How to celebrate Halloween in Salem like a local

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll has seen her share of Halloweens.

“We’ve been doing this for 40 years,” she told GBH’s morning edition Co-host Paris Alston. “It’s a fun vacation. It’s a mischievous holiday. It works for all ages. We have just as many adults dressing up in costumes and attending parties and events and street fairs as we do little ones. So I’m not surprised more people want to rock the Halloween game.”

Salem hasn’t always embraced his dark past of witch trials and hunts. But these days, pop culture witches can be found in landmarks and costumes all over town: Samantha Stephens from Bewitched, Sabrina Spellman from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and the Sanderson sisters (Winifred, Sarah, and Mary) from Hocus Pocus.

“Typically, we easily get half a million visitors each Halloween season,” Driscoll said. “If Halloween is on a Saturday or Sunday – this year it’s on a Monday – those numbers will go up even further.”

Driscoll, who has been Salem Mayor since 2006, shared some tips for a spooky and safe Salem Halloween.

Driscoll’s first tip: Don’t drive into downtown Salem.

“Salem is a nearly 400-year-old city, so our roads were built for the horse and carriage, not the influx of cars that we have regularly,” Driscoll said.

For weekend visitors, she recommended driving to a satellite parking lot and taking a free shuttle downtown. Parking is located at Salem State University’s O’Keefe Center, 225 Canal St.; Salem High School, 77 Williamson St.; and behind Salem Hospital, 108 Jefferson Ave. Shuttles run every Saturday and Sunday in October from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM

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Commuter Rail is also operating more trains to keep up with demand, with a stop right in downtown Salem. Here you can find the October Commuter Rail timetable.

Boston Harbor Cruises can ferry passengers from Boston to Salem.

Once in the city center, it’s easier to get around. In fact, most destinations are close together.

“Everything is within walking distance,” she said. “You’ll have a much more comfortable time leaving your car at home.”

Costumes are welcome, but weapons – even if they are fake – are not. Individuals disguising themselves as gun-wielding characters are encouraged to leave such props at home. Keep in mind that there will be a lot of people in downtown Salem and a gun could cause panic in large crowds.

“What sounds fun in a costume can be dangerous in a large crowd,” she said. “We have people who, you know, don’t always think about what their costume wear is or what they’re bringing with them. So we always want to remind people to be mindful.”

With half a million people expected during the season, public safety planning for Halloween begins a year in advance.

“We spend a lot of time with our public safety team, both on-site and in other jurisdictions, to ensure we’re keeping tabs on any potential threats or activity,” Driscoll said. “We’re going to have a lot of extra cops in and around the community just wanting to make sure everyone is safe.”

Among the tricks and treats, people will find a fascinating story.

“It’s such a rich history,” said Driscoll. “Salem played a prominent role in the founding of our country and was certainly once a major economic force for the Commonwealth.”

The city’s tourism department has a list of museums on their website and app.

There are many attractions and costumes that you can enjoy along with other Halloween lovers.

Driscoll herself isn’t getting too creative with her costume this year.

“Halloween is a work holiday for me,” she said. “So I’m not going to dress up as anything other than the mayor of Salem.”

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