Boston to Salem Day Trip: 13 Thrilling Attractions Beyond Halloween

Salem, Massachusetts is a favorite fall destination in New England that’s especially popular during October. It makes a great Boston to Salem day trip.

With historic and present-day ties to witchcraft, Salem rings in the Halloween spirit with loads of seasonal activities from pumpkin carving to a Witches Ball.

But did you know Salem is a waterfront hub brimming with fine dining, cultural attractions, and a vibrant arts community worth visiting year-round?

We spent a magical day discovering a cool summer slice of this historic colonial town. It was a quick day trip from Boston, but we could have lingered or spread these activities (and more) over a long weekend.

Instead, we powered through one day in Salem we won’t soon forget. Check out these things to do in Salem most any time of year.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated in May of 2022.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an affiliate, I earn a small commission every time you make a qualifying purchase through one of my affiliate links (if applicable) at no additional cost to you.

One Day in Salem MA

13 Thrilling Attractions in Salem Massachusetts

–> You can save this article for later. Just pin it to Pinterest!

NOTE: If you’re specifically looking for Halloween or “spooky” activities in Salem, Massachusetts, our friends at Oddities & Curiosities have created this great list of things to do in Salem in October.

CONTENTS: In this article, you will discover:

How Far is Salem from Boston?

Salem is on the waterfront about twenty (20) miles north of Boston, Massachusetts.

There are a few ways to get there, whether you’re taking a day trip from Boston or staying longer:

  • Drive a car and park for free all day at the Blaney Street Pier
  • Take the bus from Haymarket Square (#450 or #455) to downtown Salem
  • Ride the Salem Commuter Rail from North Station; take the Rockport/Ipswich Line to Salem Depot
  • Ride the Salem Ferry from Boston’s Long Wharf, disembarking at the Blaney Street Pier.

Tip: Boston’s Logan International Airport is the closest airport to Salem. (Sorry, the only direct flights to Salem MA are by broom!)

RELATED: Looking for overnight accommodations? You might like our review of Mandarin Oriental Boston, a 5-Star Luxury Hotel in the heart of Back Bay. 

Getting Around Salem

Once you arrive, getting around Salem is easy.

That’s because Salem is a very walkable town. We covered all the more ground in one day thanks to Salem Trolley tours.

They picked us up at the Blaney Street Pier. Our entertaining guide, Ron, narrated important Salem landmarks as we drove along.

We hopped on and off throughout the tour to explore further on foot. Once you buy a ticket, it’s free all day!

Plus, we loved the vintage interior and air conditioning, too.

Salem Trolley Tours in Salem Massachusetts

Tip: Taking the Boson to Salem Ferry? You can save time and money by getting a Combo Ticket that covers both the Ferry and Trolley.

1-Day Salem Itinerary: Boston to Salem Day Trip

You can pack your visit with activities like we did for a Boston to Salem day trip. Or you can easily spread these attractions over several days for more in-depth exploration.

We enjoyed so many fabulous things on this day trip to Salem MA!


1. The Peabody Essex Museum

Did you know you can find the only Chinese House in America at The Peabody Essex Museum?

The museum rescued Yin Yu Tang (“Hall of Plentiful Shelter”) from the mountains of Anhui China. Then, they reconstructed it piece-by-piece for this incredible permanent exhibit.

Touring this late 18th century multi-generational home is an experience like no other.

The building features an incredible experience, including:

  • Ornate decorative details throughout
  • A ceiling open to the sky
  • Koi fish swimming in the reception hall
  • Family sleeping spaces in each corner of the two levels.

It holds sixteen shared bedrooms. That’s only one of the ways you’ll notice how different life in this two-storied home might have been from western-style homes.

After visiting this traditional Chinese house, our nondescript single-family boxes seem so insulated from the natural environment.

