If you love the spooky and the scary, Salem, Massachusetts, is your dream destination. Home to the infamous witch trials, Salem leans into its creepy heritage with museums, tours, and various haunted attractions to attract fans of horror and history alike.
While Halloween is the best time to visit, you should keep your options open to help avoid crowds and get better pricing on flights and hotels.
However, Halloween is still the most significant time of the year, and all of October is filled with exciting events, making it the best time to visit overall. But that’s not all — read on to learn more.
Why You Should Visit Salem
We all know about the horrible witch trials in 1692, during which city officials hung nineteen innocent people and one pressed to death. They were fueled by superstition, xenophobia, and hysteria, and only in 2022 did the final woman accused have her name cleared.
While the trials and deaths were sad, much of the story and legend surrounding them have become spooky stories that continue to drive tourism to Salem.
The town respects the witch trials for what they were, and most tourism is about the ghosts of the innocent and those of the condemners who still haunt many buildings today.
Salem embraces this heritage and loves to give visitors the whole story, the good and the bad, while maintaining the town’s spooky vibes and celebrating Halloween.
Of course, there’s also more to Salem than just Halloween. Visiting during other times of the year can be just as fun, with fewer crowds, better prices, and other aspects of Salem to explore.
Overall Best Time to Visit Salem
Late September through November is typically the best time to visit, with special events known as Haunted Happenings going through all of October.
Parades, festivals, and even seances celebrate Salem’s history and the spirit of the holiday. Of course, all these events are accompanied by an equal number of crowds. If you’re nervous around crowds, that’s the genuinely scary part of Halloween in Salem.
However, crowds can also give any celebration an exciting and festive vibe, particularly when dressed up in incredible Halloween costumes. Almost everyone dresses up, with some truly spectacular costumes being entered into the costume parties held during this time of year.
The weather in Late September tends to be warmer, but October isn’t far behind, with moderate temperatures between 62 and 70 degrees. It’s perfect for spending time outdoors, particularly if you love the fall foliage.
Take some time to explore some parks and countryside around Salem to see some incredible New England scenery. In November, things slow down, and prices on hotels and flights take a steep dive, along with the temperatures.
The average is 42 degrees, with lows reaching the lower thirties. Not ideal touring weather, but if you’re willing to brave the cold, Salem can still be rewarding to visit.
Overall, Fall is the peak season for Salem, with hotels raising prices by 35% and the crowds to match, but it’s also the best time to visit for all the events, beautiful weather, and scenery. October in particular is when everything gets busy with more than you can see and do in one visit.
Cheapest Time to Visit Salem
Prices take a steep dive after October and continue falling through November until we reach the winter months, December through February. This is the cheapest time to visit Salem, with hotels and airlines offering discounts.
There are also a lot of reasons to visit. While many of the tours and attractions for Halloween and October in Salem close down, you can still see the major ones or enjoy a different holiday in Salem, like a classic New England Christmas or a romantic Valentine’s getaway.
Temperatures tend to hover between the thirties and forties and often fall below freezing, so pack a warm coat, hat, and gloves. Plus, you’ll want to ensure they’re waterproof because Salem gets a fair bit of snow in winter.
Once you’ve had your fill of snow, you can head out on tours, trolley rides, and other Christmas events in which all of Salem participates. If you think they go big on Halloween, they save some of the best for themselves on Christmas.
After New Year’s passes, Salem quiets down over January, making it great for avoiding crowds and getting great prices. At the end of the month is the Salem Comedy & Spirits Festival, where locals and visitors alike drink and laugh the cold away with performances, comedic skits, and locally crafted beer and wine.
In February, winter is still in full swing for Valentine’s Day, when Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate Festival and the Ice Sculpture Festival take place.
Spending the day eating delicious chocolate or viewing beautiful ice sculptures before cuddling together is the perfect option for a romantic weekend.
Of course, prices and crowds tend to go up around these events and holidays, so expect higher prices and more people than if you went during a quiet time when nothing is happening. However, it’s nowhere near as bad as during October when the city swarms with tourists.
Least Busy Time to Visit Salem
The cold New England weather keeps people away unless a significant holiday or festival occurs. This holds for Salem as well, which has a lovely Christmas celebration and some winter festivals and is pretty dead the rest of the time.
If you want to visit when there are the fewest people, avoid holidays and weekends. During the week, visit everything in Salem, the major attractions and eateries, parks and tours, and everything you want to do.
During weekends and holidays, couples and families from nearby towns and villages come to the area to shop, go to events, and just get away from their lives back home.
While there aren’t as many international and out-of-state visitors, they still come during the winter to see Salem and learn about the town’s history. I covered winter weather in the last section, but if you skipped it, temperatures are generally in the thirties and forties with regular freezing temperatures.
It also snows quite in Salem, so be prepared with warm waterproof winter gear. If you visit Salem during this time, it’s also a great time to get outside and see the countryside.
Going hiking, sailing, sledding, building a snowman, having a snowball fight, and other winter activities show off the beauty of winter in New England with glittering icicles, fields of pristine snow, and easy-to-spot wildlife.
