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:
Parking costs in Salem ranges 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.
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. (Note: The Newburyport/Rockport line will not run on weekends through September 30 due to required maintenance and repairs. During this time shuttle service is offered to/from Salem for $10 roundtrip).
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.
From the Wax Museum, cross the street to Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery. 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. Coming up next is the Salem Jazz & Soul Festival which happens at Salem Willows August 19-20. 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 26-27 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.
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. KOTO Asian Grill offers sushi lunch specials, bento boxes, and noodle dishes for about $12.00/person or less. 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.