Salem, MA: Perfect Weekend Itinerary

3 Days in Salem: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary

It’s rather difficult to think of Salem and not think of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. The trials will forever remain in our history books, and we have more questions than answers about what could have led to such a gruesome time in our history.

Salem today embraces its past and celebrates a culture that was once persecuted. The Salem witch community is thriving, and they’re eager to tell you more about what exactly witchcraft is when you visit the aptly nicknamed Witch City. 

But celebrating witches is just one part of the many things to do in Salem. For some parts of Salem, it’s Halloween all year round. For other parts, it’s a place with fine dining, boutique shopping, and live music every night. With museums on every corner dedicated to history, art, and much more, there’s always something to keep you busy in Salem.

But visiting Salem for a 3-day weekend is best done at certain times of the year. If you want to get the full witchy experience, the best time to visit Salem is in October, when the city is gearing up for its massive Haunted Happenings events. From galas to tours to haunted houses, it’s a month of spooky fun. 

However, Haunted Happenings brings about thousands of visitors every year. The crowds during this time are intense, and they get worse the closer to Halloween you visit. Visiting earlier in the fall will let you enjoy some spooky activities, as well as the changing leaves and other autumn beauty, without all the people around.

Visiting in summer lets you enjoy an entirely different side of Salem. The weather is perfect for kayaking trips, sailing on historic boats, and dining by the water. Plus, there is always some spookiness about in Salem, so you’ll still find scary things to do, like ghost tours. 

Salem is a highly walkable city, but because of how cold it gets in the winter, you won’t want to be outside for long. When scheduling your long weekend, stick to late spring to mid-fall.

Planning a long weekend trip in Salem? With so much to do and see in this historic city, it’s tough to know where to start. We’ve put together a 3-day Salem itinerary to help you see all that you can of Witch City. Follow these recommendations, from where to eat to what to do, and you’re bound to have an amazing time exploring Salem!

If you’re still deciding where to stay then make sure to check out our article on the best boutique hotels in Salem!

How to Spend a Weekend in Salem, Massachusetts

Getting Around Salem

3 Days in Salem, Massachusetts: Getting Around

You don’t really need a car in Salem. Salem is a very walkable city. You’ll find that much of our Salem itinerary can be accomplished by foot, with a few taxis or Ubers thrown in to help get to some places that are a little ways from downtown. 

The only time you may want to consider renting a car is to get from the airport to Salem. You’ll most likely be flying into Logan International Airport in Boston for your 3-day Salem vacation. The airport is between a 30- to 45-minute drive from Salem. 

If you don’t want to have a car with you during your vacation, you can most likely just take a taxi or Uber from the airport to Salem, though it can be a bit costly. Still, taking this one long taxi or Uber ride is likely less expensive than renting a car for the whole trip.

Your other option is to take the subway and train system, though the way to get to Salem is a bit complicated. You would take the T, or Boston’s subway system, from the airport to Boston’s North Station. From there, you’d take the commuter rail to Salem. 

As someone who lived in Boston, I honestly wouldn’t recommend this method. If you have a plane to catch or a strict timetable for when you need to get into Salem, you’re not going to want to be at the mercy of the T. 

The T is a great, inexpensive public transportation option, especially for those living in Boston. However, it can be a bit unpredictable, and you may end up being delayed on your journey because of it. 

That said, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) does do a good job of keeping up with the demand to get to Salem. If you were to take the commuter rail, you’d take the Newburyport/Rockport Line.

Recognizing that more people want to visit Salem in October during the area’s Haunted Happenings festivities, the MBTA adds more trains to this line to accommodate the added guests. So, you’ll still likely be able to get into Salem using this method, even during its busiest season. 

If you’re visiting Salem in the summer and fall, and you’re not in any rush, you may want to take the ferry instead. It’s a scenic cruise that’s a lovely way to see the Boston area. 

This ferry departs from Long Wharf. You can either take an Uber or taxi to the wharf or take the T to the aquarium and take a quick stroll to the wharf’s ferry station from there.


