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10 Macabre Cities to Visit for Halloween

By Katelyn Milligan
October 13, 2020
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Some U.S. cities are perfect to visit during Halloween because of their spooky or mysterious culture, like the above ground cemeteries and voodoo traditions in New Orleans, the famous 17th century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, or the Headless Horseman legend in Sleepy Hollow, New York.


New Orleans, Louisiana

From above ground mausoleums and tombs to haunted hotels to voodoo culture, New Orleans has a distinct culture that involves elements of the macabre. Founded in 1718 before the United States was officially founded, it has a history full of urban legends, including werewolves prowling the bayou or vampires in the French Quarter. Popular landmarks include the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in the St. Louis Cemetery, walking past the gruesome past of LaLaurie Mansion, or Blacksmith’s Shop Bar where the ghost of pirate Jean Lafitte resides. Walk the cobblestone streets past brightly colored houses with iron balconies on a ghost tour on a foggy night to experience the unusual.

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah may ooze more than southern charm. With more than 300 years of gruesome history, the entire historic district is reportedly haunted. There’s been rumors and sightings of paranormal activity at Hamilton-Turner Inn as well as Marshall House, a haunted hotel that was a hospital three times in the past. Madison Square was the site of a bloody Civil War battle and has many haunted mansions that line the streets. Wander through Bonaventure Cemetery or Colonial Park Cemetery if you dare. 

Sleepy Hollow, New York 

This village thrives in its folklore history due to the Headless Horsemen in the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. You may experience a ghostly encounter when walking through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery or exploring the town by lantern and shining jack-o-lanterns. Wander through popular colonial era manors include Philipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, or Lyndhurst Mansion to learn more about local Sleepy Hollow history and haunts. 

Salem, Massachusetts 

Founded in 1626 as a Puritan fishing community, Salem is the location of the famous 1692 Salem witch trials in which Colonial America’s mass hysteria led to 19 people being hanged with more dying from other causes. Much of the town’s cultural identity revolves around this event, and many of the sites from the witch trials over 300 years ago still stand. Many historic sites are reportedly haunted, including one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, Old Burying Point Cemetery, and home of a Witch Trial Judge, The Witch House. Explore the muted colors of the town and brick-paved streets yourself to learn more about the sinister history rooted here. 

Tombstone, Arizona

Riddled with a violent past, this historic mining ghost town is said to be home to lingering spirits of cowboys, grieving mothers, and citizens killed in large fires. OK Corral, the site of the famous Old West gunfight, is reportedly haunted by the cowboys. Boot Hill Graveyard and Bird Cage Theatre are popular destinations where unexplainable phenomena occur in Tombstone

St. Augustine, Florida

Presumably the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is home to centuries of history, beautiful houses, and supposedly, spirits.  The masonry fortress Castillo de San Marcos is the location of many battles and invasions. Dangerous criminals in grotesque conditions were held at The Old Jail and apparitions with tragic deaths have been described at St. Augustine Lighthouse. Stroll the cobblestone streets among the Spanish colonial architecture to immerse yourself in this ancient city.

San Francisco, California

Among the vibrant scenery and sloping hills, some locations around San Francisco may send you chills even amidst the warm weather. Alcatraz, or “The Rock,” is a famous maximum-security military prison and haunted landmark that housed inmates including Al Capone. See if you hear voices or footsteps behind you if you visit. Take your pick of the macabre from friendly ghosts at The Queen Anne Hotel, dead army men performing their daily routine at the National Park The Presidio, or ethereal beings at the Sutro Baths.

Charleston, South Carolina

Known as a port city with cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages, Charleston also has some dark history from the first shots of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter to slave labor on plantations. Learn about the macabre with locations like the White Point Garden where 50 pirates were hanged in the 1700s, the Old City Jail which housed the state’s first female serial killer, or The Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon which held Revolutionary War soldiers. 