Traditional Chinese House

I felt almost transported through space and time here. I imagined a day of journaling the day’s work behind an ornate wooden screen with views to the sky above.
Roof with a view to the sky at the Chinese House, Peabody Essex Museum in Salem
Chinese House bedroom at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem MA
Writing desk at the Chinese House exhibit, Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Mass.
Our guide pointed out speakers above, through which Mao Tse-tung and the Communist Party piped political propaganda into this mountain village home.

Chinese relics at the Chinese House at the PEM, Salem Massachusetts

Hallways wrap the perimeter of the second floor with a shuttered balcony overlooking the floor below.

You’ll find a small window that gives view to the tiled roof and Chinese architecture below. This was commissioned by a Chinese merchant for his family.

Yin Yu Tang is a permanent exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum and is well-worth making the visit.

In fact, we could have spent several hours among the exhibits, but we had lunch reservations and a full day ahead.

If you have the time, plan to spend at least two (2) hours, ideally the better part of a day for a more thorough tour of the Peabody Essex Museum.

With its latest expansion in 2019, PEM ranks in the Top 10 North American art museums, covering maritime, American, Asian, Oceanic, African art.

2. Finz Seafood and Grill

If you’re looking to dine on the waterfront and enjoy the freshest seafood, look no further than Finz of Salem.

We give this upscale-casual restaurant high marks after having enjoyed an exceptionally well-crafted lunch here.

RELATED:  If you love seafood, read our review of il Molo in the North End of Boston.

Pescatarians will be happy to know the Finz menu is a creative and extensive selection of freshly prepared seafood. In addition, built-in raw and sushi bars team with fresh fish on ice and made-to-order Sushi, Nigiri, and Sashimi.

Raw and Sushi Bar at Finz of Salem

Tip: Not in the mood for fish? You’ll also find choices on the Finz Menu for meat lovers. This includes Black Angus Burger, BBLT (double bacon), and Filet Mignon prepared with a demi-glace, crispy onions, and blue cheese drizzle.

We began our lunch with the House Green Salad, a simple blend of field greens, tomato, avocado, and carrots dressed with just the right amount of a zippy balsamic vinaigrette.

Next, we sampled one of the best clam chowders I’ve tasted in a long time. Finz Clam Chowder is rich and creamy with sweet undertones.

I could have easily made a meal of the chowder paired with the warm rolls and whipped butter.

Delicious Entrees

The Baja Fish Tacos featured three corn tacos.

Each was filled with ample fried haddock, topped with lettuce, tomato, and Cotija cheese, then drizzled with cilantro creme fraiche.

They arrived with a festive side of tomato avocado salsa. The tacos were excellent—almost too much food for lunch (said my dining partner).

Baja Tacos, Finz Seafood and Grill in Salem MA

My North Atlantic Haddock was delectable, too.

Stuffed with lump crabmeat and served alongside a dollop of whipped potatoes and just-tender cauliflower and broccoli spears, the haddock rested upon an indulgent pink seafood sherry cream sauce.

I lapped up every luscious drop.

Crab Stuffed Haddock lunch at Finz in Salem Massachusetts

The upscale-casual dining room itself is spacious.

It features walls of windows overlooking Salem Harbor and Finz’ outdoor seating. The Harbor Room is also well-suited for cocktail style or seated private events overlooking Salem Harbor.

It was an honor to receive a personal visit from Finz Owner and host, George Carey while we dined. He ensured our table was satisfied with our meals and overall dining experience.

We couldn’t have been happier.

As if all this weren’t enough, it’s worth noting that Finz prepares dishes that honor seasonality, sustainability, and the fishing community.

No wonder Finz is award-winning!

RELATED:  Heading further north? We think you’ll love this Seafood Restaurant in Brunswick Maine.

3. Schooner Fame

Our next stop on our day trip to Salem, MA was sailing on the Fame of Salem. According to TripAdvisor, it’s the top-rated outdoor activity and top-rated boat ride in Salem.

It gets high marks on our Boston to Salem day trip, too!

