5 Things to Do in Salem That Aren’t About Witches

Peace, love and waffles at The Ugly Mug in Salem, Mass. Photo: AnnMarie Barenchi/BU News Service

By AnnMarie Barenchi
BU News Service

Salem is a Massachusetts Halloween time destination everyone should check out at least once. Best known for the witch trials of the early 1690s, the town has become a hub for all things witchy. Still, Salem has more to offer than just broomsticks and pointy hats, so here’s a list of things to do there that aren’t about witches.

The Salem Trolley.

The Salem Trolley hits two birds with one stone. Not only does it serve as all-day, hop on/hop off transportation, it is also a narrated tour that teaches you the history of Salem beyond the witch trials. The $18 trolley takes you away from the bustle of the Essex Street pedestrian mall and witch museums to lesser known attractions like the Phillips House, Pickering Wharf and Winter Island Maritime Park. The tour guides may even point out the house from “Hocus Pocus” for you, too.

The Ugly Mug.

The Ugly Mug is the place to go for some delicious breakfast in Salem. It’s not uncommon to have to wait 30-45 minutes (and they don’t take reservations) so don’t show up expecting to be seated quickly. That being said, the great service, delicious food (sweet potato hash anyone?) and reasonable prices are beyond worth it. It is also located right in the center of town, so there are plenty of shops and street performers to keep you entertained while you wait. Oh, and yes, their mugs are truly ugly.

The New England Pirate Museum.

If any swashbucklers are looking for something a little less witchy, the fun and quirky New England Pirate Museum is the place to go. The quick 25-minute guided tour is lead by young fellows in pirate garb who are equipped with seafaring puns that are sure to earn a laugh or at least an eyeroll. The painted mannequins on replicated ship decks and taverns are so bad they are hilarious. Besides, it’s not everyday you get to learn the little-known history of New England’s sea robbers while simultaneously laughing at jokes about getting your head chopped off.

Derby Joe

For your dose of caffeine, take a stroll over to Derby Joe for some of the best cold brew coffee you’ll ever taste. Very smooth with heavy chocolate undertones, there’s no need to sugar it up with any added flavors. The espresso also holds up quite well. Stay and chat with the baristas from a stool at the counter, challenge your friends to a game of chess at one of the chess tables or take your coffee to go as you walk a few blocks to the House of the Seven Gables (the setting of a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who used to live in Salem). No matter what you choose, don’t skip on Derby Joe.

Notch Brewery & Tap Room

For beer fans, Notch’s session beer is definitely not witches brew. Fit with communal tables, German snacks and a waterside beer garden, this is the place to take your late afternoon break. It just opened last year, so the facilities are still shiny and new and there are free brewery tours on Saturdays. Oh, and did I mention they have SkeeBall? Notch is definitely worth stopping in for a drink.


Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect date of the Salem witch trials.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.