Day Trip to Salem from Boston
What You Need to Know
If you’re in Boston, a day trip to Salem is the perfect way to experience not only the Northshore region but one of the United States’ most interesting small towns. Steeped in history and featuring a vibrant modern tourist industry, Salem complements Boston well with plenty of activities (both free and paid), restaurants, and shopping destinations to fill your day. Here’s everything you need to know to have a fantastic day trip to Salem from Boston.
We’ve included far more things to do here than you could actually get to in one day. If you’d rather download an itinerary for your trip, we’ve got one for you here! This gets you in town around 9:30 in the morning and you’ll depart around 8:30PM. In the middle, you’ve got three meals, tons of things to do, and a jam-packed schedule for your day trip to Salem from Boston. This itinerary assumes you’re coming via car or train. If you’re coming in on the ferry, you’ll need to adjust the itinerary times.
Table of Contents
What’s the Best Way to Travel to Salem MA?
There are a few factors to consider here. Time of year and day are definitely the top two to consider. Salem is only about 15 miles due north of Boston. While driving seems like the obvious solution, there are two other methods that might be better, depending on your situation.
Getting to Salem from Boston
What to Do in Salem MA
First and foremost, the absolute best thing you can do in Salem, if you’re able of course, is walk around! Almost everything you’d want to see in town is within a mile radius. You’ll want to make your way to Essex Street and browse! If you want slightly more guidance, here are our top stops for your Boston to Salem day trip.
Salem MA Attractions
No matter what time of year you visit, there’s plenty to do by way of Salem’s attractions. Here are a few of our favorites to check out on your day trip. Note that we’ve put all attractions relating to the Salem Witch Trials in their own category below, so head there if that’s where your interest lies.
The Peabody Essex Museum – The Peabody Essex Museum is not just one of the best museums in Salem MA, it’s also one of the best in the entire region. One could easily spend their entire day here browsing relics from the Salem Witch Trials, a group of historic homes featuring one from the Qing Dynasty and a few early-American abodes, or the ever-revolving collection of artworks. Tickets are affordable and the things to do are many. Head over to the Peabody Essex Museum’s website for an updated collection of their current offerings.
House of the Seven Gables – The House of the Seven Gables is one of the more infamous locations in The Witch City, due to it being featured as the titular locale in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same name. But this attraction isn’t resting on its literary laurels. Inside this incredible complex, you’ll tour the well-known Gables house, gorgeous seaside gardens, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace, and more! It’s the perfect Salem spot and unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. Check out the Gables’ website for more info.
Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery – If you’re looking for something a little more modern, check out what is, in our opinion, the absolute best wax museum in town. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is, by this point, a Salem staple. It features incredibly well-crafted wax museums from all of horror cinema history. Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Pennywise (both versions), Dracula, The Wolfman – these are just a few of the familiar, terrifying personalities you’ll come face-to-face with at Orlok’s. It’s perfect if you love horror, craftsmanship, and spooky vibes. Learn more at Orlok’s site.
Salem Witch Trials
Of course, one can’t do a day trip to Salem without checking out at least one Salem Witch Trials attraction. Here’s a selection of our favorites to check out while you’re in town.
Salem Witch Trials Memorial – Our first Salem Witch Trials attraction is 100% free and open to the public. The Salem Witch Trials Memorial is a solemn monument that features the names of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials etched in stone. Adjacent to the Olde Burying Point Cemetery, this is an appropriate way to approach the seriousness of the hysteria with reverence and respect. The memorial is near the center of town at 24 Liberty St.
Salem Witch Museum – After visiting the Memorial, check out the Salem Witch Museum for a great introduction to Salem’s hysterical past. This iconic Salem locale features two exhibits, one focused on the trials and the other focused on world hysteria and how perception impacts cultural views of Paganism. Learn more about the Salem Witch Museum on their site.
Cry Innocent/The Witch Dungeon Museum – If you’re in the mood for something a little more engaging to learn about the Salem Witch Trials, check out these two live performance options. Cry Innocent is an interactive performance featuring a full cast. It places the audience in the jury’s seat and they collectively determine whether or not Bridget Bishop, the first to be hanged in the trials, should be sent to a formal hearing. It’s a fantastic time for everyone, but unfortunately, viewing options outside of October can be a little limiting financially. You can check out their current rates on their site. As an alternative, The Witch Dungeon Museum features a live performance introduction, runs year-round, and includes the subterranean tour of a recreated Witch Trials-era dungeon. Find out more on their website.
Shopping in Salem
If you heeded our earlier advice and decided to walk around downtown Salem a bit, chances are you’ve already encountered some fantastic Salem shops. We say whatever grabs your attention, go in and browse! To help get you started, here are three very different shops, each reflecting a different aspect of Salem’s personality.
Blackcraft Salem – The newest of the entries on this list, Blackcraft Salem opened in 2022 and quickly vaulted (that’s a pun, but you’ll have to visit to understand it lol) to among the best of Salem’s gothic apparel shops. While there are a smattering of other great apparel shops that feature mostly black clothes (Vampfangs and Die with Your Boots On are also worth checking out), the decor in Blackcraft can’t be beaten. Visitors are met with a towering space featuring a giant central witch statue. Even if you’re not looking to goth it up, this shop is worth seeing. Visit Blackcraft Salem at 253 Essex St.
