Nearly 700,000 people packed into Salem during October to take in the city’s legendary Halloween festivities and officials are bracing for thousands more this weekend.
Some 185,300 people visited Witch City last weekend, bringing the tally to 699,500 visitors so far this month, according to a statement from Salem officials on Wednesday. The city says it is a 9 percent increase in visitors over last year.
“With one weekend remaining in October, the City continues to urge visitors to take public transportation to get to Salem and to plan ahead for their visit,” the statement said.
In an e-mail, Dominick Pangallo, chief of staff for the mayor’s office in Salem, said visitors coming around Halloween should remember to be patient, and he urged people to visit the city year round.
“Salem is here and open 12 months of the year, with lots to do and see all year round,” Pangallo said.
Many local businesses are prepared to deal with the influx of visitors, said Jeff Swartz, assistant director at Salem’s Chamber of Commerce. Some businesses might sell tickets in advance or organize outdoor lines.
“It’s a balancing act between operating the business while still accommodating the huge crowds,” Swartz said.
Visitors should buy their tickets in advance, lower expectations, and be prepared to wait, officials and business owners said.
“We were prepared for the crowds,” said Salem Historical Tours owner Giovanni Alabiso, “but the crowds were not prepared for the crowds.”
The large crowds, long lines, and sold out ticket stands are frustrating to visitors, Alabiso said, and sometimes they can take their frustrations out on the businesses themselves, workers, or city employees.
To those coming in, Pangallo said, “do not drive here, take public transportation.”
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will increase service to and from Salem over the weekend in anticipation of the year’s spookiest holiday, according to a statement this month.
The T is adding seven more inbound and six outbound trains this weekend, in addition to its existing service. There should be at least two trains an hour after 6 p.m., the MBTA said.
Parking is scarce this time of year. In addition to Salem Police’s “aggressive parking enforcement” in October, the city has also increased parking violation fines, according to a statement.
Those dead-set on driving in can park for free at Salem State University’s O’Keefe Center parking lot, at Salem High School, and behind Salem Hospital at 108 Jefferson Ave. Salem has organized free shuttle buses between these parking lots and the city.
Carter Gerome planned to visit Salem for the first time Thursday with eight of his friends. On a train to Salem, he said that though he had not heard about the crowds, he wasn’t surprised.
“I know it’s a popular place in Halloween time,” Gerome, 21, said in a phone interview.