Schooner Fame of Salem Massachusetts

Depending on the season, these sailing tours aboard an 1812 privateer replica embark from Pickering Wharf Marina up to five times daily. The tour is 90-minutes long.

You can buy tickets online or right at the wharf, subject to availability. They also offer special group rates and sunset sails.

For this adventure, you want to wear:

  • Sensible shoes
  • Sun protection
  • Sweatshirt or light jacket for cooler air and sea winds

You can buy beer, wine, drinks, and snacks aboard the Schooner Fame. You can even bring a sandwich on board if you’d like. (Leave BYOB drinks and coolers behind, though.)

With Capt. Mike’s guidance and the help of crew-members, Charlie and Parker, we raised the three beautiful sails.

They filled with sea winds strong enough to move us along at a good clip!

Fame of Salem Sails, Best Boating Activity in Salem MA

The prevalent weather and seas determine the sailing route.

We cruised out of and around Salem Harbor and back. All the while, Capt. Mike shared entertaining seafaring stories about the history of the vessel and the War of 1812.

Steer the Fame with the Tiller

The Fame uses a long wooden tiller as opposed to a wheel to steer the ship’s course. Several of us took turns navigating between the buoys at sea and in Salem Harbor.

Capt. Mike even fired the miniature cannon!

The Schooner Fame would have used these to seize vessels in the waters of Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

Tip: Cover your ears. The cannon is small but loud!

On our return, we cruised past Derby Wharf Light. Built in 1871, this white square tower is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Its original light was a fixed red oil lamp with a Fresnel lens. Today, it is solar powered.

Ships can see the signature red flash as far as four (4) nautical miles from shore.

Fame of Salem Derby Wharf Light

Tip: You can also walk out to Derby Wharf Light on foot.

We enjoyed a perfect sailing day aboard the Schooner Fame.

Fortunately, the only “Dark and Stormy” I encountered was my tasty drink, made with local rum.

My favorite part of the tour was relaxing and taking in the peaceful vibe of smooth sailing aboard The Fame of Salem.

4. Salem Food Tours – One Day in Salem for Foodies!

We took a customized and very entertaining food tour courtesy of Salem Food Tours.

The tour was a combination of on-foot and trolley ride, led and narrated by a 1950’s housewife character played by Karen Scalia. She was dressed in full ‘50s attire, including a stylish 50s skirt!

In character, Karen shared 1950s supermarket ads, amusing trivia, and naivete to modern ways. She ushered us through stops for wine, cheese, and chocolate.

We thoroughly enjoyed our custom tour with Salem Food Tours. I

‘d love to check out their other food tours, coffee walks, and spirit tours, too!

What better way to explore the culinary renaissance underway in Salem?

Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring an umbrella if the weather calls for it. Consider bringing a shopping bag along for any tempting purchases along the way, too!

Karen Scalia of Salem Food Tours aboard a Salem Trolley Tour, Salem MA

5. Pamplemousse

On our food tour, we stopped at Pamplemousse, a European inspired gourmet market, to sample some delicious local wines. Pamplemousse hosts a weekly wine tasting on Saturdays from 2 to 4 pm.

I especially liked Mead, or honey wine.

It’s one of the oldest alcoholic drinks made from fermented honey and water. I found it to be sweet and earthy, and you can drink it cold or hot.

We had it chilled, but I imagine it would be oh-so soothing on a cool fall day.

At Pamplemousse, you’ll also find:

  • Sandwiches
  • Gift baskets
  • A wine club
  • Gourmet grocery
  • Kitchen gadgets
  • Homeware, and much more
Mead or Honey Wine Tasting at Pamplemouse in Salem MA

6. The Cheese Shop of Salem

Next, we stopped at The Cheese Shop of Salem to sample delicious (and beautiful!) hors d’oeuvres prepared for us.

The Cheesemonger described each of the cheeses he presented in combination with savory or sweet ingredients, as well as fitting wine pairings. All the samples were tasty, but everyone really loved the raspberry-topped soft cheese and crackers.

