10 Most Romantic Islands in the World
1. ST. LUCIA
To give you an idea of how verdant St. Lucia's tropical vegetation is, in the film Superman II, Christopher Reeve flew all the way to the Caribbean island's Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens to pick two bird of paradise flowers for Lois Lane. Frequent sun showers (the locals call them "liquid sunshine") sparkle and descend over abundant waterfalls and crystal-clear bays, all under the watchful eyes of the island's two iconic volcanic landforms, Petit Piton and Gros Piton.
The eco-friendly resort Fond Doux Resort & Plantation, in the town of Soufrière, is nestled among fruit and vegetable trees including breadfruit, pawpaws, and mangoes (fonddouxestate.com, from $230 per night). Another option: Staying at Stonefield Estate Resort is well worth the splurge, with its ultra-private villas, each equipped with its own swimming pool, outdoor garden shower, and porch hammock (stonefieldresort.com, from $225 per night). We're not telling you to go skinny-dipping in your private pool, but if you've never tried it before, now would be the time. The property's free made-to-order breakfast—which includes local juices like tamarind and passionfruit, and specialty dishes like scrambled eggs and bacon nestled in a fresh-baked baguette—are served at Stonefield's Mango Tree restaurant, overlooking Soufrière Bay with an impeccable view of Petit Piton.
Handsy lovebirds can head to the dormant volcano Sulphur Springs (billed as a "drive-in volcano") to rub handfuls of mud over each other's bodies, then submerge themselves in the Black Pool's legendary healing mineral waters (soufrierefoundation.org, $5). The benefit: baby-soft skin. Go on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, when foot traffic is light. The island is famous for its hardcore four-hour hike of Gros Piton, but the Tet Paul Nature Trail (called the "Stairway to Heaven" walk), with its panoramic island vistas as a reward, is doable even for non-athletes (soufrierefoundation.org, $5).
While you're near Soufrière's town square, pop into Alin's Fast Food for roti (curried chicken and potato wrapped in unleavened bread) and a cold Piton beer (across the street from the Church of the Assumption, $7). In the mood for a charming candlelit dinner? Try The Hummingbird restaurant, specifically the coconut curry shrimp or the fisherman's catch, both served with cooked breadfruit and root vegetables, and a fresh-lime daiquiri to wash it down—plus the decadent chocolate rum cake for dessert (hummingbirdbeachresort.com, entrees from $10 to $15). Pro tip: Spray yourself down with mosquito repellent before you go.
If getting away from it all—far, far away—with your main squeeze is your fantasy, flying to Fiji fits the bill. The collection of 333 islands boasts so much untouched natural beauty that the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away was filmed here. (Talk about secluded.) If that's not tempting enough, the Fiji tourism board claims there were 600 proposals in Fiji last year...and 600 yeses.
The rain-forest-rich island of Taveuni, with its coconut plantations and waterfalls, has much to offer lovers seeking beauty in nature. Every room at Garden Island Resort has an ocean view and outdoor space—plus you can take diving courses right on site (gardenislandresort.com, from $189 per night). Scuba-diving the colorful coral-blanketed Rainbow Reef—including the famous perpendicular Great White Wall of luminescent coral—for an up-close-and-personal peek at sea life, including barracuda and parrotfish, is a tradition for couples (taveunidive.com, from $114). If you venture off property for dinner, the menu at Vunibokoi Restaurant, part of the Tovu Tovu Resort, is chock-full of local eats like taro leaf and coconut cream soup and shelled mangrove crabs (tovutovu.com, entrees from $15 to $20).
For an aboveground excursion, take a leisurely nature walk on the wooden-planked boardwalk through one of the world's largest Asian orchid collections at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, 10 miles north of the town of Nadi (gardenofsleepinggiant.com, $16). Tranquility is easy to come by via the garden's massive lily pond and lush Fijian rain forest. But back to Cast Away: If you want to explore the beach where Tom Hanks taught himself to spearfish, take a boat ride to uninhabited Monuriki island and join the other movie buffs basking in the sun.
3. BORA BORA
Bora Bora isn't nicknamed "The Romantic Island" for nothing. The six-mile-long French Polynesian island's overwater bungalows are the stuff postcard pictures are made of. Hotel Maitai Polynesia (bora.hotelmaitai.com, from $233 per night) offers both quintessential overwater bungalows—complete with glass coffee tables to spy the tropical fish flitting about in the turquoise lagoon below—and wallet-friendly garden-view rooms situated among exotic mountainside plants. Every room includes a bed strewn with local flowers.
