- Julianna Rolaf
A Guide to Salem, Massachusetts
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
If you're a lover of all things spooky and Halloween is your favorite holiday, then Salem, MA is the spot for you. This whimsical city is located just an hour outside of Boston. Salem is most famous for the Salem Witch Trials that took place in 1692. It is also a very popular spot because the famous Disney Channel movie, Hocus Pocus, was filmed here! There are so many things to do including museums, nature, delicious restaurants, breweries, wineries, fun bars, shopping, haunted tours, and much, much more. While most people of course want to visit Salem in October, we stayed the first weekend of November. Personally, I think this was a great decision because everything was still decorated, however, we avoided crowds and had no problem getting into any restaurant we wanted. During our three day trip, my best friend and I stayed at the haunted, Hawthorne Hotel. While charming as it is, rumor has it that guests have frequently reported moving furniture, sightings of ghosts, and unexplained noises.The show Bewitched even filmed an episode here during the 70s, and, in 1990 the hotel held a seance in the Grand Ballroom, trying to contact the famous magician, Harry Houdini. Fortunately for us, nothing too spooky happened, besides them putting us in the room NEXT to the one that's supposed to be the most haunted of them all.
The Hawthorne Hotel is set in the perfect location to be able to walk to just about everything. On our first day of the trip, we arrived around 5pm, checked into the hotel, and went out to dinner. We ate at Ledger, an upscale bar and restaurant serving New England cuisine. Ledger is especially unique because it is set in a 19th century bank vault. Once we finished eating, we headed up the block for The Salem Night Tour. This walking ghost tour takes you through the historical and haunted areas of downtown Salem. What really made the experience was our theatrical tour guide, Sebastian, who painted the perfect vision of Downtown Salem in the late 1600s. I highly recommend putting this on the top of your itinerary. Do you think you're brave enough to walk through the cemetery in the dark?
We started off the second day of our trip by getting breakfast at Gulu Gulu cafe. I had a mocha chocolate coffee and strawberry Nutella crepe, which was delicious. Once we finished eating, we continued down Essex St to start sight seeing. The first place we passed was the Witch house, home of Jonathan Corwin, who was one of the judges during the trials. It is the only standing structure that can still be linked directly back to the Salem Witch Trials. We took a self guided tour through the house to see what life was like living during the 1600s.
Next, we stopped at the Ropes mansion. You may recognize it as Allisons house from Hocus Pocus, but it is more than just a mansion in a Disney movie. There have been many tragic deaths in this house, including the most famous, Abigail Ropes. Rumor has it that this young girls dress ignited in flames from the fireplace. Reports have been made of sightings of her apparition throughout the house. After that, we walked around the block to the Salem Witch Museum. Here, you can learn some of the history and view a presentation of the 1692 trials. The other museum we had to make sure to visit was the Witch Dungeon Museum. Here, you can watch a short, live, reenactment and then take a guided tour through the dungeon where you will see the terrible conditions of the cells that the witches lived in upon waiting on their trial.
📍Ropes Mansion 📍Dungeon Museum 📍Witch Museum
Growing up, Hocus Pocus was one of my FAVORITE childhood Halloween movies, so, of course, we had to see Max and Dani's house. It is now a residential home, but you can quickly pose in front for a photo. Around the corner you can also visit Pioneers Village, a replica of what Salem looked like during the 17th century. The village was used to film the opening scene of the movie as well. Plan accordingly, as it is only open on weekends 12pm-4pm. Unfortunately, we weren't aware of this, so we weren't able to go inside, but we could get a little peak of it over the fence.Pioneers Village is located next to a beautiful river front. We just so happen to get there as the sun was going down and radiating off the colorful autumn tress. If you have time, you have to stop at this park during your trip. New England during the fall is a dream. On the way to dinner, we stopped for a drink and an appetizer at Opus, a trendy spot for small plates, sushi, cocktails, and live events. Let me tell you, the truffle fries are to DIE for! For dinner, we ate at Sea Level Oyster bar. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating (covered in a heated plastic awning during the winter), so you can have a water view year round. Seafood, especially clam and lobster, are a signature dish to order. The waters of Long Island and the Gulf of Maine offer a large variety of fish and shellfish that are a must when visiting New England.
📍Cemetery 📍Opus 📍Sea Level Oyster bar
To start the third day, we got breakfast at the Ugly Mug Diner. If you're a coffee lover, you have to try one of their specials. After eating, we made our way back up Essex St for shopping. The stores on Essex St include nothing short of witchy, spiritual, and spooky shops. One of my favorite shops was Wynott wands, inspired by Ollivanders, the wand shop in the Harry Potter Series. We decided we needed a snack so we headed back to the hotel and sat down at The Tavern. TheTavern offers comfort food, a bar, and fireside dining. Nathaniel's is the other restaurant offered at the Hawthorne Hotel. Here is the perfect spot to start your morning. Enjoy breakfast while sitting by the Grand Piano. In the evening, the restaurant transforms into a lounge. Since we had some extra time before dinner, we decided to go back to Forrest River Park. We had some much fun walking the trail and shooting some content here! I loved out outfits these days because we matched in our oversized sweatshirts and pleated skirts. We tried going for a Hogwarts house inspired look since we visited the wand sop earlier in the day.
As you may have seen on the top of my travel page, I posted a book called "People We Meet on Vacation" by Emily Henry. During the novel, the main character, Poppy, mentions how important it is to stay "on theme" when traveling. This means things like ordering fish and chips in England, gelato in Italy, ect...soooo we had to our fortunes read! We went to Crow Haven corner, and I'd have to say they are pretty on point. I don't think I really take any of it too seriously, but, like I said, when in Rome (or Salem). 💁🏼♀️ It was a really fun experience and definitely one we will always be able to look back on! On our way to dinner, we stopped by the Flying Saucer Pizza Company. Another blogger I follow, @Heyydrayy, had posted a Hocus Pocus themed flight from here and I HAD to try! It did not disappoint! Next time I go back to Salem id love to stay and eat at this quirky style pizza place. After out drinks, we headed to Turners Seafood. This is my favorite restaurant we ate at on out trip. Turners offers a fresh fish market and oyster bar. While Turners offers a a historic charm, it is actually one of the most haunted sites in the city. It's said that if you stand at the bottom of the staircase and look up, the apparition of Bridget Bishops can be spotted.The land Turners sits on was once an apple orchard, owned by Bridget Jones herself. She was the first women executed during the Salem Witch Trials.
Overall, Salem was SUCH a great trip. We really enjoyed site seeing and learning the history of the city. I think my favorite activity was the Salem night tour, as it just fit the "theme" of the trip. Salem offers beautiful scenery, cool shops, restaurants, wineries, brewery's, museums, tours, and so much more!