The Cheese Shop of Salem MA cheese samples

Then, we sampled some of the cheese from the counter.

My favorites were a delicious hard Manchego from Spain and a creamy blend of goat and sheep milk cheese called “Aussie Magic.” This soft cheese from an Australian dairy was soaking in garlic-infused oil, herbs, and peppercorns.

Believe me, it tastes out of this world!

7. Kakawa Chocolate House

At Kakawa Chocolate House, we got a behind-the-scenes look at chocolate making.

That also came along with a tasting of a variety of delectable chocolate samples! We tried and learned about:

  • White chocolate
  • Semi-sweet chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Dark chocolate

We also drank some luxurious Chocolate Chili Elixir amped up with a slow chili burn.

It turns out that chocolate and chili make a wonderful combination! You’ll even find roasted Arbol Chilis dipped in caramel and chocolate at Kakawa for the spice-lover in your life.

Perhaps it’s a sweet-spicy nod to Kakawa Chocolate House’s flagship locations in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This laid back chocolate shop has a relaxed vibe.

Its fully stocked chocolate counter invites guests to stay awhile to enjoy a delicious cup of sipping chocolate, truffles, and other sweet confections.

Definitely plan a stop here!

Kakawa Chocolate House in Salem, chocolate making

Tip: While you’re in Salem, don’t forget to check out a few other sweet spots in Salem, like Turtle Alley Chocolates, Harbor Sweets Chocolates, and Popped! Gourmet Popcorn.

8. Modern Millie

If you’re curious about the 1950s outfit Karen is wearing, she got her whole vintage-inspired look at Salem’s Modern Millie Shop.

Modern Millie’s is a popular and unique shopping destination with local notoriety. Perhaps you’ll remember its namesake, the 1967 movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie.

What is Modern Millie?

9. Artists’ Row

Love art? Then check out Salem’s Artists’ Row.

It’s a seasonal incubator where local artists and artisans have an opportunity to build their audience and engage with visitors.

In addition to admiring fine art on Artists Row, we had some good laughs modeling hats made from recycled plastic bags.

We also shopped curative handmade soaps by Hervor Soaps at Grace & Diggs. There’s even an “Oh Snap!” selfie studio to capture those instagrammable moments in Salem, here!

You’ll find Artists’ Row in downtown Salem across from the Old Town Hall and Derby Square.

It is a City of Salem Arts Space Initiative and is open from April to early November.

Tip: Watch for Artists’ Row Artist Application Forms early in the new year.

Hervor soaps at Grace & Diggs, Salem MA

Witchy Things, Fortune-Telling & Healing

No trip to Salem would be complete without delving a bit into the otherworldly.

Salem is imbued with all things witchy, including:

  • Fortune-telling
  • Healing arts
  • New-age magic, and more!

We made two more fun stops on our day trip to Salem. Read more about them, below.

10. HausWitch

First, we visited HausWitch | Home + Healing.

It’s a welcoming den of intention candles, house spells, essential oils, healing crystals, and other delightful gifts.

This modern metaphysical shop aligns herbal and other magic with interior home design. You can also find energy healing, creative services, moon sister retreats, and immersive group trips at HauseWitch.

In a word, it’s enchanting.

RELATED: HausWitch founder, Erica Feldmann wrote the book HausMagick which dives deeper into six elements of interior space principles. If you’re setting up house or just need to re-energize your space, checkout this a unique transformative guide. 
HausWitch Shop crystals and other goods on display in Salem MA

11. OMEN Psychic Parlor and Witches Emporium

If it’s divination and witchcraft you’re seeking, look no further than OMEN.

It’s chock-full of crystals, gems, and jewelry, occult books and tarot cards, spell kits, amulets, candles, incense, herbs and potions. You’ll even find broomsticks!

You can consult Spirit Mediums and Tarot Readers at Omen. You can also participate in Salem Seances and other psychic events.

