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What to See and Do in Salem, Massachusetts

Autumn is the perfect time to head to this New England city, where you can learn about the Salem Witch Trials and other local history amidst some of the finest fall color around.

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A Town Steeped in Scary History

“Nobody uses their Halloween costumes as much as we do in Salem,” says Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. On Haunted Happenings, a guide to all things Halloween-related in Salem, Massachusetts, there are more than 1,000 events in the month of October and people from all around the world flock to the city in the fall to experience the spooky celebrations.

Located just 45 minutes north of Boston, Salem is best known for the witch trials of 1692 where mass hysteria led to more than 200 people being accused of practicing witchcraft, and ultimately 20 innocent people were executed. The tragedy has led to Salem becoming synonymous with witches. The city has embraced their history by preserving artifacts in museums and offering tours to educate visitors.

If you’re thinking about heading to New England's famous Halloween haunt, start making your reservations now. Approximately 500,000 people visit Salem in October and hotels fill up a year in advance. If you’re lucky to secure a room, here are a few hot spots for your to-do list.

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Photo: Teresa Nevic Stavner

Old Town Hall

Erected in 1816, Salem's beautiful Old Town Hall is the earliest surviving municipal structure in the city and is still used as a cultural destination for events, fundraisers and a farmers' market.

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Photo: Jean Johnson

Salem Foliage

New England is famous for having stunning fall foliage, and while you’re in Salem you’ll be surrounded by the colors of autumn. According to Fox, the waterfront and Salem common (greenspace downtown) are the best places to do some leaf peeping but you’ll be surrounded by red, orange and yellow hues pretty much everywhere you go.

Take in the local beauty and enjoy some fascinating local history with the Bewitched After Dark walking tours. To be clear though, this isn’t a ghost tour. Bewitched After Dark sticks to the facts and shows visitors some of Salem’s must-see sites.

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Photo: Peter Vanderwarker

Peabody Essex Museum

With roots dating back to 1799, the Peabody Essex Museum is the oldest continuously operating collecting museum in the United States. In the fall the museum features a pop-up Halloween shop and a number of seasonal Eerie Events.

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