old burying point cemetery in salem witch city

Salem, MA: the Witch City Ultimate Bucket List

As my hometown, Salem, Massachusetts holds a special place in my heart.  And what better time to feature it on The Chic Capitalist blog with Halloween right around the corner?  For those of you who don’t know, Salem is known as the Witch City.  And I’ll be the first one to admit that we play it up.  What other city has a satanic temple, psychics on every block, and self-proclaimed, 21st century “witches”?  Yup!  The Salem witch city is a pretty special place.

What’s more?  You can walk around Salem in costume the entire month of October and fit right in!  Of course, normal dress is acceptable too.

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Salem's History: How It Became Known as The Salem Witch City

The city was founded in 1626 by Roger Conant, and like any city in existence for almost 400 years, has lots of history (salem.org).  Before Salem became infamous for the Witch Trials, Salem was a maritime city.  And at one point in history, Salem was once the largest port in the Northeast, trumping even Boston (bostonharborbeacon.com).  

In 1692, the Salem Witch Trials began.  In the span of only three months, 14 women and 5 men were killed based on hysteria of witchcraft caused by a few teenage girls.  All victims were hanged, except for a man named Giles Corey, who was pressed to death with rocks.  The trials ceased when Governor William Phipps disbanded the court, following an accusation that his wife was a witch herself (salem.org)

As an ode to Salem’s rich history and its modern frights, I’ve put together an ultimate Salem bucket list to try during your visit to the Witch City.

1. Find the Site Where the Witches Were Hanged and Visit The Memorial

Did you think I’d start off this ultimate Salem bucket list any other way than on a grim note?

Although Salem has a rich history, as I tote above, the city’s reputation as the Witch City is really what keeps tourists coming back year after year.  Take a few moments to pay tribute to the men and women that were labelled “witches” and brutally murdered, thereby granting Salem its nickname.


Today, a memorial site is located on Liberty Street to honor the 20 victims of the witch trials.  Stone benches surround the memorial.  Inscribed on each bench is the victim’s name, means of execution, and execution date.  There’s also a large stone etched with the words victims spoke, according to court transcripts, to protest their innocence. 


Read more about it at salemwitchmuseum.com.

salem witch city memorial

Also check out the plaque at Proctor’s Ledge at the base of Gallows Hill Park.  It is believed that many of the executions were performed at that very location.  Because it’s a small lot with no parking, I’d recommend simply driving past it.  However, if you want to explore it further, you can park at the nearby Walgreens parking lot and walk up to the site.  Visit the Smithsonian Magazine to read more.

Cost to visit the memorial and witches’ execution site: $0

2. Explore The Salem Witch City by Trolley

There’s no better way to see the entire city than by riding the iconic Salem Trolley.  The Salem Trolley has been a staple in the Witch City since 1982.

salem witch city trolley

The one-hour, narrated trolley ride will take you past many of Salem’s most famous landmarks, while you discover much of the city’s history. 

Tickets for the one-hour, narrated trolley tour cost $25 at the time this article was published.  Visit The Salem Trolley website to purchase tickets.  Discounts are available for senior citizens and children.

For our purposes, we’ll calculate the cost of a trolley tour for two.  Cost of the tour: $50

3. Stop By The Peabody Essex Museum

peabody essex museum

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is the oldest continuously operating and collecting museum in the United States, according to the museum’s website.


PEM’s roots date back to 1799 with the founding of the East India Marine Society, which was comprised of Salem captains and supercargoes.  Society members brought back a diverse array of objects from their travels and established a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities” in Salem.  This organization eventually transformed itself to become the Peabody Essex Museum.  Read more about the origins of the museum on the Peabody Essex Museum’s website.


Today, PEM is known as one of the nation’s most prominent museums for Asian art; this includes Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Indian art.  The museum also boosts a large collection of maritime art, which highlights New England’s heritage over the last 300 years. 


And as you can see from the image, the museum is currently running an exhibit showcasing the Salem Witch Trials.  Learn more about the museum’s exhibits by checking out the Peabody Essex Museum website.

