October Visit to Witch City

salem witch house

Are you looking for the ultimate spooky season get away? Marina and I were looking for a fun (and quick) trip to celebrate her birthday and we were looking for some spooky good fun! After much deliberation, we decided on an October visit to Witch City, Salem, Massachusetts.

We don’t get into the witchy stuff too hard. We mostly wanted to keep the trip education and history based (she is a history teacher after all). And while we didn’t visit any of the stores that promised to help you cast spells or that were selling actual witch supplies, we did enjoy the spooky season environment.

Planning Ahead

Our first stop was at the Salem Witch Museum. It’s an incredibly popular attraction and tickets go on sale starting at midnight. We got on the site right at midnight and still were queued for about 20 minutes. Eventually we got on and were able to get tickets for one of the morning tours.

Our day started early, very early, like 6 a.m. Marina wanted to get some breakfast and hit the road for Salem, which was about an hour from our Airbnb in a Boston suburb. We hit a local Dunkin Donuts (which are on about every corner in Boston), and we were on the road.

We faced the scariest part of our visit not too long after pulling into town. As we drove into the parking garage we realized all of the electricity was out. The structure was totally dark! Luckily there were a few other cars and we felt safer in numbers. Sometimes it’s these weird little unexpected things that really make your travel memories.

Our garage opened into Salem’s Witch City Mall. All of the stores were decked out for the festivities with their best Halloween displays. The movie theater was offering an all-day movie marathon with all types of scary movies. We browsed around for a bit until it was time to head over for our tour.

Salem Witch Museum

The museum was unique and a little confusing until I understood the concept. At first you are ushered into a large room with a number of stools. There you are directed to find a seat for the performance.

As the lights are lowered (just slightly), the performance begins. There are a number of life-sized scenes around the top of the room. As a narrator tells the story of the witch trials of 1692, different scenes are illuminated. And as the story is told, you rotate on your stool to follow the tale.

On the left, Samantha from Bewitched is a statue riding atop a broom. On the right is a photo of the sign at the Salem Witch Museum with an assortment of carved pumpkins underneath.
Samantha from Bewitched graces the town square. On the right, a sign at the Salem Witch Museum.

It’s very interesting and tells the story of the witch trials from a historical perspective. The focus is on the witch hunt itself, neighbors calling out neighbors and trials designed to wipe out the devils within the community.

Following the presentation, we entered another hall. This had several displays and, again, a narrator provided the story as we browsed around.

Some of the displays were about the evolution of witches through the ages. Early depictions were of old, haggard women. Then during the production of The Wizard of Oz, a green tint was added to the witch’s skin. Further displays showed the modern witch, a Wiccan as living with the land and worshipping nature.

Month Long Party in Witch City

After our visit to the witch museum, we decided to head out into the town. It’s a fairly extensive affair. If you’ve been to the Circleville Pumpkin Show, imagine that but put half of the people in costumes and extend the duration for the entire month of October. It’s a pretty big deal!

A side yard decorated for October with Davy Jones, large skeletons and a canon. We found this during our visit to Witch City, Salem, Massachusetts.
Residents and businesses alike decorated for the event.

There were people dressed in extensive costumes. Several of the characters were set up to pose for photos for a price.  We saw Jack Skellington (Nightmare Before Christmas), a very intimidating little red riding hood warrior, the Ghostbusters, the Sanderson sisters (Hocus Pocus) and more. Several attendees were dressed as well, most in witch hats and some even carrying brooms. Side note: we did notice that most of the attendees (probably 75 percent but I don’t have the exact number) were women.

During our visit to Witch City, we saw large statues of witches and wizards. We also visited the Salem Witch Museum.
There were life sized witch and wizard figures at businesses all over town. In the center is the Salem Witch Museum.

In addition to the food trucks and trailers, there were a number of local restaurants all decorated for the season. We had lunch at Casa Tequila Mexican Restaurant, because we were hungry for Mexican food. (Actually I’m always hungry for Mexican food and fish and chips. Those are my go-to dishes.)  The food was decent, but the margarita was excellent. For dinner we went to the Village Tavern. We had standard pub fare on the smallest high-top table you could possibly imagine. I, of course, had the aforementioned fish and chips.

Orange lights and food trailers are seen in Salem, Massachusetts during the annual event.
Food trucks and trailers added to the carnival-like atmosphere.

Hocus Pocus

If you enjoyed the first Hocus Pocus movie, you can visit a number of the locations where the filming took place. The Pioneer Village is a site from the beginning of the movie, where we see Binx as a human before his feline transformation. Other filming locations include Phillips Elementary (Max and Allison’s school), Salem Common (most of the outdoor scenes) and Old Town Hall (the parents’ Halloween party).

The historical Ropes Mansion is a large two-story house with dormers. It is surrounded by a white fence and has black shutters on the windows.  It was featured in the first Hocus Pocus movie.
Rope’s Mansion is Allison’s house in the first Hocus Pocus movie. When Max visits the mansion to trick-or-treat the adults are having a costume party.

We didn’t visit all of the locations from the film, but we did make a point to stop by the beautiful Ropes Mansion, which was Allison’s house in the movie. We also stopped by the Old Burial Hill Cemetery where the day-time cemetery scenes were filmed. Max encounters some bullies there.

Carved pumpkins with a Hocus Pocus theme that we saw during our visit to Witch City, Salem, Massachusetts.
Since much of the first movie was filmed in Salem, the entire town gets behind the movies.

Sites Around Witch City

In addition to the festival activities, Salem has a number of sites that date back to the 1600s, including the time of the witch trials. The “witch house” (actually the Jonathan Corwin house) was one of those locations. It’s a beautiful property as can be seen in our cover photo. We weren’t able to tour inside as the tickets had been sold out for the day. This is the only remaining structure with direct link to the Salem Witch Trials.

Witch trial victim memorial in Salem, Massachusetts.
The area for the memorials is a small u-shaped park next to the cemetery.

Literature fans will want to tour the home that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work, The House of the Seven Gables. Though we walked down by the property, you can’t really see it from the street and it wasn’t on my must-do list for a tour. The price, while probably reasonable to some, was a bit steep for me since I had just a passing interest.

One of the memorial benches in the Salem Witch Trials memorial.
Each bench contains the name of the victims, the method of death (hanged in this case) and the date. Several benches contained gifts and notes from ancestors of the deceased.

One site that was on my must-do list was to visit the memorials for the victims of the witch trials. In 1692 through 1693, more than 200 individuals were accused of witchcraft in the colony. 18 individuals were declared guilty of witchcraft and were hanged at the gallows, while another was put to death by being pressed under large stones. Still others were imprisoned. Lives were ruined or put on hold and still others perished during their time in prison.

Finding Fun Beyond Ohio: Witch City

While we focus most of our adventures around Ohio, we try to share our travels beyond the borders. While Salem was both busy and exhausting, it was a great trip. I enjoyed learning about the history of the witch trials, which was a story that I thought I knew. Seeing the quaint village and all of the history there was also a high point of the trip.

Looking for spooky fun closer to home? We’ve covered some of our favorite pumpkin patches and a few of our favorite Halloween haunts.

Like traveling further afield? We have featured some of our favorite trips in the travel section.

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