2016 Festivals and Special Events in Salem, MA

Thanks to Destination Salem for compiling all this info! 

From Comedy to Rodin, Salem’s festivals and features will have something for everyone  


Photos Available  

Salem, MA… Salem, Massachusetts officially has a festival in every season. With the addition of the highly-anticipated Comedy & Spirits Festival to the January calendar, visitors and locals alike will find something to do throughout the year.  Most known for the annual Haunted Happenings festival, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, Salem’s annual schedule also includes a wonderful Arts Festival, the annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Salem Lit Fest.  In addition, the Peabody Essex Museum will continue to bring international art and culture to Salem when they present exhibitions of works by Rodin and Childe Hassan.

A complete list of events and festivals For a complete list of events, festivals, exhibits, and programs, please visit the calendar on Salem.org  or contact Destination Salem for additional information.  

Salem Comedy & Spirits Festival

January 14 – 17

Warm up winter with laughter and spirits at the first annual Salem Comedy & Spirits Festival. Top area comedians and delicious locally-made spirits highlight this weekend celebration.

Salem So Sweet

February 5 – 7

Chocolate, ice sculptures, and a Golden Ticket take center stage at Salem’s annual Valentine celebration in February.  Always a sell-out, the Chocolate & Wine Tasting at Colonial Hall opens the festival on February 5 at Colonial Hall.  Ice sculptures – at least a dozen of them – will be installed around Salem on February 6, and the Golden Ticket Raffle will run February 6 – February 7.  Downtown businesses will offer promotions, events, tastings, and great shopping throughout the festival. 

SalemMainStreets.org , Salem-Chamber.org , Facebook.com/SalemSoSweet 

Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age

February 27 – June 5

Amsterdam in the 17th century was a vibrant city with global connections. The largest and most powerful trade and shipping company in the world, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) filled Dutch homes with Asian porcelain, lacquer, sumptuous textiles, diamonds and spices. Inspired by these novel imports, Dutch potters, textile designers and jewelers created works of art we now perceive as distinctly Dutch. Artists such as Rembrandt, Willem Kalf, Jan Steen and Pieter Claesz were also quick to incorporate these luxuries into their paintings. Co-organized by the Peabody Essex Museum and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, this exhibition of 170 superlative Asian and Dutch works of art explores the transformative impact that Asian luxuries had on Dutch art and life in the 17th century, bringing new perspectives on the Dutch Golden Age and its relationship to Asia. pem.org    

Salem Film Fest

March 3 – 10 

Come to Salem, see the world during the largest all-documentary festival in New England.  Film screenings and talk-backs with the directors are the highlights of the weeklong film fest. 


Salem Restaurant Week

March 13 – 23

Salem Restaurant Week is the perfect time to dine out at the dozens of excellent eateries.  There will be a wide variety of delicious foods, including steak, seafood, Italian classics, contemporary cuisine, American favorites and exotic ethnic treats.  Restaurants will offer multiple choices for appetizers, entrees, and desserts.   Salem-Chamber.org   

Massachusetts Poetry Festival

April 29 – May 1

During the first weekend of May, Salem becomes the epicenter of contemporary American poetry, offering rare opportunities to hear the nation’s best poets read and discuss their work in intimate and engaging forums. The Massachusetts Poetry Festival showcases nearly 100 poetry readings and workshops, a small press and literary fair, panels, poetry slams, visual arts, and open-air performances. Panel topics range broadly from the state of poetry, poetry and gender, book publishing, and modernism in contemporary art, to the Common Threads Reading, where contemporary poets with Massachusetts ties discuss their literary connections. Headliners in 2016 will include Marie Howe, Sandra Beasley, Mark Doty, Ada Limón, Greg Pardlo, David Rivard, and Charles Simic. MassPoetry.org  

Rodin: Transforming Sculpture

May 14 – September 5

Whether working in plaster, marble or bronze on an intimate or monumental scale, Auguste Rodin captured the emotional and psychological complexities of human beings in ways that few sculptors before or after him have achieved. He also profoundly changed the language of sculpture by playing with accident and emphasizing the act of creating rather than completing a work of art. Rodin favored fragmentation and recombination as the principal expression of the significance he attached to change and transformation as the keys to creativity. Featuring sculptures and drawings, this thematic exhibition highlights the drama and experimentation that have established Rodin as one of the greatest sculptors of all time. pem.org  

Salem Arts Festival

June 3 – 5

For three days each summer, this free festival transforms downtown Salem into an opportunity for the local arts community to showcase their talents.  The 2011 festival was attended by more than 5,000 people, featured more than 80 artists, a juried art show, outdoor performance at the East India Square Stage, interactive art presentations, and artists located in 20 downtown businesses.  People of all ages and backgrounds enjoyed viewing art, participating in art making and purchasing art.