Before you leave, submit a note of intention to the Healing Alter over which the Witches of OMEN will meditate.

I indulged in a 15-minute in-person tarot card reading and I loved what my psychic reader had to say about my future.

Tarot Card art at Omen Psychic Parlor and WItch Emporium, Salem MA

12. House of the Seven Gables

I vaguely remember visiting The House of the Seven Gables on a childhood field trip.

It was after reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same name. I happily returned here with full appreciation for its history and lore.

The Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in Salem was built in 1668. It served as the setting of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous 1851 novel.

This building has undergone multiple architectural modifications over its 350 years. Most recently, they restored the seven roof points or “gables” and added fictitiously inspired elements.

Among them are the Hepzibah’s Cent Shop and the hidden staircase that aligns with the novel’s setting and plot.

Our knowledgeable tour guide, Michael, pointed out many fascinating historical and architectural details.

Beyond its preservation, this early home is spectacular in many ways. The property includes waterfront views and colorful seaside gardens.

To wrap up the tour, we enjoyed a cocktail on the grounds overlooking Salem Harbor.

Incidentally, this makes a lovely backdrop for weddings and private parties.

Seaside gardens in bloom at the historic House of the Seven Gables in Salem Massachusetts
Dining Room at House of the Seven Gables in Salem MA
House of the Seven Gables grounds overlooking Salem Harbor, Salem MA

13. Opus

We celebrated a perfect day with Happy Hour at Salem’s Opus!

Opus has an extensive appetizer menu and creative signature drinks. These things make it a popular stop for patrons near and far.

Note that the sushi is outstanding and the appetizers are exceptional. Each is flavorful and made with care.

Confession: The Hibiscus Bloom cocktails were so smooth, more like drinking fruit punch. (Good thing we took the trolley!)

This diverse mix of amazing flavors and good fun ended our Boston to Salem day trip on a positive note.

Did I mention the bar glows?!

Appetizers and sushi at Opus in Salem MA
Hibiscus cocktail at Opus, Salem MA
RELATED: Set in both historic and modern-day Salem, the novel The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe is a page-turner. It is a fictional follow up to The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane. I couldn’t put down! 

Final Thoughts on Our Boston to Salem Day Trip

Salem is one of the best day trips from Boston.

It’s rich in history and culture, as well as a host to a burgeoning culinary and art scene.

While it’s best known as one of the Best Halloween Destinations, this coastal community is gaining popularly year round. You’ll find plenty of great things to do in Salem well before and beyond Halloween.

After this adventure, Salem just may be my favorite north of Boston day trip from Boston.

Tip: You’ll find Salem to be much less crowded during October weekdays and months other than October.

I’d love to know in the comments below, where is your favorite day trip from Boston?


Boston to Salem Day Trip: Resource List

(listed alphabetically)

A-M

Artists Row
24 New Derby Street
Salem, MA 01970
978-619-5685

Boston Harbor Cruises (Salem Ferry)
1 Long Wharf
Boston, MA 02110
[email protected]
617-227-4321 or 1-877-SEE-WHALE (733-9425)

Destination Salem
P.O. Box 630
Salem, MA 01970
[email protected]
978-744-3663 or 877 SALEM MA (725-3662)

Fame of Salem
86 Wharf Street, Pickering Wharf
Salem, MA 01970
[email protected]
978-729-7600

Finz Seafood & Grill
86 Wharf Street
Pickering Wharf
Salem, MA 01970
[email protected]
Tel: 978-744-8485

Grace & Diggs
Artists Row
24 New Derby Street
Salem, MA 01970
Tel: (978) 619-5685

Hervor Soaps
[email protected]
Tel: 978-304-9652

Harbor Sweets*
85 Leavitt Street
Salem MA 01970
1-800-243-2115
* Home of the Sweet Sloop

Hauswitch Home + Healing*
144 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970
Tel: (978) 594-8950
* Check out their book!