By day, an outfitter like Moana Adventure Tours or Bora Bora Romantic Tour can schedule private excursions ranging from a snorkel safari to a pricier private "motu" picnic, in which you dine à deux on Polynesian barbecue on a tiny islet, snorkel with manta rays, and feed sharks by hand. That's only if you're feeling flush, though. To offset the activities' cost, go with a group instead (boraboraromantic.com, moanaadventuretours.com, from $50 per person). On a special night, you can sample the prime rib at Restaurant Fare Manuia (689-67-68-08)—visitors rave about it—but the food trucks (called "roulottes") by the pier in Vaitape have delicious options too. One popular choice is Roulotte Matira ("Chez Sam"), which serves up tandoori chicken and curry. No matter what's on your itinerary, pencil in time to savor one of the island's vivid sunsets...kissing encouraged.
4. NORTH BIMINI, BAHAMAS
A two-hour boat ride from Miami, North Bimini, Bahamas, allows for an island experience—minus the price of a long-haul plane ticket. The island offers a particularly enchanting piece of American history: Author Ernest Hemingway considered it his favorite escape, namely for the island's fishing. Marlin Cottage, where he stayed with his wife Pauline during his first summer on the island, is still available for rent at Bimini Blue Water Resort, a no-frills, tried-and-true fisherman's complex with 32 slips, ideal if casting and reeling is your shared passion (800/688-4752, from $101 per night). To up the bling factor, couples can book their own private guest villa at Resorts World Bimini (rwbimini.com, from $180 per night)—or wait until winter 2015 when the property's sleek Marina Hotel opens, offering high-end amenities like floor-to-ceiling windows, marble bathrooms, and an expansive rooftop pool and bar.
One sentimental must-do: Visit the otherworldly-looking, undulating Love Tree, atop a rocky outcropping right on the beach. Several couples have gotten engaged under it, and it's a lovely photo op to boot—local Bahamian legend says it brings good luck and fortune to those who kiss beneath it. To win your lover over forever, tote along a slice of sweet cinnamon-raisin or coconut Bimini bread from A Taste of Heaven Bakery and Take-Away (Kings Highway).
If the lure of Hemingway whets your and your partner's appetite for adventure, check with your hotel to find an outfitter who can take you snorkeling at the eerie shipwreck site of the SS Sapona, which functioned as a booze repository during Prohibition before a hurricane obliterated it in 1926. Afterward, clamber up a giant rope swing and jump off the wreckage together into the blue ocean. Come dinnertime, share a lobster pizza at Edith's Pizza, not far away from the bakery (Kings Highway). Bonding has never been so delicious.
Part of the fun of this island is saying its name: CURE-uh-sow. Planners with tight schedules and trim budgets can hit Curaçao almost anytime: This Dutch Caribbean island is one of the three A-B-C islands—along with Aruba and Bonaire—that you can book without bad-weather concerns: They're situated below the weather "belt," making them essentially immune to hurricane season. Once you're in Curaçao, strolling hand-in-hand seaside in the historic capital city of Willemstad among the brightly colored buildings, the Queen Emma pontoon bridge in the background, is like being on your own romantic movie set. Kayaking Spanish Bay is another film-perfect experience for couples. Outfitters like Adrenaline Tours Curaçao will take you out for an afternoon of kayaking and snorkeling among the coral and scorpion fish (adrenalinetourscuracao.com, from $45). Take bets on who can spot the most live lobsters under the sea.
For a private sanctuary feel, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort sits on 27 acres of exotic natural preserve (santabarbararesortcuracao.com, from $189 per night)...and serves up blue curaçao cocktails in the lobby (of course). Check "eat fresh seafood" off your list at local favorite Sea Side Terrace, a restaurant housed in a shipping container that cooks up fresh lionfish and dishes out fish soup and other inexpensive dishes (599-461-8361, from $4.50)—all while you lounge under straw umbrellas with your feet in the Caribbean sea.
