Things to do for Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts

Any Halloween lover must pay a visit to Salem, Massachusetts, known by many to be the “Halloween Capital of the World.” The historical significance of the town (most notably the infamous witchcraft trials of 1692) alone warrants a visit. A combination of haunted and historical attractions and festive events draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, especially during the month of October. Make sure to visit the Witch’s House, the only standing Salem structure with ties to the witchcraft trials.

The Witch house located at 310 Essex Street was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin

Witch's House in Salem, Massachusetts

Tours, both guided and self-guided, are available daily from March 15th-October 30th, between the hours of 10-5pm. Visit the Witch House website for information on pricing and special events.

Also be sure to check out the Witch Trials Memorial and Old Burying Point cemetery, both located on Charter Street. The Witch Trial Memorial will take you through 20 dated granite stones, each representing one of the accused.

Witch Memorial in Salem, Massachusetts

Old Burying Point is the oldest cemetery in Salem. Here you will find the gravestone of Justice John Hawthorne, one of the judges in the Witchcraft Trials. Established in 1637, this cemetery stands as the second oldest in the country. Fall is an ideal time to visit with the beautiful foliage creating an even spookier ambiance.

Old Burying Point in Salem, Massachusetts
Old Burying Point Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts

A leaf peeping hotspot

Whether or not you are a Halloween buff, Salem also makes for an ideal fall destination. Gorgeous fall foliage surrounds historic homes and beautiful old buildings. Beautiful parks and cemeteries are alive with the vivid colors of the season. Fall foliage cruises offer a relaxing opportunity to take in the seasonal beauty.

Fall colors lining the streets of Salem, Massachusetts
Pretty yellow foliage lining the streets of Salem, Massachusetts
Beautiful fall foliage in Salem, Massachusetts
Medly of fall colors in Salem, Massachusetts

It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus!

Salem is the filming location of various Halloween/Horror movies, including the popular cult classic Hocus Pocus. You will be able to check out many of the filming locations during your time here.

At 318 Essex Street stands The Ropes Mansion, owned by the Peabody Essex Museum. The house is no longer open to the public for tours, however, the gardens are open year round. This house was used as Allison’s home in Hocus Pocus.

Hocus Pocus filming location in Salem, MA - Allison's house

4 Ocean Drive is the house the Dennison’s reside in (Dani and Max) in Hocus Pocus. Although located on the waterfront, the filming angle made it appear to be located on a side street. Let’s just say it’s a must stop for any Hocus Pocus fans out there! Note: This is a private residence. Only take photos or view from your vehicle! Do not bother current residences by taking photos on their property!

Hocus Pocus filming location - Max and Dani's house

32 Derby Square is the site of Old Town Hall, used during filming as the exterior shot of Max and Dani’s parent’s Halloween Party.  This building, the oldest standing municipal structure in Salem, now houses a small museum. Additionally, several Halloween themed performances take place throughout the season.

Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts- Hocus Pocus filming location

Halloween attractions

Zombie on Salem Haunted Harbor cruise

Halloween is the prime time of the year to visit Salem as the entire month is filled with specialty events and attractions. During October, you can look forward to haunted houses, Halloween vendors, costume contests, and other unique Halloween festivals in an annual tradition known as Haunted Happenings. You also have your pick between dozens of festive witch & Halloween themed shops. Bewitched and HEX both are interesting shops to browse around.

A few great Halloween themed attractions to check into during your visit include Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery and the Haunted Harbor cruise. Salem is absolutely packed this time of year, although this is no surprise being that it is one of America’s best Halloween towns. And unlike other touristy places, Salem is absolutely worth visiting as the Halloween atmosphere is just so incredible – nothing else really compares. From vendors selling specialty Halloween apparel and props, to families and couples dressed in their best costumes, to the gorgeous colors of fall everywhere, it is impossible not to get into the Halloween spirit.

I recommend mapping out a plan of action before visiting Salem, especially around this busy time of year. The attractions will be incredibly crowded and Essex Street (where most of the attractions and vendors are located) is extremely crowded.  It would easier to pinpoint your attractions versus trying to find something to do amidst the crowds. Haunted Happenings is a great publication which lists all the major events. Check out the Haunted Happenings guide to see a full listing of this year’s events. Here’s a few of the must-do Halloween events & activities if you are limited on time.

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery

Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery in Salem, Massachusetts

Being a big horror movie fan, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery was first on my list. This museum includes wax figurines from horror movies both past and present. Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street), Jason (Friday the 13th), Pennywise (Stephen King’s It), and Beetlejuice are just a few of the great recreations you will find. You will walk through an eerie, dark path viewing the realistic wax statues; it’s the perfect creepy ambiance for the horror movie theme.

Unlike a regular wax museum, here you get the feeling of walking through a dungeon. At night, the museum is transformed into a haunted house.  Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside, thus we were unable to take any photos. Take my word for it – Count Orlok’s is one of the better attractions in town. Make sure to book your tickets online to save money or check Groupon for special deals to this attraction and others in the area.

Haunted Harbor Boat Cruise

Mahi Mahi cruises in Salem, Massachusetts

Mahi Mahi Cruises offers a selection of Halloween themed cruises throughout the month of October. Whether you are interested in a daytime Halloween themed cruise, or an adult’s only Cocktail Boo’s Cruise (a nightly harbor cruise including a costume contest and specialty drinks), you are sure to have a festive time! Mike & I took a 3:00 Haunted Harbor cruise. The boat was decorated nicely for the holidays with lots of festive spooky decor such as skeletons and zombies hanging off the boat.

Tarot card readers, fortune tellers, and face painters added to the Halloween ambiance. Spiced apple cider and seasonal fall beers were available to create an even more special Halloween ambiance. Spooky music played in the background while crew members told their stories about various hauntings in the area. Add in chilly fall temps and gorgeous colors surrounding the coast, and you have the picture-perfect fall ambiance. Unfortunately, we took the ride just a bit past peak foliage, so I recommend timing your trip during the prime of fall for the best photo opps.

Salem, MA harbor fall colors
Salem, MA harbor
Lighthouse in Salem, MA

This 2 level boat is heated (on the bottom level only), therefore, I recommend getting in line as early as possible to ensure a heated seat (only a limited number are available). All bottom level seats were filled by the time we got in line (about 15 minutes prior to departure).

A fabulous fall & Halloween destination!

Whatever you decide to do, you are bound to have a blast this holiday season in Salem. Festive shopping, entertainment, and attractions await your arrival. Throw in a little bit of eerie history and you have the number one stop for Halloween adventure in New England.

Witch display in Salem, Massachusetts