Traveling these days can be very expensive and finding activities to do on a budget can be even harder. Luckily, visiting Salem MA on a budget can be doable and amusing!
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There are many free things to do in Salem, but you can also book a guided tour if you prefer to get the full story and learn some history.
New England’s weather is a bit crazy at times. During the fall and springtime, the mornings can be cold with the afternoons heating up for the temperature to drop back down once the sun sets.
Since Salem is on the North Shore in MA, it can get quite chilly at night.
The best time to go to Salem is during the fall, of course. But if you aren’t a fan of crowds, then going in the spring or summer is another great option too. Even though there will be crowds during the spring and summertime, it won’t be as overloaded as it is in the fall.
The Salem Visitor Center is located on Washington Street. There, you will find information on tours and other activities going on in the area.
Things You Will Need
Tips For Visiting Salem MA on a Budget
- Purchase tickets/hotel ahead of time
- If you’re going to drive, bring quarters or download Passport App
- Check local restaurants to see which ones are cheap
- If you stay in downtown Salem, you will most likely not need a car, especially if you are just staying in Salem.
Keep in mind that parking can be extremely difficult in Salem and the parking meters might kick you out of your spot after a few hours and local banks might not exchange money for you (sometimes they have signs on the door).
You can visit Salem in 2 or 3 days. You can spread all of the activities out if you prefer but it is possible to get most of the main attractions done in about 2 or 3 days.
What is Halloween Like in Salem Massachusetts?
I’m sure you’ve guessed that Halloween is going to be busy in Salem. It’s not just busy, it is packed.
On the night of Halloween, you will be touching shoulders and the lines will be out the door.
That is why I think it is best to get your Salem fix before Halloween.
Is October a Good Time to Visit Salem Massachusetts?
If you are planning on visiting Salem in October, you will definitely need to plan ahead.
Book your tickets, housing, and everything else ahead of time to save yourself the headache.
To Salem From Boston
Salem MA is about 40 kilometers (29 miles) from the capital of Boston.
You can drive, take a taxi/Uber, or take the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to and from Salem.
The MBTA operates most of the transit systems in the Greater Boston area.
You can grab a CharlieCard to make the cost of transportation cheaper during your time in MA. You will find more information on their website, including where to get a CharlieCard.
If you’re going from Boston to Salem and you want to save some money, taking the MBTA will take around an hour and a half to two hours if you take the train. There are buses that go to and through Salem as well. You can even plan your trip on the website.
If you rent a car, driving from Boston to Salem will take around 40 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic.
Where to Eat in Salem
Head to Pickering Wharf Marina and you will find some seafood restaurants that overlook the boats in the marina.
Salem has loads of great restaurants. If you are a fan of seafood, then you will enjoy your trip that much more. On top of seafood, there are many other options to choose from in Salem.
Other restaurants near or on Derby Street:
- Adriatic Restaurant – Mediterranean
- Antique Table – Italian
- Engine House Pizza – pizza
- Howling Wolf – Mexican
- Passage to India
- Sea Level – seafood
- Rockafellas – American
And these are just a few of the many restaurants in Salem.
Sea Level offers a variety of local seafood and great views. They have outside and inside seating options. You can spend around USD 50 for an appetizer, meal, and a drink.
Howling Wolf has delicious margaritas, warm queso, fresh guacamole, and tacos that melt in your mouth.
Where to Stay in Salem
There are quite a few hotels in Salem, especially where all of the attractions are. Salem is not the cheapest city to stay in so that is why it is best to book as far ahead as you can to increase your chance of saving some money.
Accommodation and food will most likely be the two most expensive factors during your trip.
You will want to stay in downtown Salem near or on:
- Charter Street
- Derby Street
- Essex Street
- Lafayette Street
- Washington Street
Some hotels in the area are:
- Hampton Inn Salem
- Hawthorne Hotel
- Salem Waterfront Hotel
- The Salem Inn
If you are trying to save, check to see if the hotel that you are planning on staying at offers free breakfast.
If you own an RV you can park at Winter Island Park which offers beach access and it is close to downtown Salem. You can drive to Salem in about ten minutes or walk the 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles).
What Are the Best Places to Visit in Salem?