San Antonio, Texas

Bursting with rich culture and modern attractions, San Antonio also has a creepy past. The Menger Hotel is reputed to have strange occurrences but is decidedly the location of The Battle of the Alamo, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders recruitment, and a devastating fire. The Southern Texas region also gives way to the Spanish urban legend of La Llorona, the weeping woman. Walk along the river or visit the Alamo

Williamsburg, Virginia

Existing as early as the 18th-century, Williamsburg has diverse Colonial America history, including part in the U.S. Civil War. Not all of its history is for the faint of heart though. Said to be cursed by the slave of the wife, the Peyton Randolph House was built in 1715 and the location of at least 30 deaths. The Public Hospital was the country’s first insane asylum Other haunted locations are the Wythe House, colonial prison Public Gaol, and Fort Magruder Hotel which was the site of the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862. 

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Budget Travel Lists

The 10 best day trips in the US Midwest

In the Midwest, you’ll find friendly small towns as well as urban sprawls. Roll call for the region's cities starts with Chicago, which unfurls what is arguably the country's mightiest skyline. In Cleveland, the best action is in its walkable neighborhoods. Detroit rocks, plain and simple. Day trips in this region have everything from parks and museums to architectural delights to breweries. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Best day trips from Chicago Indiana Dunes National LakeshoreAt the southern tip of Lake Michigan, 15 miles of white-sand dunes and more than 50 miles of trails await outdoor adventurers. At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, you can swim, bike, fish, ski or hike, depending on the season – or camp overnight from April to October. Beaches fill up fast in the summer, so arrive early to pick the best spot. 1hr 10min by car. Lakefront walking path in Lake Geneva ©Sandy Swanson/Shutterstock Lake Geneva Shore Path, Wisconsin You’ll find something fascinating along just about any stretch of this nearly 26-mile path, which was originally forged to link Native American villages. It winds past excellent lake views, wooded stretches and beautiful estates. Strike out in either direction from Lake Geneva Library for the easiest route. 2hr by car. Windmill Island Gardens, Holland, MichiganGet a taste of Dutch life in delightfully kitschy Windmill Island Gardens. The top attraction in the aptly named town of Holland, this 36-acre park contains gardens, dykes, canals, picnic areas and, of course, a giant windmill imported from the Netherlands in 1964. In the spring, more than 100,000 blooming tulips draw admiring crowds to town. 2hr 20min by car. Illinois is a great base to explore Frank Lloyd Wright's designs ©Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock Racine, WisconsinArchitecture aficionados shouldn’t miss Racine, which is home to several notable Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Manufacturer SC Johnson is based here, and its third-generation CEO commissioned Wright to build not only his home, Wingspread, but also the administration building and research tower for SC Johnson itself. 2hr 20min by car. See more day trips from Chicago. Best day trips from Detroit Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, DearbornPlunge into American history. The indoor Henry Ford Museum contains a wealth of American culture, such as the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, the limo in which Kennedy was killed and the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The adjacent outdoor Greenfield Village features Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers’ airplane workshop. 30min by car. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand RapidsThe 158-acre gardens feature impressive blooms and hulking works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and others. The sculpture park offers paths and lawns bejeweled with works by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Claes Oldenburg and Anish Kapoor. The five-story glass conservatory bursts with tropical plants. The children’s garden provides lots to smell, touch and dig into. The tranquil Japanese Garden is another highlight. 2hr 30min by car. Sample the craft beer at the breweries in Kalamazoo ©blizzard_77/Getty Images Breweries, KalamazooKalamazoo has an offbeat charm that will surprise first-time visitors. But it’s the local beer that has got people talking; over a dozen breweries produce a huge range of them. The leader is Bell’s Brewery, one of the top craft breweries in the country. 2hr 40min by train. See more day trips from Detroit. Best day trips from Cleveland Cuyahoga Valley National Park has several waterfalls and hiking trails ©fdastudillo/Getty Images Cuyahoga Valley National ParkLike a great, cold snake, the Cuyahoga River worms over a forested valley, earning its Native American name of "crooked river" (or possibly "place of the jawbone"). Either name is evocative, and hints at the mystical beauty that Cuhayoga Valley National Park engenders on a cool morning, when the mists thread the woods and all you hear is the honk of Canadian geese and the fwup-fwup-whoosh of a great blue heron flapping over its hunting grounds. 30min by car. Fast action thrills of a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point ©AWelshLad/Getty Images Cedar Point, SanduskyCedar Point on Lake Erie is one of the world’s top amusement parks, known for its 17 adrenaline-pumping roller coasters. Stomach-droppers include the Top Thrill Dragster, among the globe’s tallest and fastest rides. It climbs 420ft into the air before plunging and whipping around at 120mph. The Valravn is the world’s longest ‘dive’ coaster, dropping riders at a 90-degree angle for 214ft. Check the park’s opening times before planning a visit. 1hr by car. Topiary Park, ColumbusIf you’ve ever thought, "I wonder what Georges Seurat’s post-impressionist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte would look like made out of yew trees," this park is for you. A local sculptor and his green-thumb wife created the Topiary Park some 30 years ago to brighten a neglected patch of downtown. Today you can wander around seven acres and admire the 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, monkey and cat carved from shrubs to resemble Seurat’s famous painting. 2hr by car.

