Salem gets most of its visitors in October, when Halloween rolls around the city is absolutely packed with revelers. But while Witch City really comes alive in the fall, it's a smart destination for an easy day trip or weekend getaway in other seasons, too. 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, there's year-round fun for the whole family.
1. Ditch the car and head to Salem via the Boston Harbor Cruises one-hour fast ferry. The ferry departs from Long Wharf in Boston and runs seasonally from May through the end of October. This will make even getting to Salem a fun part of the day!
2. The entire month of October is the annual Salem Haunted Happenings Festival, with tons of not-so-scary event to take your family too. Check out the Grand Parade, weekend outdoor movies, Wicked Wednesdays filled with kids activities and entertainment, and multiple trick-or- treat opportunities throughout the whole month.
Get in the spirit of Salem's Haunted Happenings
3. 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.
4. Who says you can only dress up on Halloween? Pop into Witch Pix where your kiddos can have a spooky photo shoot using fun backgrounds, props and costumes.
5. Take a Salem Kids Walking Tour, geared toward younger children to learn about the history of the town, from famous Witchcraft Trials to a missing ship to a moving graveyard.
6. One of the best ways to see the city without getting burned out is climbing aboard 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.
7. Salem’s House of the Seven Gables is said to have inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same name. Take a tour of this historic landmark while you’re in town.
Learn why Salem is called Witch City at the Salem Witch Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum
8. Take a break for lunch or dinner at Flatbread Pizza Company, where you can grab a slice and knock some pins down at their candlepin bowling lanes inside the restaurant.
9. Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Festival in February is a delicious excuse for a visit. This week-long festival features ice sculptures around town and tasty chocolate treats and tastings at participating stores and vendors.
10. On rainy or cold days (or really any day), the Peabody Essex Museum is a great indoor activity. This museum makes a huge effort to welcome even its littlest visitors with drop-in art making and exploring the galleries through age-appropriate stories.
11. While strolling town, be sure to stop into Coffee Time Bake Shop for a delicious hot chocolate to warm you up. Go traditional or try one of their specialties like the spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate, Peppermint Patty or Chocolate Covered Cherries Hot Cocoa.
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.
See history come to life at the Witch Dungeon Museum, where you'll get a sense of what the accused experienced in 1692. Photo by Lori Hurley/CC BY 2.0
13. 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.
14. There’s so much to do you can make a weekend trip out of it. Book a room at the family friendly Salem Waterfront Hotels and Suites located right on Pickering Wharf. Be sure to pack bathing suits because this hotel has a great indoor pool you can use year round.
15. Take a trip back in time to a simpler era at the Salem Willows Park, which houses arcades, mini golf, kiddie rides, 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.
16. 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.
17. North Shore’s Pride Parade and Festival in June draws huge crowds of all ages for a fun day filled with live music, a dedicated kids zone, and more.
Gallery talks are kid-friendly at the PEM. Photo courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum
18. 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.
19. If you have little buccaneers, be sure to visit the New England Pirate Museum where you can explore caves for hidden treasures.
20. 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). Then visit the reproduction tall ship the Friendship of Salem, and walk out on Derby Wharf to the Light Station.
21. While exploring the wharf, take a break from a meal at the waterfront restaurant, Finz. This classy eatery will please everyone's palates with a mix of fresh seafood and more basic fare on its children’s menu.
22. Boat loving kiddos will love the Salem Maritime Festival in August. This free family festival has live music, historical re-enactors, tall ships and lots interactive crafts and activities.
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. Follow the locals to the cozy Red’s Sandwich Shop for everything from omelets packed with add-ins to lobster rolls.
25. If you drive into or out of Salem on Route 114, you can’t miss Treadwell’s Ice Cream, which has been serving up scoops since 1946.
Top photo courtesy of Mark Faviell/CC by 2.0