Maximize your Salem day trip with this guide on what to do in Salem, MA in one day!
Day trips can be crazy! On the one hand, you have one day to just explore an amazing city! On the other hand, you ONLY have one day to explore an amazing city! That’s why preparation can be so useful to make sure that you maximize your day and have as few regrets as possible!
We love day trips to small towns, and a day trip to Salem, Massachusetts, is a GREAT way to get acquainted with the city. There is so much history, some pretty iconic landmarks, and great movie sites! It may seem difficult to fit it all into your schedule in one day! We’ve got you covered with our top must-see attractions and tips for maximizing your time in the city. Whether you’re interested in witchcraft and the supernatural, American history, or simply want to soak up the coastal charm of New England, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!
This post is all about what to do in Salem, MA in ONE day!
What to do in Salem in One Day
Salem, Massachusetts is a charming coastal city that offers a wealth of attractions and activities for visitors. I’m talking about “Stars Hollow” charming. Whether you’re interested in American history, or witchcraft, or simply want to soak up the picturesque scenery of New England, Salem has something for you!
If you only have one day to explore this fascinating city and figure out what to do in Salem, it’s important to plan your itinerary carefully and make the most of your time. From historical landmarks to hidden gems, I’m going to help you create the perfect itinerary for your Salem day trip. So, let’s get started and discover all this charming city has to offer!
Let’s talk all about what to do in Salem in one day!
Planning Your Day in Salem, MA
To make the most of your Salem day trip, let’s talk about getting you to Salem first! Here are some tips to help you plan your day.
How to Get to Salem, MA
If you’re coming from a nearby city, like Boston, you can take the commuter train. They are usually pretty cost-effective and won’t take too much time out of your day! To find schedules and costs, you can visit this website.
If you’re looking for a unique way to get to Salem, there is a ferry that you can take from Boston. It takes about an hour each way and advanced tickets are usually similar in price to take the commuter train. There is indoor seating too, so you don’t have to worry about getting too chilly if you are going in the fall.
Driving to Salem is another way to get there! However, like Boston, driving in Salem is going to be tricky and there is typically not a lot of parking in many places near downtown.
Best Time to Visit Salem, MA
Honestly, Salem is amazing year-round! If you are looking to get into the Halloween mood, the best time to go is in October. Even late September would be great too! They really go all out for Halloween!
If you want a more quiet atmosphere, then spring or summer would be best! It would also make taking the ferry so much better because you can sit outside!
Insider Tips for Maximizing Your Time in Salem, MA
Alright, now that I’ve got you ready to book your trip on another tab, let’s talk about ways to maximize your time in Salem! Here are some tips to help you do that and check off everything on your “what to do in Salem” list!
Avoiding Crowds and Long Lines
Some museums and attractions can get really busy, especially during the peak fall times. For example, the Salem Witch Museum and the House of the Seven Gables can get packed. For those, try to book them early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds.
Another good way to avoid lines is to book your attractions in advance! That way, you can get right in.
Getting Around Salem
The lovely thing about deciding what to do in Salem is that it is a walkable city for the most part so walking to all of the places you want to visit is totally manageable! Walking is also a great way to see more of the city’s charm.
However, if you want to venture a little further out of the main Salem hub, renting a bike is so worth it. We rode bikes to the Pioneer Village and Max and Dani’s house and it saved us so much time. The Blue Bikes had stations throughout the city which made it easy to get around.
Part of me still wishes we would have done the Salem Trolley! Especially on chilly days like when we went. Getting to sit inside and be driven around looked like a dream! The trolley takes you to all of the city’s main attractions and you can get on and off all day.
Must-See Attractions in Salem, MA
When it comes to what to do in Salem, your list is not going to be left wanting! Salem is home to a variety of attractions that showcase the city’s rich history and culture. Here are some of the top things to do in Salem!
The Salem Witch Museum is so unique! There is so much history in here regarding telling the story of the 1692 witch trials. If you have any interest in this part of history or want to learn more about it, you should visit this museum.
Although an unpleasant part of history, I love that the city of Salem strives to educate people about what happened. The Salem Witch Memorial commemorates the individuals who were killed during the Salem Witch trials in the 1600s. It’s quite a somber place.
The Witch House – $
It just looks like it should be called the Witch House, doesn’t it? This is the house, turned museum, of Judge Jonathan Corwin who sent 19 people to the gallows for witchcraft. It’s actually the only house that is still around with ties to the Salem Witch Trials! If you are trying to figure out what to do in Salem, the Witch House is a great place to spend some time at.