Budget Travel Lists

The 12 best day trips in the US Southwest

Rugged. Beautiful. And fun. The Southwest is the ultimate playground, luring adventurers with red-rock canyons, Wild West legends and the kicky delights of green chile stew. Day trips in this region conjure up visions of vast desert landscapes, rodeos, and lake adventures. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Best day trips from Austin FredericksburgWith a wealth of events, wineries and in-town attractions, it’s often hard to decide how to best spend a day in Fredericksburg. It was settled by some of Texas’ first German immigrant families, and the European frontier ethos shines through in the architecture and history of the town itself. Further afield, vineyard tours are a hit with groups on weekend trips from Austin. 1hr 30min by car. Fall foliage on the river at Guadalupe State Park ©Richard A McMillin/ShutterstockGuadalupe RiverThere’s no better respite from the Central Texas summer than jumping in the water, and few places could beat the Guadalupe River; specifically, drifting down its course on an inner tube. Head to Guadalupe River State Park for a family friendly float (plus campsites and hiking), or look for local private operators that offer a more party-focused experience on the river. 1hr 30min by car. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, FredericksburgThe 425ft high pink granite dome of Enchanted Rock towers over the surrounding Central Texas hills. The popular Summit Hike tracks past vernal pools and rock fissures to panoramic views from the top. Queues form at the State Park gate as early as 8am on busy weekends, but campers with confirmed reservations cruise straight on through and into the park. 1hr 40min by car. Best day trips from Dallas The daily Texas longhorn cattledrive through the Stockyard streets ©typhoonski/Getty ImagesFort WorthFamous as being "Where the West Begins," Fort Worth still has the cowboy feel. It first rose to prominence during the great open-range cattle drives of the late 19th century. These days, the legendary Stockyards are the prime visitor destination, hosting twice-daily mini-cattle drives and rodeos every weekend. Downtown is bursting with restaurants and bars, while the Cultural District boasts three amazing art museums. 40min by car. Waco, TexasIn this college town, Magnolia Market at the Silos draws more visitors than the Alamo. Once you’ve shopped, played and eaten at ‘Fixer-Upper’ duo Chip and Joanna Gaines’ biggest renovation project, stroll Baylor’s 1000-acre campus or stand-up paddle straight through town on the Brazos River. 1hr 30min by car. Caddo Lake State ParkCaddo Lake State Park is a good place to start your lake adventure. Take an interpretive hike through the cypress forest on the lake’s western edge. Or, in summer, rent a canoe. The park has some great little cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the riverside tent sites are pretty sweet. 2hr 30min by car. Best day trips from Phoenix Saguaro National ParkSaguaros are icons of the American Southwest, and an entire cactus army of these majestic, ribbed sentinels is protected in this desert playground. Saguaro National Park is divided into east and west units, separated by 30 miles and Tucson itself. Both sections – the Rincon Mountain District in the east and Tucson Mountain District in the west – are filled with trails and desert flora; if you only visit one, make it the spectacular western half. 1hr 40min by car. Watch the desert sunset in Sedona ©aaronj9/ShutterstockSedonaNestled amid striking red sandstone formations, Sedona's truly spectacular landscape has long attracted spiritual seekers, artists and healers. Outdoorsy adventurers have begun to see the light as well: there are some inimitable thrills to be had hiking, mountain biking and climbing amid these desert spires. Red Rock State Park has 5 miles of well-marked, interconnecting trails in gorgeous red-rock country. 2hr by car. Historic train station in Flagstaff at sunset ©Nick Fox/ShutterstockFlagstaffThe laid-back charms of Flagstaff, the home of Northern Arizona University, are many; from a pedestrian-friendly historic downtown, bedecked with vintage neon, to hiking and skiing in the country’s largest ponderosa pine forest. 2hr 30min by car. Best day trips from Las Vegas Desert landscape at sunset at the Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area ©Dean Pennalad/500pxRed Rock CanyonRed Rock's dramatic vistas are revered by Las Vegas locals and adored by visitors from around the world. Formed by extreme tectonic forces, it's thought the canyon, whose 3000ft red rock escarpment rises sharply from the valley floor, was formed around 65 million years ago. A 13-mile, one-way scenic loop drive offers mesmerizing vistas of the canyon's most striking features. Hiking trails and rock-climbing routes radiate from roadside parking areas. 30min by car. Valley of Fire State ParkA masterpiece of Southwest desert scenery, the Valley of Fire State Park contains 40,000 acres of red Aztec sandstone, petrified trees and ancient Native American petroglyphs (at Atlatl Rock). Dedicated in 1935, this was Nevada's first designated state park. Its psychedelic landscape has been carved by wind and water over thousands of years. 50min by car. Lost City MuseumWander away from the big city to unearth some of the best art, culture and history on the continent in the most unexpected places. At the Lost City Museum, learn about the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans through reconstructed homes and the artifacts that were saved as this desert land developed. 1hr by car.

