things to do in salem, a first timer's guide to planning a fall trip to salem ma

Good morning everyone and happy Monday! Today on the blog I am revisiting a topic I wrote about back in 2019 and this time I am putting a spin on it. Back in 2019 I did a first timer’s guide to planning a trip to Salem, MA. Today’s blog content is specific to planning your first FALL trip here. I hope this helps.

First…let’s be friends

Follow me to stay on top of event info, fall specific updates from the city, travel tips and tricks and so much more.

My fall guide

Did you know I publish a fall guide to Salem every single year? Yup. It becomes available sometime in August and covers September, October and November visits to Salem. It contains event information, planning tips and tricks, check lists, resources and tons more. If you’re planning a fall visit, keep an eye on my website and social media for announcements of when it will be available for download.

10 free things to do in Salem, MA

Who doesn’t love free? Sign up for my newsletter and you’ll be automatically emailed my list of ten free things to do in Salem.

Book your hotel first

I have said this 100000 times on my platforms and I will continue to forever. Book everything early, especially your hotel. Securing your accommodations should be first thing on your list for planning a fall visit to Salem. The following is a list of hotels in Salem.

Amelia Payson House
(978) 744-8304
16 Winter Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Hotel Salem
(978) 451-4950
209 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
Hampton Inn
(978) 414-3100
11 Dodge Street Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Merchant
(978) 745-8100
148 Washington Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
Northey Street House
(978) 397-1582
30 Northey Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Morning Glory
(978) 741-1703
22 Hardy Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Coach House
(978) 744-4092
284 Lafayette Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Salem Inn
(978) 741-0680
7 Summer St. Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Cove Hotel
(978) 955-7795
40 Bridge Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites
(978) 740-8788
225 Derby Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Daniels House
(978) 594-8757
1 Daniels Street Street Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Stepping Stone Inn
(978) 741-8900
19 Washington Square Salem, MA 01970
Check availability
The Hawthorne Hotel
(978) 744-4080
18 Washington Square West Salem, MA 01970
Check availability

Do you need to expand to the surrounding areas? The following links will help with that.

Now that your hotel is booked…

Book tickets for major attractions and walking tours

The next item on your list should be securing tickets for major attractions and walking tours. General rule of thumb for fall visits is if you can book it ahead of time, you should. This includes attractions, walking tours and meal reservations. It’s not uncommon in late October or on weekends for restaurants to be on a wait before lunch time.

Consider a week day visit

Weekends are far crazier than week days. If you want to avoid *some* of the crowds you’re likely to encounter, consider a week day visit. This might also make finding a hotel easier for you as well, especially if you’re late in the hunt for a hotel room.

Don’t drive into Salem

Avoid driving into Salem if at all possible. Take public transit like the train (there is a stop right here in Salem, minutes away from all of the action!) or the free shuttles in October. This is for two reasons. First, the roads are going to be extremely congested. The city of Salem wasn’t built to handle the volume it gets in the fall and the traffic sometimes backs up for hours. Not to mention planned road closures in October. The second reason why you should avoid driving is because finding parking can be an extreme challenge, if not impossible unless you get here super early. The public lots rates increase for the fall and fill by mid morning, the on street parking is limited to accommodate residents and parking fines are also increased for the fall.

Download a map of Salem

If it’s your first visit, I strongly suggest downloading a map of Salem or using Google Maps to figure out where everything is. Drop pin points for all of the attractions you have booked plus your hotel to see which items are close to each other and which ones are not. This will avoid looping back around the same areas repeatedly because you are going back and forth.

If you are able to grab tickets to the Salem Trolley, I strongly suggest starting with that. The Trolley is a great way to get an overview of the layout of downtown Salem, to sight see in a very efficient way and to help you make mental notes of landmarks you want to circle back to on foot.

Can you do Salem on foot?

Yes. The main downtown area in Salem is very walkable and doable without a car.

Keep it light

I’d suggest unloading any unnecessary items from your bags, backpacks, purses, etc. You’re going to be on foot carrying everything around with you all day and that extra stuff will likely get heavy. Not to mention some attractions won’t allow you to enter with large bags or backpacks for safety reasons in the crowds.


If you’re stopping for food or drink somewhere and they have a publicly accessible bathroom I strongly suggest using it, even if you don’t “need to” at that moment. The city has been working on this and progress has been made but it’s still kind of an issue. If you have access to these facilities anywhere you stop, I suggest taking advantage of that.


You should absolutely wear a costume if you are so inclined to. The costumes you’ll see range from every day average big box retailer type stuff all of the way to professional cosplayer level. Some folks spend all year prepping their costumes for the fall. Make sure to have your camera on hand to snap pics and please tip our buskers! They work hard to entertain everyone through the fall.

Do you need some last minute costume inspo? My storefront has a section dedicated to that. Click below to shop.

You might not want to come on a whim

If you are visiting us in the fall, planning ahead is crucial. If you visit us on a whim with nothing booked ahead of time, no food reservations in place and no game plan…you might find yourself just wandering and people watching without many options available to you.

This blog post is certainly not meant to dissuade anyone from coming in the fall, it’s simply a heads up that coming in September or October is very different than the other months of the year and some planning is certainly your best bet. This is so you can make the most of your visit and enjoy the witch city.

I hope this helped! If you aren’t part of my Facebook group feel free to join there as well. Ask questions, search for recommendations, share ideas and more. Enjoy!! <3

Recommended reading | You might also like…

Pin for later

things to do in salem, a first timer's guide to planning a fall visit to salem ma