Salem, Massachusetts is a must go destination for anyone who loves Halloween. Any college student in Boston should go to this real life Halloweentown in October at least once during their time in Massachusetts, and it's only a commuter rail ride away. 

As a lifelong resident of Boston's north shore, I have a love-hate relationship with Salem in October. While it's a nightmare to get around thanks to the tourists flooding into the city, I can't help but get excited when I think about all of the fun things there are to do during this month. 

Since Salem is such a popular destination for Halloween, it has its fair share of tourist traps. Based on personal preferences, as well as asking some locals (my aunt and my friends), I've put together a guide to show you the best of Salem so you can avoid the tourist traps and get the best out of the city. 

Things To Do

You may be thinking that it's only exciting on Halloween, but there are plenty of fun things to do for the entire month of October, not just on the 31st. 

Pickering Wharf and the area near the mall are the most tourist heavy areas in the city, so make sure you know where you're going when you walk through there or you're bound to get sucked into an overpriced aura reading. 

Salem has a lot of cool historical spots around the city that won't bore you to death or make you feel like you're in a middle school class about the witch trials. Some of my favorites are the immersive theatrical reproduction of Bridget Bishop's witch trial, Cry Innocent, where the audience is the jury, as well as The Burying Point Cemetery, and the Witch House. 

If you want a break from the tarot cards and the shops selling "I Got Stoned in Salem" shirts, the Peabody Essex Museum is a great spot to look at some traditional New England and Asian art. Make sure to check out The China House and All the Flowers are for Me by Anila Agha for an immersive museum experience you won't forget. 

Moving beyond historical witches, those who love Hocus Pocus (AKA everyone), should head over to Max and Dani's house. Keep in mind that this is someone's actual house so you can't go in, but it is pretty cool to see the house, as well as the other spots around Salem where they filmed. 

There are plenty of eccentric stores in Salem if shopping is more of your vibe. For some authentic witchcraft goods, Hex: Old World Witchery is a great option, but if Harry Potter is more of your speed Wynott's Wands is perfect for you. The Cheese Shop, Modern Millie, and Pyramid Books are other interesting places that are worth checking out.

Where to Eat

Salem is a great city for food, there's plenty of options for all types of eaters. From classic diner fare to vegan grain bowls, you're bound to find a great restaurant in Salem that goes beyond your typical bowl of clam chowder. 

For breakfast there's the classic Red's, where you can get massive pancakes and other hearty breakfast favorites inside a cozy building from the 17th century (make sure you have cash with you, they don't take cards). Those looking for a more casual breakfast should check out Red Line Cafe or Coffee Time for a quick coffee and a pastry.  

After walking around for a couple of hours you may be looking for a spot to grab a small bite. Personal favorites of mine are Life Alive, Polonus, and Kushco. Make sure to try the frozen yogurt at Kushco, my friends and I would go there at least once a week for a while because it's so good. 

If you want to grab some healthy snacks instead of a meal, Milk and Honey is a nice shop to check out. Jodi Bee Bakes also has great vegan and gluten free options for lunch or a quick snack. 

Later in the day, it may be difficult to find a restaurant that doesn't have a wait (especially close to Halloween), but places like Howling Wolf and Gulu Gulu Cafe are worth it. 

Howling Wolf is popular with the college-aged crowd and has great Mexican food while Gulu Gulu is a hipster heaven, serving up "European fare" with an extensive beer list and hosting live events five nights a week. Both are great, but if you're looking for something more laid back, Gulu Gulu is the way to go. 

All that being said, my favorite thing to do in Salem is to just people watch. You may feel overwhelmed with all of the things to see and do in this weird, wacky, and wonderful city, but sometimes it's at its best when you sit down and just watch all of the crazy characters milling the streets.