Before visiting all locations, you should look online for up to date hours, tour information, and weather conditions. You can even find cheap packages and discounts if you book ahead since some of the tours and museums are operated by the same companies.
Take a walk along Essex Street and you will find tours, shops, and many museums.
These aren’t just the best places to visit in the city, but some are even free (in bold). The others listed are also pretty cheap things to do in Salem MA. If you have some extra money to spare, you can always book a guided tour.
Most of the sites below are on the Salem Heritage Trail so you can follow the red trail and see some of these attractions.
- Bewitched Sculpture
- Hocus Pocus filming locations
- House of the Seven Gables
- Peabody Essex Museum
- Salem Wax Museum
- Salem Willows Park
- Salem Witch Trials Memorial
- Salem Witch Village
- The Burying Point
- The Pirate Museum
- The Witch House
- Witch Dungeon Museum
You can’t vacation to Salem without seeing the Hocus Pocus filming locations! And the best part is that they are great for when you’re visiting Salem on a budget because most of them are free!
If you decide to book ahead or purchase a package, these prices may be different.
Many parts of the show were filmed in Salem. You can find this sculpture on the corner of Essex and Washington Street.
Hocus Pocus Filming Locations
There are a few filming locations for the famous movie in Salem, and one in its neighboring town of Marblehead. To see the outside of each location is free. There are four locations in downtown Salem.
Pioneer Village and Max and Dani’s house is not in downtown Salem, it is about a 30-minute walk from Derby Street. And Old Burial Hill is in the next town over.
The locations include:
- Pioneer Village – Beginning of the movie
- 4 Ocean Ave – Max and Dani’s house
- Phillips Elementary School – Max & Allison’s school
- Salem Common – Max & Allison walking after school
- Old Town Hall – town Halloween party
- Ropes Mansion – Allison’s house
- Old Burial Hill, Marblehead – cemetery scenes
You can walk through the beautiful backyard garden of Allison’s house and take pictures in front of all of the sites!
If you decide to venture off to Marblehead, which is another adorable town, especially during the summer/fall, you can stop at Old Burial Hill.
To get there, you have to drive down narrow roads. Marblehead is a charming small town.
There are a bunch of shops and little boutiques along the road heading to the cemetery. I actually thought that I was going the wrong way and was going to turn around but then I was like eh let’s see what happens. I eventually found it. So if you follow Google Maps, you will find your way through the tiny streets.
There’s one scene where Max is next to the three whitest gravestones to the right with the one that’s leaning a bit.
To get to one of the filming spots, you go on this path and take a left before the rock. Then, you’ll find the three white gravestones that are in the scene (pictured above under The Graveyard).
House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables was built in 1668. This house became a National Historic Landmark District in 2007 and it is known for the setting of famous American author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel.
You can visit the Pirate Museum, Witch Dungeon Museum, and the Witch History Museum. They are all part of the Salem Heritage Trail.
For the Salem Wax Museum, tickets are USD 12 per person/adult. It can take about ten to fifteen minutes to go through the whole thing. This museum has life size figures and shows scenes of local history. At the end of the museum, you will find a souvenir shop and a jail cell.
The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is the biggest of them all. You can spend between 1 to 2 hours in the museum. There are a few other buildings and houses that are part of PEM, including Ropes Mansion.
You must book your ticket ahead of time and online to get into the Peabody Essex Museum museum. Admission costs USD 20 for adults. There are exhibitions on all three floors of the museum and you can always book a tour if you want.
Salem Willows Park
This is a great place to watch the sunset and take in the views of the water. Take a stroll along the oceanfront park and check out the vendors if you are feeling hungry.
Salem Witch Trials Memorial
The memorial is along the wall and right outside of the Burying Point. You will find names carved into the stone to commemorate those who were executed in the 1692 Witch Trials.
Salem Witch Village
Off of Derby Street and on Liberty Street is where you will find this village. It is a small walkway where you can buy tours, find haunted houses, and souvenir shops.
The Burying Point
Right outside of the Salem Wax Museum, you will find The Burying Point holds judges that were involved in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s. That was pretty interesting.
The Witch House
The Witch House, also known as the Jonathan Corwin House, was the house of Judge Jonathan Corwin. It is the only place in Salem that has direct relations with the Salem witch trials that were in 1692. Tickets are USD 9 per adult and you can do a self-guided tour.