things to do in salem, one day in salem ma

Hey everyone, happy Monday! Today on the blog I am going to address a super common question I see in my Facebook group. “If I had one day in Salem, MA what would I do?” I know not everyone can make it here for an overnight trip, so this blog post is going to be the top of my personal favorites here in the witch city.

First, the city of Salem is a bit sleepy. The shops and businesses downtown don’t generally open until late morning, between 10:00 am and noon. You may be tempted to arrive early to pack in as much as you can, which is smart, but you’re going to be limited to breakfast spots and coffee shops. If you’re okay with this, then I suggest starting the morning with breakfast at Salem’s Retreat. Over the last year or so they have become a favorite of mine. The steak tips with eggs is absolutely amazing, the marinade on the steak is divine.

Once you’re done with breakfast, time to do some light shopping. If you are still early and the city is still waking up, this is a great time to wander and get pictures. If you’re visiting us in the fall, it can be near impossible to get photos at major landmarks around the city without people in the background. Take advantage of this quiet time! Wander, figure out the lay of the land, take photos, get a cup of coffee and enjoy watching the witch city wake up for the day.

Now that Salem is waking up, head over to the Trolley Depot to get tickets. The Salem Trolley is the one attraction I recommend every time. It’s a great way to sight see in an expedited way. If you’re only here for one day and are looking to streamline the process, the Trolley is the best bet. It goes on two loops which in total takes about 45 minutes and brings you around to many major landmarks and historic sites. If you’d rather save your money for other things, you can follow the Heritage Trail. This is the gold line painted on the ground which will loop you around as well. Now, it doesn’t hit the same spots as the Trolley and it’s not narrated, but it’s an easy alternative if you prefer. If you do hop the Trolley, make a note of the general layout of the city and the spots you want to circle back to once you’re on foot.

Now that the Trolley is done, get to some shopping! Wander around, stop in any cute shop that catches your attention, grab some keepsakes and goodies and enjoy. Salem is home to so many amazing shops, makers, crafters and more. It’s likely you’re grabbing one of a kind goods, so be sure to snag yourself some fun things to take home.

If you’re looking for a list of some of my current favorite places to grab things…here we go: Salem Bespoke Boutique for crystals, Moody’s for decor and gifts, Witch City Wicks for candles, Diehl Marcus for loose leaf tea and gifts, Jenni Stuart Fine Jewelry for gorgeous and unique pieces, Whimsy’s Sweet Life for cottage core vibes and gifts and Moon’s for Salem swag and hoodies. This list is not all inclusive, of course, and changes regularly. These are just a few of my current favorites. Salem truly has amazing shopping.

At this point in the day if you’re looking for a light lunch or snack, I’d suggest Roseadela’s. They make a fantastic BLT, all of their baked goods are made fresh daily in house, they have a wide range of coffee and tea and are easy to grab and go. If you’re looking for more “sit down and dine” lunch vibes, I’d suggest Rockafellas. I have truly never had anything there that I didn’t like, plus their window booths make for excellent people watching. You could also enjoy an amazing lunch in the Tavern inside the Hawthorne Hotel. The Hawthorne is on the registry of historic hotels of America and is a fun peek into the past.

Off to more adventuring. At this point in the day I’d get to any attractions you want to visit. Maybe while you were on the Trolley you noted a few places to circle back to. Now is your chance. If you want to wander through a museum, if you want to get a tarot card reading, if you want to hop on a walking tour or tour of the House of the Seven Gables, do photos at Witch Pix, etc…do it now. This is also a great chance to explore off the beaten path places like The Satanic Temple and Art Gallery or Black Veil Tattoo.

Ready for dinner? One of my absolute favorites in Salem is Turner’s Seafood. Turner’s is located in Lyceum Hall which is loaded with history. It’s the location of Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard and was also the location of the first long distance phone call. It definitely gives me haunted vibes, but not in a scary way. Be sure to snag dinner here before you leave Salem!

The best way to end the day is on a sunset sail with the Schooner Fame. After your meal, head down to the wharf and board the Fame for an hour and forty-five minute sail. Enjoy gorgeous views of Salem and the surrounding communities while the sky lights up with oranges and reds. It’s so peaceful and enjoyable.

Need a snack before you leave the witch city? If it’s a weekend, head to Goodnight Fatty across from the Hawthorne Hotel. Goodnight Fatty makes some of the best cookies in Salem and is a fantastic sweet treat at night.

Of course, you can’t truly do everything in one day. But this itinerary is a good way to experience some of the highlights, in my humble opinion.

Need some more planning assistance? Grab a copy of Salem’s Other Seasons! This is my spring, summer and winter guide to Salem and it contains city wide event info, planning trips and tricks and more. Visiting in the fall? Keep an eye for announcements regarding my fall guide. It becomes available every August and covers the current year’s event info, exclusive content from me and so much more.

Have fun! <3

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