Loafing is encouraged on Boracay, a teensy four-mile island in the Philippines lauded for its beautiful pristine beaches. Expansive White Beach is the most popular (read: touristy), but peace and quiet can be had at Puka Beach for the price of a tricycle ride to reach it (about $3). Those in search of relationship zen can seek it at the Argonauta Boracay boutique hotel, surrounded by tropical gardens bursting with ferns and heliconias and an indoor garden with koi pond, where you can sip your morning coffee or an evening cocktail. Lounge on the roof deck to soak in panoramic ocean views (argonauta-boracay.com, from $125 per night).
When you've had enough sunbathing, take the plunge with your lover at eco-adventure locale Ariel's Point, where you can climb up a bamboo ladder and cliff-dive in tandem, as part of a daylong excursion (arielspoint.com, $46). The flat fee buys you a boat cruise to and from the destination, cliff-diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hammock lounging, an open bar serving local spirits and beers (San Miguel and Red Horse), snacks, and an ample lunch buffet of traditional Filipino dishes like longaniza sausages and pancit noodles.
A traditional candlelit dinner it's not, but D'Talipapa, a cook-it-yourself "wet market," allows you to choose your own raw seafood and have it cooked in a nearby stall. We hear great things about the garlic and butter prawns and the lobster. To whittle the price further, impress your companion by bargaining with the sellers.
7. LANAI, HAWAII
Hawaii, that quintessential honeymoon destination, is indeed within a budget traveler's grasp in Lanai—no plunking down a high-limit credit card for a pricey resort necessary. Hotel Lanai, an 11-room inn originally built as lodging for Dole Plantation execs in the 1920s, has cozy, plantation-themed decor and a free continental breakfast (from $149 per night, hotellanai.com). For lunch, settle in at Lanai Ohana Poke Market and try multiple types of the Hawaiian pupu seafood dish poke, including spicy ahi and mini octopus (808/559-6265, facebook.com/lanaiohanapokemarket, entrees $7 to $14). Go early, around 10:30 a.m., before the poke runs out.
Your own relationship will hopefully turn out better than the tragic one credited with the legend of Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe), a heart-shaped sea stack you can view from the 15-minute hiking trail leading up from Hulopoe Beach Park (gohawaii.com). According to local lore, a warrior from Lanai captured a beautiful princess from Maui, married her, and imprisoned her in a sea cave close to the rock in order to discourage potential suitors from laying eyes on her. Bad weather kicked up one day, drowning the princess. Anguished, the warrior plummeted from the top of the rock to his own death. On a more uplifting note, if you peer closely from the breathtaking hilltop vantage point, you might see spinner dolphins frolicking in the waves.
Couples looking for an unconventional trip, take note: The tropical island of Lombok, Bali's quieter next-door neighbor, is known for its unspoiled white-sand beaches, sea turtle-rife waters for scuba-diving, and righteous waves ideal for surfing. Scuba Froggy has three locations and will take you scuba-diving among a range of sea creatures, from clownfish to coral fans (scubafroggy.com/en; from $25). Chic boutique hotel Qunci Villas in Senggigi offers a number of "romantic moments," from vow renewal to a romantic dinner decorated with local flowers—or just grab a cocktail and tapas at the outdoor lounge bar for sunset happy hour and watch the sun dip down beneath a deep-orange horizon (quncivillas.com; from $189 per night).
For an authentic local food, Warung Hesty, in Pujut, doesn't look like much, but travelers say dishes like Lombok curry and spicy chicken fried rice are excellent—and affordable (0818546441). If you desire a bit more atmosphere, dine in a private outdoor bamboo hut at Coco Beach restaurant, in Senggigi. Fresh fish and chicken, Indonesian eats like gado gado (mixed vegetables and eggs with peanut sauce), and herbal teas are all on the menu (628175780-055; entrees from $5 to $10).
This Spanish island located in the Mediterranean Sea offers a wallop of art and history along with its jet set-approved culture. The HM Balanguera, in the city center of Palma de Mallorca, offers contemporary design—bright-white interiors with rustic wood accents—and a chic rooftop pool with lounge chairs and private cabanas suitable for cuddling with a cocktail in hand (hmbalanguera.com, from $112 per night). For your daily dose of culture, take a tour of the Majorca Cathedral, right on the sea, built over more than 400 years and completed in 1601 (catedraldemallorca.info or spain.info, $8). Or pay a visit to famed Mallorcan artist Joan Miró's museum and his studio—left just as it was when he died (miro.palma.cat, $8). For pure fun farther north, charter a 50-foot schooner for a three-hour sunset sail including platters of tapas and cold drinks and ample opportunity for a dip in the Bay of Pollensa (tudordawnyachtcharters.com, from about $65). If the beach is your preferred scene, Cala Major is the one closest to the city center. It's equipped with public restrooms, showers, and chairs and umbrellas for rent.
