The Spire & Co Travel Guide to Salem, Massachusetts
If you’re a sucker for all things Halloween, then there is one place you must add to your travel wish list: Salem, Massachusetts. Admittedly, I’m not Halloween’s biggest enthusiast. I love the beauty and comfort that comes with the fall season, but I much prefer pumpkin patches and apple orchards to haunted houses and ghost tours. Nevertheless, on a rainy Saturday, I took the 30-minute train ride from Boston to the iconic spooky town to learn more about the Salem witch trials. And if there’s one thing I learned about Salem, it’s that they take Halloween very seriously.
Food & Drink
One thing is for sure, you won’t go hungry in Salem, especially if you venture to the town during October, when there’s always a festival or two in the streets, selling all sorts of fall treats like caramel apples, hot apple cider, and butternut squash soup. But if you’re in search of a sit-down restaurant, the main streets of town are lined with restaurants fit for every palette. Here’s some of our favorites:
For breakfast: Red’s Sandwich Shop
This is Salem’s most popular restaurant and it’s located in the historic London Coffee House, established in 1698. All the locals and waitresses will tell you that it’s where the patriots met before the Revolutionary War. Even if you’re not a history enthusiast and are just looking for a good breakfast spot, you can’t go wrong here. They serve your classic brunch, including mimosas and delicious breakfast potatoes. Pro tip: get their French toast special. It’s incredible.
Spire Secret: Red’s has a long line and you just stand in line to get your table. If you get there before 11:00 a.m., the line is much shorter and you can often sit within 20 minutes.
Other breakfast stops worth checking out:
Jolie Tea Company
Coffee Time Bakeshop
For lunch or dinner: Adriatic Restaurant
Nestled in the historic Salem News Building, Adriatic is nice for shared appetizers, fresh fish, and seasonal dishes. If it’s warm outside, the patio is a great spot to munch on shared plates and sip one of their fall-inspired drinks.
Other lunch and dinner stops worth checking out:
Atrium Café at the Peabody Essex Museum
Howling Wolf Taqueria
Sea Level Oyster Bar
New England Soup Company (great for a quick cup of New England Clam Chowder!)
Things to Learn
Salem is famous for its witch trials of 1693 and they take that history very seriously, noting the injustice to human rights that took place in their town and how they can be a force for good on the human rights conversations of today. Throughout town there are places to explore its rich history and take in all the Halloween vibes.
Sights of the Salem Witch Trials
Throughout town, there’s a red line on the ground that connects all of Salem’s main sights, namely its historical witch trial landmarks. It’s an easy way to explore the town without having to use a map or a phone app.
The Salem Witch Trials Memorial
A must-see sight is the memorial for the Salem Witch trials. It illustrates the injustice that occurred and there’s a beautiful memorial to honor those who were executed.
The Burying Point
To add to the spookiness of Salem, this is the oldest burying ground in the town and a number of historical figures are buried here, including one of the judges of the Witchcraft Court. This graveyard is located directly next to the Witch Trials Memorial.
The Witch House
As Salem’s only building with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials, you’re likely to never see this house without a line well around the block, but for $8.95, there’s a lot to learn from this historic mansion (yes, this was the mansions of the 1600s). This was the home of Judge Jonathon Corwin, who investigated the claims of witchcraft accusations when they began swirling around Salem. He served on the court which sent 19 people to be executed.
In the home, you’ll get a detailed look at what happened that led to the unjust executions as well as the culture of the time. From the dresses to the furniture, it’s all straight out of the late 17th century.
Other historic sights:
Salem Witch Hunt Film
Salem Witch Museum
Salem Witch Village
The Salem Museum
Witch Dungeon Museum
Witch History Museum
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
New England Pirate Museum
Gallows Hill Museum and Theatre
Historic New England’s Phillips House
Things to Do
There’s more to Salem than just its rich history. They’ve fully embraced their Halloween vibes and there’s a lot to do that’s feels all the more relevant in the spooky town.
Explore the Local Shops
The town is jam-packed with Halloween and witch-inspired shops, plus some very chic boutiques. Walk along Washington Street and its side streets to take in all that Salem has to offer. HausWitch Home + Healing is a witch-inspired boutique featuring vintage finds, local artisan creations, and wellness goods, like essential oil potions. OAK + MOSS is filled with minimalistic home decor, mostly locally made, and the perfect place to buy something for your kitchen or a nice succulent.
See the Hocus Pocus Sites
Yes, even the iconic Halloween flick took place in this town. I mean, if you’re going to make a movie about witches, can it really take place anywhere else? In fact, as you walk through town, you’ll pass by many visitors in full Hocus Pocus-inspired attire. The Ropes Mansion is Allison’s house in the film and most of the sites in the movie are true to the town, so you can stop by most of them. For the full list, check out the local’s guide to Hocus Pocus sites here.
Visit a Psychic and Get Your Cards Read
On seemingly every corner of Salem, there are witchcraft-inspired shops and stops. Whether you’re all about mediums and psychics or not, it’s a quintessential place to get a reading. Salem’s oldest witch shop is Crow Haven Corner and while the line is long (pro tip: go early in the morning), if it’s on your bucket list, it’s worth checking out.
Like I said, Salem has fully taken on its witchcraft identity and is very into celebrating the year’s spookiest holiday. They have a month-long events calendar leading up to the holiday, including a parade, film nights on Salem Common (including Hocus Pocus, which took place in Salem!), spooky wine tastings, haunted magic shows, and street festivals.
One of Salem’s most popular attractions, Gallows Hill is as haunted as it gets. There are ghost tours, a scary live show (featuring a witch trial), and more. If you’re into haunted houses, this is Salem’s version, which rumor has it is scarier (aka, this easily-scared girl just saw the outside).
Salem, Massachusetts embodies the spirit of Halloween and recognizes its significance in history, but what may be most inspiring is the role that they feel they play moving forward and amplifying the conversation around human rights. I found this note in the Witch House fascinating and it fully tied together all that is Salem. There is a silliness to Halloween magic that should be celebrated and enjoyed but how we respond to fear is an important conversation no matter the time period. So, just like Salem, we can welcome both.
Happy Halloween from all of us at Spire & Co!
Have you ever visited Salem, Massachusetts? If so, what would you add to this travel guide? Tell me in the comments below!