Salem Travel Guide

Recapping Our Trip to Salem, MA

Like any good millennial, I have been a die-hard “Hocus Pocus” fan for as long as I can remember. In fact, I have memories of bringing the VHS tape over to my best friend’s house in elementary school and watching it as part of her birthday sleepover agenda. Naturally — as a true fan — I have always had the desire to visit the infamous city of Salem, nestled in the Northern shore of Massachusetts. This fall, that wish became reality.

Andy and I have been on a post-COVID-isolation road-trip kick — and in a last-minute plan to visit his sister Rebecca at her college — we added Salem to our traveling agenda. While we only had time to spend one day in the city of witches, we made the most of it and visited a number of must-see sights and attractions. Keep reading for a recap of our trip and some valuable travel tips we picked up along the way.

Must-See Destinations in Salem

The Salem Witch Trials Memorial

You can’t go to Salem and not pay respects at the Witch Trials Memorial. You just can’t. Dedicated in 1992 by holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the stone memorial serves as a somber reminder of the dangers of mass psychosis and societal hysteria. It is a place to visit and respect. Visiting the memorial really helped me put the occurrences of 1692 into perspective. It’s easy to read about events in history books — it’s far less easy to look at memorial stones dedicated to the stolen lives of innocent men, women and children.

Charter Street Cemetery

Adjacent to the Witch Trials Memorial, the Charter Street Cemetery is definitely worth a visit. This historical gravesite was established in 1693 and serves as the final resting place of many notable individuals such as Salem witch trial judges and Revolutionary War victims. Is it a little macabre to visit a cemetery while traveling? Perhaps. But it’s also pretty interesting if you’re into history.

The Witch House

The Witch House is a historic house museum that belonged to Judge Jonathan Corwin, who served a judge during the Salem witch trials. It is the only house still standing in Salem that has direct ties to the trials. Visitors are able to purchase tickets and take a tour of the house. Andy, Alden and I didn’t have time for a tour, but we enjoyed having the opportunity to view the house from the sidewalk. It was a strange juxtaposition in truth — this old, historic (probably haunted) house sits close to a bustling, modern city street. The eery architecture alone gives passersby more than its fair share of spooky vibes and is truly a sight to behold.

And if you walk down the street for just a minute or so, you’ll see…

The Ropes Mansion

Or as it’s better known, Allison’s house from “Hocus Pocus!” Something I didn’t realize prior to visiting Salem was that 1. the iconic scene of Danny and Max outside Allison’s house was actually filmed in Salem and 2. that the house is, in fact, a historic mansion. We stopped to take photos outside the mansion and were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t that busy or flocked with tourists. Granted, we visited during the week and not the weekend, and also visited during the month of September (as opposed to October). I imagine this destination gets much more popular around Halloween. Aside from stopping out front to grab some photos, we also walked around to the back of the house to enjoy the gardens. Because the mansion is operated by the Peabody Essex Museum, the gardens are well-maintained and open (and free) to the public. Learn more about visiting the Ropes Mansion.

Max Dennison’s House from “Hocus Pocus”

If you drive around Salem you can find this iconic house sitting near the ocean, exactly how it looks in the movie! You’ll find the property at 3 Ocean Ave., Salem, MA. To respect the house’s current residents we didn’t get out of the car, but instead enjoyed driving by and snapping a few pics in motion. Definitely a must-see for film buffs and “Hocus Pocus” fans alike.

Salem Shopping

Right down the street from the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, you’ll find a stretch of restaurants and shops, many of which are — you guessed it — witch themed. Running on Alden’s schedule we didn’t have a lot of time for shopping but enjoyed walking down the street and taking in the sights. Travel Tip: If you’re looking for reading material on the witch trials, I recommend paying a visit to Wicked Good Books.

Things We Didn’t Get To, But Would Love to Visit In the Future

Because our trip was short (and we were running on baby time), there were a few things we would have liked to have done or seen but just didn’t get to this time around. If you’re planning a trip to historic Salem, you might consider visiting these popular destinations:

Salem Pioneer Village

I really wanted to see this one but it was closed during our visit (weekend hours only). The Pioneer Village is America’s first living history museum and is an affordable attraction for families (only $5 per person!). “Hocus Pocus” fans will recognize the village as the film site of Thackery Binx’s house at the beginning of the movie.

The Witch Museum

You can’t Google “Things to Do in Salem, MA” without coming across the Salem Witch Museum. According to the web, the museum boasts life-size stage sets and exhibits that explore the 1692 Salem witch trials as well as witchcraft today. As someone who has a fondness for museums, I’d definitely love to check this one out one day.

Other Things to Do In the Area

As I mentioned above, the intent of our trip was to visit Andy’s sister Rebecca who goes to school at Endicott College. We ended up staying about fifteen minutes away from the school in Gloucester and were able to do a number of fun things outside of Salem. If you’re in the general area, these were some other things we enjoyed on our trip.

Beaches!

You can’t visit new England without going to the beach! No matter the time of year, the beach is always a magical (dare I say “healing?”) experience. Andy, Alden and I grabbed breakfast to-go one morning and enjoyed our coffees and breakfast sandwiches while looking out at the ocean. It was the best meal I had eaten in a long, long time.

Eateries

The best part of being by the coast? The seafood! Make sure you grab some fresh seafood on your trip to Salem. We ordered takeout from Causeway Restaurant and it did not disappoint. The portions were absolutely enormous and delicious.

Candy Store

If you find yourself in Beverly, be sure to check out Prides Crossing Confections — a rustic confectionary that makes for the perfect souvenir stop or sweet tooth satisfier.

Salem, MA Travel Tips

While our visit was short, I definitely picked up some handy travel tips along the way. If you’re planning a trip to Salem, MA, keep these things in mind:

  • Pack Layers: New England is generally chilly; but it can also be surprisingly warm. Make sure you pack layered outfits so you can add clothing as necessary. It can very easily go from feeling like fall in the morning to summer in the afternoon. I was actually planning for it to be warmer than it was when we visited and was really glad I threw some extra sweaters in my bag last minute. The weather forecast can change on a dime!
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: Salem is a historic city so many sidewalks are cobblestone. Make sure you’re adequately prepared to walk around the city with comfortable footwear.
  • Check COVID Restrictions Ahead of Time: During our trip, Massachusetts’ restrictions were stricter than those in our hometown in Central New York. If you have activities in mind, make sure you research them ahead of time and are aware of any restrictions or regulations that could affect your trip.

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