When sightseeing has left you famished, duck into Celler Sa Premsa with your date and sample authentic Mallorcan cuisine, including tumbet(cooked potatoes, eggplant, and red peppers with tomato sauce), frito mallorquín(fried lamb liver with potatoes, peppers, and herbs), and local wines, amid warm rustic décor including vintage bullfighting posters and walls fashioned out of wine barrels (cellersapremsa.com, entrees from $11 to $17).
There's something about these sinking islands that gives them a romantic it's-now-or-never vibe, perfect for couples crazy in love. On the other hand, when travelers think "Maldives," they also think "expensive," but that doesn't have to be the case. The recent government-sanctioned rise of informal guesthouses with local families as the hosts has presented an alternative to ultra-expensive resorts. The Amazing Noovilu guesthouse on Mahibadhoo, for example, starts at $125 per night for accommodations and all meals, and your host, Mazin, will take you on-shore fishing and give you Maldivian language lessons for free (theamazingnoovilu.com). Resort-wise, the luxe Kurumba Maldives, located on its own private island, offers a variety of last-minute and holiday deals, plus flexible meal plans if you want to dine on-property; breakfast is always free (kurumba.com, from $260 per night).
Whale shark excursions are huge in the Maldives. Swim right next to this (harmless) biggest fish in the world with an outfitter like Blue Tribe, which also offers low-key romantic stargazing cruises complete with sparkling wine and petit fours if whale-spotting isn't your thing (bluetribe.biz). For authentic food at a joint frequented by local fisherman, hit up the Dawn Café tea house on the heavily Muslim island of Malé for dishes like chicken briyani and curries (960/331-2286). A more romantic atmosphere can be found on Malé at Sala Thai Restaurant, which counts classic Thai dishes like masaman and panang curries and stir-fried noodle dishes among its extensive menu items (salafamilymaldives.com).
9 Best Places To Visit In Argentina
From the jungles and waterfalls of the tropical north to the glaciers and penguins of the arctic south, Argentina is a country like no other. As the eighth largest country in the world, Argentina stretches over a large portion of South America and because of this, contains numerous quality destinations to visit, depending on your interests. From the vineyards of Mendoza to the big city of Buenos Aires, here are 9 places you definitely don't want to miss when making a trip to Argentina. Iguazu Falls Often cited for its place on the New Seven Wonders of Nature list, Iguazu Falls is arguably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. Located in the northern tropical region of Argentina, a visit to Iguazu Falls National Park offers incredible views of the falls, as well as different types of tours to explore the surrounding jungle. In addition, because Iguazu is located on the border of Argentina and Brazil, visitors have the option of viewing the falls from both sides, each offering its own advantages. Buenos Aires As the capital city of Argentina and one of the most visited places in all of South America, Buenos Aires is the starting point for most tours in Argentina and definitely a must-see when visiting the country. Offering a plethora of museums, an incredible nightlife, historic architecture, and a bustling and developing port area, Buenos Aires is above all famous for its tango and unique porteño culture. Perito Moreno Glacier One of the world's biggest glaciers—and one of the few that is actually growing instead of shrinking—is located in Argentina's Patagonia region. Just 78 km (48 miles) from the town of El Calafate, the Perito Moreno Glacier is located within the Los Glaciares National Park and situated on the shores of Lake Argentino. Visitors can take a boat tour out to the glacier, or if interested in exploring it from a closer angle, can hike or trek the glacier. Mendoza Wine Country One of the things Argentina is most known for is its delicious wine. Just to the east of Chile, at the foot of the Andes Mountains, Mendoza is home to more than 1,200 wineries, accounting for more than 70% of the country's total wine production. Visitors can enjoy hikes in the Andes, or stay grounded and ride horses or bikes through some of the area's family-owned bodegas. Northwest Argentina: Salta & Jujuy Located in the Northwest corner of the country, the province of Salta is known for its famous salt flats and the Calchaqui Valley, with its picturesque red rock formations. Nearby Jujuy also offers some incredible natural landscapes, archaeological sites, and cultural opportunities to explore. El Chalten Recognized for its incredible hiking opportunities, El Chalten is a must-see for nature lovers looking to explore the gorgeous landscape of Patagonia. Located just