FAQs for October 2020 in Salem, Massachusetts

Due to COVID-19, if you are considering a visit to Salem this October and you do not have lodging booked or tickets or reservations purchased in advance, please postpone your visit until 2021. Special events planned for Salem Haunted Happenings have been canceled due to the pandemic and all venues are working with limited occupancy and public health guidelines. Thanks for your help as we work to keep everyone  healthy and safe. We would love to see you another time.    

Things will look different this October in Salem, Massachusetts, and to help navigate new guidelines and changes, we’ve created this list of FAQs. Have a question that isn’t included on this list? Enter it here.

Click here to view a printable PDF of FAQs.

Travel Advisories

I heard Salem is closed/Halloween is cancelled. What’s going on?

The City of Salem released updated safety protocols with the intention of limiting crowds downtown during the last two weekends of October. The new protocols limit access to parking and note that that trains from Boston will not stop in Salem at certain times, and businesses will close at 8:00 pm (recommended October 23-25, mandatory 8:00 pm closure for Halloween weekend).

Learn more about weekend restrictions here, find FAQs on the restrictions here, and read the full order from the City here.

Are there any travel restrictions for visiting Salem?

It depends on where you are visiting from. *Most out of state visitors need to fill out a traveler form and indicate whether they are going to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Massachusetts or produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel. The fine for noncompliance is $500 per day. Visit mass.gov/matraveler for the form and complete information. The order is in place until further notice.

*The following states are exempt from the order (as of October 17, 2020): CA, CT, HI, ME, NH, NJ, NY, VT, WA, and Washington D.C. Please note, that these exemptions may change as data changes. We recommend checking mass.gov/matraveler frequently leading up to your trip.

The City of Salem recently launched a local travel order that requires out of state visitors to fill out a traveler form online at salem.com/traveler.

What if I am visiting for the day from Rhode Island?

Visitors from Rhode Island are not currently exempt from the travel order, so they must fill out the traveler form and either quarantine in Massachusetts or provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel. There are exemptions for coming into Massachusetts from Rhode Island, but only for grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, medical appointments, visiting persons in hospitals/care facilities, and religious services. RI residents are permitted to attend wedding ceremonies in MA under the religious services exemption, but they should not attend receptions without adhering to the travel order.

Who will check on my traveler form?

Accommodations in MA have been instructed to direct their guests to the form at the time of booking and at check-in. Additionally, MA businesses may ask to review your form or for proof of your negative COVID-19 test if you are visiting from out of state. The fine for noncompliance is $500 per day, and if you are unable to comply with the travel order we ask that you plan your visit for another time.

Mask Requirements

Are masks required in Salem?

Yes. Per the Salem Board of Health, masks are required to be worn by everyone over the age of two in Salem both indoors and outdoors, regardless of physical distancing. Masks may be removed while seated at a table at one of our restaurants, but must be worn as you are seated, exiting, or moving through the restaurant. Learn more at salem.com/masks.

Even outdoors?

Yes. For the safety of visitors, residents, and employees, masks are required to be worn both indoors and outdoors in Salem. The complete mask order is available at salem.com/masks.

Are children required to wear masks?

Children over the age of two are required to wear masks in Salem, both indoors and outdoors. Learn more at salem.com/masks.

What if I have a disability that prevents me from wearing a mask?

If you are unable to wear a mask, businesses may make accommodations if they are able to (for example, contactless delivery or curbside pickup). For the safety of those around you, businesses reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone who is not wearing a mask. If you are unable to wear a mask during your visit, we welcome you to explore Salem another time.

Are face shields allowed in place of masks?

No, face shields cannot be worn as a substitute for a mask in Salem. Cloth masks, disposable medical masks, scarves, and neck gaiters may be worn, and masks with valves are not recommended.

Events

What events have been cancelled? Why?

The following events are cancelled:

  • Haunted Happenings Grand Parade
  • Mayor’s Night Out
  • Kids’ Costume Parade
  • Lanterns in the Village
  • Biz Baz Street Fair
  • Creative Collective Merchant Marketplace vendors (virtual- Visit hauntedhappeningsmarketplace.com)
  • Salem Food Truck Festival
  • Outdoor food vendors, including Fiesta Shows food trucks
  • Great Salem Pumpkin Walk
  • Haunted Harmonies
  • Howl-o-ween pet parade (virtual)
  • Costume balls/nightlife

Massachusetts is in Phase 3 of a 4-Phase reopening, and Phase 4 will only be considered when there is a vaccine. Under Phase 3 guidelines, events are limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. Learn more about MA’s reopening plans at mass.gov/reopening.