Worst Time to Visit Salem
There’s not a worst time to visit Salem, as the major attractions are open all year, and there’s always something to do and see. Instead, you should consider the bad points of each time of year against the good to see what you can and can’t stand.
Fall is the best time to visit, even with the crowds and hiked prices, because it lends the city an exciting and unique vibe you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
However, that still means you’ll have to deal with loads of people and inflated prices, which may be dealbreakers for you. Winter has lower prices and fewer crowds, but it lacks the excitement of Fall, with fewer attractions and festivals to enjoy.
It may be precisely what you’re looking for, as Salem makes an excellent relaxed getaway. Spring is an excellent mixture of both, with fewer crowds and lower prices, but not as much as winter.
However, seasonal attractions and water activities for the summer are beginning to open back up. That, coupled with the warmer weather, may make spring your top pick. Summer is also a great time to visit Salem, although it’s busier than spring or winter.
Its prices rise all season before getting into peak season with fall. But most Halloween tours start in late summer, and there are tons of water and outdoor activities to enjoy. That swings us back to fall when peak season in Salem starts again.
However, Salem is beautiful year-round, with plenty of celebrations and events to enjoy, from boat races to wine and cheese tastings. It all comes down to personal preference.
Do you want to experience the unique craziness of Salem in October? Or calmly sip hot cocoa in front of a cozy fireplace in winter. Salem has a little something for everyone to visit and enjoy, no matter what time you choose to visit.
Things to Consider
Now that you’ve set a date for your trip to Salem, you should know what to bring and what to expect. Salem is safe to visit, but any crowded tourist destination has the potential for pickpocketing and petty theft, so keep your wits about you and a close eye on your belongings.
- Bring plenty of money. Salem has a lot of attractions and restaurants, but you have to pay a lot for them, mainly when it’s busy. Salem isn’t a budget destination, though it’s not as bad as other tourist destinations like theme parks.
- Get a taste of local culture. Salem is also known for its culinary scene, with classic New England dishes and sweet desserts that will leave you wanting more.
- Pack for the weather. New England weather is known for being finicky, so come prepared with rain jackets and umbrellas for warm weather and snow and delayed travel plans in colder weather.
- Stay in the center of the city. When planning your trip, try to find a place close to the city center. That way, you can walk to most of your destinations. After all, trying to drive a car through so much traffic and pedestrians is the scariest thing in Salem.
- Book early. If you’re planning on traveling to Salem during the peak season, book as early as possible for the best prices and dates. At least 45 days ahead of time.
If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll have a fun trip no matter when you want to go to Salem, whether it’s the busy peak season or one of the slower seasons.
Remember that travel in the late fall and winter can easily get delayed by snow, so plan for delays and surprise snowstorms if you’re heading out at that time of year.
Frequently Asked Questions
You should research where you want to go, what you want to see, and what you want to do in the city of Salem. These are some questions you might ask yourself when planning your trip.
How many days do you need to visit Salem?
You should plan for at least three days to hit all the major Salem attractions, but if there’s a festival or other activities you want to do, you should plan for at least five. You can quickly fill two weeks with activities in Salem, especially in October, depending on the time of year and any ongoing events.
What time of day is best to go to Salem?
If you’re driving from a nearby town for a day trip to Salem, get there at 10 am. That will give you a full day of shopping and touring without wearing yourself out. Ensure you head out before the evening traffic rush or stick around for a delicious dinner at one of Salem’s best restaurants.
Can you walk around Salem for free?
Yes, Old Salem is free to walk around, but some of the interactive exhibits cost money, so keep some on you while visiting.
Is Salem a walkable city?
Salem is very walkable, with plenty of sidewalks, parks, and nearby attractions that you likely won’t need a car. You can also use Uber or another ridesharing service to get around, but walking is best as you won’t have to deal with traffic, particularly when Salem gets busy.
Is visiting Salem worth it?
Yes, Salem is full of so much history and so many events that are always worth visiting at any time of the year. Salem has a unique vibe from celebrating its history and embracing the spooky stories that still lurk in the dark cells of jails and old houses.
It’s undoubtedly one of the best locations to celebrate Halloween, but it’s also fun at Christmas and the Fourth of July, so it’s up to you to decide when to go and celebrate. Its major attractions are open year-round, and getting a little spooky around different holidays is fun.
Plus, it’s worth going to Salem to try the French Onion soup — New England cooking at its finest.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Salem, MA?
Any time of the year is fun, but visiting during October is Salem on a whole different level. The excitement, the festivals, the spookiness. It has everything you can want in a Halloween destination while paying respectful tribute to its roots.
You can enjoy a trip to Salem any time during the year. However, it’s never really the wrong time to visit Salem. There are events all year you might be interested in, holidays that Salem adds its unique spooky flare to, and attractions for each season.
So take a look at the Salem Events Calendar to see what festivals you might be interested in. Plan your trip carefully to fit in all the history, exhibits, attractions, and food Salem offers.