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Salem in October is a magical place full of spooky vibes, the occult, and ghost tours galore. The dark history of the town and its involvement (and creation) of the infamous witch trials make Salem in October a pilgrimage for people from everywhere. There a few places in the world a witch can visit and feel like she totally belongs, so if you’re a witch, welcome, sister!
I do have a few tips for those of you brave enough to visit Salem in October (it’s beautiful in the summer too, though too much snow for me, personally, in the winter).
This is the most unique and overwhelming time to take a trip to Salem. In the month of October, over 500,000 people will visit this tiny town. And I’m serious, it’s small. You can probably walk one side to the other in 30-45 minutes. So that means that Salem in October is PACKED – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be fun. It’s not like a trip to Disney in the middle of summer when its 110 heat index out. No, no, no. Salem in October is cool and mysterious. Everything from the weather, to the black houses and pumpkins lining every stoop, is just perfect.
EMBRACE YOUR INNER WITCH. We’ve all got a witchy side deep down in there, so bring it out and let it unwind. Pack your best blacks and get ready to feel spooky. Salem has a vibe unlike any other town I’ve ever visited, and if you learn to love the unique, you’re going to be enamored.
Expect people to be in costume everywhere. Even the first weekend of October, people in the bars, on the streets, and at dinner were dressed up. Kids, adults, shopkeepers, uber drivers, you name it, someone in the area had a costume on. Not only that but if someone wasn’t dressed up, they were probably dressed in all black. More people than not had on a witch’s hat. Men, women, the witch hat is an accessory for all. It is AWESOME. If you’re not into wearing a witch hat but still want to fit in, I totally recommend getting a cute trendy hat like this one from Amazon – it’s under $20 and I wore it basically the entire weekend. Also, Romwe and SHEIN have some great options for hats for super cheap!
I definitely recommend booking things before you arrive, as it can get very busy in Salem in October, especially as you draw closer to Halloween. We almost were unable to book a ghost tour because so many were sold out. We finally scored one after the fifth attempt at booking during dinner, but I would have been pretty upset if we didn’t make it! Viatour has some great options for history and ghost tours!
I’ll be honest with you, Massachusetts packs a punch when it comes to accommodation – it ain’t cheap. What I got for an entire three nights in the French Quarter of New Orleans cost me about 1 night in Salem. And I stayed in Marblehead. That being said, prices were definitely higher because of October. Halloween is peak season for them, so be prepared to pay a little more if you want to camp right downtown.
If you are renting a car (which I totally recommend you do & I suggest you use CarRental8.Com!) then you should opt to stay in Marblehead or Danvers. The drive is literally 7-12 minutes if traffic is fine (on a Saturday night, it won’t be). If you plan on drinking, the Ubers were very reasonable and cost us probably around $12 to get to downtown from our accommodation in Marblehead.
In Salem here are the top choices! (BTW, if I’m not staying in a Homestay, I ALWAYS book through booking.com – after you continuously book with them you consistently get better and better deals, as well as free breakfasts and room upgrades! It counts to be a genius member!)
If you sign up for Airbnb using THIS LINK you get $40 off your first stay!
There are tons of things to do in Salem in October and in the surrounding area. I recommend starting off in the Visitor’s center and you can get a free booklet of all the activities happening each night in Salem as endorsed by the city! It might not be things you exactly want to do, but it does kind of give you an idea of what is going on in the town. We found a few things that were a lot of fun to do in that booklet! If we had not stopped by we would have had no idea of a local school fundraiser at the pioneer village which had hundreds of carved Jackolanters and scary stories in replica homes with reenactors. After you get your bearings at the visitor’s center – there are a few things I definitely think you should check out.
Also – if you’re visiting nearby Boston for a day or two I totally recommend purchasing the CityPASS!
The Skywalk Observatory alone is worth it, but if you are planning on going to any of the other attractions listed, it makes things cheaper!
Start out at the visitors center, and pick yourself up a little map with a list of the top attractions & a list of the Haunted Happenings. This will be your guide for the Salem Heritage Trail! In about 2 hours you can knock out all the top sights to see in Salem, and pick and choose which attractions you want to go in! Once you get this out of the way, you can get a feel for this small walkable town, and really be able to dive into Salem. These were a few of my favorite spots on the Heritage Trail, but be sure to check them all out!
