When it comes to having a witching good time in the month of October, look no further than the New England city of the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The history of Salem is undeniably alluring, and during the Halloween season, Salem’s wicked past is highly celebrated.
These 3 words are all you need to know: Salem Massachusetts Halloween.
Salem, Massachusetts: Halloween Festivities
Ultimate Guide to all the Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween
► Ranking: #cleandiaper
This list has everything you need to know to have a great time celebrating the best holiday of the year! From family friendly, to downright scary, a vibrant Salem Massachusetts Halloween offers the most iconic, most festive, most spooky, and most fun in the most celebrated city in all of America.
Why Celebrate Halloween in Salem Massachusetts?
Everyone knows, and has heard of Salem, Massachusetts. You don’t have to be an avid reader that has scoured The Scarlet Letter cover to cover and cried along with Hester; or a historian that can recite the sorted tales of how witch hysteria took such a hold of this charming city, to know a thing or two about Salem.
Or, more importantly, why you’d want to celebrate in Salem Massachusetts on Halloween. It’s got history, ghosts, ambiance, and deep roots steeped in superstition.
How Did Halloween Become so Big in Salem?
People and cultures have been celebrating the connection between Earth and the Spirit World for over 2,000 years. We can trace this back to the areas where Ireland and Scotland are now, at a time when the Celts celebrated the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half of the year; the time when death frequently occurred.
They call it: Samhain.
It is believed that on October 31 the veil between the living and the dead is the most frail. This Gaelic festival runs into November 1, and traditionally was celebrated as the beginning of the new year.
The dark winter, in addition to death, also brought devastation to crops and caused all sorts of trouble. The people attributed the turmoil to ghosts so to appease the spirits they built bonfires and burned crops, animals and other sacrifices as they dressed up and attempted to tell the future.
Samhain Comes to Salem, Massachusetts
This New England city has embraced its backstory to summon the spirits of those wronged to provide an authentic way to celebrate Halloween. Eventually the Irish brought Samhain to Salem, but that wasn’t always the case.
The Puritans who originally founded New England didn’t believe in nonsense like having fun, so it wasn’t until the Irish immigrants came to America in the latter half of the 19th century that harvest season turned more mischievous.
In Salem, Massachusetts, Halloween became synonymous with witches. The city uses the celebration as a way to educate the public about the city’s ugly past, while focusing on a better future.
Or, in other words, the nation’s biggest Halloween party with a bona fide hanging tree.
It’s morbid, but it works.
Salem is called Witch City for reason. When you come participate in festivities you’ll see people from all walks of life gathered together and dressed up in Halloween regalia. The most common costume is the familiar pointy shoes and pointy hat that has come to symbolize a witch.
Which is ironic, because 300 years ago, if you were accused of being a witch you were hanged, drowned or crushed to death.
Even more ironic? Salem is actually the Hebrew word for peace.
The moniker ‘Witch City’ not only celebrates the season, but pays homage to the city’s past.
What Makes Salem Such A Great Halloween Destination?
Because Salem has a dark and storied history in the annals of folklore of murdering men and women that were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, the city provides real life ghost tales mixed with modern day haunts.
It has everything that makes for a chilling Halloween experience. Ghosts, goblins, and haunted houses. The entire city is literally a waking ghost story, and the locals have embraced their dark past to grow this tradition year after year after year.
Is Halloween in Salem Scary? What Age Range is Appropriate?
Yes. And no. There are activities for every age range, and all fear factors. Generally speaking, most activities are fairly light hearted, though you can find attractions at both ends of the spectrum.
Keep reading for specifics on every single event you can find in Salem Massachusetts during the Halloween season.
What’s the Weather Like During a Salem Massachusetts Halloween?
The average temperature throughout the month of October hovers around 16°C/62°F during the days with lows dipping into 4°C/40°F. There are an average 8 days of rain.
During our stay, we needed a light jacket in the morning, but then got pretty warm mid day. At night the temperature dropped dramatically and we were glad to have our jackets again. Definitely plan for chilly weather and bring layers. If you intend to stay for evening activities, bring a warm coat.
How Far is Salem from Boston, Massachusetts?
Salem, Massachusetts is one of the oldest and most historical cities in the United States of America just 16 miles north of Boston.
How to Get to Salem
From Boston, Massachusetts you can reach Salem by car, ferry, or commuter train.
We chose to take the commuter train. From North Station, located near the Celtic Stadium or Haymarket Square, you can reach Salem in just 4 stops, and under 30 minutes.
The trip costs $8 each way. Kids under 11 are free with a paying adult.
