Things to Do in Salem MA
Fall is the best time for doing things in Salem.
October is finally here! Yay! Are you ready for some awesome spooky weeks? I know I am!
Readers, I have to tell you that October has always been one of my favorite months. And really, is it any surprise at all?
In particular, I love Halloween. Costumes, crisp air, chocolates covered in black and orange sprinkles, pumpkins everywhere. Guh. As a child, I owned a calendar so I could count down the days until Halloween. I would start counting down the days as early as August. August. Please tell me I wasn’t alone in my obsession.
So travelers, in order to celebrate this spooky part of autumn, why not plan a quick trip to Salem in Massachusetts? Salem is historically rich and eerie, and a gem for classic American literature lovers.
You will find plenty of cool things to do in Salem Ma that will make you contemplate the human condition. Or, at the very least, shake your head at how screwed up the Salem Witch Trials were. Let’s go!
Note: I’ve only ever visited Salem in May with my students. Yup. May meaning late spring. So don’t expect lots of brightly colored tulips if you choose to visit Salem in October. You might see yellow and orange leaves, maybe, but not tulips. You’ve been warned!
Great Things to Do in Salem MA
1. Visit The Witch Museum
No visit to Salem is complete without a trip to the Witch Museum. Obviously.
Even if you’re not an avid reader, you ought to stop here to learn about the Salem Witch Trials and history of witchcraft as a whole. As for book fans, lovers of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible need to check out this place on their visit to Salem.
As an FYI, you need to know the Witch Museum is split into two different areas. The first part takes you to a large circular auditorium where you see a presentation. The museum uses life size sets and figures to tell the story of the Salem Witch Trials. Familiar names, such as John and Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams, pop up in the presentation – although the actual historical figures were much different than Miller’s dramatic interpretations. The narration is pretty damn spooky, too. The second part of the museum offers a guided tour on the history of witchcraft and resulting persecution of women throughout the world. You learn a bit about Salem’s resident Wiccan community, too.
The Witch Museum is the most visited in Salem and offers extended hours in October.
You can find the Salem Witch Museum at 19 1/2 N Washington Square.
2. See the House of the Seven Gables
Okay, time to admit something akin to literary treason: I’ve never read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Give me a break, though, cause I love his short story “Young Goodman Brown.” Don’t hate on me too much, Hawthorne fans.
Honestly, though, I don’t know how I made it through high school, college, and graduate school without ever touching this novel, but there you go. I think everyone skips (at least) ONE famous novel in their schooling journey, haha.
ANYWAY. The House of the Seven Gables provides a glimpse into both daily life in Salem and Hawthorne’s own residency there. You can’t enter the House of the Seven Gables without a guided tour, but I actually liked this arrangement. Why? The tour guides are very knowledge, and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed my visit as much without their insights. I have a deeper appreciation for Hawthorne after hearing about his life from someone else rather than pamphlets on the walls.
My favorite parts of this visit were discovering the secret staircase and gazing at the lighthouse while wandering the quaint grounds.
Without a doubt, the House of the Seven Gables is one of the most unique literary things to do in Salem MA.
You can find the House of the Seven Gables at 115 Derby Street.
3. Contemplate Humanity at Old Burying Point Cemetery
The Burying Point is the oldest cemetery in the city of Salem. Yeah, visiting graveyards can be morbid especially if you’re completely death phobic like me, but this place fascinated me. And I think it would be a shame to skip it even for travelers who hate cemeteries with a burning passion.
Literary fans will appreciate this graveyard’s historical significance. For example, Justice Judge Hawthorne is buried here. Not only did he serve as one of the judges of the infamous Witch Trials, but Judge Hawthorne is also a relative of author Nathaniel Hawthorne.
At Old Burying Point Cemetery, there is also a memorial dedicated to those who died as a result of the Witch Trials. It’s important that we never forget the horror, hysteria, and unfairness of the Salem Witch Trials in order to prevent history from repeating itself on innocent people.
Pack your New England guidebook.
4. Take a Ghost Tour
No visit to Salem is complete without embarking on a ghost tour!
Understandably, Salem is considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. Taking a ghost tour on Halloween is particularly chilling, but ghost tours run throughout the year. Even if you don’t believe in spooks and spirits, these ghost tours also provide insights to the harsh reality of living in Salem. Early settlers didn’t have an easy time particularly during the frigid winter months.
And if you do believe in ghosts? Well. Let’s just say you’re in for a treat.
Salem Night Tour runs for an hour and twenty minutes, and departs from 127 Essex Street. This tour is family friendly so it shouldn’t be too terrifying for travelers, even the ones who are afraid of the dark, mwahaha.
Without a doubt, a ghost tour should be one of your things to do in Salem MA.
5. Remember: Salem Isn’t Only Witches
Salem is historically significant for many reasons other than the Witch Trials in 1692.
Go to the Salem Visitor Center and learn all about Salem’s rich maritime history during your stay. Free videos run on a regular basis, which will give you a solid framework of Salem and why the city is still vitally important to today’s Massachusetts.
Located at 2 New Liberty Street, Salem Visitor Center is a great place to begin your visit! It’s the place to find free maps as well as brochures for Salem’s many attractions.
Why I Loved Salem
Salem is fantastic. Some people might say the witchy aspect is played up too much. After all, the high school mascot is even called “the witches!” Still, I highly recommend coming to Salem if you happen to be in the Boston area.
Furthermore, as a lover of literature, Salem is a bookish dream come true! While I wandered through Salem’s charming streets and pretended I wasn’t responsible for thirty teenagers, I felt as if I had fallen into a creepy Hawthorne short story such as “Young Goodman Brown” or Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Honestly, I loved Salem’s unique and slightly bizarre atmosphere. It’s understandably why artists and other creative types would flock to this small infamous city.
And don’t even get me started on the city’s gorgeous colonial architecture. If I actually had money, I’d buy and restore one of the fantastic old houses that line the tree-shadowed streets.
Have you ever visited Salem in Massachusetts? What are some of your favorite spooky literary destinations? Share all your thoughts in the comments, please.
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