The cost of admission to the museum is $20.  Discounts are available for senior citizens, students, and children.  And if you’re a Salem resident, admission into the museum is free.

For our purposes, we’ll calculate the cost for two tickets to the PEM.  Cost of admission into PEM: $40

4. Tour the Witch House

The Witch House is among the few remaining buildings in the city with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials.  The house was purchased by Judge Jonathan Corwin in 1675.  Seventeen years later in 1692, Corwin and his friend and fellow judge, John Hathorne, would preside over many of the trials for the accused. 


Interestingly enough, one of Corwin’s own children was thought to be afflicted early on in the hysteria and his mother-in-law, Margaret Thatcher was accused of witchcraft by one of her servants.  However, because of her wealth and her connection to Corwin, she was never arrested and tried.


Corwin died in 1718 at the age of 78.  He never apologized for his role in the Salem witch trials and he died wealthy and well-respected.  He is buried in Salem’s Broad Street Cemetery.  To learn more about the Witch House and Judge Jonathan Corwin, visit salemwitchmuseum.com.

the witch house in salem witch city

Tickets for a self-guided tour of the Witch House cost $9 and are free for children under age 3.  Tickets are available for purchase at thewitchhouse.org.

The cost for two tickets to the Witch House: $18

5. Admire the Architecture of Historic Neighborhoods

historical architecture in salem witch city
historic homes new england salem witch city
historic homes salem ma
salem architecture in salem witch city

With its rich history, Salem has a plethora of historical homes.  Take a stroll down cobblestone streets and admire the craftsmanship that went into these grand estates.

There are 4 designated historic districts in Salem: 

   1. Derby Street District

   2. Lafayette Street District

   3. McIntire District

   4. Washington Square District

The photos above were taken on Chestnut Street, which is part of the McIntire District.  The buildings here encompass architectural styles from 1640-1940.  That’s 300 years worth of history!  Read more about the Witch City’s historic districts at preservingsalem.com.

Cost to admire the architecture of historic Salem houses: $0

6. Go On A Hocus Pocus Scavenger Hunt

Scenes from the beloved Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus were filmed in Salem.  What better way to get yourself in the Halloween spirit than by immersing yourself in some Hocus Pocus- inspired fun?  Many of the filming locations are destinations, in and of themselves! 

Pioneer Village

Salem witch city Pioneer Village

Pioneer Village is America’s first living history museum.  Built in 1930, Pioneer Village is located in Salem’s Forest River Park.  The village sits on three acres of land and showcases various aspects of colonial life, including various dwellings, culinary and medical gardens, and a blacksmith ship. 


Tours are offered seasonally from June – October.  The cost of admission is $5 (pioneervillagesalem.org).


You may recognize the location based on opening scenes of the film before Binx was cursed and turned into a cat.

The Ropes Mansion

The Ropes Mansion was built in the 18th century in the Georgian style and designed by famed architect Samuel McIntire.  The mansion was later renovated in 1894 in the Colonial Revival style.  Back in the day, it served as a home to three generations of the Ropes family (Peabody Essex Museum).  And as any Hocus Pocus fan knows, the mansion served as Allison’s house in the movie.  

Ropes Mansion and Garden salem witch city

Today, you can tour the mansion interior by purchasing a ticket through the Peabody Essex Museum.  Note, the Ropes Mansion tour is included in the cost of admission to the museum.  Also, check out the garden space behind the mansion.  The garden is free to the public 365 days/year and even welcomes dogs. 

Salem Common

Salem Common in salem witch city

Salem Common is a public park in the middle of downtown Salem.  It’s a great spot to go for a walk or rest on a bench and enjoy the crisp fall weather!


Many of the outdoor scenes were filmed here.  You may recognize the iconic fence!


I also embraced my inner tourist to don my new Hocus Pocus-themed shirt (so much so that we had a local resident walking his dog try to give us restaurant suggestions after we stopped to look in on a local breakfast spot that had a line out the door)!  


