Including Salem in a listing of Halloween activities seems almost redundant. With its nickname — The Witch City — and its many shops devoted to witchcraft and paranormal phenomena, it can feel like Halloween all year long in Salem.
But this month, towns around Greater Boston offer their own thrills and chills — from Tales of the Night at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln to Witch’s Woods at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford to Not-So-Spooky Halloween at Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver.
The mystique surrounding Salem amps up every October, with around 20,000 people strolling the cobbled streets on a typical weekend, according to Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. Options are abundant, with more than 700 Halloween-themed events planned ranging from the Salem Psychic Fair & Witches’ Market to the Ghosts & Legends Trolley Tour to horror film screenings and live appearances by icons such as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
The challenge, as Fox points out, can be including the youngest participants in the fun — or simply those who don’t like to be truly scared. Last year, Salem implemented a new program called Wicked Wednesdays designed specifically for young children, with story times, games, and crafts.
One of Fox’s favorite new family-friendly activities is the Great Salem Pumpkin Walk, now in its second year and scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 17, from 3 to 8 p.m. as businesses throughout the downtown welcome young visitors.
“Some places will feature pumpkin beverages or snacks. Others will have pumpkin storytelling. The Witch Museum will offer pumpkin carving demonstrations,” said Fox. “It’s a great event for children, and also for anyone who wants to do something at a less crowded time.”
If you’ve already explored Salem’s historical sites and want to understand more about the witch trials’ unique role in American history, consider venturing to Beverly for a performance of “Saltonstall’s Trial.”
The new play depicts tribulations of Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall, called to serve on the court of the Salem Witch Trials and forced to fight an inner struggle between personal integrity and public service that still resonates more than 300 years later. Performances take place at Larcom Theatre, 13 Wallis St., Beverly, from Oct. 17 through 27. For more information, go to www.thelarcom.org or call 978-922-6313.
Another way to experience the educational and historical nuances of the Halloween season is to join the Concord Museum’s guided tour of historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on Sunday, Oct. 27, from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
In addition to hearing stories about the lives and deaths of Concordians from centuries past, participants will be introduced to Sleepy Hollow as a cemetery, a garden, and a park. Tickets are $10 ($5 for museum members) and include same-day admission to the museum. Reservations are required. For reservations or more information, visit www.concordmuseum.org or call 978-369-9763, extension 216.
Want a more traditional, ghost-stories-around-the-campfire kind of Halloween? Check out Tales of the Night at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary on Friday, Oct. 25, and Saturday, Oct. 26, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Don a costume, grab a flashlight and take in the farm’s jack-o-lantern display; wander the Nursery Rhyme Trail; visit the Ghoulish Graveyard for witch’s brew, hot chocolate, and spooky snacks; or board the Haunted Hayride. Admission is $15 members; $17 nonmembers; free for children 2 and under. Pre-registration is required; go to www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/drumlin-farm/news-events/tales-of-the-night or call 781-259-2220. Drumlin Farm is located at 208 South Great Road, Lincoln.
And if after-dark fun outdoors sounds good to you, consider Norfolk County Agricultural High School’s Haunted Hayride, a school fund-raising tradition that has endured for well over two decades.
This year’s Haunted Hayride evenings take place on Fridays, Oct. 18 and 25, and Saturdays, Oct. 19 and 26, from 7 to 10:30 p.m., offering attendees a 45-minute ride through the woods of the 300-acre Norfolk Aggie campus. Tickets are $10 ($5 for children under 12). The campus is located at 400 Main St., Walpole. Please note that the event will be held only if the EEE risk warning is lifted. For more information, go to www.norfolkaggie.org .
Younger children, of course, might want to skip the scary and go straight for the treats. Not-So-Spooky Halloween at Edaville Family Theme Park is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout October as well as Columbus Day Monday and offers trick-or-treating at every amusement ride throughout the park, as well as a kid-friendly Halloween-inspired Dino Land, featuring 22 life-size animatronic dinosaurs. Guests are encouraged to dress in costume as they enjoy all the child-centric delights of this classic amusement park in Carver. For more information, go to www.edaville.com.
Other options for those who prefer costumes and candy to screams and scares are Stone Zoo’s annual Boo at the Zoo on Saturday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Ghouls in the Garden at Tower Hill Botanic Garden on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and the Acton Recreation Department’s 14th annual Monsterbash Dance Party on Friday, Oct. 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. at NARA Park.
But those well past the age of neighborhood trick-or-treating shouldn’t be overlooked in this something-for-everyone holiday either. For the entire month of October, Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford is transformed into Witch’s Woods.
Thrills oriented toward a teen or adult audience include a haunted house, vampires, ghouls, a midway featuring carnival rides, live performances on an outdoor stage, and the haunted hayride, taking visitors on a 17-minute ride through woods and fields. Or skip the admission — and the frights — and just wander through the display of hundreds of professionally carved jack o’lanterns.
Nancy Shohet West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.