Budget Travel Lists

10 low-key destinations to consider for Labor Day

Our cruel summer is coming to a close and the upcoming holiday weekend is one of the last chances for people to get out of the house and enjoy the long days of sunshine. Vacation rental manager Vacasa has released its list of top 10 destinations for Labor Day this weekend. ©Marc Muench/Getty Images1. Sun Valley, Idaho Small-town Sun Valley sits at the edge of the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests, and it gets a whopping 15 hours of sunshine per day during the summer months. Hike all the way up Bald Mountain west of town, then order some takeout from one of Sun Valley’s coveted restaurants. Browse rentals 2. Steamboat Springs, Colorado When you reach historic Steamboat Springs, you may feel like you’ve gone back in time. Reminiscent of the Old West, Steamboat is a naturally stunning escape tucked in the Rocky Mountains. Cool off by floating the Yampa River, or take a stroll through town and expect to be greeted (at a distance) by all the friendly locals. Browse rentals 3. Greenville, Maine Greenville rests on the 40-mile-long Moosehead Lake—the largest of its kind in the state. As the name of the lake would suggest, it’s home to many moose, so keep your eyes peeled for these majestic creatures as you hike through the woods or take a private flight. Browse rentals. 4. Eagle River, Wisconsin Along a large freshwater lake chain, you’ll find the laid-back northwoods town of Eagle River. Bike through densely wooded forests, or take a more leisurely method of travel—a guided horseback ride. Browse rentals. ©Keneva Photography/Shutterstock 5. Sevierville, Tennessee Tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains, Sevierville has hundreds of forest trails and several jaw-dropping waterfalls. Boat along Douglas Lake, take a tour through underground caverns, or just breathe in the crisp air from the back deck of your cabin rental. Browse rentals. 6. Sugar Mountain, North Carolina Concealed in North Carolina’s range of Blue Ridge peaks, Sugar Mountain is a treasure of a village. If heights don’t make you queasy, visit the nation’s highest suspension footbridge, the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, or take a chairlift from the base of the mountain to 1,200 feet up. Browse rentals. 7. Ludlow, Vermont Tourists flock to Ludlow to enjoy snow sports during the winter, but the summer months are decidedly less crowded. Don’t be fooled, though: the tiny town is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise year round. Breathe in the fresh mountain air, and hike to the swimming holes at Buttermilk Falls. Browse rentals. 8. Angel Fire, New Mexico Often called New Mexico’s best-kept secret, Angel Fire is a small village rife with adventure in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Visit the largest bike park in the Rocky Mountains, charting 60 miles of terrain, or hike to New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak. Browse rentals. ©SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images 9. Helen, Georgia Venture to Helen in northeast Georgia and you’ll feel like you just touched down in Europe. A Bavarian village set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen has a storied past and unequivocal charm dating back to the 1800s. While you’re there, don’t miss 300-foot Dukes Creek Falls. Browse rentals. 10. Tannersville, Pennsylvania Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, Tannersville is the perfect destination for big families and honeymooners alike. Take a dip in a unique heart-shaped tub, or zipline through the treetops if adrenaline-pumping activities are more your speed. Browse rentals.