three hours from El Calafate, visitors can take a bus from Calafate that offers spectacular views of the region along the way. Ushuaia One of Argentina's most prized possessions lies in its claim to the southern-most city in the world. Just north of Antarctica, the city of Ushuaia has a very unique history, including the site of a prison during the early 1900's. Visitors can take advantage of a number of cruises departing from Ushuaia, many of which travel down the famous Beagle Canal. Puerto Madryn Famous for its arctic wildlife, Puerto Madryn is Argentina's prime location for whale watching and penguin watching in Patagonia. The nearby Valdes Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to sea elephants, orcas, and southern right whales. Depending on the time of the year, visitors can get a glimpse of these whales, or can venture a short distance south to find South America's largest Magellan penguin colony in Punta Tombo. Bariloche Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, skiers will want to visit Bariloche during the winter months for the best conditions. If skiing is not on your itinerary, visitors can choose between a number of other exciting adventures, like the nearby Nahuel Huapi National Park, which is home to the gorgeous Nahuel Huapi Lake and offers opportunities for day hikes and mountain climbing as well as kayaking across the lake. This article was written by Will Collier on behalf of Say Hueque, a company specializing in tours to Argentina and Chile.
10 Things To Add To Your Italy Travel Bucket List
Let us start by saying that we are giving away the chance to go to Italy—all expenses paid—with your best friend. Right now. Plus the chance to win a trip to other amazing bucket list destinations. Check out EpicBucketList2014.com or watch this video we made to learn more. As a special treat, Budget Travel readers can earn 10 extra points by entering promo code "travelbum." The Epic Bucket List 2014 contest ends Nov. 10th, so don't wait! [Please note: The Epic Bucket List 2014 contest has ended. This contest was only available for those between the ages of 18-35 as the grand prize is offered by Contiki, a tour company specializing in trips for 18-35-year-olds.]
7 Reasons To Visit Connecticut NOW
An easy day-trip or weekend getaway from most major cities of the northeast, Connecticut offers the perfect mix of New England charm and scenery, Ivy League college town flavor, and enough action to satisfy every food lover and history buff. Here's why New Haven, Mystic, and Essex need to be on your fall getaway bucket list. See the fall colors Largely due to the state's temperate seaside weather, the colors of Connecticut's leaves tend to be colorful longer than most in other New England states, typically from early October through early November, so now is the time to go! Catch a glimpse of the fall foliage by taking a ride on the Essex Steam Train, where you can take an hour-long tour through the Connecticut wilderness from the comfort of your comfy swivel chair (first class section only). Part of the Valley Railroad Company's fleet since the late 1800s, the Essex Steam Train offers several touring options Thursday thru Monday: a regular coach seat ($19 for adults, $10 for children), a first class ticket ($31 for adults, $22 for children), and the option to make your trip a steam train and riverboat adventure (from $29 for adults, from $19 for children). Whichever way you choose to ride, you'll learn a little about the history of the area and have access to some of the best views of nature in the state—and a peek at nearby Gillette Castle in East Haddam. Adrenaline junkies can drive about an hour north and experience the fall colors by zip line Sunday thru Tuesday at The Adventure Park at Storrs (from $38 for adults ages 12 and up, $33 for children ages 10 and 11, $28 for children ages 7-9). Visit the Yale campus and world-class museums—for free! One of New Haven's biggest draws is that it's home to Yale, a beautiful Ivy League University that offers free guided campus tours Monday thru Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and on weekends at 1:30 p.m. Tours are about an hour and 20 minutes and depart from the Yale Visitor Center located at 149 Elm Street. If you'd rather stroll the grounds at your own pace, you can purchase a copy of the Blue Trail map at the Visitor Center for less than $5 and have access to a brief history of the campus and suggested routes for exploring the historic campus. Also on campus are top notch museums like the Yale University Art Gallery, home to Van Gogh's Le Café de Nuit among other treasures, the Yale Center for British Art—where you can see pieces by Sir Peter Paul Rubens and William Blake among others (Note: Currently closed for Conservation and reopening in Spring of 2016)—and the Knights of Columbus Museum—all of which are free