Halloween just isn’t my thing. However, that didn’t stop me from marrying Mr. Frightmeister himself. Last weekend my husband had his dream come true as we checked out the October festivities in Salem, Massachusetts.
During our first visit to Salem, MA our kids were too young to enjoy it. Now that they’re 12 and 9 it was the perfect time to return. What a difference a few years – and visiting at the height of the Halloween season – can make! The place was packed with visitors looking to stay somewhere spooky. We went on Sunday and arrived late morning. We parked in the New Liberty Street garage (across the street from the Visitor’s Center) but as we were up top on the roof I sensed those not far behind us may not have had such luck.
Crowds were everywhere, from people like us taking in the scenery, to folks definitely into the spirit of things! There were a number of ghoulish fans dressed like zombies, walking around, no doubt, waiting in anticipation for the “Zombie Parade” that took place later in the day. There were a number of real witches, those who follow the ancient pagan practice, who were identifiable in their formal clothing (many were of course present but in their everyday clothes.)
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Unless you stay a weekend plan to choose a few things to see in a day, especially during this time of year. We picked three:
This was a hit with my monster movie loving family! The museum isn’t big; it took us less than a half hour to go through it. As well, the crowds that day were less congregated here than the other more
mainstream attractions, which was fine with us. We were able to walk right in and take our time reading the fascinating trivia about our most beloved monsters, looking at the reproductions of characters, and enjoying the memorabilia. Everyone (even me) wore a smile as we exited. The staff was wonderful and Count Orlok’s got a big thumbs up from this traveling family.
Salem Witch Museum
I consider this a must-do in Salem. You walk into a room with a panorama of scenes from the witch trial days. The only down side is that the audience sits in a circle around the perimeter of the room, so when the scenes light up above and behind you, it is difficult to see. I easily got past this by closing my eyes and listening to the narration. The story is fascinating and gives us a brief history lesson. Even more impressive was the new exhibit, “Witches: Evolving Perceptions,” which examines the original persona of the witch and why stereotypes evolved. The last “wall” on the brief tour will trigger some retrospect: how have other stereotypes evolved in our modern world?
The Terror Trail.
The best activity of the day, or should I say night! Our guide, Herb Van Dam, was a magnificent storyteller and led the group, lit candles in hand, through historical and modern day tales of terror that left us wide-eyed under the darkness of the night (Herb, by the way, has had careers as a stand-up comic, actor, and secretary to former MA governor Michael Dukakis – all skills he successfully brings to his profession as a full-time professional guide in the Boston and Rhode Island regions.)
Thinking of going to Salem this Halloween season? Here are some tips:
- Expect crowds in October. If visiting Salem during the spooky time of year isn’t a high priority, come back on November 1. We heard the place truly becomes a “ghost town” after the holiday.
- Go to the websites and buy tickets in advance. Highly suggested if you plan to go this month. Many attractions sold out or had limited time slots available. You’ll save time and energy. Having a plan helps.
- Get there early. The New Liberty Street parking garage is convenient and right in the hub of the action. Park your car and go.
- Stop at the Visitor Center first. There are exhibits and helpful information to make your visit even more enjoyable.
- Plan ahead for a sit-down meal. Street vendors line the streets selling their fried dough, pretzels, sausage and peppers, etc. We, however, discovered the wonderful pub restaurant The Old Spot where we enjoyed a late lunch: thick, juicy pub burgers, a bountiful apples and green salad, and chicken tenders for my youngest. Great service, delicious food, and a place to sit!
- Pace yourself. Don’t try to do everything in one day. We had a lot of the fun just walking around and observing all the people and activities.
For more information visit the Official Travel and Tourism Website Destination Salem that includes a full listing of upcoming events and a complete listing of museums, attractions and other helpful information. Grab your broomsticks and get ready to explore Salem, MA!
Note: This post was written by Anne Witkavitch.