The Gallows Hill in Salem is the site that is believed to be where the Salem Witch Trials executions occurred. Of all of the things to do in Salem, this isn’t going to take too much time but is still going to be cool to see.
Have you read the book? It’s ok. I haven’t. And you don’t need to to appreciate this historic home! The House of the Seven Gables is a home built in 1668 and made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book. It is now a museum and so worth the visit! The grounds are gorgeous as well.
If the House of the Seven Gables is on your list of what to do in Salem, I recommend getting tickets in advance and checking their hours because they sometimes close early for events.
The Peabody Essex Museum expands beyond Salem and into the rest of the world with all that it houses! There is so much beautiful art and history and it is one of the top 10 North American art museums. If you like museums, be sure to add this one to your list of what to do in Salem.
If you’re looking for that quintessential, New England, waterfront vibe, you don’t want to miss the Salem Maritime National Historic Site! It’s a waterfront park that includes historic ships, buildings, and exhibits. It is really very cool and worth a visit to when you are in Salem.
This is a public park that dates back to the 17th century and features historic architecture and beautiful green spaces. It’s a great place for a picnic or to let your kids run around and let out some wiggles! We loved it especially because of part of it was featured in the movie, Hocus Pocus. When it came to figuring out what to do in Salem, we knew we wanted this on our list!
The Pickering Wharf Marina
Pickering Wharf is a fun place to visit to explore and see what Salem has to offer! This is a hub of restaurants, shops, and nightlife that offers something for everyone! We definitely spent some time here picking out some souvenirs.
Salem Willows Park
The Salem Willows Park is off the beaten path, but if you can make it there, you should! It’s a beautiful waterfront park that offers stunning views of the ocean! It better be for how far away it is, right? It’s a great place to visit in Salem to relax and unwind.
Pickering House – $
The Pickering House is an old, colonial home that is now a museum! It is gorgeous and allows you to see how people lived in the 1600s.
The Burying Point Cemetery is one of the oldest in the country, with some gravestones dating back to the 1600s! There is a lot of history in this cemetery and a great thing to do in Salem.
Salem Woods Highland Park
The “Salem Woods” as they are sometimes referred to is a beautiful woodland park. There are hikes you can do or plenty of picnic spots to relax at. It is a bit of a walk to get to, but if you have a car or get an Uber, it’s a short 10-minute drive from downtown Salem.
Hocus Pocus Movie Sites
A lot of people that go to Salem go to learn about the Salem Witch Trials and to see the Hocus Pocus sites in person! I’ve got an entire walking tour blog post that shares the best way to get around if you want to visit all of the sites! Check it out below!
Here is an overview of some of those sites if you want to add them to your list of what to do in Salem!
Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall is the location that was used for the Halloween Party that the adults go to. Even though the actual party was filmed elsewhere, the outside was used for the movie! You can take tours in Salem that will give you a ton of history about the Old Town Hall and the surrounding area. It’s worth adding to your list of what to do in Salem!
Pioneer Village – $
If you’re looking for an immersive experience, and where they filmed the beginning scenes of Hocus Pocus, the Pioneer Village is the place for you! Check the website for their hours though because they are only open on specific days and times.
Ropes Mansion and Garden
This beautiful home that acts as Allison’s house in the movie is a must-see in person! The gardens in the back are gorgeous as well. We loved walking around all of the flowers in the garden and getting a unique view of the mansion. In the summer, you can tour the inside on the weekends!
John Bailey High School
This is the high school that Max and Allison come out of at the beginning of the movie and where they dance outside after burning the witches! It’s not a school anymore, so it’s really just a stop-and-take-your-picture kind of place. It is across from the Salem Common though. If you already have that on your list of what to do in Salem, then stopping by the high school won’t put you off the path too far!
Max & Dani’s House
If you’ve watched the Hocus Pocus movie, this is the iconic house with the little window room at the top. It’s super cute! However, it’s someone’s house though, so it’s mostly just a place to go and see if you are adding this to your list of what to do in Salem. It’s on the way to the Pioneer Village if you’re heading that way and there is a super cute, tiny waterfront spot right next to it as well!
There you have it! I hope this answers your question of what to do in Salem in one day! On the surface, it can seem like it’s impossible to get everything done that you may want to do. Thankfully though, Salem is not a large city so most of the places to visit are in pretty close proximity to each other. This definitely makes it easier to see everything in Salem that you may want to!