Conjure the image of over 200-year-old houses flanked in orange and black bunting, dozens of carved pumpkins, and candles burning in every wavy glass window. Can you picture it? If you think that's what Salem, Mass. looks like, you'd be right – but only in autumn. While “Witch City” is known for its Halloween tributes, visiting when the weather is warmer and the days are longer is just as fun. Here are 14 fun things to do in Salem in the summer.
Things To Do in Salem in The Summer
If you're going to visit during the city's peak season, you'll have to pack your patience. The streets are wall-to-wall with both vehicles and visitors, the lines extremely long for both attractions and dining, and finding parking is nearly impossible unless you arrive at the break of dawn. However, other seasons offer a better chance to visit with lower crowds. I hit the road recently to find out if Salem can be just as fun in the summer, and it definitely is.
Check Out Horror Movie Replicas at Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery
I love horror movies. So, when allowed to visit a non-hokey museum dedicated to all things horror and Halloween-themed movies, you can bet it was one of my first stops in Salem. At Count Orlok's Nightmare Museum, you'll not only see famous monsters, but it's a learning experience, and each room offers insight into the folks that made the statues.
If you want a peek into the horror madness, ask for a behind-the-scenes, aka basement, after-hours tour. It was one of the highlights of my summer Salem visit, and knowing I was among friends who shared a love of spooky creatures was ideal, especially his “Vault Macabre.”
Take a Private Salem History Tour
Sure, you can get the history of the Salem Witch Trails via the internet or museum, but if you want to walk in the shoes of the people involved, I highly suggest a private tour with The History Witch Walking Tours. The owner, Stacey, is highly knowledgeable and charismatic and has my daughter and I reeled into the locations and people involved.
Full disclosure: I'm not knocking the Salem museums, but there's something about being at the actual locations and then seeing the performances in the museums to bring them to life.
Tour The World of Wizardry
If you have younger kiddos, visiting The World of Wizardry is a fun way to tour “magical rooms,” especially if they're Harry Potter fans. While the museum isn't Harry Potter themed, it does give the feel that you're in different enchanted rooms.
If you're worried it may be scary, don't. It's more beautiful than creepy, and the preshow is adorable. I took my adult daughter, and she had a ball, but I'd say this one is fine for elementary and middle school kids too.
Walk Through Salem's Cemeteries
While Salem Cemeteries are happy to take donations, visiting them is free. Again, I love walking through cemeteries and find them calming, so walking along the paths and spying the imagery on each is a beautiful tribute to the Trials.
If you're particularly interested in Salem Witch Trials cemeteries, take time out for the three main spots: Charter Street, Broad Street, and Howard Street. In addition to the cemetery walk, Charter Street has the adjacent Salem Witch Trials Memorial, where descendants come and lay flowers as tributes to their relatives.
Have a Psychic Reading
For some, using tarot cards or having a psychic reading may not be their bag, which is alright. I enjoy the process and find it both uplifting and fun. On this visit, my daughter and I headed to Pentagram for a tarot reading, and our 13-minute session was filled with information regarding work, family, friends, and what to expect in the next year.
Learn About The History of The Salem Witch Trials at The Salem Witch Museum
The long line I saw outside every time I walked by gave me the sense that the Salem Witch Museum is the most popular museum in the city. A 20-minute show describing the witch trials and a museum is inside a desanctified church.
Heads up: the historical figures depicted in the Trials could be better, but the story is worth listening to, and the tribute to the 20 people who perished because of it is lovely.
Have a Professional Photo Shoot at Witch Pix
At my house, I'm all about spooky photo shoots with colored smoke and jack-o-lanterns (I warned you above!), so booking an actual, professional photo shoot at Witch Pix was perfect for me and my daughter. We could make the photos as silly or spooky as we liked, and the entire process was from beginning to end.
Once you pick out your costume, depending on the era you enjoy best, you can select a couple of highly detailed backdrops that look real. If you thought it's like the old-time photos you get at theme parks, the only comparable part is that they offer antique filters.
