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Day Tripping: This Halloween, There’s Always Salem

Where witchcraft and commerce combine


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Brush up on some Halloween folklore in the video above before heading out. Adam Sweeting, a College of General Studies associate professor of humanities, provides the historic lowdown on the pumpkin (and lantern) known as Jack. Photo by Megadem

Having the Halloween capital of the world an easy train ride away is a year-round plus, but fall is Salem’s time to shine. A quick trick (er, trip) north—before, during, or after costume preparations—can be fun-filled and exciting. The first step should be a visit to Salem’s official Halloween website, Haunted Happenings. Here you will find a calendar of all of the weekend’s events and logistics information.

Those who travel by broom don’t need advice on how to reach the town that history and marketing have turned into Halloween Central. But for the rest, here are some tricks to getting there; Salem is the treat.

12:20 p.m. Training up

The coastal town of Salem is about 20 miles north of Boston. The easiest and most direct route is the commuter rail’s Newburyport/Rockport line from North Station, which is easily reached on the T’s Green Line. Boston to Salem is 30 minutes and the round trip costs $10.50.

Salem, MA

12:49 p.m. The tour begins

On arrival, take the stairs up and walk down Washington Street until you hit Essex Street. An information booth is there with all you need to know. Essex has witch museums, restaurants, small vendors, and shops. People in all sorts of costumes, with information on séances, witch museum tours, and ghost tours, fill the street.

1 p.m. Snacks and witches

For a quick snack, try one of the many vendors lining Essex Street. They sell candy apples, fried dough, hot dogs, and popcorn, as well as drinks and candy. After you’ve had your fill, one of the many witch museums is a good bet. If your mood is really witchy, a $19 combination ticket is available for the Witch Dungeon Museum, the New England Pirate Museum, and the Witch History Museum. But if money is tight and one museum will suffice, tickets are $8 for each. Museum tours are usually about 30 to 40 minutes.

1:30 p.m. Shopping

Salem offers options from small shops to bigger touristy stores in the Museum Place Mall. If cooking is your passion, check out Pamplemousse, filled with cute cooking tools and unique food items. For all you witches, there are stores with every witchcraft accessory. Some notables include the Broom Closet, Crow Haven Corner, and Bewitched in Salem.

2:30 p.m. Late lunch

Salem accommodates every type of appetite. Red’s Sandwich Shop, on the Heritage Trail, is a local haunt (so to speak) and great for those on a budget, with no menu item more than $11.

If seafood is what you’re looking for, try The Lobster Shanty on Front Street. While the restaurant doesn’t look impressive, the service is great and the food is served right off the grill (or stove). The fried shrimp basket ($12) or another seafood plate are favorites. The Shanty also offers burgers, salads, and soups. Nothing fancy here; drinks are served in plastic cups.

3:30 p.m. Spooky entertainment and carnival

Derby Street has a carnival atmosphere, full of fun rides and games. Should you make the trip this weekend, Halloween events are being held all over town, easily stumbled upon wherever you go.

6:30 p.m. Dinner and dessert

Taverns around Salem are home to a major college scene. Make your way to Rockafellas or In A Pig’s Eye Restaurant for both food and entertainment.

It also seems that witchcraft and dessert make a good combination. There are many ice cream shops and candy stores around town. The best chocolate can be found at Maria’s Sweet Something, which promises “Wicked Good Confections”; all are made exclusively for the store. Although expensive, the truffles are definitely worth it. Five smaller chocolates will run you about $3.50.

8:30 p.m. Party time

Salem would not be Salem without insane costume parties and bewitching nightlife. The parties can be found in many of the restaurants and hotels, such as the Hunted Conductor Masquerade Ball at Victoria Station. Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tours has tours at 7 and 8 p.m., leaving from Central Street. Cap off your night at the Grand Finale Fireworks at 10:30 p.m.

10:38 p.m. Departure

On Halloween night, crowds fill the streets until the wee hours of the morning, but getting home means paying attention to the time. Unfortunately, the commuter rail runs on the regular Saturday schedule, with inbound train service ending at 10:38 p.m. If you’re a risk taker, you can try for the 455 Salem Depot–Wonderland bus at 11:30, but beware: the last train from Wonderland leaves at 12:26 a.m. Miss that, and you’ll turn into a pumpkin far from home.

Nicole Rojas can be reached at nrojas@bu.edu.

More Day Tripping ideas are available here.

This article was originally published on October 30, 2009, and has been updated to reflect current information as of October 28, 2011.


6 Comments on Day Tripping: This Halloween, There’s Always Salem

  • amlaskow on 10.30.2009 at 10:52 am

    Wow, I actually might go check Salem out. I think the last time I was there was in the 3rd grade for a field trip, but it seems like a perfect place to go for Halloween.

  • kcornuelle on 10.30.2009 at 11:02 am


    What a great idea… I’m definitely going to check it out!

  • Anonymous on 10.30.2009 at 3:45 pm

    Many residents leave salem on halloween

    Halloween night in Salem (according to 3 residents I have met) is wilder and less safe than usual. Many of them leave town to avoid the noise and risk to cars, etc. They make it sound comparable to Halloween on Polk st in San Francisco or Mardis Gras in New Orleans.

    My personal advice – go on another day – or go with a group of trustworthy friends. Normally I love Salem (Serious witch stores and high end Goth shopping on Essex , historical trolley tours, etc) – Halloween there is not for the timid.

  • Anonymous on 11.08.2009 at 8:54 pm

    Salem Halloween 2009 HD Video

    I went to Salem this Halloween (October 31, 2009) and it was awesome. Someone put a great HD video on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLK3urijka4

  • Anonymous on 10.28.2011 at 9:23 am

    I am a resident of Salem for over ten years and it has gotten increasingly safer over that time. Many residents do leave or stay at home, but quite honestly, its because we get the pleasure of being there year round. Great mentions of places to go and eat, especially Pig’s Eye and Lobster Shanty. I would also throw Howling Wolf Taqueria in there is well. Keep in mind with vendors, the food carts on the common and the down at the carnival are not locally run, so please try and stick with the sausage guys on Essex Street (they are local and there year round). Dress warmly and don’t wear a costume that includes any kind of weapon prop and have a good time.

  • Ray on 10.28.2011 at 3:52 pm

    If you want to visit the town but don’t like lines, go November 1. It’s dead, no pun intended. No lines for anything.

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