The Salem witch hunt was indeed a real-life horror story. In case you need a refresher, twenty innocent people were put to death during the Witch Hysteria of 1692, leaving Salem forever branded. Actually, these days many people refer to Salem as “The Witch City.”
The people of Salem totally play up their spooky reputation to tourists, too. In addition to the town’s normal bewitching attractions, Haunted Happenings run for the entire month of October and draws nearly a quarter of a million people to the city. This year, my family was among Salem’s visitors and today I want to tell you about all the fun we had there.
**Disclosure: I received a complimentary media pass to all of the locations mentioned in this post in order to tell you about our experience in Salem. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way.
Since we had the kiddos with us, we kept our visit to Salem family friendly (well, as family friendly as the murders of 20 innocent people can be I suppose). Here are all the things we did while we were there:
The Salem Witch Museum
The main presentation is based on actual trial documents. Visitors experience the drama of that dark time though thirteen life-size stage sets, figures, lighting and a stirring narration as they are witness to the web of lies and intrigue of the Salem Witch Hunt.
In our second exhibit, Witches: Evolving Perceptions, live guides take you through changing interpretations of witches, the truth behind the stereotypes, witchcraft practice today and the frightening phenomenon of witch hunting.
The Salem Witch Museum is located at 19 1/2 Washington Square and is open daily, year round: 10:00am-5:00pm, but they do have extended hours on select dates in October, so be sure to check their website before you go.
The Witch Dungeon Museum
Here you will see a live re-inactment of a 1692 witch trial as well as get a guided tour through the dungeon to see some of the recreated cells that the witches were held in.
This museum is located at 16 Lynde Street and they have continuous live shows all day (April through November) from 10am to 5pm.
The New England Pirate Musuem
A 20- to 30-minute walking tour, where you’ll meet some 60 buccaneers from the days of yore, and you’ll behold their artifacts and treasures. Visit a recreated dockside village, board a pirate ship and meander an eighty-foot batcave, filled with hidden booty. These pirates, and not accused witches, were the real rascals and villains of 1692 in Olde Salem Towne.
It’s located at 274 Derby St and is pen every day 10am to 5pm, May through October. (Open some nights during Haunted Happenings in October.) Weekends in November.
The Witch History Museum
The untold stories of 1692 told through an historically accurate live presentation followed by a guided tour downstairs where you will walk through the forest, meet Tituba in Rev. Parris’s kitchen, visit Old Salem Village and view 15 life size scenes depicting these stories
The Witch History Museum is open every day April through November 10am to 5pm. (Open some nights during Haunted Happenings in October.)
The House of Seven Gables
Discover a house made famous by fiction, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of the Seven Gables. guides will lead you on a 35 minute tour that introduces two prosperous merchant families, the Turners and Ingersolls, and reveals some of the earliest Georgian-style interiors. Guests also learn about Salem’s maritime history and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s connection to this legendary home.
The House of Seven Gables is located at 115 Derby Street. Admission includes guided tours, Hawthorne’s birthplace, gardens and museum store. Continuous tours daily 10:00am – 7:00pm
Mahi Mahi Haunted Cruise
The fabled coastlines of Salem sound come alive with tales of haunted lighthouses, eerie islands, ruthless pirates, and living monsters who wreak havoc on passing ships to this very day! This spook-tacular 75-minute cruises screams Haunted Happenings Fun day or night…
While aboard enjoy: Lively storytelling blended with Halloween’s best party songs, Personal tarot card readings (complementary)
Professional face painting (complementary), Spooky photo ops plus there is a full bar & Fresh Grill serving up hot fall favorites like grandma’s spiked cider, hot coco and fresh clam chowda’
The tour leaves from the pier on Congress Street & there is a booth there where you can purchase your tickets.
The Salem Trolly provides visitors with a narrated one hour tour and all day shuttle service through beautiful and historic Salem. It’s an eight mile ride around the city that takes you past the Charter Street Burial Ground, the House of the Seven Gables, Witch Dungeon Museum, Salem Witch Museum, the historic waterfront area and other locations, including Chestnut Street considered to be one of the most beautiful streets in America. You are able to get off and on at any of their 13 stops throughout the day and view Salem at your leisure, using the trolley as a convenient shuttle service.