Kakawa Chocolate House*
173 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970
617-548-4567
* Locations in Santa Fe, NM

Modern Millie Shop
3 Central Street
Salem, Ma 01970
[email protected]`
Tel: 978-745-0231

N-Z

OMEN Psychic Parlor and Witchcraft Emporium
184 Essex Street
Salem MA 01970
Tel: (978) 666-0763

Opus
87 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970<
[email protected]
Tel: 978-744-9600

Pamplemousse*
185 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970
Tel: 978-745-2900
* Also in Reading, MA

Peabody Essex Museum
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970
[email protected]
Tel: 978-745-9500

Popped! Gourmet Popcorn
84 Wharf Street,
Salem, Ma. 01970
Tel:978-594-0609

Root NS
Harbor Point Event Space, non-profit
Shetland Park
35 Congress Street, Suite 2350, 3rd Floor
Salem, MA 01970
Tel: 978-616-7615

Salem Food Tours
Salem, Massachusetts
info[email protected]
Tel: 978-594-8811

Salem Trolley
8 Central Street
Salem, MA  01970
[email protected]
Tel: 978-744-5469

The Cheese Shop of Salem*
45 Lafayette Street
Salem, MA, 01970
Tel: (978) 498-4820
* Free Wine Tastings Fridays 5-7PM and Saturdays 4-6PM

Turtle Alley Chocolates
318 Derby Street
Salem, MA 01970
[email protected]
Tel: 978-740-0660

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Salem Day Trip

Is Salem a day trip from Boston?

Yes, Salem is a great day trip from Boston! It’s a quick ride with convenient public transportation options. You can easily fill your day with fun things to do.

Is a day trip to Salem worth it?

Yes! You’ll find something for everyone when you visit Salem, Mass. From historic sites, sailing excursions, an excellent food scene, museums, shopping, and modern-day witches, Salem is a worthwhile day trip from Boston.

Where is the house from Hocus Pocus?

You can find Max and Dani’s house from the Halloween comedy-fantasy film, Hocus Pocus (1993) at 10 Ocean Avenue in Salem. It’s easily recognized by the cupola. Unlike many movie sets, the house looks the same as it did when the movie was made, so you won’t be disappointed.

Is Salem MA walkable?

Salem is a super-walkable town, with a shopping center, the old town, and waterfront strolls. However, you can always take the “hop-on, hop-off” trolly to maximize your day trip.

Save this article for future reference on Pinterest!

boston to salem day trip
Top-Rated Attractions in Salem MA
13 Thrilling Attractions in Salem Massachusetts

This article is part of a sponsored collaboration. Special thanks to Regan Communications and Destination Salem for their support on this Boston to Salem Day Trip. As always, all opinion expressed are my own. .

39 thoughts on “Boston to Salem Day Trip: 13 Thrilling Attractions Beyond Halloween”

  1. I love how you included the food choices here at least when we’re able to visit this place we have a place in mind. This is an interesting post and it might be a lively place during Halloween season?

    The boat ride is a relaxing part of your visit and able to see some historical sites is a win-win situation.

    Reply
  2. Oooh, those raspberry-topped soft cheese and crackers are calling out to me – would love to sample those! Didn’t know there was so much to do in Salem. The sailboating adventure sounds fun!

    Reply
  3. Salem has some very interesting places to see. The Chinese House at the museum looks absolutely fascinating. I would love to see that. The foodies tour sounds wonderful, with the market and cheese shop. I’m curious to try the honey wine.

    Reply
  4. Salem looks like such a fun weekend getaway. You sold me with all the food – it looks delicious. Cheese, wine, chocolate! Also, I love how there are so many unusual things to do in the area. Would love to check it out one day.

    Reply
  5. Chocolate and chili make a wonderful combination? Sounds interesting – I will have to try it. Actually, the food tour sounds very interesting as there seems to be a bit of everything. I wish I had known that 2 years ago when we were in Boston.

    Reply

Leave a Comment