For a few years after college I lived in Beverly, MA which is just a stone’s throw away from the better-known Salem, MA. The Salem tourism swells in October to traffic-jam-headache, no-free-chairs-at-the-coffee-shop levels of insanity. I know people whose commute triples in time during October just because of the tourism draw the town has.
BUT, going to Salem for Halloween is also a ton of fun and an experience like nothing else and is something to be experienced!
As a Salem Halloween veteran, here are my five tips for surviving what may be your most interesting Halloween ever:
1. Use Public Transportation
Do not under any circumstances plan on driving to Salem. Use the T. One year we decided to drive back with a friend who had worked in Salem that day to avoid the crowded train car. A 3 minute train ride became a 2.5 hour nightmare.
Tip: If you are coming from the Beverly Depot stop they usually don’t bother checking if you have a ticket because there’s too many people on the train.
2. Go all out with the costumes!
Trust me, you won’t be overdressed. 75% of the reason people go to Salem is to people-watch and check out the crazy costumes of everybody else. Plus, if you’re wearing something fun you’ll look like less of a lurker while staring at everybody else’s getup.
Tip: Hopefully this is common sense as New Englanders, but dress warmly! Once that sun goes down the chill sets in and there aren’t a lot of open shops at that point in the day to step into for a quick warm-up.
3. Don’t Plan on Site-seeing
Don’t have your heart set on doing anything in particular. Going to Salem on Halloween is more about walking around and experiencing. Salem, which is a great place to spend a Saturday, is mobbed in October and you’ll enjoy your visit much more if you wait until the hoopla passes.
Tip: Instead of hitting up the popular sites, aim for lesser known attractions: The statue of Samantha from Bewitched, or gazing at the Friendship from afar are easy things to do among the crowds.
4. Get Away from Downtown for a Break
The restaurants will be crowded – if it looks like they have an empty table, grab it while you can. The farther away from the masses, the better.
Tip: Engine House Pizza usually has a quick turn-around. Jaho’s Coffee & Tea is a great place for a warm cup of coffee and a restroom. Both are just far enough from the main drag that you won’t have to wait too long before finding a seat.
5. Get out Early
Around 7:00pm a lot of people start showing up to town. It’s fun to walk up and down Essex Street and experience the pandemonium for a while, but then you start to feel crowd-induced stress. I like to leave by 10pm. You know when your mom used to say “nothing good happens after midnight?”. Well, I’d bump this up a few hours for this particular adventure. Besides, once the carnival shuts down and shops close up, I’d rather be at home watching a scary movie with a bowl of Baby Ruth miniatures.
Tip: Be sure to get back to the train station extra early for your return ride home. There are a lot of people coming in and out of town on the train and the platforms get really congested, so you’ll want to make sure you make your time.