Salem, MA: A Day Trip from Boston

Salem, a popular historically significant town in Massachusetts, is just a quick hop from Boston. Add this charming little nugget to your Boston or New England itinerary!

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Though I’ve lived in New England for basically my entire life (minus the four years in Korea), I hadn’t ever been up to Salem, MA. That’s a pretty embarrassing fact given how popular Salem is in the fall- especially around Halloween. I don’t particularly care for Halloween, so that probably played a part in why I had never previously made a Salem visit a priority.

As a part of the monthly “Hometown Tourism” series through my local Boston chapter of Wanderful, I finally had the opportunity- and a reason- to visit. Though we were there in fall, I have it on good authority that Salem is a great year-round destination.

Getting to Salem

Driving in during the Halloween/fall season can be a bit of a nightmare. If you get there early and have a few parking lots off the town-center in mind then you’ll be ok.

My recommendation would be to take the MBTA Commuter Rail from North Station in Boston. Its not a long or expensive trip.

To See / To Do

 

Being totally straight with you: if you’re a traveler who needs the constant stimulation of actual “touirsty” things (museums, famous sites, monuments, etc…), then Salem might be an adjustment for you. However, what the area lacks in typical big-city tourism infrastructure, it more than makes up for in small New England town charm.

The main attractions in Salem are… well, basically anything that has to do with the Witch Trials. There are loads of museums and notable houses: The Peabody Essex Museum, The House of Seven Gables, and The Witch House.

Salem also has a fistful of “scary” attractions. Unless you’re hell-bent on spending your money on novelty haunted houses and spook shows; skip ’em (they’re not special).

Everything in Salem is extremely walk-able, which makes it an excellent place to just wander and take in all the sights- for free. Salem has a lot of historic buildings and cemeteries, and the residential areas are full of charming old houses. There are also a bunch of walking tours available.

FREEBIES

Food & Such

Salem’s food options are almost overwhelming. They have everything from coffee shops to pubs to Italian to vegan cafes. Visitor beware: because of the touristy nature of this little town, you would be better off using Yelp than TripAdvisor in your meal search. One thing I’ve found about touristy areas is that if it has enough hype or is gimmick-y or centrally located, the food doesn’t have to be good.

Coffee: Jaho Coffee Roasters & Gulu-Gulu Cafe
Food: Life Alive & New England Soup Factory

…and if you’re in the market for an adult beverage: why go to a boring pub when you can go straight to the source??
Far From The Tree (Cider House & Taproom) is basically all I drink, so getting to visit them in-person was like a dream come true.
Notch Brewery & Taproom is also a great place to grab a local Massachusetts beer!
(…..now do you see why I recommended taking the Commuter Rail versus driving??

 

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My Recommended Itinerary:

I would give Salem just about a full day.

  • Arrive mid-morning, grab a smoothie at Life Alive or a coffee at… well, anywhere.
  • Walk around the town center and find your way over to Proctor’s Ledge.
  • After sufficiently creeped out, wander back into the center of action (be careful to not retrace your footsteps- find a different way!) Stop into Broad Street Cemetery on your way back in.
  • Pick a museum  and maybe a walking tour. The Peabody Essex Museum is right next to the Witch Trials Memorial, so oyu can check off two items right there!
  • You’ll probably be hungry by now, so grab some soup at NE Soup Factory or consult Yelp to find whatever you’re craving.
  • Howard Street Cemetery and the Salem Common are great places to check out on your way towards the waterfront.
  • Got good walking shoes? Stroll on over to Winter Island for some great views.
  • If your footwear is lacking, or you just need to perch for a little while…. find your way to Jaho and either hang inside or take your coffee to go and wander around the Derby Waterfront District – but beware of seagulls!
  • After a full day of meandering the streets and learning about “witches” you might need a drink. Far From The Tree is off the city center, so start there and sample their offerings with a flight! Then to top off the day, grab one last beer at Notch before you head off to dinner or back to home-base.

Though a day might be enough, Salem is a  great home-base for a New England trip. Given that it is so close to Boston, but also metro north of the city, you can easily access the history of the city and the foliage and beauty of the nature up north. Keep in mind that Salem can be quite a busy place, so be sure to book your accommodations as early as possible.

 

Though Salem is really a year-round destination, fall is when this little city really shines. As if the Witch Trial sites, graveyards, and colonial architecture weren't enough if a pull – autumn brings all the Halloweeny activities anyone could ever want. As someone who is totally ambivalent about Halloween, visiting Salem during their busiest season is definitely an experience that locals and visitors alike need to have. Also, my favorite local craft alcohol establishment is in Salem: @farfromthetreecider! • Going to Salem soon? Check out the quick guide linked in my bio! • • #salem #october #waterfront #bostontravel #eastcoast #salemma #scenesofnewengland #urbanexploring #halloween #igersnewengland #igtravel #cloudporn #natgeotravel  #igboston #ignewengland

A post shared by 《 KatieD 》 (@thebudgetbackpack) on

 

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Check out the map I made marking all the top attractions, food, coffee, and libations:


Salem, a popular historically significant town in Massachusetts, is just a quick hop from Boston. Add this charming little nugget to your Boston or New England itinerary!

  • What do you think of day trips from major destinations?
  • Do you prefer to stay in the city or venture out on day trips?
  • How do you approach smaller cities/towns that don’t have major tourist attractions?
  • Have you ever been to Salem?

This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are great in that you can grab the product at no extra cost to you, but I get a teeny-tiny percentage of that sale (its like getting recognition for advertising products I already love!)

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17 Comments

  1. I have lived in Boston for 10 years and never made it to Salem either although I say every year I am going to go. I am hoping to go for Halloween this year. I am bookmarking this for your great itinerary!

    • Oh wow! Yeah the day trip with Wanderful last year was my first time and I had SUCH a good time. I’m obsessed with Far From The Tree cider and their taproom is there, so it made the day just so much better!

  2. I didn’t realise this was such an achievable day trip from Boston. I am really keen to explore New England so this is useful to know. Is it a walkable city? I’m used to European cities and my experience thus far of North American cities is that walking can be a bit ambitious at times.

    • Salem is super walkable! The train lets off downtown and most of the things to see are within about a mile. Boston is also quite walkable,but I would definitely recommend good shoes if you take it on on foot!

  3. Never been to New England or Salem so this is a great addition to my wishlist. We have a village in South India called Salem and it always intrigued me that there was a similarly named place in the US – I assure you though they are world’s apart in every way 🙂

  4. I like your neat and compact itinerary. I would love to have this trip. The stick house exhibition particularly sounds interesting to me. Never heard of something like that

  5. I was always curious about how it would be to visit Salem and if there would be anything to see and do there – well you’ve definitely answered my question :). I would love to visit the museums and learn about the witch trials. Also the taproom :).

  6. Awesome! I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Salem, and I am actually kind of glad to hear that it hasn’t become a tourist trap and retains that old New England charm.

    Looking forward to a historical getaway there one day soon!

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