Salem Weekend Itinerary – Day 1

For Day 1 of your 3 days in Salem, you’ll enjoy the spooky and unexplainable side of Salem. Start your Salem weekend with breakfast at Deb’s Diner on Boston Street. This unassuming family diner is serving up one of the best breakfasts in Salem. 

The menu is simply filled with all your favorite breakfast staples, and you’ll be amazed by the massive portion sizes. You’ll leave here very satisfied and fueled up to start your Salem vacation. 

Crow Haven Corner 

Salem, Massachusetts 3 Day Itinerary: Crow Haven Corner

Once you’ve finished up breakfast, head on over to Crow Haven Corner on Essex Street for one of the most unique things to do in Salem. You’ll either want to take a quick Uber or taxi ride or enjoy a long stroll to get there. 

Are you a believer in the unbelievable? You’ll find a home at this shop, the oldest witch shop in Salem. But what makes this store a must-do is its owner, Salem’s famous love clairvoyant. 

Lorelei has been a staple of Salem for over 35 years, performing psychic readings for visitors, particularly of the love variety. Lorelei often books up far in advance, especially if you’re trying to book her during the spooky season. 

So, it’s best not to wait until the last minute to schedule a reading. But if you can’t get Lorelei, don’t fret – she has a well-trained team that specializes in all different types of readings, from tarot readings to mediumship to career guidance.

Over on Derby Street, you’ll find Jolie Tea Company. If you’ve ever wanted a classic and classy high tea lunch, you’ll find it at this bright and colorful location. Featuring teas of all kinds, scones, tea sandwiches, and macarons, you’ll feel full and fancy after dining here. Though Jolie Tea Company does take walk-ins, it’s best to make a reservation to schedule your high tea time.

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery

Weekend in Salem, Massachusetts: Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery

After lunch, head over to Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery on Essex Street, the only museum in Salem dedicated to cinema’s greatest monsters. Named for the main antagonist of the classic 1922 German silent film Nosferatu, it’s the perfect place to visit in Salem if you love the history of the horror genre.

You’ll find more than 60 life-sized creatures in this one-of-a-kind gallery. Werewolves and vampires and zombies, oh my! The detail work in these sculptures is truly astounding and maybe just a bit terrifying. 

Nathaniel’s

Salem, Massachusetts Weekend Itinerary: Nathaniel's

All that screaming probably worked up an appetite, so take a short stroll over to the Hawthorne Hotel, where you’ll find Nathaniel’s. This supposedly haunted hotel is home to one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Salem. 

Offering live jazz in a lounge-like atmosphere, with classic and delicious American fare on the menu, you’ll have a positively delightful evening at this hotel. Though you may have a few additional dinner guests if the haunting rumors are true. 

Salem Ghosts

After dinner, embrace the night with a ghost tour, like the ones provided by Salem Ghosts. Explore the darker side of Salem when you meet famous ghosts like Mr. Derby, the once-prominent merchant who is rumored to be at Old Town Hall, or Abigail Ropes, whose angry spirit haunts the hallowed halls of the famous Ropes Mansion. 

All tours meet at the Salem Five Savings Bank on Essex Street, an easily-accessible location in Downtown Salem that’s only a few doors down from Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery. You can take either the standard tour, which is one hour and has eight stops, or the extended tour, which is 90 minutes with 12 stops. Both are walking tours.

Enjoy a Salem Ghost Tour


Salem Weekend Itinerary – Day 2

For the second day of your 3-day trip to Salem, we’re going to focus less on the spooky and more on the history of this iconic location. Start your day off at Fountain Place on Essex Street, a family-friendly breakfast joint that feels like home. 

Though the restaurant offers plenty of waffle and omelet options, their specialty is their eggs benedict, which is served in tons of different ways. From ones with housemade crab cakes to options with corned beef hash, everyone is sure to find a style of this breakfast favorite that they’ll love.

Salem Witch Museum

Weekend in Salem, Massachusetts: Witch Museum

After breakfast, head to the Salem Witch Museum in Washington Square, which unpacks the tragedy of the Salem Witch Trials. This museum consists of two exhibits. In the first, you’ll be provided an immersive look into the events of 1692 through 13 life-size stage sets depicting the Salem witch hunt. 