Check Out The Halloween Museum
I love all things Halloween, including the history behind the holiday. If you're a fan like me, a trip to the Halloween Museum is a must.
Not only is the museum adorably quirky and filled with black lights, it is a fun way to spend 30 minutes to an hour of your time. The historical artifacts begin with the holiday in the 1920s and go through the present time, including some pretty horrific costumes from the 1970s.
Spend a Couple of Hours at Peabody Essex Museum
If you want to take a few hours away from all things witchy and spooky to learn about American history and culture, you'll want to take time for the Peabody Essex Museum. Located on Essex Street, the multi-floor museum showcases everything from paintings to sculptures to artsy films.
While every area is worth checking out, the Yin Yu Tang House is the gold star on its proverbial chart. You'll need to sign up for complimentary timed tickets, but it's worth it because this two-story house is exquisite in its architecture and Chinese history.
Take a Bookbinding Class at The Witchery
Having just moved to a new location, The Witchery has plenty of room for hands-on activities such as broom-making and bookbinding.
During our two-hour session, my daughter and I learned about primitive page binding, leather punching, and how to etch images into the cover. I loved that we could choose cover colors, cord styles, and how plain or decorated we wanted our books to be.
Learn About a Real Pirate Ship and Its Crew at Real Pirates
To my delight, the Real Pirates museum is not hokey. Highlighting a ship called the Whydah, each room underscores a pirate's daily life, genuine pirate treasure, and life at sea for months.
If you are taking the kids, plenty of hands-on experiences exist. I learned a ton during our visit, and if you're concerned about the fear factor, don't worry, it's very family-friendly.
Get a Photo at The Famous Statue Downtown
Fun fact about Salem, Mass.: while the 1960s TV series Bewitched was filmed in Los Angeles, there's an adorable homage to our beloved twitchy-nosed Samantha. On the corner of Essex and Washington Streets sits a life-sized tribute to her and the brief time the show filmed some scenes in the city.
It's a rite of passage to have your picture taken with Samantha, and while you undoubtedly have to wait in line for your turn, it's worth every minute.
Tour The Ropes Mansion & Garden
In case you're unfamiliar with the Halloween movie Hocus Pocus, it was filmed between Salem and the adjacent town, Marblehead. One of the first filming locations is in Allison's mansion, also called the Ropes Mansion. If you are in Salem while the house offers free tours, do yourself a favor and take it. However, if the interior is not open, you can still tour the beautiful gardens in the back.
I believe in being respectful when I visit any city or attraction, so it goes without saying, please don't trample the flowers and leave only footprints, not garbage. Additionally, if you're a Hocus Pocus super fan and tour the mansion's interior, the foyer's teeny size will be surprising compared to Allison's home in the film.
Where To Stay in Salem, Ma
I enjoy the fact that Salem Proper only offers a few chain hotels. Instead, you'll find quaint lodging in smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts. Here are two places to stay in Salem that I highly recommend.
Coach House Inn
The Coach House Inn is Airbnb style with multi-unit rooms decorated in a black and white theme, and it offers a timeless look and chic vibe. We received our entry codes the day of our check-in, and I found the property both quiet and an ideal location.
There is another Hocus Pocus reference here, but The Coach House Inn is up the street from Max Dennison's house. As the family home has resident-only parking nearby, it's notable that you can leave your car at the Airbnb-style lodging and walk.
The Salem Inn
With the same kind of contactless entry as The Coach House Inn, the Salem Inn is different in its vibe because its decor is more authentic to the period of the building. Offering a complimentary breakfast menu each morning and an ideal location on Summer Street, the B&B provides complimentary parking if you need help finding an on-street spot.
The fact that the property has a giant birdcage with adorable teeny finches in the lobby was endearing. Additionally, if you're guest room is on one of the higher floors, there's a working dumbwaiter to use for your luggage, so you don't have to lug it up the steps.