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October is the busiest and best time of the year in Salem with "Haunted Happenings" all month. Crowds can be very large and many visitors (and locals) get into the Halloween spirit by wearing their best (some quite outrageous) Halloween costumes. Some attractions are pure kitsch fun...haunted houses, ghosts, goblins, pirates, monsters and, of course, all things witch/ wiccan. Conversely, there are fairly authentic Witch Trial reenactments as well as a somber memorial to those unfortunate victims of the 17th century hysteria that swept through Salem, a tour of Judge Corwin's house (The WItch House on Essex St.) where some of the trials took place and a number of ancient graveyards. Many programs and events are family-friendly.
The waterfront and several historic districts recall the glory days of the 18th and 19th centuries when Salem was one of the busiest and wealthiest ports in the world. From spectacular mansions on Chestnut St. to the House of the Seven Gables; Salem Maritime National Historic Site and the "Friendship" (a full-sized replica of an 18th century China trader) to the Peabody Essex Museum (which has a complete 200 year old Chinese house and millions of dollars in art treasures and more): the "Willows" (amusements and the best popcorn on the North Shore) and Dead Horse Beach, Winter Island and Waikiki Beach as well Forest River Park; Salem has a lot more than just witches. Salem restaurants run the gamut - Passage to India (curry); Cilantro (Mexican); Finz Seafood, Sea Level Oyster Bar, Brodie's Seaport, The Black Lobster, and Dube's (seafood+); Turner's at Lyceum Hall and Rockafella's; a number of great Italian, pizza and roast beef spots plus two excellent diners and Red's- a breakfast and lunch institution in a 17th building where rebels planned the Revolution. At least two local hotels are pet-friendly; there are a number of lovely B&Bs and a brand new waterfront high-rise hotel. There are trolley tours and guided walking historical and witch/haunted tours.
October traffic, especially on weekends, is often at a standstill and parking is in very high demand- public transit (the MBTA commuter rail station is conveniently located) and private coach firms can eliminate some of those headaches. Many neighborhoods are restricted to "resident-only" parking so, whilst locals are almost universally cordial and welcoming, respecting the fact that 40,000 people live in Salem year-round goes a long way to making residents happy to see tourists. October generally has good weather, although there was actually SNOW once in recent years...check the forecast before choosing your walkabout attire. The City puts out porta-potties in several locations, the visitor center and a few other venues have public restrooms; however, it's rare that businesses offer them to the general public and many restaurants offer facilities for customers only. All in all, patience is the watchword for an October visit; it can be a real hoot, but those averse to crowds might consider visiting Historic Salem at another time of the year.