But the second exhibit provides a more hopeful look into the reality of witches. Though there’s a great deal of questioning about whether or not anyone who was punished during the Witch Trials was actually a witch, there is a thriving witch community in Salem today. In this second exhibit, you’ll explore the meaning of the word witch and how it’s evolved with time. 

Visit the Witch Museum

Red’s Sandwich Shop 

How to Spend a Weekend in Salem, Massachusetts: Red's Sandwich Shop

Over on Central Street, you’ll find the perfect place for lunch on the second day of your 3 days in Salem: Red’s Sandwich Shop. This historic restaurant is a local favorite for a good reason. Dive into a Monte Cristo, chow down on a Buffalo Chicken Roll-Up, or munch on a Red’s Grilled Cheese Club. You really can’t go wrong with anything on this menu. 

Peabody Essex Museum

3 Days in Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Essex Museum

Once you wrap up lunch, explore a different sort of history at the Peabody Essex Museum on Essex Street. The story of this museum dates back to 1799. The East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who sailed beyond the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn, wanted to build a place for their “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities.” These curiosities came from all over the world, from the Americas to Asia to Africa and beyond. 

When the museum as we know it today was established in 1992, it contained more than 840,000 works of art and culture. Two libraries on-site boasted over 400,000 books, manuscripts, and other historical documents. Today, the collection has grown to over one million works. 

But the museum is more than just one building. It covers three city blocks and several off-site properties, including the famous Ropes Mansion, the Quaker Meeting House, and the John Ward House, all of which you can visit on a self-guided tour. 

Salem, Massachusetts 3 Day Itinerary: Peabody Essex Museum

Stroll on over to the famous Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall for dinner. Before Lyceum Hall became a historical landmark, it was an apple orchard owned by none other than Bridget Bishop, the first woman to face her demise during the Witch Trials. Diners at Turner’s have said that Bishop haunts the halls.

But whether you want to see a ghost or not, you’ll love dining at Turner’s, which serves fresh New England seafood in upscale ways. From Gloucester Hake Masala to Mussels & Calamari Fra Diavolo, there’s nothing on this menu that isn’t fresh and delicious. 

You’ve had a long day of exploring, but if you’re still ready for more, end the night with drinks at one of the most haunted places in the city, Mercy Tavern, located on Derby Street, which has quite a history. It was once a brothel that supposedly used to take part in kidnapping the young sailors who frequented it to force them into servitude aboard ships that lacked a crew. 

The brothel had underground tunnels, and although those tunnels have mostly been filled, people claim they hear shouting and fighting under the building. And more than one patron says they’ve seen a specter of a sailor roaming the halls of the pub. 

Today, though, Mercy Tavern is simply a lovely historic place to have a few drinks with friends and listen to live music. But you just may end up having someone unexpected join you for your drink.


Salem Weekend Itinerary – Day 3

You’ve had a weekend filled with adventuring around Salem. Now it’s time for a bit more leisurely day of just exploring the sights for the final day of your long weekend trip to Salem. 

Caramel French Patisserie 

Start the last day of your Salem vacation with breakfast at Caramel French Patisserie. It’s a great place to stop if you don’t want a full breakfast and instead just want something quick to grab on your way. Don’t forget to stock up on macarons for dessert later!

After picking up your pastry, spend the morning wandering Essex Street. Especially around October, this area of the city is perfect for finding witchy souvenirs. But even throughout the rest of the year, you’ll love exploring this downtown area. Don’t forget to check out the iconic Bewitched statue at the corner of Essex and Washington Streets.

Pickering Wharf

How to Spend a Weekend in Salem, Massachusetts: Pickering Wharf

Enjoy strolling down Essex Street and stop by the Salem Common. It’s a wonderful place for a picnic. But if you’d rather grab a bite to eat elsewhere, head to your next destination: Pickering Wharf.

From Essex Street, head to Pickering Wharf for some more scenic views and chances to explore the city. For lunch, visit the Regatta Pub, located in the Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites. The menu is simple and delightful, sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. From lobster rolls and fish and chips to burgers and chicken tenders, there’s something for everyone.