If you’re loving my shirt, you can purchase one of your own at the Pink Lily Boutique!  Other Halloween themed-outfits are also available for purchase.  Use my code: October20 at checkout for 20% off.


After all, who wouldn’t want to look spooktacular when romping around the Witch City?

Phillips Elementary School on Salem Common

After exploring the Salem Common, check out Phillips Elementary School!  You won’t have to go too far, since the building is located along Salem Common.


You may recognize the building as Jacob Bailey High School, where Max, Dani, and Allison tried to incinerate the Sanderson sisters. 


Although the building isn’t open to the public today, you can still walk by and snap a photo in front of it.

hocus pocus school salem witch city

Old Town Hall

salem witch city old town hall

Located in Derby Square, Salem’s Old Town Hall was used as the location of the Halloween party in the movie. 


It’s also the earliest surviving municipal structure in the city, dating back to 1816.  At the time, it cost $12,000 to build.  Although the building officially opened to the public in November 1816, it wasn’t until 1817 that the second floor of the building was christened by President James Monroe.


The hall hosted many other events, including receptions for General Lafayette and President Andrew Jackson.  And two decades after Old Town Hall was built, Salem’s Town Hall – now City Hall – relocated to it’s current day location on Washington Street (ghostcitytours.com).


The building is still open to the public and used for events, such as the farmers market, an annual fashion show, fundraisers, parties, weddings, and more (salem.org).

Other Filming Locations

If you feel like venturing to the next town over, also check out Old Burial Hill Cemetery located in Marblehead.  It’s one of the oldest graveyards in New England.  You may recognize it as the scene where Max was being bullied by his classmates.

And unfortunately, even though Max and Dani’s home from the movie is located in Salem, it is privately-owned and not open to the public. 

For more information on the Hocus Pocus filming locations, check out Salem.org.

Cost of a Hocus Pocus Scavenger Hunt: $10 (two tickets to explore Pioneer Village)

7. Treat Yourself to a Cookie (or Two) From Goodnight Fatty

Goodnight Fatty salem witch city

Here’s another plug for a local favorite.  To all my fellow sweet tooths out there, you can thank me later! 

Any visit to Salem would be incomplete without stopping to grab a cookie (aka a fatty) from Goodnight Fatty.  There’s no guarantee which gourmet flavor will be available during your visit, as the menu varies by the day. 

Cost for 2 cookies from Goodnight Fatty: $8

8. Explore The Salem Willows Park

The Willows is among one of my favorite destinations in Salem!  I’ve been going there since I was a kid.  The park is named after the tall weeping willow trees that occupy the grounds.  And, in my opinion, it has some of New England’s most picturesque ocean views.

Salem Willows Park in salem witch city
salem willows in salem witch city

From riding the merry-go-round to playing arcade games, the Salem Willows is an incredibly family-friend destination.  There’s also plenty of great food options.  Tip from a local: make sure to try popcorn from Hobbs.  You won’t regret it!

Of course, you’ll need to spend money if you plan to go on any rides, play arcade games, or grab a bite to eat.  Also, depending on where you park, certain spaces require you to pay to park.  However, it’s more than possible to explore the Willows without spending a dime if you’re simply planning to walk by the ocean or take in the views from a park bench.

Please note that the rides, arcades, and restaurants are open on a seasonal-basis.  However, the public recreation area of the park is open year round.  See willowsarcade.com for more information.

Cost to explore the Salem Willows: $0

9. Tour the House of the Seven Gables

Have you ever wondered what a gable is?  Well wonder no more!  Go see this historic Salem home that has not 1 gable, but 7!

house of the seven gables salem witch city

The House of the Seven Gables was built in 1668 by John Turner I and his wife, Elizabeth Robinson Turner.  It was also the inspiration behind Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables.  To learn more about the house, check out The House of the Seven Gables website.

The regular ticket price for the mansion tour is $30 during October at the time this article was published.  Visit The House of the Seven Gables website to purchase tickets.  Discounts are available for senior citizens and children.  Tickets may also be cheaper off-season.