The narrated tour starts at 8 Central Street and it runs from April 1st – November 1st daily 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.
We managed to squeeze a lot into our day in Salem, but that is literally just a fraction of the things to do or see in Salem. Here are a few of the things that we wanted to do, but just ran out of time to see:
The Witch House
The Witch House is the 17th Century home of Witchcraft Trials Judge Jonathan Corwin. It is Salem’s only remaining structure with direct ties to the tragic events of 1692. Inside you can explore architecture, furnishings and lifestyle of the Corwin family as well as see some trial history, strange remedies and superstition in early colonial Salem. The Witch House is located at 210 1/2 Essex St an is open daily from 10-5, but they do have some extended hours in October.
Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop
The year is 1692. Bridget Bishop has been accused of witchcraft and YOU are on the Puritan jury. During the show you will hear the historical testimonies, cross-examine the witnesses and decide the verdict. Is Bridget Bishop capable of witchcraft? This is where you can play your part in history! Cry Innocent is the longest continuously-running show north of Boston and it’s located at 32 Derby Square (the Old Town Hall).
The Peabody Essex Museum
The PEM features unrivaled collections from New England and around the world, special exhibitions, and historic properties, including an 18th-century Chinese merchant’s home. The PEM is located at 161 Essex Street. Check their website for more information and hours.
Visit the Phillips House to learn about five generations of life in Salem. You will find the Philips House at 34 Chestnut Street. Check out their website for hours and more information.
Pioneer Village, Salem in 1630
America’s first living history museum, the village features examples of colonial architecture: dugouts, wigwams, thatched roof cottages, the Governor’s Faire House, culinary and medicinal gardens, and a blacksmith’s forge. The Pioneer Village is not located within walking distance of the rest of the main actions in downtown Salem, but it’s not a far drive to Pioneer Village-Forest River Park, which is not a far drive.
In addition to all of that, there are tons of walking tours in Salem. TONS. I wished we had time to do them all this year, but these are some of the ones we want to do next time we visit Salem:
1. Rory Raven’s Magic Lantern Tour – Historian and author Rory Raven will guide you through the streets of Salem while telling you tales of history,ghosts and murder. The tour leaves at 7 pm on select nights from 7 Lynde Street.
2. Pirates and Privateers Walking Tour – If you’re looking for an alternative to witch history or ghost tours, you can learn about the history of Salem’s pirates and privateers. Tours are Mondays and Wednesdays at 5 pm on select nights and leaves from 7 Lynde St.
3. Salem Historical Tours – They offer numerous tours including the Haunted Footsteps Tour (which I took about four years ago), Salem 101, Cemetery 101, Storied Salem Architecture and the Salem Witchcraft Walk.
4. The Legendary History of Salem Tour – Also lead by Rory Raven, on this tour you will learn about the shipping industry in Salem as well as some of the witch trial history. Tours leave from 7 Lynde Street at 3 pm on select days.
5. The Witch Trail Tour – Salem’s oldest walking tour will take you on a journey to the sites of the 1692 witch trials where you will listen to historian Jim McAllister tell you the stories to go along with them. Tours depart at 7 pm from the Old Town Hall, Thursdays – Sundays October 9-30th.
If I get a chance to get up there sans children, these are a couple of things that we felt that the kids were too young for:
Gallows Hill Museum
It’s an interactive show full of story-telling, surprises and jump scares which is blended with historical fasts about the Salem Witch Trials, ghosts and local legends. Shows are performed daily 10:45 am – 8:15 pm, every half hour. The Gallows Hill Museum is located at 7 Lynde Street.
Jump scares and little kids don’t mix, so that’s why we decided to sit that one out.
Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
With continuous yearly additions, this unique Cinematic Wax Museum is like no other Salem Attraction! They have over 60 life-sized professionally made characters by over 35 Hollywood Special Effects Artists! The museum turns into Salem’s most Terrifying Haunted House Experience October weekends with ghouls waiting for you around every darkened corner! It’s located at 285 Derby Street if you want to check it out.
I think it’s pretty obvious why we didn’t think it was appropriate for the kids, but it’s right up MY alley, so if I get back to Salem without the kiddos, I want to check it out.
If you are looking for a spooky spot for a getaway this October (or any time of the year) Salem, Massachusetts, can’t be beat.