As an astrologer and practitioner of the intuitive arts, I've always wanted to take a trip to Salem, Mass. I recently had the chance to visit, driving up with my parents and best friend, Sarah Potter, a tarot reader.
The so-called "Witch City" lived up to my expectations. At the time of my visit, Salem was booming with tourism ahead of Halloween, with crowds hitting over 100,000 people a day — in a city of roughly 45,000 people.
Immediately, I connected with the coastal town's energy. Let's just say that people in Salem know how to get into the Halloween spirit.
Walking through Salem Common, we came across vendors selling pointed witch hats (part of the unofficial uniform worn by almost every tourist wandering through town), orange cotton candy and fake vampire fangs, along with tons of people and pets in Halloween costumes. (My favorite was a young boy wearing a Chucky costume and a chihuahua dressed up as a hot dog.)
As for when to go to Salem? Since it gives off spooky vibes year-round, you can get your fix long after Halloween wraps. Keep in mind that tourism is at a high in October, making it more of a challenge to get around or snag tickets to the top attractions. But if you're willing to accept the crowds (and practice your patience), then there's really nothing better than taking a trip on or in the weeks leading up to Halloween.
Below, I've rounded up the best things to do in Salem, based on my own experience. They point to Salem's place in American culture — both as a historical site of the Salem witch trials, and its legacy as a place where people can explore their intuitive sides through astrology, tarot, aura readings and more.
Get your aura photographed
Auras are the small electromagnetic field emitted by all living things. Think of them as a vibe.
While invisible to the naked eye, auras take on colors that can be seen by spiritual practitioners like aura readers or captured by special cameras — which is exactly what we did in Salem.
I scheduled an appointment at ASCEND Get Lifted a few days in advance — and good thing because the line to enter the shop was very long.
After having our auras photographed, the photos were interpreted by a highly insightful reader. On our way out, we checked out the store's crystal selection, which included an assortment of crystal bunnies, witches, pumpkins and butterflies.
Stroll through the town square
Then there's Derby Square, where we listened to witches sing Madonna and Shania Twain as we posed next to the famous "Bewitched" sculpture of actor Elizabeth Montgomery, who filmed the seventh season of the classic TV show in Salem.
Swing by HausWitch Home + Healing
Up the block from the town square, there's HausWitch Home + Healing, a lifestyle boutique that aims to "bring magic and healing into everyday spaces." We bought postcards, blankets, mugs — a bunch of cute home accessories to add to our city decor. Actually, we went back to the store the following day because we had the opposite of buyer's remorse and wanted to purchase even more.
Visit Enchanted, a store owned by 'The Official Witch of Salem'
Laurie Cabot was named “The Official Witch of Salem" by Michael Dukakis, then the governor of Mass., in 1977. Today, she owns "a magickal shop for witches and muggles alike" with her daughter Penny Cabot.
Located near the wharf, Enchanted sells hand-crafted essentials for a spiritual practice like incense, potions, perfumes and candles, all curated or made by the "witch" herself.
Take in the wharf's scenery and history at the New England Pirate Museum
When at the wharf, it’s hard to not marvel at the beautiful waterfront and ship docked there. The ship, which is a replica of 1797 Salem-built Friendship, glistened in the sunset and sparkled at dusk.
I had no clue that the North Shore of Salem was steeped with in maritime history — nor did I know that pirates roamed the waters and streets of Salem during The Golden Age. Visit the New England Pirate Museum to find out more about this swashbuckling chapter of history.
Get cultured at an art museum
If pirates aren't your thing, get your modern art fix at Peabody Essex Museum. The collection has more than 1 million works, spanning from 1700 to today. You'll recognize some famous pieces from artists like John Singleton Copley, but also come across some lesser-known works.
For a small town, Salem has an impressive number of museums. But it should come as no surprise since Salem is steeped in history.
Stop for a sweet treat at the country's oldest candy company
When driving back to our hotel, we accidentally stumbled upon Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. Founded in 1805, the store uses 200-year-old recipes to craft its delicious candy.
We bought some classic items like walnut fudge, caramel corn and blueberry taffy to share for later — but our stash didn’t last more than five minutes.
And, yes, I would’ve gone back for more if we weren’t mesmerized by The House of the Seven Gables across the street. The house, which is open for guided tours and self-guided visits, was built in 1668 and famously used as the setting of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1851 novel.
Enjoy your tea by the sea
The following day, we were inspired to shop for tea after driving over the bridge at Griffin’s Wharf, the location of the Boston Tea Party. We loaded up the car and beelined to Diehl Marcus & Company, a fine tea shop.
As a tea lover, the amount of choices made me dizzy (in a good way). My favorites were Pumpkin Spice and Queen’s Blend, their signature tea. Both are perfect for chilly autumnal afternoons — or any time you need to warm your body from the inside out.
But that's not all: The store also sells mate and Pu’er, a type of Chinese tea, as well as hand-crafted soaps, hand-poured candles and curated antiques.
Take a trip back in time at Pioneer Village
Considered to be "America's first living history museum," Pioneer Village offers a glimpse into life in the 17th century. Check out colonial architecture and learn about life without Wi-Fi, indoor plumbing and other amenities we take for granted today. Heads up: The nearby forest is pretty creepy, but that's all part of the fun ... right?
Go on a 'Hocus Pocus' movie tour
It's fitting that the beloved movie about a trio of witches was filmed in the heart of Salem. Start off at Allison's house, aka Ropes Mansion, which is conveniently part of the Peabody Essex Museum. Then make your way to Old Town Hall in Derby Square, the spot where Winifred Sanderson put a spell on all of us.
But really, you'll find that there's a movie moment behind every corner, including at Salem Common and Old Burial Hill.
Salem is the site of the 1692 witch trials, which happened after locals accused a slave named Tituba and other women of bewitching local girls. Colonists, amid hysteria, staged a witch hunt. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 were executed. In 2022, the last unpardoned "witch" was exonerated by Massachusetts lawmakers.
Multiple sites in Salem explore this dark history. My mom went to the Witch Dungeon Museum and posed in old stocks, where witches were put as a form of punishment. She said that the vibes were strong, making it a potent force of the past.
We ended our trip at The Witch House, the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin who investigated the accusations of witchcraft. Many say the home is haunted, so it's worth a visit to find out — and at the very least, get a closer look at the 17th-century architecture and furniture.