Salem Regional Visitor Center – Due to its central location and being directly across the street from one of Salem’s busiest parking garages, Salem Regional Visitor Center is often the first place many tourists go. And there are plenty of reasons it should be your first stop as well. For starters, the most varied collection of books relating to the culture and history of Salem can be found here. There’s also a gorgeous replica ship, a handful of activities, a nice array of tourist trinkets for sale, really great bathrooms, and a water bottle fill station. That may not seem like a draw, but during the Halloween season (when your other options are overpriced water bottles at CVS or lines of Porta Potties on the city streets), these two things alone make the Visitor Center a worthwhile shop to check out. You can find the Salem Regional Visitor’s Center at 2 New Liberty Street.
The Coven’s Cottage – It wouldn’t be a day trip to Salem without at least one stop in a witch shop. And our favorite has long been The Coven’s Cottage. This quaint shop features a decidedly more earthly presentation, doesn’t allow pictures taken inside, and has a very nicely-curated selection of books, ritual items, and more. To be honest, you can’t go wrong with many of the new-age stores in Salem (I’d also recommend Pyramid Books for the largest book collection, Crow Haven Corner for the most historic witch shop in town, and Hauswitch for a pseudo-Brooklyn witchy vibe), but there’s just something so charming about The Coven’s Cottage. You can visit The Coven’s Cottage at 190 Essex St.
Best Salem MA Tours
Like a lot of other things in Salem, what tours are available depends very much on when you visit. For the purposes of your Salem to Boston day trip, we’ve included three very different options that are running year-round. If you’re visiting Salem around Halloween, we recommend checking out our Halloween page for tours that are a little more in line with the spooky vibes.
Bus Tours to Salem Massachusetts – There are a few options for bus tours in Salem. The first, and most expensive, is a half-day bus tour from Boston to Salem. We haven’t personally done this tour, but we hear it’s a great way to have your entire day trip planned. We have, however, done the Salem Trolley. While this one won’t get you from Boston, the frequency of stops, on-and-off style, and trolley path make this a great way to get through the Witch City. Unfortunately, it regularly has a truncated yearly schedule, so be sure to check the site below to see if it’s operational during your visit. Learn more about the Salem Trolley on their site.
Salem Witch Walk Guided Walking Tour – Our favorite guided walking tour is the Salem Witch Walk. Led by actual Pagan practitioners, this walking tour includes sites relevant to Salem’s witchy history and allows guests to take part in a quick ritual. It’s a great way to get introduced to Salem’s Pagan history and make some new friends in the Witch City. Learn more about the Witch Walk on their site.
Historic House Tours/The Witch House – There are a few options here, depending on what you’re looking for. Head to the Peabody Essex Museum and House of the Seven Gables sections above to find links to tour some very faithfully restored early American homes. Another option would be the only site in downtown Salem with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials: The Witch House. Once owned by Witch Trials Magistrate Jonathan Corwin, this historic house tour includes a wonderful tour centering on life and spirituality in 17th-century New England. Learn more about The Witch House on their site.
Salem Massachusetts Food
Something that surprises a lot of Boston to Salem day trippers is just how incredible the food scene in Salem is. There are so many incredible options to explore and, again, some are seasonal. Below are three very different choices for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Salem.
Breakfast: Gulu Gulu Cafe – Gulu Gulu Cafe is one of our favorite Salem eateries. Great coffee, a wide selection of crepes and sandwiches, and an incredible atmosphere make this a must-stop. It’s also right next door to a fantastic pizza place if that’s more your thing. If you’re looking for good eats, caffeine, a place to charge your devices, and wifi, Gulu is the place to go. You can visit Gulu Gulu Cafe at 247 Essex St.
Lunch: Life Alive Organic Cafe or Red’s Sandwich Shop – If you’re health-conscious or have dietary restrictions, Life Alive Organic Cafe is the Salem lunch spot for you. Serving healthy bowls, smoothies, and healthy shots, this place is perfect for charging up with healthy macros and micros before continuing your Salem day trip. Find Life Alive Organic Cafe at 281 Essex St. If you’re looking for something with a little more of a diner feel, check out Red’s Sandwich Shop. Bacon, eggs, omelets, endless coffee – this is the place to go to fuel up on those delicious comfort foods for a reasonable price before moving on to your next location. You can find Red’s at 15 Central St.
Dinner: Ledger – Ledger is a newer Salem location, but it suited itself to the city immediately with Ouija board-themed desserts, an eclectic dinner menu, and delicious cocktails. This one is a little more pricey and you’ll almost always want to get reservations, but it’s well worth the meal if you’ve got the cash. You can find Ledger at 247 Essex St.
Thank you so much for checking out our Salem to Boston day trip article. Again, if you’d rather have a more curated experience, we’ve got two options for you. The first is this FREE-day trip itinerary. It includes everything you’ll need to have the perfect day and assumes you’re coming via car or train. If you’re coming in on the ferry, you’ll need to adjust the itinerary times. If you’d rather have a personalized tour, reach out to us via the Contact page to get more info. Thanks again and we’ll see you in the Witch City!