Will there be street performers?

Street performers are not permitted on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall this year. Street performers need to follow the state’s performance venue guidelines, which require there to be 25 ft. between the performers and the closest audience member and 6 ft. between each party, in addition to the limits on gathering sizes of 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. The Haunted Happenings Marketplace, which has gone virtual this year, has listings for Salem’s street performers and you can find updates from them there.

What events are there for kids and families?

While this year’s events have been cancelled, many museums and attractions are family-friendly. You may want to consider Salem Kids Tour, Mahi Cruises’ Haunted Happenings Harbor Cruises, Salem Maritime National Historic Site (grounds/exteriors only), and Salem Trolley.

What’s Open

Where can I find visitor information?

The Salem Regional Visitor Center is currently closed. The building is operating with retail only, which means restrooms and visitor information are not available at the Visitor Center’s location at this time. On weekends, an information stand will be set up outside the Visitor Center from about 10 am to 5 pm, and a map of restrooms is available here or on the Salem app.

Without the availability of the Visitor Center, we strongly encourage you to plan your visit to Salem in advance. The City of Salem is also recommending that visitors only come to Salem this October if they have already made reservations to reduce crowds when attractions and restaurants downtown are full. For more information on planning your visit, turn on push notifications in the Salem app, send us a Facebook message, or email info@hauntedhappenings.org.

What is open in Salem?

Most of Salem’s businesses are open. The majority of museums and attractions, walking tours, harbor tours, shops, and restaurants are open with indoor and outdoor dining available. Bars in Massachusetts are not permitted to open at this time, and alcoholic beverages may only be ordered with food while seated at a table. Every business is running on limited capacity, so we recommend booking in advance where reservations are accepted and contacting individual businesses to confirm availability.

While most attractions are open, please note the following changes for 2020:

  • Cry Innocent is offering virtual experiences only this October. Visit historyalivesalem.com for more information.
  • The House of the Seven Gables is offering a modified experience this year with audio tours of the Colonial Seaside Gardens and virtual tours of the interior of the mansion. October performances are not taking place this year. Visit 7gables.org for more information.
  • The New England Pirate Museum is currently closed.
  • The Phillips House museum is currently closed.
  • Charter Street Cemetery is closed through October 31 for preservation work.
  • Haunted Houses are not permitted to open this year.
  • There will be no street performers on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall.
  • Bars are closed (in their traditional sense. They may be used for additional seating when possible, but drinks must be ordered while seated at a restaurant with food and walking up to or standing at a bar is not permitted).

Do I need reservations or advanced tickets for restaurants, attractions, or shops?

The City of Salem is recommending that only visitors with reservations made come to Salem this October. All of our businesses are running on limited capacities and may sell out quickly and some are unable to accommodate walk-ins. If you are unable to make reservations for this year, we hope you’ll be able to plan your next visit for 2021. Use the list below to start your planning and contact individual businesses to confirm availability.

Is there indoor dining?

Restaurants in Salem have been permitted to open for indoor and outdoor dining. We recommend checking with individual restaurants for specifics. Masks are required at all times in restaurants (including when dining outdoors) whenever you are not seated at your table.

Are bars open?

No, bars in Massachusetts are not open at this time. Under the current reopening guidelines, alcoholic beverages may only be ordered while seated at a table after food is ordered.

Will the cemetery be open?

No. Charter Street cemetery is closed during October for preservation work. The adjacent Salem Witch Trials Memorial remains open. Find guidelines for visiting the memorial here.

Are the haunted houses open?

No. Indoor haunted houses are not permitted to open at this time.

Will there be public restrooms open in Salem?

Restrooms are listed on this year’s Haunted Happenings map and on the new Salem app.

Will there still be ghost tours?

Yes! Salem’s walking tours are running. When looking for a tour this October, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Tours are running on very limited capacities, so we recommend booking in advance. As of October 20, tours are almost entirely sold out for the month. 
  • Masks are required to be worn by all guests over the age of two at all times while on a tour. Review Salem’s mask mandate by the Board of Health here.
  • Salem has a variety of walking tours, including ghost tours, history tours, food tours, and more. Find a complete list of tours here.

Will there be a carnival?

No, the kids carnival on Salem Common is not running this year. The Derby Street Carnival was discontinued in 2017.

Miscellaneous

Will it be worth coming this year? Is there enough to do this year?