Riding the Nathaniel Bowditch Ferry is the most scenic way to travel to Salem and takes about as long as the train.
- Round trip tickets cost $45 Adults | Kids $35
- Commuter prices good for 7am and 5:30pm ferry only. Adults $25 | Kids $8
- Kids under 3 are free
We wanted to take the ferry but the wind was too raucous the day we planned to travel. Yes weather conditions, even wind, can postpone or cancel the ferry.
Departs from Long Wharf, near Faneuil Hall at the North End.
Driving will be the slowest form of transportation due to traffic, and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour.
From Boston, take Highway 1A straight to Summer Street.
Calendar of Events
The official calendar of events occur daily from September 26 through November 3.
Weekends outside of this date range offer some outlying events. For an official calendar, click here.
666 Activities in Salem Massachusetts for Halloween
Actually, there are over 1000 events held throughout the month of October! And you thought 666 was a lot! From soothsayers, to haunted carriage rides, to underground ghost tours, to famous movie locations, to costume balls – Salem has it all.
This list doesn’t cover all 1000+ events; you’d still be reading this by the time Halloween came around! This list does, however, cover some of the best haunts a Salem Massachusetts Halloween has to offer including our favorites, the fan favorites, and the best family favorites.
🎃 Haunted Tours
1. Walking Tours | Multiple Locations
You might feel bewitched on a trip to Salem Massachusetts during the Halloween season, especially if you go on a walking tour of the city. Salem offers 11 different walking tours, each of which offer a different take on the grisly events that transpired here.
- Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours
- Black Cat Tours
- Candlelit Ghostly Walking Tour
- Haunted Footsteps
- Myth Magic Madness and Mayhem Tour
- NowAge Travel
- Salem Haunts
- Salem Morning and Afternoon Strolls
- Salem Night Tour
- Salem Sights
- Salem Witch Walk
2. Hocus Pocus Fandom | Multiple Locations
If you’re a fan of the Disney film Hocus Pocus, than don’t miss out on treating yourself to a self guided tour of some of the movie’s famous locations.
3. Tales and Tombstones Haunted Trolley Ride | 8 Central St
Our favorite guided tour was via trolley. Throughout fall, the iconic Salem Trolley undergoes a haunted transformation and invites guests on a 90 minute tour of the city covering eight miles of historic and iconic institutions.
The Tales and Tombstones Haunted Trolley Ride shares eerie ghost stories at every location and teaches more about the sordid past and history of the city. We cannot recommend this tour enough! A festive Salem Massachusetts Halloween would not be complete without at least one ghost tour!
Though the trolley offers daily tours of Salem year round, the Tales & Tombstones version is only available during the Halloween season.
4. Roaming Goblins | Salem Common
Like the Chinese Theater, in Los Angeles, California, the main square in Salem is full of ghosts and goblins that will chase you down for a dollar. It’s common to see many people dressed up as you walk through Salem, most of which are just here for the fun.
But the ones shaking a coffee tin in your face, while yelling ma’am on repeat, those are the entertainers. You can find Werewolves, Draculas, Adult Chuckie, Freddy, Jason… you name it.
The characters will do their best to frighten you, welcome or not. If they succeed, they will recite incantations until you pull out your wallet. It’s as if the hysteria from 1692 never ended, just changed forms.
Be sure to bring lots of dollar bills.
🎃 Witch Attractions
5. Witch Dungeon Museum | 16 Lynde St
The Witch Dungeon Museum is just one of the witch attractions from which to choose from in the wich of Salem, Massachusetts also known as Witch City. (C’mon, I had to.)
When it comes to celebrating a historic Salem Massachusetts Halloween this is a place where quantity over quality reigns supreme. While there are dozens of Witch Museums, each attraction offers the exact same historical perspective, information, and stories.
Pay for one, and you’ve done them all.
Each ritual offers less than a half hour of entertainment. The attractions are drivel, a mix between being frozen in time and hokey commercialization.
No trip to Salem would be complete without visiting at least one museum. Of them all, the Witch Dungeon Museum is the most popular, and it’s the one that we would recommend.
This Witch Dungeon Museum offers two experiences.
- The first is a short play, including actual transcripts from court documents. It runs about 5-7 minutes long.
- The second part is an actual dungeon from 1692 to learn about what happened to the women and men accused of witchcraft and what life was like for them.
6. Within the Witching Hour: Live Spell Casting | 282 Derby Street
At the Witching Hour a practicing witch will draw a magic circle and cast real spells before your very eyes.
The audience is encouraged to participate and assist in spell casting!
