In October, Salem is bustling and busy. Many hotels book a year in advance. Crowds get heavier as the day goes on. Don't let it discourage you, just be smart about how you spend your time. Know on Halloween there are numerous road closures and the streets fill with thousands of people as the day goes on. I have frequented Salem on Halloween for many, many years and now bring my family too. It is always great to see all the creative costumes and see everyone having a good time.
Anytime September through October 20th: It is best to get in early (before 10) to get a place to park. All parking garages fill early and and tend to charge about $30 for the day. The MBTA garage at 252 Bridge Street is $2-$15 for parking and a short walk to downtown. If you stay in the city at a hotel, there is usually complimentary parking. I wouldn't move your car if you don't have to. If we park in a garage, we use Museum Place Garage (Witch City Mall, 1 Church St) because it is right in the middle of the action (Essex Street). Kiosks are available to pay outside of the garage before you leave, both cash and credit. I was happy to see they added a few more and you can even pay as you leave at the gate, although I wouldn't advise waiting until then when it is busy. I can't talk up the Salem app more...it will alert you when garages are full. it is free. GET IT!
In recent years we have been using metered parking by my old apartment on Essex Street because it is easy to find parking there and easy to get out of the city later to avoid traffic. It is right behind the YMCA (296 Essex Street). Take the immediate left after the YMCA building (it looks like a driveway). The parking lot has 4 hour metered parking for $0.75 per hour, much cheaper than the garage. Be aware, as it gets closer to Halloween Essex Street will close to cars as the day goes on, so you will want to exit turning left onto Lynde Street and then right to leave. Note that this option is sometimes saved for residents as you get closer to Halloween so Salem PD blocks it off. This metered area has a system that you pay online now, which makes it easier. The City has an app for their parking meters now called Passport Parking app that allows you to feed the meter from your phone. GET IT. It is worth it to not have to walk back to your car. .
TO BE UPDATED WHEN OCTOBER INFO IS RELEASED:
Shuttles this season for Parking outside downtown when filled garages:
Shuttles run September 30-October 1, October 7-9, 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m..
Park for free at any one of the three free satellite parking lots – Salem State University’s O’Keefe Center parking lot (225 Canal Street), Salem High School (77 Willson Street), and 108 Jefferson Avenue behind Salem Hospital.
The downtown pick-up/drop-off location is in Riley Plaza.
An accessible shuttle is available for those who require one and stops at the High School and Jefferson Avenue lots, as well as Riley Plaza.
It is STRONGLY advised that you not plan on driving into downtown Salem on October weekends. Parking fills up early and traffic is heavy throughout the day and evening. If you are planning a visit to Salem and are driving, use the free satellite lots and shuttles to save time, money, and aggravation. The best option for getting to Salem, however, is to take the MBTA commuter rail. Salem’s train station is directly downtown and walkable to all attractions and destinations. You can also drive to the Beverly train station (10 Park Street, Beverly) or the Lynn train station (325 Broad Street, Lynn) where there is ample parking, and then take the short 3-5 minute train ride to Salem’s downtown station.
On Halloween, DON'T PARK WHERE THERE ARE RESIDENT STICKER PARKING ONLY SIGNS, YOU WILL GET TOWED. Just outside of the downtown area, Bentley Academy Charter School (25 Memorial Drive) charges a small fee for parking in their lot (usually around $20). You can also try just beyond Salem Harbor Station- Footprint Power (24 Fort Ave). There is some parking on the side of the road. Be sure to go BEYOND Footprint to the sewer treatment plant because before that area is a tow zone. Basically, they will tow if you are anywhere across from the fire prevention station at 29 Fort Ave so park well beyond that area.
Must Do at Haunted Happenings :
Check out the above Haunted Happenings link in case there is something I missed that you want to see. There is also a map that will help, you can pick one up at almost any store along Essex Street (they are free).
1. Walk down Essex Street (the pedestrian mall section). There are people you can take selfies with who will try to scare you, shops, vendors, people who sell crafts, check in with The Addams Family of Salem or Borah! Essex Street Market and Biz Baz Street Fair are the best.
2. Check out the area around the original Town Hall 32 Derby Square (from Hocus Pocus);
3. Howl-o-ween Pet Parade. The costumes on the pets are usually very creative. Personal previous year favorites: a pug dressed as grapes and a chihuahua dressed as a horse with a Woody (from Toy Story) on a saddle on his back. Howl-o-ween Pet Parade, to be held on October 14 at 11 am on 193 Derby St, Derby Wharf, Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
4. Salem Common (usually 11 am-5 pm on N Washington Square); some locations from Hocus Pocus were filmed in and around here. There is a food festival, movie nights, Halloween Market place....whatever weekend you are in Salem, check Haunted Happenings or the app.
5. Salem Witch House (310 1/2 Essex St) Open 7 days a week 10 am -5 pm. Tickets are $9 for the self-guided tour. In October, buy tickets AHEAD online at https://www.thewitchhouse.org/
6. Walk to Pickering Wharf to see Salem Harbor and shops.
7. Derby Wharf Light station (160 Derby St); see the Custom House and other historic homes across the street. This link to a pamphlet gives the history. https://www.nps.gov/sama/planyourvisit/maps.htm
8. VideoCoven Presents and other amazing horror movie/universal monster eye treats @Cinema Salem (1 East India Sq) https://cinemasalem.com/
9. Some museums require tickets be purchased ONLINE AHEAD of time and MANY are selling out by 9 am...some even a week in advance. YOU NEED TO PLAN AHEAD if you are going. GET THE Salem APP at Salem.org to help keep track of what has sold out even before you go.
10. The City of Salem is currently not requiring masks to be worn, however a few shop owners ask for it, or it is recommended in some areas, at this time.