If your kids are like mine, they started getting excited for Halloween about the time the 4th of July fireworks ended. From the costumes to carving pumpkins, it’s a whimsical time full of imagination, and revolves around children like no other holiday. And we’re lucky to live very close to what may be the Halloween capital of the country: Salem.
But despite what you might have heard about "Witch City," it’s not all scary stuff. Many of the events happening in Salem over the next month are tailor-made for families, replacing most of the tricks with treats. There's a Wednesday program just for kids, and some old favorites have slowly become more fun than frightening over the years. If you've never done fall in Salem, it's time!
October 3, 10, 17, 24
Salem devotes October Wednesdays to family fun, with lots of programming for kids at various spots around town. There will be musicians, face-painting, kid-friendly walking tours, and interactive events geared for the under-12 crowd. Each Wednesday will be different. Some highlights happening each week include Halloween crafts at the Salem Maritime Historic Site, Make-Your-Own Pumpkin Collages at The Witchery, Salem Kids' Tours (see more details below), and free admission to do a navigation/scavenger hunt game at The House of Seven Gables. Free-$
Salem Kids' Tours are designed especially for families so kids can learn the not-too-scary side of history of Salem. Photo courtesy of Salem Haunted Happenings
Great Salem Pumpkin Walk
October 10, 4-7pm
This self-guided tour leads families through more than three dozen local businesses to find spectacularly decorated pumpkins in each location. Start at the Witch House on Essex Street.
Fairy Door Trail
October 24, 4-7pm
Artists have created a scavenger hunt of charming fairy doors throughout downtown Salem. Get your map at Artemesia Botanicals on 3 Hawthorne Boulevard or here. Free
Salem Kids Tours
October 3, 10, 17, 24, 4:45pm
A Salem walking tour designed expressly for families is a one-hour stroll with an animated, costumed guide who shares the story of Salem and the history of witchcraft in a kid-friendly way. Best for children ages 4 and up, tours depart from 185 Essex Street. $
Black Cat Historic Day Tours
Saturdays and Sundays October 6 to November 3; 2-3pm
This walking tour around Salem is less than a mile total, making it another good choice for kids. It will feature ancient burial grounds, interesting architecture, some historic information about witches, and some spooky stories. Best for ages 6 and up. Tours begin at Axelrod Walkway between Charter and Essex Streets. $
Haunted Happenings Grand Parade
October 4, 6:30pm
The festive Grand Parade in Salem serves as the official kick-off of the Halloween season in the city. Free
Mayor's Night Out
October 5, 5:30pm
Halloween may still be a few weeks away, but kids can trick or treat with Salem’s mayor, Kimberley Driscoll, during the Mayor’s Night Out. free
Lanterns in the Village
October 5-6, 6:30pm
See Pioneer Village aglow with jack-o-lanterns while you sip warm cider and cocoa. Buy tickets soon here—this cool event sells out! $
October 5 and 12 (7pm), October 6 and 13 (2pm and 7pm), October 7 and 14 (2pm)
This live play about a lost little witch who falls off her broomstick on Halloween night is a sweet treat for kids. $
Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair
October 6-7 10am-6pm
Entertainers, street performers, music, crafts, and food fill Essex Street while families mill around, in costume or not. Free
Frightening Family Flicks on Salem Common
October 6, 13, 20, 27, 6pm
Bring a blanket to Salem Common on Saturdays in October to catch four family-friendly, not-too-scary flicks that are sure to get you in the Halloween spirit. Free
- 10/6: Hocus Pocus
- 10/13: Toy Story of Terror
- 10/21: The Goonies
- 10/28: Ghost Busters
Goosebumps 2 New England Premiere
October 10, 8pm
Plenty of 'tweens (and nostalgic grown-ups) have been eagerly anticipating this sequel to the first flick based on R.L. Stine's funny, spooky book series. Best suited to kids 10 and up.
A capella street performances and a midday competition make October 13th a frightfully musical day in Salem. Photo courtesy of Haunted Harmonies
Bringing young vocal groups from all over New England, this a capella singing competition is held the Tabernacle Church at 2pm, and there's spontaneous performances throughout downtown Salem throughout the day. Think Pitch Perfect...with costumes and a Halloween twist.
Kids Costume and Cosplay Celebration
October 17, 4pm
Bring kids in their Halloween finest for a parade, sing-a-long, and dance party at Riley Plaza. Free
Halloween Finale Fireworks
October 31, 10:15pm
It's late, yes, but do we really expect our kids to be in bed at a reasonable hour after all those Skittles? The show will take place over the North River.
Keep in mind that many events sell out quickly, so buy tickets in advance when you can. And for the full calendar Halloween events, including some scarier stuff for older kids, check out the Haunted Happenings listings.
Top photo courtesy of Salem Haunted Happenings