One of the few remaining buildings directly related to the Salem Witch Trials.
Salem in October means peak season for leaf-peeping. The leafs this year were a little slow to turn, so we decided to head north a little into New Hampshire and visit a few state parks up there! We were not disappointed. If you have a car this makes for a great morning trip! There are a couple of ways you can figure out where the foliage is the best.
There are two schooners in Salem during the summertime to early fall. The Schooner When and If and the Schooner Fame. Both are classic boats. The When and If is General Patton’s actual schooner he had built and the Fame is a replica of an 1800’s privateering merchant schooner. We chose to sail on the When and If and did not regret it. The captain and crew were very kind and welcoming! Being a schooner bum myself, we had some mutual friends and were able to do some nerd out schooner bum bonding. Both schooners stop sailing once it gets to cold, so the earlier in October you visit, the more likely you are to be able to get a sail in! You can book a sail on the When and If through their website OR you can book as an experience on Airbnb. When you sign up through my link on Airbnb you get a $15 credit for an experience! After that just look at the experiences available in Salem & you will see them listed!
As I mentioned before, a ghost tour was at the top of my list while we were in Salem. I do ghost tours in almost every historic city I visit. It’s a great way to learn about some unique history in a fun and different way! There are a ton of options on Viator! If a ghost tour doesn’t sound like fun, check out one of the history walking tours as well, you’ll learn so much more this way than if you never do one! This is probably the best way to get into the Halloween spirit when you are on vacation in Salem in October!
Seriously, Salem has some of the most unique boutiques I have ever seen. From funky clothing, costumes, couture witch hats, all the metaphysical and occult goods you could want, wand shops, crystal shops, moon jewelry shops, you name it, there is something eccentric and quirky for you to get into while you are shopping in Salem.
During the month of October in Salem, Essex Street is lined with vendors of all various crafts, all sorts of food (hot cider, yes please) and so much more!
.Just outside of Salem is the town of Danvers, which actually used to be a part of Salem. (they’re literally a 10-minute drive apart) Here you will find one of the creepiest places – the Danvers State Hospital. This was a mental institution for many years, and while most of it has been torn down and turned into apartment complexes, the original facade and the cemetery still exist. There is a great podcast on Lore Postcast about it which you can listen to here! (BTW, that’s not an affiliate link, I’m just actually OBSESSED with that podcast!) You can learn more about the history of the hospital here and about visiting the old Danvers State Hospital here.
Also located in Danvers is Gallows Hill. This is the legit location where the 19 men and women were hanged on the accusation of witchcraft. It’s located right behind a Walgreens in a quiet neighborhood, so be sure to be respectful when you visit! You can find it on Google Maps here.
Another cool bit of history in Danvers is the Rebecca Nurse Homestead. Similar to the witch house, it is one of the few remaining buildings directly tied to the Salem Witch trials. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and gave us insight into the witch trials that nobody else had our entire trip. This is where it is located.
Massachusetts is known for its superb seafood and great beer and even better cider. Some notable things to try while you’re spending some time in Salem:
Here are a few of the amazing options for food & drinks that we LOVED while we were in Salem!
Incredible seafood & a great atmosphere right on the water! We ate here after our adventure on the Schooner When and If, sat outside and stuffed ourselves full of the seafood platter.
Again, right near Pickering Wharf and a great place to warm up and grab a cider and bite to eat! The perfect place to snack on a chilly day in Salm in October! (make sure you try the tuna melt!)
Fun late-night karaoke, beer, and a great atmosphere.
Where we went to watch football!
The only rooftop bar in Salem, worth the visit if it isn’t too cold. Great local beer and cider selection. Located inside Salem Hotel.
This place is great for food or drink! A little more upscale, but with a fantastic cocktail.
Several locals informed us this was the best brunch in town. Unfortunately, we missed it! I will definitely be going the next time I am in Salem!
If you’re staying in Marblehead because Salem was just a little too out of your price range, definitely take the time to get dinner at the barnacle, you will not regret it!