25 Things To Do in Salem With Kids

The Witch City tends to be associated with Halloween, but there's so much more than that for families to explore.

Salem gets most of its visitors in the fall, and when Halloween rolls around the city is absolutely packed with revelers. But Witch City is a fun place to visit year-round, especially in the summer. From getting there on the ferry and learning the history of the Salem Witch Trials to eating some great local food and exploring beautiful outdoor areas, a trip to Salem is fun for the whole family. Below you’ll find 25 reasons this North Shore city is a great destination with kids.

  1. Ditch the car and head to Salem via the Boston Harbor Cruises one-hour fast ferry that departs from Long Wharf in Boston. This will make even getting to Salem a fun part of the day!
  2. The old-school presentation at the Salem Witch Museum will give you and your kids an overview of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials and serves as a great jumping off point for other witchy stops along your Salem tour.
  3. The food at the casual Scratch Kitchen is homemade and hearty, perfect for fueling up during your Salem day trip.
  4. You could spend a whole day just exploring the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. First stop at the U.S.. Custom House (where famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked), visit the reproduction tall ship the Friendship of Salem, and walk out on Derby Wharf to the Light Station.
  5. One of the best ways to see the city without getting burnt out is via the Salem Trolley. Get on and off at any of its 13 stops while learning about the city during the guided tour along the way.
  6. Salem’s House of the Seven Gables is said to have inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same. Take a tour of this historic landmark while you’re in town.
  7. If you drive into Salem on Route 114, you can’t miss Treadwell’s Ice Cream, which has been serving up scoops since 1946.
  8. The Peabody Essex Museum might not be an obvious choice for kids, but the museum makes a huge effort to welcome even its littlest visitors. From drop-in art making and exploring the galleries through age-appropriate stories, there’s something for all ages to enjoy at the PEM.
  9. Stop into both the Salem Witch Memorial and the nearby Burying Point Cemetery, both on Charter Street, to pause for a moment of reflection on the Salem Witch Trials.
  10. If you’re seeking a wholesome, delicious meal, look no further than Life Alive. The third outpost of this vegetarian cafe is in Salem (the others are in Cambridge and Lowell).
  11. Get outside the city center with a trip to Forest River Park, which has two beaches, places to picnic, and a playground. It’s also home to Salem Pioneer Village 1630, a living history museum about the colonial era in New England.
  12. Salem is called Witch City for a reason. If you want to learn even more about its history, stop by the Witch Dungeon Museum and Witch History Museum
  13. If the high seas are more your thing, the related New England Pirate Museum is a great choice.
  14. Take a trip back in time to a simpler era at the Salem Willows Park, which houses an arcade, restaurants, and green space. Don’t miss the famous popcorn at Hobbs, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, try a Salem specialty: the chop suey sandwich from Genghis Salem.
  15. Take the Sea Shuttle from the Salem Willows Park Pier out to the Misery Islands where you can hike two miles of trails through forests and meadows and catch great views of the North Shore. Or take the 90-minute Sea Shuttle Salem Sound Tour for an up-close glimpse at local wildlife.
  16. Follow the locals to the cozy Red’s Sandwich Shop for everything from omelets packed with add-ins and heaping sandwiches to the classic chicken pot pie and lobster rolls.
  17. Winter Island Park offers a lot in the way of recreation. From campsites and a boat launch to the historic Fort Pickering Lighthouse and a public beach, there’s lots to do and the views can’t be beat.
  18. The Essex Street Pedestrian Mall is a terrific place for kids to run around because there are only people, no cars allowed! It’s also where you’ll find shops and street performers.
  19. The North Shore is known for its roast beef sandwiches, so no trip to Salem would be complete without one. Those in the know swear by King’s.
  20. While miniature in size compared to the Boston Common, the Salem Common is well worth a visit. The eight-acre green space is the site of many special events, is a great place to picnic and has a popular playground.
  21. Though it’s in Beverly, the North Shore Music Theatre is too good not to mention here. Take the kids to see shows like Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin.
  22. If you’re looking for waterfront dining, look no further than Finz. This classy eatery will please the palates of both adults and kids with its fresh seafood and more basic fare on its children’s menu.
  23. Salem is a busy little city, but it’s also home to a beautiful 129-acre nature area called the Salem Woods. Head there to hike, look for wildlife and get a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
  24. The Ugly Mug Diner is not your average greasy spoon. With a focus on fresh, filling food and throwbacks to things like egg creams, this diner is nostalgia at its best.
  25. Salem is steeped in history, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to America’s oldest candy business, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. Stop by to stock up on their famous Gibralters.

Bonus: Though it’s not technically in Salem, I couldn’t leave out one of my favorite North Shore destinations, Richardson’s in Middleton. It’s totally worth the drive on Route 114 for delicious ice cream, mini-golf, batting cages, a driving range and farm animals like cows and chickens.

Top image courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum

Salem 01970 Salem , MA 42° 31' 24.636" N, 70° 53' 42.8424" W