Salem's history is tightly woven into the fabric of the United States—it was founded way back in 1626, prior even to the establishment of Boston. Today, you'll find a year-round destination with history-packed walking tours that share stories of the city's Native American roots, colonial past, and infamous Salem Witch Trials—because, of course, Salem is also known for its spooky tales and haunted happenings. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of just one day in Salem.
Salem has warm summers and snowy winters, so pack appropriately.
If you can, visit at Halloween for truly atmospheric seasonal spooks.
The best way to start your day in Salem is to get the lay of the land—and learn about Salem's storied past—on a history tour covering the town's most important sights. Expect to explore the McIntire Historic District and see standouts such as the Old Town Hall, colonial burial ground, and 18th-century Ropes Mansion. Wrap up your morning with to-go coffee and a stroll to Salem Common, the city's 17th-century public green, and Burying Point, Salem's oldest cemetery. For a quirky twist, end your morning with a witch-themed photo shoot, and capture a perfect souvenir.
After lunch, enjoy Salem's cultural institutions. Standouts include the Salem Wax Museum and Witch Village. For a great value, look out for 2-for-1 entry deals, which are typically available with advance purchase. After the Witch Village, walk down Wharf Street—enjoy views of the water, and find several restaurants where you can fill up on fresh, local seafood. If you're inspired by the water views, end your afternoon with a sailing adventure on Salem Sound. Private sailboat charters typically have flexible departures, so it's easy to fit a sail into your busy afternoon.
Head to Washington Street to find a fantastic dinner at one of Salem's favorite restaurants. After your meal, sip an aperitif at a local pub or brewery, and head out for a spooky night on the town with an evening walking tour. Since most night tours last just a couple of hours, it's the perfect way to end your day in Salem and experience the historic downtown streets under the cover of night. Look out for a lantern-led tour, or a ghost tour, for a truly spooky option.