Clearly, I love Salem. Hello. I have a website, social media, guide, FB group, etc. all dedicated to the witch city. Hi, nice to meet you. However, there was ONE TIME I actually kinda didn’t want to go to Salem and it was the first time I went. I touched on this a little bit in my newsletter a few months back, but today I figured we could chat about it here. The one time I didn’t want to go to Salem, why, and how to avoid the mistakes we made.
So what happened?
It was October, about ten or twelve years ago now and my then boyfriend suggested we go to Salem for Halloween. It was literally days before the holiday, so we had absolutely nothing planned. He hopped onto Google and found us a bed and breakfast in Rockport (The Tuck Inn) that by some miracle of the Halloween gods had availability in October.
He honestly had to talk me into it. So why was I dragging my feet?
First off, I didn’t want to deal with the crowds. I knew it was going to be busy, and I was absolutely right. Second, we had no idea of things we could do or an idea of the layout of Salem, where we could park or how we were going to get back and forth between Rockport and Salem. We didn’t have costumes. We didn’t have tickets to anything ahead of time to any attractions that were happening. We were literally flying the seat of our pants with nothing planned out.
So the first item mentioned is the crowds. There is no work around for this one, to be honest. There are going to be tons of people, lines, waits and everything that comes with it. I basically just went into the trip to Salem knowing it was going to be busy and that mindset helped me get over it.
As for the things we could do, we just figured it out as we went along. This was good because it made it easy to go with the flow, however in hindsight it also meant we missed a lot. Without an idea of events that were happening, there is no way we could have known what direction to go. We didn’t really even have a map of the city so we would up walking in circles tons. I can vividly remember coming up Central street, seeing Pamplemousse again and again. We were walking in loops, not knowing we could have turned down Essex and followed it down to the wharf. It wasn’t until the second day we were there that we made it down there, saw the House of the Seven Gables, had coffee at Jaho and wandered the shops on the wharf. Without having a general layout of the main pedestrian and tourist-y areas, we were looping the same grounds. You can avoid this mistake we made by getting yourself a guide or map of Salem. Figure out which points of interest you want to stop by and if they are close to one another or not. It makes sense to plot a little bit of a route you’d like to take, if you can. You can certainly wander Salem with no aim or goals and enjoy the witch city just like that…there is no right or wrong way here. However, if you want to avoid potentially missing things like we did on our first visit, you should definitely check out at least a map.
Without costumes, we wound up throwing things together last minute with random props from around Rockport and Salem. This is entirely doable, however, I would have come more prepared if I had thought it out. I didn’t really know the extent of the costumes that would be around and that people really do go all in on it, regardless of age.
Transportation turned into us taking the train back and forth from Rockport. If you are anywhere along the train route or in a spot where you can get to the train station, I’d suggest doing that as opposed to driving and trying to find parking in Salem. The rates go up in the fall and the roads are crowded. We made it work and got lucky, basically, by booking somewhere that was close by. If you aren’t staying somewhere close to the station I’d figure out using Uber or other means to get to the there and have an idea of where you’re going. If you’re going to drive into Salem, figure out where the parking is and have back ups in case you find the lots full.
As far as tickets to things – since we had no idea what events were going on, we wound up stumbling into the attractions we went to by chance. If we came upon something that was sold out, we moved on. If you do a little research ahead of time you can avoid that problem entirely. If you’re visiting during the fall, book everything that you can early. Just get it out of the way and ensure your spot in whatever you want to go to. We missed out on things because we weren’t prepared.
All of this to say – we still had a fantastic time. Even knowing now that we could have done things better, I still fell in love with the city. Despite the mistakes we made and coming in with no plan, we still had a blast. When I left I was already figuring out when we could come back and how we would do things a little better the next time. There truly is no “wrong way” to do Salem.
I hope your trip is amazing. <3 Salem completely changed my course and I’ll always be in love with the city for that, among so many other things. I’m sure you’ll love it, too.
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