things to do in salem, visiting salem for halloween when anxious about crowds

Recently I got a DM on Instagram from a follower that really stood out to me. The girl who messaged me asked about visiting Salem around Halloween, explained that she really wants to see the city and it’s a goal of hers, however she gets super anxious in crowds. She reached out to me asking for suggestions, wanting to know if I could give her ideas for how to make it a little easier if at all possible. I decided to turn her question into a full blog post because honestly, tons of people struggle with anxiety in one form or another. I figured that sharing my ideas here might help others who have similar hesitations.

Please know I’m not a therapist, I don’t know your individual situations and needs and ultimately the decisions are in your hands. These are just some ideas, coming from a place of wanting to help if I can. If you are seriously struggling, I strongly encourage you to seek help and utilize the resources available to you. <3 There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help.


First, I would suggest booking a hotel right in downtown Salem for your visit. I say this because it’ll be easy for you to get back to if you need to have a break for a few minutes. If the crowds are insane and you need to decompress, you can get back to your room easily where it’s quiet and you can collect yourself. If staying right in Salem is not in the cards or budget, then at least park close by in Salem. Pick a lot or garage you can easily get access to, for the same reason as the hotel. Sitting in the car for a few, having some quiet time can help calm the mind back down again.

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Consider visiting earlier in the fall

The crowds come to a peak as we reach Halloween, of course, so consider visiting before then. I know this blog post is about Halloween but if you’re seriously worried it’ll be overwhelming but still want some fall vibes, maybe entertain the idea of coming earlier. Visit in September or early October so the crowds won’t be as bad.

Get a little witchy

If you’re into all things New Age and spiritual, consider popping into a shop for some stones to help feel grounded or essential oil blends to have on hand. If this is aligned with your belief systems, Salem has no shortage of supplies for you.

Plan your heart out

If your anxiety is calmed by knowing things ahead of time, then plan your heart out. Get a map of Salem and figure out where your top places to visit are. Figure out where you want to eat and where those spots are. If ordering in restaurants is a little anxiety inducing for you then go online, find menus and decide what you’re going to order before you even get there. If you’re coming into Salem via public transit, memorize the schedules. Figure out which train route you need. Download the Uber or Lyft app and price it out. Book tickets to attractions ahead of time and print them out to put in your bag. If you’re a planner and it helps calm your mind, then go hard!

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Bring earbuds and music

If too much stimulation is a factor for you then make sure you have earbuds in your bag and some music on your phone. Drown out the noise of crowds, buskers, street musicians, etc. and focus on the music that brings you happiness.

Give yourself a goal to focus on

Similar to planning, if your mind works better when focused on a task then give yourself a goal. Can you spot and visit all of the Hocus Pocus filming locations in Salem? Maybe work your way through my photo challenge one item at a time? If it’s easier than just wandering, figure out something you can turn your energy and attention to and go for that.

Pick your companions wisely

If you’re going to come into Salem with others, make sure you choose wisely. Come with someone who understands you might need to take a break, might feel overwhelmed and need to slow down, might need to go back to the hotel for 30 minutes. This is sort of a common sense one, but worth pointing out.

Find places to relax in Salem

Salem has tons of spots you can chill and reset. Maybe that’s grabbing a coffee from Jaho and walking down the wharf to the light house? Maybe it’s dropping into a yoga class at the Salty Buddha and getting your zen on? Sitting on a bench in the Salem Common and scrolling Instagram for a few minutes? It’s totally fine to take a few minutes to chill out as needed.

Pick your Halloween costume well

If you’re already a little claustrophobic in crowds, then pick a costume that isn’t tight or restrictive. If you feel trapped or stuck when in groups of people, pick a costume that is light and doesn’t feel heavy on your body. Basically – if this is a factor for you, then keep the costume simple and light so it doesn’t add to your anxieties.

Conversely, if being under a mask and intense costume will help you feel safer or more at ease in the crowds, then go for that! Hit the costume game hard and let it serve as sort of a barrier between yourself and everyone else.

Prepare yourself mentally ahead of time

Go into your visit knowing there will be some lines and crowds and that it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you can’t visit or can’t do it. Line yourself up some plans, tools for coping, and resources. If you want to come visit around Halloween, you can totally hit that goal. Practice affirmations in past tense to help set the vibe…ones like “I had such a great visit in Salem”, “I handled the crowds easily”, “I was prepared and able to handle everything”. Set the tone for success and get your head in the game before you even arrive.

I hope this helps!! If you have suggestions of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments. Good luck and enjoy!! <3

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things to do in salem, visiting salem ma around halloween when you're anxious in crowds

  1. I like your article about anxiety around Halloween. If you are anxious around crowds, consider attending events, shops and dining on Pickering Wharf. A lot of visitors don’t realize it even exists! I know this because I own a shop on the wharf and it’s something I hear time and again. It’s a lot less crowded around Halloween, and the sea has healing properties.

    1. Absolutely true and a great tip! Being by the water has amazing calming properties and effects on the mood.

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