Halloween In Salem


Halloween is my third favorite holiday after Christmas (how could Christmas not be anyone’s number one?) and parade season.   The Fourth of July and Thanksgiving are heavy contenders, but with both of these I enjoy the social aspect, annual gatherings of family and friends, rather than the customs the holidays entail (I think fireworks are overrated, and Thanksgiving Dinner, culinarily at least, is one of my least favorite meals…unAmerican…I’m aware).

I like everything about Halloween.  I like getting into costume.  I dig the scary movie marathons on AMC, and October  (“sweatshirt”) weather is my favorite kind.   I usually know what I’m going to be at least a month in advance, and am the same with my Halloween weekend plans.  This year, while the costume isn’t decided just yet (I’ve done a leprechaun the past two years, and while it’s always a hit, it’s getting stale and I’m tired of explaining to the kids that Monday why my hair is tinted orange), I know I’ll be doing the zombie race with friends in the Baltimore area.

Last year, three friends and I spent Halloween in Salem, MA, famous for the witchcraft trials, and one of the holiday’s main American meccas.

Our bus trip was run by Cookies Travelers, out of Scranton.  The trip cost $209.00 and included bus fair, two nights at The Marriott in Burlington, Mass (a half hour from both Salem and Boston).

The bus left Friday morning, way too early for three of us who had unwisely decided wing night at the super trendy Orson Inn ( so trendy, it doesn’t have a link I can provide you) was more important than getting a good night’s sleep.  We arrived in Burlington, an over franchised, right-off-the-highway town of strip malls, Applebees, Best Buys, and “new gluten free cafes” and had a chance to unpack and freshen up before loading back on  the bus and heading to Salem for the night.

During Halloween weekend, Salem turns into a giant party.  The bars are all packed, haunted houses abound, and mini carnivals with rides, food, and beverages are set up all around town.  I was expecting more costumes, but we were there on Friday.  I imagine Saturday would have been the night for this.  We walked around, got dinner, and ended the night at O”Neills of Salem; not Halloweenish mind you, but awesome Irish music, which I’m all about.

The second day, rather than going to Salem, we took the train into Boston, one of my favorite cities.   With costumes to change into, we met my cousin for drinks and dinner at The Black Rose, and planned on spending our night pub crawling around Quincy Market before meeting back up with our bus tour, who were making a stop in Boston around 11:00.

11:00 came, and our group decided to split up: two members smartly getting on the bus, two of us (myself included) deciding we were having too much fun and would get a cab back.  The band at the Black Rose was playing Fairy Tale of New York, it was an unfair time for me to make rational decisions.

If you remember last Halloween, we had some unexpected snow.  Getting a cab back to Burlington was not easy, and a pretty chunk of change..  Turns out no one wants to help out a leprechaun and pirate wench running around like assholes in a blizzard.    We returned to Salem the next day, which hadn’t seen as much snow as Boston, before heading home.

Admittedly, Salem is small town.  It’s not going to have the bar/party scene NY, Philly, or Boston have on Halloween, but I’d recommend to anyone to get up there for at least one of your Halloweens.  While we did the bus tour (which was nice and convenient), it’s an easy enough trip to plan and execute on your own.  Personally, I’d either stay in Boston for two nights and commute to Salem during the day, or make it a one night in Salem, one night in Boston roadtrip.  If you’re planning on staying in Salem, book your hotel soon.  They fill up, and the prices are pretty jacked up.

Getting There:

Boston is a relatively easy, but not a fun drive.  From down here in southern PA it should take you around six and a half hours.  95 has the beautify of hitting the Philadelphia, NYC, Providence, and Boston metropolitan areas, not to mention Connecticut, which is one giant traffic jam.  Make sure you’re loaded up on food and music.

Where to Stay:

Take into consideration that Salem is a small town.  Even with the Halloween festivities, there might not be enough to entertain two nights in town, so what I’d do is stay in Boston and commute out, or stay in Salem one night and Boston the next (again, I’m biased, I like Boston a lot).  Peabody is the next closest town to Salem and may be a more affordable option with the holiday prices.

If you decide to stay in Boston, make sure you’re close to downtown, or the airport.  This leaves you in easy proximity to Boston’s North Station (right underneath Boston Gardens).  It’s a forty five minute ride into Salem.  Another fun option would be to take the ferry.  It’s a high speed catamaran that takes just under an hour, and has a full service bar.  Nothing says doing Massachusetts right to me, than having a Narragansett on deck.

What to See:

There’s a lot going on in Salem during Halloween.  Here’s the best website to reference.  Here’s my unofficial guide to check out (some of these things we did, others just look cool.

  • Derby Street Carnival: There’s rides, kettlecorn, and fair-type treats.  The Carnival sits right off one of Salem’s main roads, and is free to walk around.
  • Haunted Neighborhood at the Salem Witch Museum: This is the epicenter of everything Halloween related in Salem.  There’s attractions, food vendors, haunted houses, cemetery tours, ghost tours, and alot of freaky people walking around.  You can purchase passes for $32.00 (or less, depending on how many things you want to see).
  • Murphys’ Bar: We ended up going to this place for food twice.  It had decent grub, and there wasn’t really a wait.  I also discovered Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale here, which contributed to my downfall Friday night.  There had a patio for outdoor eating (it gets chilly, but I feel that for Halloween you could rough it).
  • 4 Ocean Avenue, Salem MA: If your childhood Halloweens were anything like mine, it involved a lot of Hocus Pocus.  Here’s the house where the Dennison (yes, I still know that) family lived, right on the water complete with cupola (that gets blown up in the movie, if you remember).
  • Goody Glovers: An Irish pub in Boston named after a witch and situated at 50 Salem Street.
  • Ghost Tour: Salem has several ghosts tours, as does Boston.
  • Pirate Museum:  Not really Halloweenish either (like the Irish Pub), I just find Pirates fascinating.  We had planned on visiting this on Sunday, but the cab ride the night before didn’t leave enough funds.

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