We’re all familiar with Salem, Massachusetts and the Salem Witch Trials, but did you know that Salem is excellent for other reasons too? Salem is ripe with history dating back to the founding of the United States, beautiful flowers and of course, the witch trials which to this day help serve as a moral compass for American society. If you've been planning a trip to Salem, make sure to add these 15 free things to do in Salem MA to your list. You'll be glad that you did!
15 Best Free Things to do in Salem MA
The first time I visited Salem was with a friend of mine, we were both pregnant and just got away for the weekend. We stayed at the Salem Inn because of the rumors of it being haunted. Well, it didn't disappoint! We got looked into our room, and a hotel attendant had to climb in the window to get the door taken apart to unlock it! Things were never quite where we left them that sort of thing. But we never SAW anything sadly (maybe one day!)
I highly recommend the Salem Inn if you are in town it's made of several historic building it's perfect walking distance into the center of Salem, but it's not RIGHT on the action, so it's quite enough to sleep!
While there here are the top 15 free things in Salem MA you shouldn't miss!
Hocus Pocus House – Did you know the Hocus Pocus movie was shot in Salem? The big white house is just outside the main downtown area, and you can drive by and take your picture outside of it. Also, you can view it if you take the trolley (the trolley it not free through).
National Park Visitor Center – The national park is two separate sites. This one is the welcome center and a museum. This is where you can get your book to do the Jr Ranger program and turn it in to get your badge. This and the other National Park site below are one of the most popular free things to do in Salem MA.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site – This is the 2nd National Park site across town this is the ship in the harbor called the Friendship. You will learn the stories of the sailors who would make port in Salem bringing in their items to sell and for trade.
Harbor Sweets Tours – This is a world famous 30-year-old handcrafted chocolate shop. On Tuesdays and Thursday, they give tours of where their chocolates are made.
Salem Witch Trials Memorials – Of course, no visit to Salem would be complete without visiting the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. These 20 granite benches are carved with the names and dates of execution of all of the victims of the hysteria that caused the witch trials. Take a moment, pay your respects and take in the horror that occurred on those days.
Walk Downtown – The main stores on Essex Street are worth walking there are some great stores you will find only in Salem. Get your palm read, read the history surrounding so many of the museums, take in different events, art galleries, and so much more.
McIntire Historic District Self-Guided Walking Trail – Samuel McIntire had a considerable role in the historic buildings around Salem. You can grab this walking tour pamphlet at the National Park Visitor Center mentioned above and take this self-guided tour around town and see some fantastic architecture.
Relax at the Rope Mansion Garden – This mansion is part of the Peabody Museum just off Essex St. You can enjoy the gardens and take in the city around you. Just watch out for the sprinklers if you go to early, true story.
Visit Salem Commons – This is the big park just to the east of the central downtown area. There is so much history here, and it's perfect for a picnic lunch.
African American Heritage Salem Self Guided Walking Tour – This is a self-guided tour around Salem of African American history. You can grab the tour pamphlet at the National Parks visitor center mentioned above.
Nathaniel Bowditch Trail: A Walking Tour of the Great Age of Sail – Another great self-guided tour you can grab from the visitor center. On this tour, you will learn about Salem's maritime history, interesting facts from when Salem was THE port to pull into and more.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem Walking Tour – Salem sure does love their self-guided tours. Also, available at (big surprise) the National Park Visitor center mentioned above. Come and visit Nathaniel Hawthorne's Salem and see the city through his eyes!
Old Burying Point Cemetery – We spent several hours walking this graveyard and reading headstones. There are some pretty important people buried here along with some pilgrims from the Mayflower! The kids were learning about the Mayflower at the time and were so excited! Don't worry there are guides in the graveyard to direct you as well! This was one of our favorite free things to do in Salem MA to do!
Salem Willows Park – Yes this is an amusement park, but it's right on the water. You can walk around take it all in for free, but the rides are what cost money. Plus there is a beach you can take in for free.
Salem Heritage Trail – Have you seen the red line on the ground around town? It's the Salem Heritage Trail! While this is a paid tour if you want a guide you can follow the line around town and see all the sites yourself!
Did I miss any free things to do in Salem MA? Let me know in the comments below.