There’s no better time to visit Salem, Massachusetts than in October! With its rich history and spooky vibe, Salem is an ideal spot for a fall getaway.
When we had an extra day to spend in Boston, we jumped at the opportunity to visit Salem. The only problem was, that October is known to be a little crazy. So how bad does it get?
Just for reference, our visit was on a Wednesday between 10 am and 4 pm during the middle of the month.
On weekends the traffic explodes and the further it gets to Halloween, it gets busier in the Halloween Capital of the World.
Tips for making the most out of your Salem visit this October season
Check out the Haunted Happenings
The town of Salem celebrates each year with its Haunted Happenings. Weekends are filled with events, music, festivals, and celebrities stopping by.
To find out what’s going on when you are there, check out: Salem Haunted Happenings | Visit Salem During Halloween
Prepare for Crowds
First and foremost, be prepared for crowds. October is the peak tourist season in Salem, especially around Halloween.
The city sees over half a million visitors flocking to town this time of year! Make sure to make reservations for museums, tours, and restaurants well in advance to secure your spot. Even entrance to the Charter Street Cemetery requires advance planning.
Also expect to wait to get into some of the popular shops.
Popular attractions like the Salem Witch Museum, House of Seven Gables, and the Witch House have same-day tickets.
Plan a Tour or two
Speaking of tours, Salem has no shortage of them. You’ll find walking tours, trolley tours, and haunted tours – take your pick! This is one of the best ways to learn about Salem’s storied past.
Just keep in mind that the quality and historical accuracy can vary greatly between tours. I recommend going with a well-reviewed company that employs knowledgeable local guides.
Walk the Town
Wandering around downtown Salem is a must too. The historic district is filled with beautiful period architecture, cute boutiques, and eateries.
Be mindful of the rules of each location
A lot of stores, museums and tourist attractions don’t allow photography or filming inside. Some wouldn’t allow you to wear a backpack, it had to be carried. Make sure to check the rules before you enter.
Get inspired for your own Halloween Setup
The residents go all in when it comes to Halloween. Houses have elaborate setups and decorations, getting in the full spirit.
Explore the Maritime History
Don’t miss out on visiting the Salem Maritime National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service. This nine-acre site tells the story of Salem’s heritage as a major seaport.
Be sure to explore the Custom House, the oldest active customhouse in the U.S., as well as tour replica historic ships like the Friendship.
Find out what Museums are open
Now, for the museums. There are tons of great ones out there, and some that are a little more commercial in nature. Two of Salem’s premier museums are the Peabody Essex Museum and the Salem Witch Museum.
The Peabody Essex boasts incredible collections of maritime art, Asian export pieces, and local artifacts. Meanwhile, the Witch Museum dives deep into the 1692 witch trials and Salem’s complex history with an impactful self-guided tour.
- Peabody Essex – Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
- Salem Arts – Closed Monday through Friday
- Derby House – Closed Saturday through Wednesday
- Friendship of Salem Ship – Closed Sunday through Friday
- Pioneer Village – Closed Monday through Friday
Plan your museum visits accordingly! I’d recommend buying tickets online in advance regardless of when you go. If any of the attractions are important to you, make sure to plan ahead.
How to get to Salem from Boston?
There are a few different ways to get to Salem. You can drive, take the train, or take the ferry.
If you’re coming into Salem from Boston, one of the easiest ways to get there is the ferry. It’s a one-hour trip. The ferry drops you off within a mile of downtown Salem, so it’s super convenient.
People start lining up 30 minutes before boarding to get their preferred seating.
If you plan on doing the Trolley tour, snag a Salem Ferry/Trolley combo pass. Normally the Trolley is a hop-on hop-off trip, but in October it’s a nonstop tour. You’ll get picked up right at the ferry station then join the rest of the tour.
The Trolley takes you to other places in Salem you won’t see on normal walking tours. After the tour, they drop you off downtown to explore. When it’s time to get back on the ferry, they’ll take you right back.
Salem has a train station located just 0.6 miles from downtown. It’s an easy walk. The train costs $20 round trip depending on where you get on. The train is 36 minutes. This is a great alternative to driving or the ferry.
If you have a car, you can always drive to Salem. While this may seem simple, getting a coveted parking spot can be a challenge with the crowds. I recommend getting there early in the day.
Be prepared to pay a premium cost for parking. When we were there, it was $40 during the week. It’s not recommended to drive.
How much time do you need in Salem?
That all depends on what you want to do. Seriously! In October the crowds are bigger. Getting in on the first Ferry, and leaving at the last possible moment, gives you just a taste.
We were able to explore the city on foot, do a one-hour tour, eat, and get a little shopping done. There is so much history there, I could have spent a couple of days exploring.
You can do so much more if you spend the night.
Is Salem Kid Friendly?
Yes, Salem has a lot of kid-friendly activities. There are tons of great shopping the kids will enjoy. There are tours designed just for younger visitors. Everything is close by, making it easy for younger legs to get to.
It was one of the highlights of our entire adventure on the east coast and the kids are still talking about it.
Is Salem Manageable in October?
Salem is a town rich in history and Halloween folklore. With the reboot of Hocus Pocus, it has attracted a whole new group of visitors. People come dressed up as their favorite characters, or just come to learn about the history of the area.
If you don’t like crowds, I recommend visiting any other month. But if you like the festivities, it’s definitely worth checking out.