If you are looking for a day trip from Boston with history and a lot of fun, a day trip from Boston to Salem is the answer.
Salem is a port city that was founded in 1626. It is now most famous for its Witch Trials of 1692, and its author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is also full of colonial architecture, world-class museums, shopping, and restaurants. Whether you are interested in art, pirates, witches, or history, you can easily spend more than a day here. But if you only have one day, a great day it will be! Read on for a few ideas to plan your Salem day trip.
Living just under two hours from Salem, Massachusetts, my family has visited many times for many reasons.
What to Do in Salem, Massachusetts
An Educational Exploration of Salem- Exploring The Crucible and Salem Witch Trials
Witch Hysteria was sweeping Europe. The governor of Massachusetts, William Phips, was off fighting the Indian Wars, which was just one of the wars raging around the Puritans of Salem. The Puritans, who believed in an invisible world, became part of their own hysteria, immortalized in The Crucible.
Many of the museums and tours in Salem serve to teach about the trials. Some are factual, and many tell a great story.
My husband is an English literature teacher, so one visit we took was researching his teaching. We took our three boys, who were very entertained. Years before, I had visited with my then sixth-grader, who was also very interested in Salem after reading a book about the trials.
Witch Dungeon Museum
Our first stop was the Witch Dungeon Museum. It has a recreation of the witch trial courtroom with actors. There is also a life-sized model of the dungeons where the accused witches were kept. It was very touristy but did give a good overview of the realities of the trials. This town has many re-creation museums, and you probably only need to visit one.
Witch History Museum
We then went to the Witch History Museum. It was less interactive than the Witch Dungeon Museum, but I preferred this tour as I felt I learned more. Be sure to read the signs with all the facts in the waiting room. Per my husband, they were very informative but had a few historical inaccuracies, as all the museums did. Tours start every half hour.
Walking Tour- Myths and Misconceptions through the Essex National Heritage Organization
This no-frills walking tour will give you a factual overview of the witch trials. It visits the Salem Witch Trial Memorial and the town’s oldest cemetery, the Old Burying Point.
Tour the Witch House
Although no witches or trials happened here, the Jonathan Corwin House is the only house still standing with a tie to the trials. Jonathan Corwin was one of the judges for the trials. The house, built in the 1600s, is open for tours.
Gallows Hill Theater
Enjoy a fact-filled show about the history and myths of Salem, while being entertained by the spooky effects at the Gallows Hill Theater. My nephew and I were especially entertained by their Lost Museum. We laughed and jumped, and it was a highlight of our day.
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Salem, Massachusetts
Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, was born and raised in Salem. He is a descendant of one of the witch trial judges, John Hathorne.
Visit The House of the Seven Gables
I wouldn’t have guessed such an accomplished museum would be hiding in Salem. This art and culture museum, named among the top twenty art museums in the United States, also has one of the largest Asian art collections in the US.
Spooky Things to Do in Salem, Massachusetts, with Kids
When my oldest son (he was 12 at the time) and I came for a visit late one September, we were looking to experience Salem’s spookiness. If you want to see Salem at its spookiest, consider visiting at Halloween.
Salem Witch Village
My son wanted to learn more about witches. At the Salem Witch Village, we learned what lore was true and about the origins of some of our holidays. Our guide, Michael, did a great job educating us and keeping us entertained. The museum is on an alleyway with many other witch-themed attractions and haunted houses.
Salem’s Sinister Stories Ghost Tour
Our favorite part of our day was our 5 o’clock ghost tour with the interesting Kenneth of Sinister Stories of Salem. He has a long history in Salem. Kenneth is a Quaker, very soft-spoken, and a born storyteller. To be sure that you can hear him, he wears a microphone. He walked through town, sometimes breaking out in mournful songs or stopping to tell ghost stories about the town’s history. His information was both historical and supernatural. The 90-minute tour went well over two hours, and my son and I were never bored. In December, he does a different tour regarding St. Nicholas lore that I am interested in going back for.
Shopping and Eating in Salem, Massachusetts
Essex Street Pedestrian Mall
There are great restaurants and shops all around town, but this pedestrian mall is a fun and comfortable place to explore.
Food Worth Eating in Salem, Massachusetts
We first visited this spot a few years ago when this was Salem Screamery. Thankfully, the new owner has switched over to only homemade ice cream and still has a memorable salted caramel brownie.
Tavern in the Square
They claim the best burgers, and we did quite enjoy the bacon brie burger. We also love the location, right on the pedestrian Essex Street and the patio over the fountain map of Salem.
Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie
On the Heritage Trail, across from the House of the Seven Gables, is the US’ oldest candy shop, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. It contains some delightful early candy-making machines as well as most types of candy for sale.