If you enjoy all things Halloween, there’s no better place for a spooky-season getaway than Salem, Massachusetts. Famous for its 1692 witch trials, this small city northeast of Boston hosts year-round spooky celebrations and was the iconic backdrop for the 1993 classic Hocus Pocus. Salem is more than just a typical tourist spot. It boasts fantastic restaurants, hotels, museums, guided tours, and unique shops for both locals and visitors to enjoy. Moreover, Salem offers a plethora of Halloween-themed activities all year, particularly during October.

Being a native, I can provide you with insider tips to fully enjoy Salem at its peak. If a trip to this eerie city is on your fall to-do list, this guide will lead you through the top things to do in Salem for an unforgettable experience.

In this article
1 What to Know Before You Go
2 Best Places to Stay in Salem
3 Best Places to Eat in Salem
4 Best Spooky Things to Do in Salem

What to Know Before You Go

If you’ve never visited Salem before, here are some essential things you should be aware of:

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October is Salem’s busiest time of year

Salem is bustling with activity, so expect lines at attractions, waits for restaurant tables, and crowded parking lots. In October, these lines and wait times get even longer. Make reservations in advance, purchase tickets early, and consider using public transport or walking if possible.

Unless you’re local, book your trip in advance

If you wish to be near Salem’s festivities, it’s wise to book your trip well ahead. Accommodations in the city and surrounding areas fill up quickly. If you can’t find a place in Salem, look for options in Peabody or Marblehead, about 15-20 minutes away.

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Salem is spooky all year long

The charm of Salem is that you don’t have to wait for Halloween to feel the spookiness. While major Halloween attractions peak in October, most places are open throughout the year. For a spooky experience, plan your trip anytime in October. Salem’s website and app can help you navigate the Haunted Happenings events throughout the month.

Best Places to Stay in Salem

From hotels and inns to Airbnbs, Salem offers a variety of excellent places to stay, but here are some top picks:

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The Hotel Salem

If you fancy a trendy boutique hotel with a rooftop bar, The Hotel Salem is for you. It boasts the only rooftop bar and restaurant in Salem, situated in the heart of Halloween action. Enjoy delightful cocktails and snacks after a day of spooky adventures.

The Hawthorne Hotel

This historic hotel has stood for nearly a century. Located near Salem Common, it is within walking distance of most attractions. Fun fact: On October 30, 1990, the hotel hosted a seance in the Grand Ballroom in an attempt to summon Harry Houdini. Although unsuccessful, it was a memorable night!

Best Places to Eat in Salem

Salem, being a coastal New England city, is renowned for its seafood, but it offers a variety of cuisines. Here are some notable dining options:

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Howling Wolf Taqueria

Situated near the Salem Witch Village, Howling Wolf Taqueria is a local favorite for Mexican cuisine. They offer incredibly flavorful dishes and strong margaritas. Try their chips and queso, a Howling Wolf burrito, and a Coco Margarita.

Sea Level Oyster Bar

For seafood lovers, Sea Level is a must-visit with fresh and perfectly prepared seafood. Don’t miss their oysters served with a flavorful roasted red pepper cocktail sauce. Their Margherita pizza is a delightful treat. Indulge in their Apple Cinnamon Sangria or a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, also known as a Pumpkin Espresso Martini.

Red’s Sandwich Shop

For a homely breakfast, Red’s is an excellent choice. Their menu offers delicious options, such as banana pancakes or Irish benedict, providing a delightful dining experience.

Best Spooky Things to Do in Salem

Whether you prefer a witchy vibe or full-on scare, Salem offers a plethora of activities. Here are some must-try experiences:

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Visit the Hocus Pocus houses

If you’re a fan of Hocus Pocus, exploring the filming locations in Salem is a must. Top locations include Max and Dani’s house at 4 Ocean Ave and Allison’s house, known as Ropes Mansion at 318 Essex Street. Don’t miss Pioneer Village and Old Burial Hill in Marblehead for additional movie scenes.

Join a guided tour

Salem’s tour guides are well-versed in ghost stories, witchcraft, and spooky history. Consider booking a tour during your visit. History enthusiasts will enjoy the History and Hauntings of Salem Walking Tour, while true crime buffs can opt for the Mysteries and Murders of Salem Guided Night-Time Tour. If you’re up for a true ghostly experience, the Salem Night Ghost Tour will introduce you to the city’s most haunted sites.

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Explore the local shops

Salem’s downtown is lined with shops showcasing local artisans, spiritual items, and spooky merchandise. Spend an afternoon wandering Essex Street and browsing the unique shops for souvenirs. Visit Crow Haven Corner for witchy items, psychic readings, and spellcastings. For modern witchy decor, candles, and crystals, check out Hauswitch.

Brave a haunted house

If you enjoy being scared, Salem offers haunted houses that will test your bravery. Witch Mansion is known as Salem’s scariest haunted house, providing a spine-chilling experience.

Celebrate Halloween night

On Halloween night, Salem’s eerie atmosphere peaks. The city transforms into a massive Halloween celebration, with people in costumes, music on every corner, and fireworks marking the end of the festivity. While Halloween spirit lingers in Salem, this night is the grandest and spookiest celebration of the year that you shouldn’t miss.


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