If you're a big fan of Halloween and travel, I've got one of the best places to visit in the fall for you: Salem, Massachusetts, in the US.
This little city is more than just a name on a map—it symbolizes a mysterious, even eerie, chapter in American history.
The infamous Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th century led to tragic losses and forever marked the town as a magnet for those intrigued by the supernatural.
Nowadays, Salem serves as a mecca for Halloween aficionados, drawing a spellbinding mix of history buffs, thrill-seekers, and families from all over. It sounds like the perfect fall getaway for the weekend if you're nearby!
While Salem's enigmatic aura persists year-round, October transforms the town into an epicenter of Halloween festivities. Just a stone's throw away from Boston, this iconic destination pulls in over half a million visitors annually.
But what exactly makes it so alluring? What uncanny experiences await you during the Halloween season in this historic New England locale?
I'm here to help you unravel the mystique of Salem and discover why it's a must-visit spot for anyone enchanted by Halloween's blend of history and horror.
What Happens in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween?
In this unique little town, the entire month of October is dedicated to celebrating Halloween with "Salem Haunted Happenings".
Festivities officially open on the first Thursday of the month with the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade. Unique markets, ghost tours, magical activities, and wicked shows are held throughout the month, especially on weekends.
Many people choose to visit earlier in the month since the crowds on Halloween can be crazy. Plan your trip accordingly!
The entire festive period is called the Haunted Happenings Festival, and a complete list of activities and events is available on its website. While costumes aren't required when you visit Salem in October, they are popular, so get your spookiest outfit ready!
Where to Go in Salem for Halloween
Now for the fun part...
As I mentioned there's lots to see, do, and experience in Salem while you're there celebrating the month of Halloween! Salem during October is the best time to be in this unique little town...
Honestly, just walking the streets can be an experience. Plenty of fun finds exist, like the bronze statue of Bewitched's Samantha Stephens on Essex Street.
But you're here for specifics, right? In that case, I should get onto my top things to do and best places to go for the perfect Salem Halloween.
10. Visit the Witch House
The Salem Witch House is one of the only structures from the 17th century that's still standing in Salem, directly connected to the Salem Witch Trials. No wonder it's one of the most popular attractions in Salem!
It's now an official historic site where you can learn about the city's history. The eerie black house was once the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, responsible for putting many men and women accused of witchcraft to death.
Many members of the Corwin family died young. This led to the rumor that a real witch cursed them. Many people and rumors also say it's now a haunted house. It certainly feels spooky in the Halloween atmosphere!
9. Learn the History at the Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum is the best place to separate fact from fiction regarding the Salem Witch Trials. It has 2 main displays.
One display is an interactive video experience telling the true story of the trials, which comes with a warning that it can be disturbing for some audiences. The 2nd display explores changing perceptions around the word "witch" over time.
Alternative: Try Professor Spinklewink's World of Wizardry Museum for a more child-friendly Salem Halloween event.
You might also like Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery, with 60 cinematic waxwork characters from 35 Hollywood movies. The exciting new Spirits of Salem Museum is also set to open in time for Halloween in Salem this year!
8. Pay Respect at the Witch Trial Memorial for Victims
Sadly, no one knows where the victims of the Salem Witch Trials are buried.
This is because there was a superstition about touching the bodies of witches, so their bodies were more or less dumped. It's believed many were later retrieved by family members for a proper burial.
For the community, the Salem WItch Trials Memorial was set up on Liberty Street with 20 stone benches dedicated to the 20 named victims of the trials. If you like, you can leave flowers as a memorial.
7. See the Salem Cemeteries
While none of the accused witches are known to be buried in Salem cemeteries, it still feels like an appropriate place to visit to mark All Hallows Eve. There are 3 cemeteries in the city with a connection to the trials.
Old Burying Point, called Charter Street Cemetery, is near the memorial. It's one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States, dating back to 1637. It's also the burial place of 2 of the judges involved in the trials.
This cemetery is connected with the Charter Street Cemetery Gift Shop inside the 17th-century Pickman House. Here, you'll find unique displays during Halloween.
The Howard Street Cemetery is thought to be where the accused witch, Giles Corey, was pressed to death. It's said that he haunts the grounds and appears as an omen whenever tragedy is set to strike the community.
Broad Street Cemetery is the resting place of Judge John Corwin, who also sentenced witches during the trials.
6. Take Part in a Ghost Tours
Ghost tours can take you around all of Salem's most haunted locations. They'll tell the gruesome stories behind each venue and are one of the most popular and spooky things to do on Halloween.
There are tours for all ages, including family tours and the Midday Ghost Tour for those on a day trip.
The adults-only Ghost Tours offer the creepiest experience, and you can expect atmospheric lanterns and actors reenacting scenes close to Halloween. The History and Hauntings tour and the Mysteries and Murder tour by The Witch City Walking Tours are excellent options.
5. Stop by the Satanic Temple Salem
For darker thrills, organize a trip to The Satanic Temple in Salem!
While you can book online to participate in a satanic ritual, the Salem Art Gallery housed within the temple is also a great excuse to go in and look around. They also offer a fascinating Salem walking tour, including a special Halloween Night tour.