7. The Witch House | 310 1/2 Essex Street
One of the only original standing homes with direct ties to the Witch Trials, this is the home of Judge Jonathon Corwin.
Corwin signed several arrest warrants for witches during the period of witch hysteria, including one for his very own Mother-in-law. Yikes! She was not hanged, but she did spend some time in jail for her “crimes”.
8. Witch Pix | 172 Essex St
- Selfie station with handmade costumes and backdrops
- Professional Witches Photographs
9. Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers | 288 Derby St
This is the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Salem version. These wax figures were shipped all the way from London, to stand on display for your amusement. Figures and depictions chronicle the history of Salem.
10. Old Burying Point Cemetery | Charter St.
There is so much incredible history at Old Burying Point Cemetery, and horrific stories that are perfect for Halloween. No wonder the dead reside here.
Some of the marked graves include one of the sailors from the Mayflower and the infamous hanging judge Justice John Hathorne, great-great-grandfather to famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne.
It’s fitting the judge is buried here, because in this cemetery is also the original hanging tree where 9 accused people were hung as witches.
11. Witch Trials Memorial | Charter St.
The Witches Memorial can also be found at the Old Burying Point Cemetery along the back perimeter of the field, in full view of the infamous hanging tree.
Accused witches were offered the chance to plead their innocence, but cruelty took over as they were silenced.
The memorial is part of a granite wall that has their innocent pleas inscribed midway, memorializing the cruel fate they were issued.
12. Homestead | 310 1/2 Essex Street
In this History Alive series, onlookers can watch a reenactment of what it was like to live during the witch hysteria and how a community is torn apart when 12 year Ruth starts acting “weird”.
13. Harbor Sweets Chocolate Factory | Palmer Cove 85 Leavitt St
On the East side of town, an old brick building is the home of the Sweet Sloop: A triangular shaped toffee dipped in white chocolate and crushed almonds. Famous in these parts, no trip would be complete without a visit to this free chocolate shop.
Tours of the Harbor Sweets Chocolate Factory are free on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 11am, and free samples are always included! Call ahead: 1-800-234-4860
14. Trick or Treating | Multiple Locations
Harbor Sweets isn’t the only place in Salem to fulfill your sweet tooth. Besides, what Halloween celebrations would be complete without a little Trick or Treating?
- On October 4th, kids are invited to come Trick or Treat with the Mayor at Witch City Mall.
- The Great Pumpkin Walk, on October 17, also offers Trick or Treating along with pumpkin themed activities and entertainment.
- October 21st offers another chance to get free treats before the big day! Kids can head down to Pickering Wharf for Trick or Treating!
🎃 Children’s Activities & Family Fun
15. Wicked Fun Wednesdays | Multiple Locations
Wednesdays in October, the city of Salem comes alive for the 12 and under crowd. Musicians, lighter fare walking tours, face painting, costume parades, crafts and family friendly games are offered that will scare up a good time for the entire family all over the city.
16. Salem Common | N Washington Square
Family fun every Saturday in October at 6pm at Salem Common! Watch free movies featuring Hocus Pocus, Toy Story of Terror, The Goonies and Ghostbusters.
Also at Salem Common? This year, in 2019, Salem just unveiled the largest Ouija Board in the world. It’s nicknamed: Oujiazilla and you find it right here in Salem Common (albeit, this might not be the most family centered attraction in Salem).
17. Little Munsters Hotel Bash | Salem Waterfront Hotel
The Salem Waterfront Hotel opens its doors for munchkins on October 21st for a kids themed party even Hotel Transylvania would be jealous of.
18. Preschoolers in the Park | St. Joseph Hall 2nd floor, 160 Derby Street
Octobers in Salem offer two Halloween themed Preschoolers in the Park events during the month of October. Eyes on Owls & Storytime with Borah of Black Hat Society.
19. Ghost Stories | 50 Washington Street Salem
For adventurous kids who enjoy a good scare, The Salem Haunted Magic Show holds several spooky storytelling events throughout the season for kids 7 years and older.
20. Howl-o-ween Pet Parade | Salem Main Street
No one wants you leave Fido at home on October 13th! At 1pm pets are invited to dress up and participate in a pet parade to win prizes!
21. Killer Karaoke | Salem Waterfront Hotel
Tuesdays in October combine Trick or Treating with Killer Karaoke and Trivia. DJ Bill DiOrio lights up jam fest and keeps the party going all night long.
🎃 Haunted Houses
22. Frankenstein’s Castle Haunted House | 288 Derby St
Frankenstein’s Castle Haunted House reigns supreme as the best Haunted House in all of Salem, Massachusetts! Not sure how they came up with that distinction, but for $9 you can find out for yourself.