This depends on your perspective. If you are interested in visiting some of Salem’s museums and attractions, shops, and restaurants, the majority of businesses downtown will be open and happy to see you. October 2020 is a great year for outdoor activities, like Punto Urban Art Museum, exploring the grounds of Salem Maritime National Historic Site (exterior areas only), and the gardens at The House of the Seven Gables. Outdoor dining is prevalent in Salem, and local retailers are all stocked and ready for the fall season. If you are willing to adhere to Salem’s safety guidelines, including wearing your mask both indoors and outdoors, and following the state mandated travel order if you are coming from out of state, 2020 can still be a great year to visit Salem.

If your priorities in visiting Salem are our annual Haunted Happenings events, including the parade, fireworks, street fairs, and costume balls (which have all been cancelled this October in accordance with the state’s limits on gathering sizes), you may want to plan your visit for next October for the traditional Salem Haunted Happenings experience. Additionally, if you are not comfortable wearing a mask during your visit, are not able to adhere to the travel order, or if you or anyone in your party is feeling sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you stay home and plan your trip for another time.

Is Salem still expecting crowds this year?

Yes. Lots of people are still planning to visit Salem this year. As you plan your trip, please join us in taking the Salem Together Pledge and help us keep everyone safe by wearing your mask both indoors and outdoors, maintaining physical distancing, and washing your hands frequently.

Are there combination tickets or special deals this year?

COVID-19 has had a significant effect on our local businesses and many are working with drastically reduced capacities and revenue making it difficult to allow for the availability that comes with combination tickets and promotions. We do not anticipate any combination tickets or deals this year, and we encourage you to tip generously when you receive good service in Salem.

How can I participate in Salem Haunted Happenings from home?

If you cannot make it to Salem this year, we’d love to still see your Halloween costumes! Tag #HauntedHappeningsatHome on Instagram to share them with us. You may also want to consider browsing the Haunted Happenings Marketplace, which has gone virtual this year, or shopping your favorite Salem stores online. Some October events will be virtual this year as well, and you can find those on our calendar and on the new Salem app.

Where can I find information on getting married or eloping in Salem?

Information on getting married in Salem is available on salem.org/weddings. For 2020, The Hotel Salem, The House of the Seven Gables, and Ledger have small wedding packages that adhere to the current restrictions on gathering sizes.

What do I need to know about bringing a group to Salem this year?

Each tour operator using a bus or other vehicle (such as a trolley, harbor cruise vessel, or duck boat) must limit occupancy at all times to 50% of the tour, vehicle or vessel’s maximum permitted occupancy as documented in its occupancy permit on record with the relevant municipal record holder.

Occupancy limitations for boat tours using vessels with open deck space that can be used to accommodate passengers shall be determined in accordance with the formula used to set charter boat occupancy limits, outlined in the Workplace Safety and Reopening Standards for For-Hire and Charter Vessels.

  • Tours of spaces for which no permitted occupancy limitation is on record must limit occupancy based on the Indoor and Outdoor Event guidance on the Reopening Website
  • All occupant counts and calculations shall include customers and workers
  • Groups of passengers should be separated on the vehicle by empty seats. If that is not possible, vehicles should stagger open rows
  • Tour operators must limit group size in walking tours to groups of no more than 10 persons
  • Guides and guests should maintain 6 feet of distance and wear face coverings

Find more information on group tours under Massachusetts’ phased reopening guidelines here.

Salem Residents

How do I obtain a Temporary Resident Parking Permit for October?

Temporary Resident Parking Permits will be mailed to addresses on qualifying streets. Find a list of qualifying addresses and more information here.

What attractions are free for Salem residents?

  • The House of the Seven Gables (gardens only for 2020)
  • Peabody Essex Museum
  • Pioneer Village
  • Salem Trolley (September only)
  • Salem Witch Museum
  • Witch House

Will there be free parking for residents downtown this October?

Free parking with proof of Salem residency is available October weekends at the Church Street West Lot.

What is there to do for kids and families this October?

  • Salem Kids Tours
  • Salem Trolley
  • Haunted Happenings Harbor Cruise with Mahi Cruises
  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site (exterior locations)
  • Broom-making at the Witchery
  • Trick-or-treating on Halloween night

When is trick-or-treating?

Trick-or-treating is not a City event. The decision to trick-or-treat is one that individual families should make on their own. Those who choose to engage in trick-or-treating should comply with the public health guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: www.mass.gov/news/halloween-during-covid-19. If trick-or-treating, families should not congregate with other family groups, should keep a face covering on at all times, and should stay six feet away from others. Anyone choosing to trick-or-treat should be out no later than 8:00 p.m. Those giving out candy should leave it outside for trick-or-treaters to take and only in individual, not communal, receptacles. Residents who do not wish to give out candy can indicate that by keeping their outside light off for the evening. Residents of other communities should not trick-or-treat in Salem.