and open to the public. Unleash your inner foodie In New Haven, stop by a student favorite, Claire's Corner Copia, and try the Lithuanian cake. Warm up with a hot Russian fruit tea, kind of like a delicious cross between mulled wine and sangria but with no alcohol and twice as much fruit. Stop by Louis' Lunch to taste America's First Hamburger—a steal at $6; grab a $4 slice of homemade pie and a $2 Foxon Park Soda to wash it all down with. For the best pizza and happy hour in town, head to Kitchen Zinc for signature artisinal pies like Lobster Mac & Cheese or my favorite, Fig & Speck, and a chance to mingle with the Yale after-class crowd for al fresco cocktails, $5 draft beer and wine specials, and half-price pizzas Tuesday thru Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and from 9 p.m. til 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Movie buffs should visit Mystic Pizza, located about an hour away in Mystic, Conn., owned and operated by the Zelepos family since 1973, and the setting for the film starring Julia Roberts. In Essex, about a half hour away, stop by the Essex Coffee and Tea Company on Main Street for a swig of steamed apple cider and according to them, "the best macaroons in the known universe." (I concur). Experience living history at Mystic Seaport One of the biggest attractions in Connecticut is Mystic Seaport, a living history village by the sea where you can experience how things were in this late-18th-century maritime settlement. Don't miss the chance to tour the Charles W. Morgan, a historic whaleship, and the Joseph Conrad, a full-rigged ship, both of which are currently docked at Mystic Seaport. You'll also have the chance to walk around town, tour models of what homes were like during the time, visit the chemist, chapel, school house, and print shop among other town staples, and see the L.A. Dunton, a National Historic Landmark 19th-century fishing boat. Mystic Seaport is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tickets start at $25 for adults ages 18-64, $23 for seniors over age 65, $23 for college students with a valid I.D., and $16 for children ages 6-17. Children ages five and under get in free. The best part? Your ticket automatically includes a second day's admission as long as you re-visit within the week and get it validated on the way out. Treat yourself to dinner and a show Connecticut is home to many theatres, but there's nothing quite like seeing a show at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. Walking from the parking lot over the bridge and hearing 20s music play as you enter harkens back to the golden age of theater and really makes it feel like you're entering another time. For a great night out, try the Friday Dinner Theatre Package, from $82 per person, for a three-course dinner at the Gelston House and a ticket to the 8 p.m. performance—just make sure you make reservations before 2 p.m. on the day you plan to visit. Stay in a historic B&B—or in the center of New Haven in style Use the Westbrook Inn as your base for exploring the Essex, East Haddam, and Mystic areas, all of which are within a 30-minute drive. Not only is this adorable B&B is super elegant—featuring nine Victorian style antique rooms and a two-bedroom cottage—but the owners are really friendly, and best of all, you're just a five-minute walk from the beach. You'll also have private bathrooms, complimentary access to WiFi, and hotel-like amenities like hair dryers, irons, and TV, as well as complimentary use of the B&B's extensive library and game collection. Family game night, anyone? Rooms from $139 a night including free parking and a delicious breakfast in the morning. Stay in the middle of all the action at the luxurious Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, located on Temple Street, an easy 5 minute walk from campus. New Haven is such an easy city to walk around, with most attractions being within walking distance of the hotel, so I parked my car there and went for a stroll around town. For great views of the Yale campus from above, treat yourself to breakfast (or brunch, lunch, or dinner) at John Davenport's at the Top of the Park, located on the Omni's top floor. Rooms at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale start at $185 a night this time of year. Check their website for more info about seasonal sales and packages. It's easy to get around New Haven is about a 90-minute drive (or train ride!) from New York City but having a car is highly recommended for exploring the parts of Mystic, Essex, and East Haddam mentioned in this story—I was able to rent a car on Hotwire.com from $27 a day from where I live in Queens, NYC. These places also make a great getaway or day-trip from Boston, Providence, and other cities and areas of the northeast, so make a road trip out of it. Check out CTvisit.com for more vacation ideas.