Budget Travel Lists

Budget Travel's favorite Fourteeners

The United States claims at least 93 fourteeners and they are all located in only four states. Colorado is home to the most fourteeners with a total of 56, next comes Alaska at 20, California with 14, and 3 from Washington. Mountain trails above 14,000 feet are given a difficulty rating based on the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). Ranging from one to five, class one mountains are the easiest and typically have good trails while class fives require technical climbing involving ropes and belaying. Be sure to research individual trails before you start so that you know what to prepare for. Traveling specifically to access fourteeners is common and many people have goals surrounding fourteeners. Here are some highlights of the US’s most mighty mountains. Since there are 93 fourteeners in the United States, choosing one to suit your needs and desires is very possible. Here is our list of our favorite Fourteeners: Most Scenic The scenic Coloradan mountains called Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in the state, and in a state with the most fourteeners– that’s a lot of photographs. The Maroon Bells consist of Maroon Peak (14,163 ft.) and North Maroon Peak (14,019). Many people opt for a loop that includes both peaks, takes between 3 and 4 days, and covers 26.6 miles. Be advised though, those who choose to embark on this trail must have a permit for the loop. Grays and Torreys peaks. ©Image by Dr. Alan Lipkin/Shutterstock Best for beginners Although in the tenth highest summit in the Rocky Mountains, Gray’s Peak is one of the easiest climbs as far as fourteeners go. Many experts believe Gray’s peak to be one of the best fourteeners for beginners. This is often attributed to its relatively short length, seven miles round trip. Furthermore, hikers do not gain much elevation during the course of the trek, only 2,769 ft. Colorado's most famous As the second most visited mountain in the world, Pike’s Peak has made millions marvel. It is accessible by cog railway, driving, and of course hiking. At the top, there is a gift shop famous for its donuts, refreshing after the 13.5 mile ascent. There are many different points of access, but the most convenient is located only 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs, making trail head accessible by rideshare. Be warned however, the ride to the base may be easy, but the climb can be quite tough. Even with an elevation gain of 7,400 ft., the hike is still rated at a class two YDS. Just as there are several trailheads from which to begin, there are also several trails by which to ascend. One of the most difficult, and well known methods is through using the Incline. The Incline is a mile of railroad tie stairs that go straight up Pikes Peak. They cut out 3 miles of the 13.5 mile trek. Highest At 20,308 feet, Alaska’s Denali is the highest mountain not only in the United States, but also in the entirety of North America. After Mount Everest and Aconcagua, Denali is the third most isolated mountain in the world. Named Mount McKinley from 1896-2015, this mountain was restored to its Koyukon Alaskan Native name by former president Barack Obama. It is not for the faint heart, as climbing this fourteener averages between 17 and 21 days and requires mental, physical, and logistical preparation. It should only be attempted by expert mountaineers. ©Gleb Tarro/Getty Images Washington favorite Mount Rainier is a Washington favorite for good reason. As an active volcano, the mountain has a wild amount of flora and fauna. Additionally, it is the origin of five major rivers which provide diversity to the landscape. But the mountain’s real claim to fame is the fact that it is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, meaning there is ice on it year round. The mountain has an elevation gain of 13,219. With over 260 miles of hiking trails, the YDS class varies. It is also a National Park and can be accessed by driving 3 hours southeast from Seattle. Mt. Shasta in California. ©Zack Frank/Shutterstock California favorite Mount Shasta is the shortest class four fourteener in California at 14,162 feet. Because of the persistent year round ice, it is recommended to carry an ice pick while hiking. Additionally, a permit is required to hike the peak. Route dependent, the climb is typically ten to twelve miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 7,000 feet. Be sure to visit the town of Mount Shasta just below the peak for a vegan smoothie. Grace Klaus is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado.

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