Considering a trip to The Witch City? Here is how to spend 2 days in Salem, Massachusetts and have the best time!
Salem, Massachusetts, is a city steeped in history, intrigue, and a touch of mysticism, so I knew I definitely wanted to visit one day. As my mom’s September birthday neared, I thought “Why don’t we just take a girls trip to Salem?” Known for its infamous witch trials of 1692, this coastal city offers so much more than just spooky stories (but admittedly that is a huge part of it!). From its rich maritime heritage to an eclectic dining scene, Salem has something to captivate pretty much every traveler. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or well, witches, a 2-day getaway in Salem is the perfect way to explore it all.
How To Spend 2 Days In Salem, Massachusetts
Like I said, this was a girls trip with my mom and as the date got closer, our anticipation grew. The only thing I really knew about Salem was the witch trials. Of course, I also knew that it was the filming location for Hocus Pocus, but beyond that, I really didn’t know much. I can honestly say that my mom and I had the best time for our trip and agree that two days is truly the perfect amount of time.
Day 1: Exploring Salem’s History and Culture
Morning: Getting to Salem
We flew from Washington, DC directly into Boston. From Boston, we knew we could take Uber, the train or a ferry out to Salem. Ultimately we opted for an Uber, which was about 40 minutes and $40. Not terrible. The train is much cheaper (I think $8).
Where to Stay: Hampton Inn Salem
We were able to book our stay at Hampton Inn Salem using points and the location is the perfect base for your two-day adventure. Salem is SUCH a walkable town and all the hotels we saw in the area offer great locations, too, if I’m being honest. I didn’t see any haunting stories on the Hampton, though, which was another selling point 😉
Right around the corner from the hotel is Salem’s famous Red’s Sandwich Shop. I have to be honest, I was fully expecting sandwiches, even though we went for breakfast. The service is very fast and the food is standard diner fare. My mom had an English muffin egg sandwich and I had an omelette. Nothing fancy, but it hit the spot!
Afternoon: Witch History Museum, Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Essex Street + Chestnut Street
Begin your exploration of Salem with a visit to the Witch History Museum. This interactive museum takes you on a journey through the Salem witch trials, providing an in-depth look at the events that transpired during that dark period and really helps paint a picture of how everything transpired. I will warn you, there are A LOT of mannequins in this diorama-style presentation that may frighten younger visitors. TBH, they sort of scared me, and worth noting: no photos are allowed inside during the month of October.
Afterwards, we headed to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, a serene place to reflect on the tragic history of the witch trials. The simple stone benches inscribed with the names of the victims offer a somber reminder of the past. What was most moving to me were the last words of the victims inscribed in stone at the entrance.
We skipped lunch in favor of delicious coffees from The Brew Box. My mom had a kettle corn flavored coffee and I had a vanilla latte – both were wonderful!
Exploring Essex Street is an experience all its own and there are plenty of shops to pop in and out of along the way. One thing I didn’t expect in Salem (and I don’t know why) is the amount of costumes we saw. I think my mom and I were the only ones not wearing costumes, but it was fun to see everyone so dressed up!
Walking down Chestnut Street while you’re in Salem is an absolute MUST. It’s the widest street in the town and all of the mansions along it are decorated beautifully.
Evening: Dinner at The Lobster Shanty + Evening Walking Tour
For a taste of Salem’s maritime history, dine at The Lobster Shanty, a cozy seafood restaurant with a nautical theme. Know that this is nothing fancy, but it’s good food with quick service. I had the baked shrimp with tator tots (don’t question it – just enjoy it!) and it was $20.
After dinner, we headed on Witch City Walking Tours’ Hauntings & Happenings tour and both my mom and I would tell you that it was a total highlight of our trip. We loved it so much and our tour guide Michael was funny and informative. The tour itself is around 2 hours, maybe a little more depending on how fast your group moves. Word of warning: the groups are large (ours was around 40), but the guides wear mics to help. We got to see a lot of the highlights of the town including the Witch House, the first church of Salem, Ropes Mansion and some of the town lore.
Day 2: Maritime Adventures and Culinary Delights
Morning: Peabody Essex Museum + Permanent Jewelry
After breakfast (free at the Hampton!), visit the Peabody Essex Museum, one of the oldest and most significant museums in the United States. It boasts a diverse collection of art and cultural artifacts, including maritime history exhibits, Asian art, and contemporary works. We were disappointed that it was closed the two days we were there (be sure to check the hours!), because it was at the top of the list for both of us.
Because we didn’t have the opportunity to get into the museum on this trip, we strolled around Salem and decided to treat ourselves to permanent bracelets at Jenni Stuart. After the walking tour, this was my favorite part of the trip. It’s such a fun memento of traveling with my mom and the people (all certified goldsmiths) could not have been nicer. This is a pricier venture (~250) but well worth it in my opinion.
For a quick lunch, head to Bambolina which is a little bit off the beaten path of Essex Street. It’s a unique pizza and ramen fusion restaurant which sounds weird, but trust me, the menu is insane. My mom and I split a pizza and salad and both were excellent. The pizza dough is super soft and puffy!
Afternoon: Salem Maritime National Historic Site + Hocus Pocus Movie Tour
At the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, you can explore historic ships, waterfront buildings, and learn about Salem’s role in early American trade. Walking down by the waterfront is a completely different experience than Essex Street and so relaxing. We lucked out with 75+ degree temperatures in October so being by the water was such a treat.
After getting your fill if maritime history, take the afternoon to enjoy stopping at the various Hocus Pocus movie locations around Salem. The Hampton gave us a fun little map they made with information about each site, plus how to get there. There are also plenty of guided tours that focus specifically on Hocus Pocus, too. Our evening tour was phenomenal so I would have definitely considered doing a second one.
Evening: Dinner at Bella Verona
Everyone we talked to before the trip recommended dinner at Bella Verona, so we made an advanced reservation. When we were getting our bracelets made, the jeweler even commented how good the food is, so we were thrilled to be able to enjoy it. The food is excellent, the service is fast and the atmosphere is intimate. It’s off the touristy path from Salem’s other restaurants and tucked adjacent to the Hawthorne Hotel. We both got pumpkin ravioli (a seasonal special) and it was filled with flavor! I would say that it was above-average in pricing (compared to other restaurants in Salem) but worth it!
Additional Tips For 2 Days In Salem:
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Salem’s numerous shops, boutiques, and art galleries. Salem is famous for its witch-themed souvenirs, but you’ll also find unique art, antiques, and handmade crafts.
If you’re a fan of the supernatural, consider taking a guided ghost tour in the evening to explore Salem’s spookier side. I got just enough from ours, but there are SO MANY spooky/haunted/scary tours to choose from.
If you’re visiting Salem in the fall, book as many things in advance as you can. We visited just before Haunted Happenings began and it was already packed. Salem gets around 1 million visitors in the month of October alone!
Remember to check the operating hours of any places you plan to visit, eat at or tour. One thing we noticed was that all the businesses seemed to operate on very different schedules and were closed for periods of time during the day.
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