For our purposes, we’ll calculate the cost for two to tour the House of Seven Gables during October.  Cost of the tour: $60

10. Visit the Custom House & The Friendship

After touring the House of the Seven Gables, learn more about Salem’s maritime history.  Stop by both Salem’s Custom House and the Friendship.  You shouldn’t have to venture too far, as both of these historic landmarks are conveniently located across the street from one another.  And hopefully they won’t both be under restoration (like they were when I snapped these photos)!

the friendship of salem witch city
custom house salem witch city

Salem’s Custom House was established in 1649.  At the time, it collected taxes for the British Government on imported cargos.  It would later serve to collect taxes for the American Government in 1789 upon the establishment of the U.S. Customs Service.  The Custom House you see in the photo above wasn’t built until 1819, however.  Perhaps most famously, the Custom House served as inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter (nps.gov).

Not to be outdone, the original Friendship was built from 1796-1797.  The two-decked, three-masted, square-rigged vessel weighed in at 342-tons and was used in the East Indies trade following the American Revolution.  The Friendship made 15 voyages to countries including China, Indonesia, India, Venezuela, Spain, and Russia and brought back a wide variety of goods.  During the War of 1812, the ship was captured by the British and sold at auction in London (nps.gov).  

Today, a replica of the original ship, named the Friendship of Salem is docked at Derby Wharf.  It’s presence symbolizes New England’s influential role in the country’s maritime trade and economic and political development (nps.gov).

Cost to visit the Customs House and the Friendship: $0

11. Grab a Drink or Late Night Snack at Salem's Rooftop Bar

the roof salem witch city

After a long day of exploring the Witch City, rest your tired feet and fill your belly at The Roof located above The Hotel Salem. 


Although it’s not quite as historical as some of the locations on my ultimate Salem bucket list, the rooftop bar provides a festive environment for commemorating your trip to Salem.


On chilly nights, make sure to pack a sweatshirt because it does get cold up there!


Also, feel free to plan for your visit to the rooftop by checking out the menu in advance.  I personally recommend ordering a cocktail and a plate of nachos!

And while you’re up there, don’t forget to take a moment to take in the incredible view of the city from every witch angle!

rooftop bar salem witch city
salem rooftop bar in salem witch city

Approximate cost for two cocktails and a plate of nachos at The Roof: $40

12. Book an Overnight Stay at the Haunted Hawthorne Hotel

The Hawthorne Hotel was established in 1925 and is a member of the Historical Hotels of America.  To date, over 1 million guests have stayed in the hotel.

hawthorne hotel in salem witch city

As Salem’s oldest hotel, the Hawthorne Hotel has a rich history.  From hosting a dance school in the 1960s to being featured on the hit television show Bewitched in the 1970s to hosting Bill Clinton in 2001 to hosting Halloween balls in the modern-day era, the Hawthorne Hotel has been a staple in the Witch City (hawthornehotel.com).

And if you’re looking for a spooky experience, the hotel is supposedly haunted.  According to historichotels.org, The Hawthorne Hotel is often ranked as one of the most haunted hotels in America with guests reporting moving furniture, sightings of a ghostly woman, and unexplained noises.

Prices range depending on date of stay and room type.  In October, prices may be $550 or higher on weekends.  However, off-season pricing is typically in the ballpark of $150 – $350.

Cost of an overnight stay at the Hawthorne Hotel in October: $550

Cost to Complete the Ultimate Salem Witch City Bucket List

If you were to complete each activity on my ultimate Salem witch city bucket list, you would have spent approximately $776.  Yikes!  Now that’s scary!

Want to save some Benjamins?  Come during the off-season; pretty much any month other than October!  Plus, I guarantee the crowds will be less.

Regardless of the time you choose to visit, I promise you’ll have a wonderful time exploring the Salem Witch City!

And if you’re looking for more New England travel suggestions, check out my post How to See Ogunquit Maine in a Day!

Hi! I'm Mikaela, a blogger, CPA, soon-to-be bride, dog-mom, and self-proclaimed finance enthusiast. Join me on my journey to uncover some of the best financial practices and investment opportunities.


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