4. Make a Purchase at the Witch Shops
Salem has many excellent witch and occult shops, along with unique Halloween markets.
If you're into anything spooky, I highly recommend taking time to stop into these unique shops. You'll see cauldrons, spell books, Tarot cards, and crystal balls. It may even feel like visiting Diagon Alley before heading to Hogwarts!
One of the most popular shops is the Pentagram Witchcraft and Magick Shoppe for books, jewelry, and occult supplies.
Or check out Coven's Cottage for herbs, crystals, and ritual tools and Wynott's Wands for authentic power channelers and photo ops.
3. Support Local at the Halloween Markets and Fairs
A lot of gothic markets and fairs come to town during October. They're a great place to spend the day and stock up on spooky and occult supplies. You can also meet magical practitioners and have your fortune told.
The Haunted Happenings Marketplace is held every Saturday and Sunday in October and includes live entertainment, food, and mystical vendors. It has a spooky but fun and family-friendly vibe.
You can also visit the Salem Psychic Faire and Witches Market on Essex Street every day in October. Psychic readings available include Tarot, palmistry, crystal ball readings, scrying, and past life readings.
There are also many vendors selling interesting and quirky goods. What a great place to get some souvenirs!
2. Have Fun With Halloween Parties and Rituals
Of course, Halloween is also a great time of year to party, and many traditional parties with spooky cocktails happen around the city. More serious celebrations involve rituals for the dead to mark the changing seasons.
The Salem Witches' Magic Circle holds several events, including the Official Salem Witches' Halloween Ball, with live music, rituals, and free psychic readings. They also have a Graveyard Magic sorcery session and a special Mourning Tea and Dinner with the Dead for deceased loved ones.
On Halloween day, they host a group of international witches in a special Magic Circle.
Still need more? Each weekend, Old Town Hall is transformed into a Haunted Speakeasy with vintage dance lessons, prohibition-era cocktails, and 1920s-style music.
The Hawthorn Hotel also hosts an annual Halloween ball, with a different spooky theme each year. And if you have children, you could consider the annual Children's Halloween Costume Ball or the Children's Potions Party.
1. Dress Up for the Street Party
While you could be doing many things, walking the streets of Salem during Halloween is a treat! You'll see some impressive costumes, plus restaurants and bars that have gone all out to meet the dark theme.
There's also a fireworks display to top off the evening and mark the end of the magical month of October in Salem.
Bonus: Visit "Hocus Pocus" Filming Locations!
If you're a movie buff, especially scary ones, you'll want to set aside some time to explore filming locations in Salem. Did you know quite a few locations in Salem serve as the backdrop for various films and television shows?
It's most well-known as a filming location for a lot of scenes in the famous "Hocus Pocus" movie. Here are some of the more well-known spots you can visit:
Old Town Hall, Derby Square
This iconic building is prominently featured in "Hocus Pocus," serving as the backdrop for the Halloween party scenes.
Located in Derby Square, the Old Town Hall is one of the oldest surviving municipal structures in Salem and is now often used for public events and community gatherings.
Allison's House, 318 Essex Street
Recognized as the residence of the character Allison in "Hocus Pocus," this elegant home is located at 318 Essex Street.
While it's a privately owned property and not open to the public, the house is a popular stop for fans touring Salem. Its exterior is easily recognizable from the film and serves as a nostalgic backdrop for photos.
Ropes Mansion, Essex Street
Also featured in "Hocus Pocus," the historic Ropes Mansion on Essex Street serves as Allison's house in the movie. It's now a museum operated by the Peabody Essex Museum.
Its exterior and gardens are free to explore and are often highlighted in various city tours.
Another "Hocus Pocus" filming location, Pioneer Village, is a re-created 17th-century colonial village. It provided an authentic historical setting for the film, serving as the backdrop for scenes set in the past.
Visitors can tour the village and get a glimpse of what colonial life would have looked like, making it a popular spot for history buffs.
Where to Stay in Salem, MA, for Halloween
If you choose to stay in Salem overnight or for a few days to enjoy the Halloween festivities, there are several great places to stay in the area.
This hotel is a Historic Hotels of America Society member and hosts one of Salem's biggest Halloween Balls. There's no better place to stay if you want to be at the center of all the action. The hotel has a 1920s feel—they even claim to have their own ghost!
Those interested in local history will enjoy staying at the Merchant. It is a traditional boutique hotel where the newly elected President George Washington stayed in 1784.
The Salem Inn is three historic properties offering unique and memorable experiences. The family suites are self-catering, and it's one of the only pet-friendly hotels in town. Room 17 is said to be haunted, so stay alert!
If you're looking for full hotel amenities, check into this Pickering Wharf location with a restaurant, room service, and indoor swimming pool.
Celebrate the Spooky Season in Salem
If you're a spooky season fan and have yet to celebrate in Salem, there's no better time to find out what all the hype is about.
Now that you're an expert on Halloween in Salem, you can start to craft your ideal travel experience for you, your family, and your friends.