There is a possessed vacuum cleaner.
Other Haunted Houses in Salem include:
- The Lost Museum
- Count Orloks Nightmare Gallery
- Chambers of Terror
- Witch Mansion
Every haunted house offers a sliding scale of fear depending on the age range.
🎃 Horror Film Screenings
23. Salem Horror Fest | Multiple Locations
Looking for something a little less family friendly? Check out #KnowFear.
It’s an exploration of fear through films. Movies are screened and dissected from the 3rd – 14th at the Salem Waterfront Hotel and the Peabody Essex Museum.
24. Critters | Cinema Salem
Or maybe Critters are your thing? Every Columbus Day in Salem, Massachusetts is dedicated to a Critters Marathon including all 4 iconic films.
🎃 Fun Runs
25. Witch 5K | Salem Willows Park 165 Fort Ave
Broomsticks aren’t allowed at this event, but running shoes are! Get all dressed up to run at the speed of fun on October 19th.
There is also a witch themed motorcycle ride event on October 13.
If witches aren’t your thing, hold out for October 26th and come dressed up like a clown to run like crazy. Or better yet, double the fun and choose a 6.66 mile run dressed as a devil to run like hell.
26. Writing for Horror | Salem Waterfront Hotel
Famous authors including Paul Tremblay, Scott Thomas, Lisa Kröger, Melanie R. Anderson and Matt Leslie host a panel discussing what drives their fetish for horror, and how to tap into the inner creep in all of us.
27. The Mind Reader | Tabernacle Church 50 Washington Street
Christopher Grace performs Mentalism on stage where he will absolutely read your mind and tell everyone in the audience your darkest deepest secrets. The event is promised to conjure a fun time for all, and no one will be embarrassed, but hopefully maybe just a little?
🎃 Costume Ball
28. Costume Ball | Multiple Locations
The Official Salem Witches Ball is held in 2019 on October 25. This party has everything: tarot readings, dragon drummers, witch doctors, magic, psychic readings, summoning the dead, potions and even cash prizes up to $1000!
If you can’t get into this exclusive party, there are five other costume balls in Salem to choose from:
- Bit Bar Boo Dash
- The (Hawthorne Hotel) H Files – Alien Invasion
- Heaven and Hell Ball
- Witches Costume Ball
- Wicken Night on the Wharf Costume Ball
A Salem Massachusetts Halloween would not be a complete celebration without some great food. There are tons of great places to eat in Salem, but these are our personal favorites!
29. Howling Wolf Taqueria | 76 Lafayette St
This place is like Mexico meets America and they made love in a vat of canola oil. They have deep fried avocados and they serve them with jalapeno ranch. You don’t really need to know anything other than that.
The Chimichangas are perfection.
30. Caramel French Patisserie | 281 Essex Street
We came here looking for a birthday cake for our 3 year old whose birthday we were celebrating. They did not disappoint and we found her favorite treat: pastel colored French Macarons.
We also treated her to a 3 layer purple ganache covered miniature blueberry cake. It was heavenly.
This patisserie specializes in the miniature and offers gorgeous creations that are far too pretty to eat, and taste even better.
31. Red’s Sandwich Shop | 15 Central St
Red’s is an institution of Salem and serves up home-cooked goodness.
It’s homey. It’s country. It’s comfy. And,… they have jam packets kids can stack for days.
32. Turtle Alley Chocolates | 318 Derby St
This little shop offers a dizzying array of all the gummy and chocolate creepy crawlies you can imagine.
When it comes to embracing the edible side of Witch Hysteria, Turtle Alley Chocolates brings out a splendid Halloween display of goodies.
33. Flying Saucer Pizza Company | 118 Washington Street
This place is the epitome of cool; their website is Live Long and Pizza.
Pie’s are known as Saucer Specialties, because they are in the business of abducting normal pizza. Definitely aim for the Mars Attacks Pizza.
► For Kids: Kids will love Salem. All season long there is trick or treating, chances to dress up in fun costumes, spooky stories to share, and a change to stimulate the imagination!
Have you celebrated Halloween in Salem? Transylvania? Or anywhere else spooky? We’d love to hear about it! Check out our Top List of Halloween Celebrations in Europe and Asia!
► What We Learned: Salem puts on a good show and the city has embraced what has made them famous – but at times it’s almost too hokey. The city seems to lack reverence and respect for the truly gruesome events that took place here.
While there is a time for having fun and moving towards a better future, we found ourselves at times being horrified by the history we learned and how it was presented.
What Salem Massachusetts Halloween event are you most looking forward to?