Happy almost-Halloween, you guys! I just got back from visiting Salem with my sister, so I’m even more in the spooky spirit than usual. Two of my favorite things ever — Halloween and the east coast — crashed into one experience and I think my heart exploded a little. Salem is such a charming seaside town, with a palpable undercurrent of mystery, darkness, and otherworldliness. We spent four days kicking around in the crunchy leaves — exploring the town, the coast, the haunted festivities, and of course the landmarks from Hocus Pocus!
It was an awesome trip and I wanted to share the highlights with you while they’re fresh in my mind. I have to give a huge shoutout to my friend Allie who gave me so many tips on what to see + do while there — I hope to pass our own learnings off to you to make your trip amazing, too!
My sister and I started thinking about going to Salem last year, and quickly learned that planning in advance is pretty much a requirement — so if you’re thinking about visiting, book now! So many people flock there in October, and despite reading about the crowds, we really wanted to experience Salem in its peak season. I’m glad we took the gamble, but I recommend arriving during the week. We got in on Thursday, and had a very chill, pleasurable day walking around with honestly no crowds. Friday got a little busier, then Saturday hit and it was a TOTALLY different story. Be prepared for long lines at restaurants and people flocking for photo-ops. Fortunately, we anticipated this might be the case and visited our “must-sees” and did our tours on Thursday and Friday without any issue.
We flew into Boston, and took an Uber to our hotel in Salem — the ride was maybe 35-40 minutes. There’s also a train that runs from Boston to Salem, but the airport clerk told us we’d have to Uber to another train station to pick up it (hey locals, correct me if that’s wrong). We debated renting a car for the trip, but the town is very walkable — so I wouldn’t say it’s necessary, it just depends on how far you plan on exploring.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are a few great options in town (The Hawthorne Hotel comes to mind right away…p.s. it’s rumored to be haunted) but we opted for a super cute bed & breakfast called the Coach House Inn slightly down the road from the town center. It was old and creaky and the innkeeper was the sweetest. We were able to walk to the town center, and were actually just a block away from Max and Dani’s famous house from Hocus Pocus.
THINGS TO SEE:
The House of Seven Gables // This historic colonial mansion, built in 1668, is the subject of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. Passed down for years through the Turner family, the house now operates as a museum with tours running throughout the day. I definitely recommend taking a tour — it guides you through the home and history, and includes a fun claustrophobic trip up a hidden staircase (for real…haha). The back of the property features a beautiful garden with sweeping views of Salem Harbor — it’s a great place to explore while you wait for your tour to start.
The Witch House // This is Salem’s only existing house with direct connections to the Salem Witch Trials. “The Witch House” was home to Johnathan Corwin, a judge who served on the court that sent 19 accused witches to the gallows. The house offers both guided and unguided tours if you’d like a peek inside! FYI, f you’re looking to take photos at this house, I definitely recommend going during the week — by Saturday, there were vendor tents set up in the front lawn, and of course, tons of people.
The Hocus Pocus House // Are you even a ‘90s kid if you didn’t dream of living in this house?! Max and Dani’s iconic house is a private residence tucked on the edge of a dead-end street, right along the water. We went to see it on a Thursday, so the neighborhood was super quiet and peaceful, with very few onlookers. It was amazing to see in person, it looks just like it did in the movie — and I still dream of moving in!
The Ropes Mansion // Another Hocus Pocus landmark, the exterior of this historic home was used as Allison’s house in the movie. The inside scenes were shot elsewhere, as we took a tour of the mansion (which is now a museum) and it’s beautifully preserved and curated. I recommend going inside if you can — tours are self-guided and only available on Saturdays and Sundays. The backyard also has a lush, beautiful garden that was still bursting with dahlias and wildflowers despite the weather cooling down!
Old Town Hall // Salem’s town hall, featured in the movie as the site of the big Halloween party, is the earliest surviving municipal structure. It’s still used as a public forum, and is open to visitors depending on the day. They had the doors open most days, so we were able to peek inside. It sits right in the middle of town, so you can’t miss it!
Old Burial Hill // Despite some of the cemetery scenes of Hocus Pocus being shot here (“hey, check out the new cross trainers!), I recommend visiting because it’s just so darn cool. The gravestones — many dating back to the 1600s — are in remarkable condition and the designs are a sight to behold. It’s also probably the most picturesque cemetery I’ve ever seen, with amazing coastal views and rolling, craggy hills. It’s small and totally walkable, and there’s a gazebo on the top of the hill where you can take in the views. Old Burial Hill is located just outside of Salem in the town of Marblehead, which is also super cute and worth exploring if you have time. Our Uber driver dropped us off at the cemetery (totally normal, right?) and then we walked into town after we were done exploring. If seafood is your thing, Little Harbor lobster is right down the street from Old Burial Hill, right by the bay. I grabbed a lobster roll because I really couldn’t resist and it was. so. good.
Salem Harbor // If you’re walking around town, head a bit east and you can’t miss the harbor. I didn’t realize what a true seaside powerhouse this town used to be (and still is). There are plenty of restaurants and bars along the harbor to help you enjoy the views. We also noticed there were haunted boat cruises available—so that’s going on the list for next time!
THINGS TO DO:
Shopping + Witchy Stuff // Visiting HausWitch was at the top of our list, as I’d been following them on Instagram for months. It’s a bright, modern space with home accessories, mystical supplies, books, and crystals galore. They also offer workshops and events — we signed up for tarot readings before our trip and it was a highlight for us! Check their website before your trip to reserve your spot.
We also loved Oak + Moss (plants, planters, and modern home goods), Witch City Wicks (great candles and gifts), Roost & Company (cards, gifts, and books of the Urban Outfitters type), and definitely check out Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, it’s the oldest candy company in America!
Haunted Happenings // The entire month of October is full of events, shows, and entertainment, with the schedule all available on the Haunted Happenings website. There were street vendors set up on Essex Street (basically their version of E. 4th here in Cleveland) as well as a full carnival in the Salem Common, with free admission — you just need tickets for the rides.
Take a Ghost Tour // Another highlight of our trip! We took a nighttime walking tour with a guide that pushed a vintage baby stroller the entire time, for extra creep factor — sign. me. up. He walked us around the town to several landmarks, cemeteries, and down Chestnut Street (Salem’s former “millionaire’s row”) telling only stories he knew first or second hand. You can’t beat walking down the brick roads under lamplight, leaves crunching underfoot, hearing stories of spirits and haunts. It’s also so fitting to see everyone’s Halloween decorations and front porches take center stage, which brings me to my next point:
Wander down Chestnut Street // My sister and I revisited Chestnut Street in the daylight hours after our tour, to take another look at the houses. If anything’s true about Salem, it’s that this town is the capital of front door #GOALS and Halloween only amplifies it. Everyone goes all out with their decorations, and each house is so unique. Grab a hot apple cider and just go walking — there’s eye candy at every turn.
We definitely got lucky with the weather during our trip, as it looks like a nor’easter came through last weekend. A few days of sunshine and 60 degrees, with definite sweater (er, coat!) weather at night. The weekend before Halloween is the busiest, so I’m glad we were able to avoid even bigger crowds as well. Salem won me over with its historic, coastal charm and unabashed pride for its identity as “Witch City.” The trip totally exceeded our expectations and I can’t wait to go back! Hope you guys enjoyed coming along with us, and feel free to reach out or drop me a comment if you have questions about planning your own trip!
And of course: