Spend Labor Day Weekend in Salem, Massachusetts

Fall may be just around the corner but there is still time to catch up on our favorite summertime activities this Labor Day weekend in Salem.

The Salem Willows Arcade remains open for the season through the end of September. Stop by for some classic boardwalk-style arcade games, show off your pinball skills, or soak up the oceanfront views with an ice cream, popcorn, or the famous chop suey sandwich. The Salem Willows Arcade is open on Labor Day weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Salem Willows Arcade

Learn about Salem’s literary and maritime history with a guided tour of the House of the Seven Gables, and stick around after the tour to spend some time in the site’s beautiful seaside gardens. These colonial gardens have as much history as the house itself, and information and maps for the gardens specifically are available at the Gables and online.

For another garden escape while in Salem, visit the Ropes Mansion. The mansion is part of the Peabody Essex Museum’s collection, and free self-guided tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm through October. The Ropes Mansion’s garden is open year-round and offers a picturesque change of pace from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Planning on visiting the museum too? The Peabody Essex Museum is open regular hours on the weekend, and on Monday for the holiday. Stop by to see Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style before it sets sail on October 9.

What better way to send off summer than with a picnic? Pick up a sandwich or salad from Milk and Honey, or a pizza from either Flying Saucer Pizza Company or Essex’s NY Pizza, and find a spot to have lunch outside. Bring a blanket to Salem Common, walk down to Derby Wharf, or ride the Salem Trolley and hop off at Winter Island for a scenic picnic spot.

Immerse yourself in Salem’s history with a daytime or evening walking tour with Black Cat Tours. Daytime historical tours cover various parts of Salem’s history from the Witch Trials in 1692 to the spice trade and more. On the tour, learn about Salem’s famous historical residents and see the architecture that is associated with them today. In the evening, join Black Cat’s Ghostly Night Tour to hear ghost stories from around town and learn about the dark sides of Salem’s past. Bring your camera and see if you can capture any images of paranormal activity yourself.

On Sunday, take to the water during a sail with Mahi Cruises. The last Sunday Funday Brunch Cruise of the season takes place this Sunday, September 3. Each cruise comes complete with live music, a brunch spread, and a tropical mimosa and Bloody Mary Bar. To purchase tickets and view additional cruises that continue through October, visit Mahi’s website.

Want even more to do this Labor Day weekend? Check out our events calendar or create your own adventure to build an itinerary that’s made just for you.

5 Reasons to Take the Salem Harbor Shuttle

Looking for a quick and carefree way to get around Salem? The Salem Harbor Shuttle offers stops near the Salem Ferry landing on Blaney Street, right downtown at Congress Street, and at Winter Island and the Salem Willows. Tickets ($7 for adults or $4 for kids) may be purchased onboard, and special rates are available when transferring from the Salem Ferry or for Salem residents. Take in the coastal views and maybe even a sunset as you cruise to your next destination with the Salem Harbor Shuttle.



Take the 9:30 am shuttle from your campsite at Winter Island to Downtown Salem
Visiting Downtown Salem while camping at Winter Island is can be convenient and scenic aboard the Salem Harbor Shuttle. Hop on the 9:30 am shuttle from Winter Island and plan to disembark at the next stop at Congress Street. Enjoy beautiful views of Salem Harbor as you sail into downtown and prepare for a day full of history, culture, dining, shopping, and more.

Take the 10:00 am shuttle from Congress Street to the Salem Ferry
Getting to Boston with the Salem Ferry has never been easier. With the Salem Harbor Shuttle, you can go from downtown Salem to the ferry landing on Blaney Street in just 20 minutes. By reaching the Salem Ferry landing at 10:20 am, you’ll have plenty of time to purchase ferry tickets, and stock up on brochures and maps to help plan your day-trip to Boston. The ferry transfer rate for the Salem Harbor Shuttle is only $4, and discounts for the ferry are available for both Salem and North Shore residents.

Take the 11:00 am shuttle from Congress Street to the Salem Willows for pinball and a chop suey sandwich
Spend the afternoon at the Willows showing off your pinball or skeeball skills, or wander the grounds and enjoy the coastal views. Grab a chop suey sandwich for lunch or snack on popcorn and ice cream before catching the 5:15 pm shuttle to return downtown.



Take the 2:00 pm shuttle from the Salem Willows to Blaney Street and take the 3:00 pm tour of the House of the Seven Gables.
Head to the Willows first thing in the morning for some fun arcade games, a quick lunch, and maybe even some time at the beach before boarding the 2:00 pm shuttle to Blaney Street. From Blaney Street, walk down to the House of the Seven Gables, and view the exhibit, Life and Labor Over Four Centuries at The Gables, which is on view through September 30. Learn about the various aspects of personal life and work through the lives of former residents of The Gables before embarking on a tour of the historic property.

Take the 4:00 pm shuttle from Blaney Street, and enjoy a harbor tour for just $7!
The 4:00 pm shuttle docks at every stop, allowing you to relax with a 90-minute ride along Salem Harbor for just $7 (or $4 if you transfer from the Salem Ferry or happen to be a Salem resident). Prefer to hop on and off throughout the day? Day passes for the shuttle are also available for $15.

Visit SalemFerry.com to view complete schedules and rates or request more information about the Salem Harbor Shuttle.

It’s Alive! Classic Horror & Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection at the Peabody Essex Museum

Rock On, 2017. R. Kikuo Johnson. www.rkikuojohnson.com

The Peabody Essex Museum’s latest exhibition, It’s Alive! Classic Horror & Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection, relates classic 20th-century movie posters and props as objects of fear and forms of creative expression that continue to inspire artists today. The 135-piece collection that makes up the exhibition belongs to Kirk Hammett, who is best known for his role as the lead guitarist in Metallica. While Hammett has been collecting horror art since he was just six years old, It’s Alive! is the first major exhibition of his collection.

The entire exhibit appeals to our interest in fear and the unknown. When designing advertisements for horror films, artists needed to combine their eyes for detail with captivating storytelling in a way that would make audiences want to see more. A walk through the exhibit will reaffirm the strange relationship that we all have with fear, as a feeling that obviously alarms us but still makes us want to continue watching a film or in this case viewing the film’s artwork or listening to music.

Roland Coudon, Frankenstein, about 1931, produced by Universal Pictures, printed by Etabts Delattre, France, lithograph, 63 x 94 in. (160 x 238.8 cm). Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Studios Licensing, LLC.

Many of the posters from Hammett’s collection were originally created by the hundreds or thousands, though unfortunately little care was taken to preserve them when it was time to replace them with new advertisements. As a result, some of the pieces in the collection are now either the only ones or one of just a handful of the pieces known to exist today.

Some of these posters may be noticeably unlike their respective films, which became a fairly regular occurrence in the mid-20th century. During this time, film studios would often design posters first to see how much interest there would be in the general concept for the piece before actually planning or shooting any of it. As a result, many posters ended up advertising films that were entirely different than what was actually produced.

Themes of the exhibit showcase the different themes within the horror realm and how they can be understood from posters alone. Most familiar are the themes focusing on aspects of The Undead (as in Dracula, The Mummy, or Frankenstein), Classic Tales, and Other Realms, which focuses on subjects like Aliens and The Deep. The exhibit goes on to include motifs on Women and Power in horror, and the use of eyes in horror artwork, Mad Science, Zombies, and even Horror Spoofs.

Nosferatu, about 1931, produced by Prana Film, Germany, printed in Spain, lithograph, 42 1/4 x 29 1/8 in. (107.3 x 74 cm). Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection.

Hammett’s music and the inspiration he derives from horror art is laced throughout the exhibition with a display featuring six of his horror art-themed guitars. Daniel Finamore, PEM’s Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History, who led the research and design of the exhibit relates Hammett’s work to the characters in these classic films: “Like the monsters in his posters, Hammett knows what being a cult icon is about. Just as fans of his music follow him, he unabashedly throws himself into the cult fandom through his voracious collecting activity.”

“It’s Alive! Classic Horror & Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection is on display at the Peabody Essex Museum until November 26, 2017. The exhibition celebration will take place on Saturday, September 23, and will feature a heavy metal yoga class, horror writing workshop, guitar art demonstrations, a film screening of Frankenstein, and more.

A Day in Salem for $50 or Less

A day-trip to Salem doesn’t have to break the bank. From free events and tours to reasonably priced attractions and restaurants, there is so much to see and do even with a tight budget in mind. Continue reading to learn tips for planning your next low-budget visit to Salem, Massachusetts:

Getting here

Parking costs in Salem range from $.25 to $1.00/hour at garages and metered spots. We recommend parking at the Museum Place Garage at 1 New Liberty Street, which is conveniently located across the street from the Salem Regional Visitor Center. Note: Many parking fees increase to $20 per day, cash on entry, during weekends in October. 

Public transportation to Salem is accessible through the MBTA commuter rail’s Newburyport/Rockport line which extends from cities north of Salem to Boston’s North Station. Ticket prices range from $3.25 – $7.50 (one way) depending on where you depart from.

Museums & Attractions

The Visitor Center is home to two films that can give some context for Salem’s history before you head out to explore. Where Past is Present is a free 27-minute film that gives an overview of Salem’s history. Salem Witch Hunt presented by Essex Heritage is a 38-minute film that focuses specifically on the Salem Witch Trials and costs only $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for seniors and kids.

The National Park Service Rangers and volunteers at the Visitor Center can also help the kids complete Junior Ranger Programs, and brochures for various self-guided walking tours of Salem are available all free of charge. Salem’s Heritage Trail offers a free self-guided walk to many local historic sites, and the National Park Service also offers free guided and self-guided tours of the Custom House and Narbonne House on Derby Wharf.

Learn about the Salem Witch Trials by taking a tour of the Witch House. The home of Witch Trials Judge Jonathan Corwin, the Witch House is the only building in Salem today with direct ties to the Witch Trials. Admission ranges from $8.25 for adults and $6.25 for kids for the guided tour and $6.25 for adults and $4.25 for kids for the self-guided tour.

Adjacent to the Witch House is the Ropes Mansion. Currently owned by the Peabody Essex Museum, the Ropes Mansion is open on Saturdays and Sundays for free self-guided tours. The Ropes Mansion (c. 1727) is a beautiful Georgian Colonial that was home to four generations of the Ropes Family. The Mansion contains original furnishing a variety of 18th and 19th-century artifacts including ceramics, glass, textiles, and more.

Moving on to the 20th century, guided tours of Historic New England’s Phillips House are available for just $8.00 for adults, $7.00 for seniors and $4.00 for students. Built in 1821, the Phillips House houses the collection of five generations, while presenting information on the lives of both the Phillips family and their domestic staff during the turn of the century.

Visit the Salem Wax Museum to learn more about the Salem Witch Trials and Salem’s maritime history. View exhibits with London-made wax figures from Salem’s and visit the museum’s interactive area to learn nautical knot-tying and gravestone rubbing. Admission to the Salem Wax Museum is $9.00 for adults and $7.00 for kids, and combination tickets with neighboring attractions are available for select dates.

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is moving to a new, central location on Essex Street for Spring 2018! This monster movie museum is home to life-size figures and props all designed by Hollywood special effects artists. Admission to Count Orlok’s is $7.00 for adults and $5.00 for kids.


Salem celebrates with a different festival each month of the year, many of which are free or inexpensive to attend. Spring events include the Salem Arts Festival and the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

This summer visit the Salem Jazz & Soul Festival which happens at Salem Willows in August. This free event features live performances by local Jazz, Blues, and Soul artists from around the North Shore, local craft and artisan vendors, music education workshops, and more. (While the festival is free, donations or purchases of festival merchandise help support music education causes and additional free concerts on the North Shore).

The Antique & Classic Boat Festival takes place August 25-26, 2018 at the Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina. For a $5 entry fee (kids 12 and under are free), you’ll be able to spend the day meeting with skippers and crew from rare vintage motor yachts and sailboats. Enjoy boat rides, craft markets, and music, and close out the event with the Blessing of the Fleet.

Flying Saucer Pizza Company

Fall festivals include Trails & Sails in September and Salem Haunted Happenings in October. A full list of annual festivals is available here, and all events may be viewed on our online calendar.


Grab and go lunches in Salem can help save you time and money. To pick up lunch on the run, grab a sandwich or salad from Milk & Honey, or stop for pizza at Essex’s NY Pizza and Deli or Flying Saucer Pizza Company.

Low-budget lunch does not always have to mean eating on the run. Red’s Sandwich Shop serves up all-day breakfast, sandwiches, pasta, salad, and classic entrees like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese many for under $10.00/person. Another great downtown lunch spot is Thai Place, where specials start at $6.95 for adults and $2.95.

You can visit every attraction listed here (and enjoy a $10 lunch) for $50. For more budget-friendly fun, check out our picks for the Top 10 Free Things to Do in Salem or create your own adventure.



The History Buff’s Guide to Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts is a history lover’s paradise. With colonial and maritime history, and the history of the Salem Witch Trials, along with spectacular architecture dating from the 17th to early 20th centuries, Salem offers a host of historical museums, attractions, and even restaurants and shops. Make history during your visit to Salem by checking out all there is to do, eat, and shop, or by following our suggestions below.

Upon arriving in Salem, visit the Salem Regional Visitor Center to get your bearings and catch a short introductory film. The Visitor Center offers two films that provide background information for your visit to Salem: Where Past is Present a 27-minute film covering the general history of Salem, and Salem Witch Hunt, a 35-minute film presented by Essex Heritage that focuses exclusively on the Salem Witch Trials.



Before leaving the Visitor Center, pick up a brochure or two for a free self-guided walking tour on a topic like Architecture in Salem or African American Heritage Sites in Salem. For another way to make your way to Salem’s historical sites on foot, catch the red line on the sidewalk and follow the Salem Heritage Trail. If you do not have time to complete an entire self-guided tour, pull out the guide when you happen to be near relevant sites to learn more on the go or break up the tour across multiple days.

From the Visitor Center, walk down Essex Street towards Washington Street. Pass the statue of Samantha from Bewitched and continue to the next intersection until you come to the Witch House. The building was home to Witch Trials Judge Jonathan Corwin, making it the only remaining structure in Salem today with direct ties to the events in 1692. Take a tour of the house (guided or self-guided) to learn about Judge Corwin and his role in the Witch Trials as well as 17th-century architecture and home life.




Around the corner from the Witch House you will find the Ropes Mansion, which was built in 1727 and renovated in 1894. The architectural style of the building is detailed in the Architecture in Salem guide you may have picked up from the Visitor Center. The mansion is currently owned by the Peabody Essex Museum, which offers free self-guided tours of the interior on Saturdays and Sundays through the fall.

Walk back towards the Witch House to turn right onto Summer Street and take another right onto Chestnut Street going until you find #34, Historic New England’s Phillips House. Built in 1821, by Captain Nathaniel West, the home was later inhabited by the Phillips family, whose collection is on display for guests to view today. Tours of the Phillips House, which begin every half hour, offer insight into what day-to-day life was like in the early 20th-century for both the Phillips family and their staff. The building is designed in the Colonial Revival architectural style and is one another of the stops in the Architecture in Salem guide.



When you’re ready for lunch, continue back down Essex Street crossing the street by the beginning of the Pedestrian Mall and take a left. Continue down Washington Street until you come to Church Street on the right, and visit Turner’s Seafood for lunch. Turner’s location within the Lyceum brings allows guests to dine in the building where in 1877 Alexander Graham Bell completed the first long distance telephone call while enjoying a menu of fresh, locally sourced seafood dishes.

After lunch, return to the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall to visit Bewitched in Salem and pick up the Bewitched Historical Tour. This informative two-hour walking tour brings you to various sites where you will learn about Salem’s colonial history along with the history of the Salem Witch Trials, maritime lore, present-day Salem and more.



Following your walking tour, visit the House of the Seven Gables to learn not only about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel but also about the site’s architecture and local maritime history. Take a guided tour through the home, and visit the seaside gardens and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace. To take some of Salem’s history home with you, visit the House of the Seven Gables Gift Shop. The shop features literary-themed goods as well as historical treasures to remember your visit to Salem from home.

Do some more shopping for yourself or the history buffs you have waiting at home on your way back to the downtown area by stopping at Waite and Peirce on Derby Street. Waite and Peirce is home to authentic and recreated goods from Salem’s past and the shop is also a great place to pick up some additional information about the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

Want to make your “History Buff” day trip into an overnight stay? Book a room at one of Salem’s local historic inns, or at the Hawthorne Hotel, which is a Historic Hotel of America constructed in 1925.

For even more to see and do during your next visit to Salem, create your own adventure using the icons on our homepage.