Then, head out to explore more of the wharf. Although Essex Street is a perfect place for witchy souvenirs, Pickering Wharf is more focused on Salem’s maritime history and has plenty of shops dedicated to the beachy, watery side of Salem. Shop around these stores, which often have local wares you can’t get anywhere else.

You’ll want to stick around Pickering Wharf when the sun goes down to take in the sunset over the water. At night on the wharf, you’ll often hear live music in the breeze emanating from the area’s many restaurants. 

Our top pick for dinner and drinks, along with great music, is the Sea Level Oyster Bar. Serving up local seafood, inspired libations, and waterfront views, it’s the ideal place to end your weekend in Salem. This restaurant offers seafood with clever twists. From white clam pizza to Baja tacos to baked seafood pie, you’ll leave this place satisfied, happy, and eager to come back.


More Places to Eat & Drink in Salem

3 Days in Salem, Massachusetts: Places to Eat and Drink

Eat and play at Bit Bar:
This barcade offers old-school arcade games, as well as a playful menu, like deep-friend mac and cheese and a burger made with brisket and short rib. Despite being a bar setting that’s 21 and up after 8 pm, it’s a family-friendly establishment throughout the rest of the day. There’s even a full menu for little ones, who also get $3 in game tokens with their kid’s meal.

Have a pizza at Bambolina:
This rustic Italian eatery serves up wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizzas that are truly inspired. But what’s even better about this location is that its sister restaurant, Kokeshi, can now be found here, too. So you can now enjoy Kokeshi’s Asian street food on the same menu as Bambolina’s Italian fare.

Enjoy cozy vibes, live music, and comfort food at Gulu-Gulu Cafe:
This boho spot is where you’ll find local craft beer, coffee that would please even the biggest coffee lover, eclectic cocktails, an all-day breakfast menu, tons of sweet treats, and simple and not-so-simple sandwiches. Plenty of this menu is vegetarian- or vegan-friendly, making it even easier to find something for everyone.


What to do if you have more than 3 days in Salem

Salem Trolley

Salem, Massachusetts 3 Day Itinerary: Salem Trolley

Hop on the Salem Trolley. Running daily from April to November and on weekends throughout November, the Salem Trolley takes you on a tour of Witch City, guiding you around the most beloved spots in Salem. On select nights, the trolley transforms into the Tales & Tombstones Tour, showing you the darkest sides of the city. And for a truly unique holiday celebration, you can catch a one-of-a-kind performance of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens aboard the trolley from the end of November to the end of December.

Haunted Happenings

Attend the Haunted Happenings. All throughout October, the Witch City truly lives up to its name with a unique festival put on by the Salem Chamber of Commerce and the Salem Witch Museum. Guests are invited to numerous events, from costume balls to spooky tours to terrifying haunted houses. There’s plenty to do for everyone. It’s a family-friendly festival, but there are also haunted houses that are definitely best left to the biggest of thrill-seeking adults.

Take the Haunted Salem Walking Tour

Salem Willows

Hang out in the Salem Willows. You may think that Salem is best for fall travel, but visiting in the summer allows you to spend some time at the family-friendly Salem Willows. Sitting on over 35 acres of oceanfront views, you’ll find two arcades in addition to picnic areas, a band shell, and basketball and tennis courts. From bumper cars to water boats to a 1905 carousel, it’s a perfect place to take little ones on a Salem vacation. You can also rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard to take out on the water here or book yourself a tour.

Fame of Salem

Enjoy becoming a part of the crew on the Fame of Salem. Running from May to October, the Fame offers one of the best sailing cruises in the Salem area. This Fame is a replica of the 1812 privateer of the same name. While you can sit back and relax on this ride, you can also help raise the sails yourself.

Boston

Boston Bucket List: Freedom Trail

Take a trip into Boston. If you’re in the Salem area for longer than three days, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to spend a day in historic Boston. From walking the Freedom Trail to seeing a Red Sox game at Fenway, Boston has so much to do. For more things to do in Boston, check out our guide to the 15 best things to do in the city! 

Boston Hop On, Hop Off Trolley Tour

We hope you enjoy your weekend trip to Salem, MA! Should we add something else to our 3-day Salem itinerary? Let us know in the comments.


Planning a trip to Massachusetts? Check out our favorite travel guides and resources!


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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