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion this summer. Book a semi-private guided tour of the mansion and head inside the historic home, or plan a Gardens and Grounds Experience and visit the museum’s Colonial Seaside Gardens with an audio tour at your own pace. Find tickets and booking information here.
Sunset on the Water
From The House of the Seven Gables, walk down Derby Street toward Pickering Wharf. Here you’ll find more shops and restaurants, including The Marble Faun Books & Gifts if you’re hoping to continue the literary theme from The Gables, and The Witchery, which offers broom making and bookbinding crafting sessions.
Depending on the date of your visit, you may find live music cruises available with Mahi, and whenever you plan your cruise you’ll find a way to spend time on the water with Mahi’s friendly crew, full bar, and fresh eats from their onboard grill.
For a glimpse into Salem history on the water, book a sunset sail with Schooner FAME. While onboard, join in raising the sails, learn a bit of Salem’s history, and experience the FAME’s cannon as the sun sets over Salem harbor.
Dinner Near Pickering Wharf
After your sail and a packed day of exploring Salem, plan for dinner by Pickering Wharf. Adjacent to Pickering Wharf Marina, you’ll find Finz Seafood & Grill, with a variety of seafood specials and seasonal cocktails.
Further along Pickering Wharf, Longboards serves up a menu of flatbreads, lobster rolls, and more, plus unique drinks including their famous scorpion shots (you get a t-shirt for finishing it!)
Late Nights in Salem
If you aren’t ready for your day trip to come to an end, we have a couple of recommendations to end your visit to Salem:
On weekends, Notch Brewing is open until 12 am (and 10 pm on Fridays), so during summer nights you can visit their outdoor biergarten and enjoy a beer and a pretzel by the water.
Select Salem ghost tours begin at 8:00 or 9:00 pm, extending your visit to Salem by an hour to 90 minutes, and showcasing some of the historically significant and haunted locations around town you may have missed earlier in the day.
Need More Time in Salem?
This itinerary comes with a backed day to Salem, but there is still so much to see and do! With another day or two in Salem, you could…
- Embark on a Salem Food Tour and take in local history while tasting your way around local restaurants
- Experience a psychic reading at a local shop like Hex or Pentagram
- Join Omen for one of their weekend seances
- Take an evening Tales & Tombstones tour with the Salem Trolley (available July, August, and October)
- Pick up something sweet and see chocolates in the making at Harbor Sweets
- Grab an omelette for breakfast at Fountain Place, or pancakes bigger than the plate at Red’s
- …and so much more!
Find historic and full service hotels, B&Bs, and regional accommodations to extend your day trip into an overnight stay here. And be sure to tag @destsalem and use #SummerInSalemMA during your visit so we can follow along! ❤️
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