Visit the Top 10 Haunted Houses in the U.S… If You Dare
Need Halloween weekend plans? Make a trip one of these top 10 haunted houses in the U.S., as selected by the Haunted Attraction Association. (Yes, that's a real organization! Their awards banquet is called the "Oscares.") To reach the top 10, houses are judged on multiple criteria, from meeting safety standards to introducing new features. Expect everything from state-of-the-art special effects to truly disturbing scares—some operators even consult psychologists on how to craft the best experience. Budget tip: Go with friends for discounted group ticket rates or on a weekday for a lower entrance fee. Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary Location: Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaCost: From $19, easternstate.org Why it'll freak you out: One haunted house in an actual abandoned prison is scary enough, but Eastern State Penitentiary offers six. The Machine Shop attraction, where "evil pervades," is the penitentiary's most interactive attraction yet. Willing guests are grabbed, separated from their group, dragged into secret passageways, and sometimes end up as part of the show. The ScareHouse Location: Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCost: From $19.99 Thursdays and Sundays, from $24.99 Fridays and Saturdays, scarehouse.com Why it'll freak you out: This is truly diabolical: The ScareHouse has a sociologist on staff who has studied the science of fear. Bear that in mind as you enter The Summoning attraction, new this year. You think you're being inducted into a secret society in October 1932 (with period costumes and props), but then things take a nasty turn. Nightmare New England Location: Litchfield, New HampshireCost: From $39.99, nightmarenewengland.com Why it'll freak you out: If campfire ghost stories leave you shivering, the legend of Litchfield's reclusive Bishop family, a mysterious clan suspected of foul play when locals went missing decades ago, will get your attention. Nightmare New England's Bishop Legacy attraction is devoted to the myth...or is it reality? Don't miss the Haunted Hayride, a new attraction for 2015. Erebus Location: Pontiac, MichiganCost: From $23, hauntedpontiac.com Why it'll freak you out: Four stories of unique time-travel dimensions make up this huge attraction, based on the legend of a mad scientist who invented a time machine gone horribly wrong...and disguised it as a haunted house. Now you're Dr. Colbert's guinea pig. The Slice of Time feature trains 45 cameras on you and snaps a 180-degree image of you screaming. Talk about a souvenir. Wisconsin Feargrounds Location: Waukesha, WisconsinCost: From $13, wisconsinfeargrounds.com Why it'll freak you out: New this year is Morgana's Escape, a terrifying haunted house experience that you alone have the power to escape. The doors are locked, leaving you trapped in the dark—the only way out is to find the three keys that unlock the tomb. The Dent Schoolhouse Location: Cincinnati, OhioCost: From $20, frightsite.com Why it'll freak you out: Is there anything creepier than child ghosts? Legend has it that crazed Dent Schoolhouse janitor Charlie McFee went on a long, drawn-out killing spree, stuffing bodies of students into the walls and hanging them in the basement, before angry families infiltrated the school and found the carnage—which you'll tour. Vintage '50s decor makes the building extra-chilling—as does the fact that Dent Schoolhouse was once a real school. Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Location: Tampa, FloridaCost: From $60 to $70 depending on which night you go, seaworldparks.com Why it'll freak you out: If animatronics don't faze you, physical terror might. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay morphs into a Halloween fright fest now through Oct. 31st. Falcon's Fury, a new ride that opened last year, is the continent's tallest freestanding drop tower: Reach the top, and the ride pivots 90 degrees so that riders make the 60-mph drop facedown. Or rattle some corpses by shooting zombies in the Zombie Containment Unit. The House of Shock Location: Jefferson, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.Cost: From $25, houseofshock.com Why it'll freak you out: Satanic imagery and large-scale pyrotechnics define this 23-year-old NOLA institution, located under the Huey P. Long bridge in Metairie. This year's main attraction is called "The Resurrection," a fitting name considering the New Orleans community came together to save the site after the 25,000-square-foot haunted house was slated to be shuttered after last year's season. Houston Terror Dome Location: Houston, Texas Cost: From $20, houstonterrordome.com Why it'll freak you out: Two words: evil clowns. More interested in the party than the freak show? Groove with full-body-airbrushed zombie dancers and a live (or would it be "undead"?) DJ on Saturdays. Hobb's Grove Location: Sanger, CaliforniaCost: From $15, hobbsgrove.com Why it'll freak you out: The dead rise from the grave in The Hollows haunted forest, and bloody limbs dangle from ceilings in the Hobb's Grove Haunted House. For milder scares, the haunted hayride is open to families with kids under 8.