Salem Farmers’ Market

June 9 – October 20

Every Thursday, Derby Square turns into a convenient means to purchase locally grown or prepared food products and support local agriculture and producers. With new vendors every year, the Salem Farmers’ Market always has something new to offer. SalemFarmersMarket.org

North Shore Pride Parade

June 25

Join dozens of local businesses, faith groups, and community organizations for the fourth annual North Shore Pride Parade and Festival. All are welcome to attend this day-long event celebrating unity in the community. NorthShorePride.org 

Salem Celebrates the 4th! 

July 4

Bring your beach blankets and d folding chairs to enjoy the 42-piece Hillyer Festival Orchestra on Derby Wharf at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site for a grand celebration of our nation’s Independence Day.  Featuring a Pops concert, a Kid Space play area, and fireworks launched over Salem Harbor, this is a quintessential celebration of the 4th of July.  Salem.com  

Salem Heritage Days

August 1 – 10 

Celebrate the past and the present during the annual Salem Heritage Days. Featuring food, fun, and activities for all ages, highlights include the Essex Street Fair, the Ice Cream Bowl, and the Car Show on Chestnut Street. Salem.com  

Salem Maritime Festival

August 6

Celebrate ships, sailors, sawdust and song at this annual free family festival. Hosted by the National Park Service, the festival features live music, historical re-enactors, tall ships, demonstrations, and interactive programs and crafts for families.nps.gov/sama  

Salem Jazz & Soul Festival

August 20-21

The Salem Jazz and Soul Festival recreates and renews the vibrant jazz scene that began at the Salem Willows in the 1920s, when Duke Ellington and other musicians from the Big Band era played at the seaside park in Massachusetts.  The festival builds on this rich jazz history — adding soul, blues and funk to the mix – and shining the spotlight on talented musicians from Boston’s North Shore and beyond.


Antique & Classic Boat Festival

August 27-28

A rare chance to see vintage motor yachts and sailboats, board vessels, meet skippers and crews and vote for your favorite boat!  A crafts market, artists, old-time band music, children’s activities, the Blessing of the Fleet and more!  The vessels will be on display to the public over the weekend at Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina. 


Third Annual Salem Spice Festival

September 10 – 11

Celebrate Salem’s long and fascinating history with exotic exports from around the world at Salem’s third annual Spice Festival. Spices, herbs and teas in food, drink, medicines, and arts and crafts will be explored.  Crafts, food samples and demonstrations, live music and fascinating lectures, workshops and storytelling will all be featured. At Salem 1630: Pioneer Village. Tickets:  $5.00 adults, $3.00 children


34th Annual Salem Haunted Happenings

October 1 – 31

A festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England, more than 250,000 people come to Salem Haunted Happenings each year.  Events include a Grand Parade, the Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair, Family Film Nights on Salem Common, costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, live music, and chilling theatrical presentations. An ABA Top 100 Event. HauntedHappenings.org  

Salem Literary Festival November

The Salem Literary Festival was founded in Salem, Massachusetts in 2008. A celebration of all things literary, the festival brings authors, workshops, and events for writers and book lovers to venues around downtown Salem. SalemLitFest.org 

Salem Restaurant Week 

November 6-10, 13-17 

Salem Restaurant Week is the perfect time to dine out at the dozens of excellent eateries.  There will be a wide variety of delicious foods, including steak, seafood, Italian classics, contemporary cuisine, American favorites and exotic ethnic treats.  Restaurants will offer multiple choices for appetizers, entrees, and desserts.  


Salem Holiday Happenings

November 25 – January 1, 2017

Celebrate, shop, and dine in Salem during the holiday season.  Festival highlights include Historic Salem, Inc.’s annual Christmas in Salem Historic House Tour and Santa’s arrival atop the Hawthorne Hotel. New for 2016, join us for a Holiday Stroll on December 13-14, and don’t miss the second annual Launch! celebration on New Year’s Eve.  


This is a sampling of the diverse programming found in Salem, Massachusetts each year. In addition to these annual events and incredible exhibitions, programming at Salem State University, Salem Theatre Company, the House of the Seven Gables, the Hawthorne Hotel, Historic New England’s Phillips House, and the many restaurants and bars guarantee a different experience for every visit.