8 Halloween Festivals Worth Traveling For

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobjagendorf/5135519703/" target="_blank">Bob Jagendorf/Flickr</a>

Once a year, we put on masks and devise creative ways to scare one another—and have a lot of fun doing so! As we gear up to celebrate Halloween this weekend, we tip our hats to eight places that are known for their spooktacular extravaganzas.



When: October 31, 2011, 7 p.m., but people start lining the streets about two hours before.

How Much: Free

The Village Halloween Parade is considered to be the nation's largest, with more than 2 million people attending annually. (And even if those numbers aren't entirely accurate, there's no doubt that the Village parade is the only Halloween celebration listed in 100 Things to Do Before You Die.) The getups range from pop–culture figures (Snooki was popular last year) to eye–popping extravaganzas (one participant dressed as a Tusken Raider from Star Wars, riding an elephant–size Bantha puppet), along with a motley assortment of giant puppets, stilt walkers, and marching bands. Feel shy about getting gussied up? Try volunteering to carry a puppet. (Go to halloween-nyc.com/volunteer.php for info.) [Note for families: Many of the costumes in the parade can be considered inappropriate for children.]

To stay: Sofia Inn, 288 Park Pl., Brooklyn, N.Y., brooklynbedandbreakfast.net, $135

For more information: halloween-nyc.com.


When: Activities are throughout the month of October

How Much: Prices vary per activity

This infamous home of the 1692 Witch Trials capitalizes on its macabre history throughout the year, with occult–themed museums, guided tours, stores, and psychic readings. (There are even flying witch logos on the local police cars and firemen uniforms.) But the town is a mecca for tourists during its Halloween Happenings, a month–long celebration that attracts 200,000 visitors a year and is bursting with themed events: a carnival; a haunted cornfield maze; numerous theatrical presentations, including one haunting piece performed at the 17th–century mansion of a Witch Trials judge; fireworks; and Hawthorne Hotel’s R–rated annual costume party (ages 21 and up).

To stay: Fox Pond Bed and Breakfast, 31 Arthur Ave. Marblehead, Mass., foxpondbnb.com (Marblehead is just 5 miles away), $125

For more information: hauntedhappenings.org/


When: October 31, 2011, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.

How Much: Free

The self–proclaimed "largest Halloween street party in the world," the West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval in California rivals New York's Village parade for sheer eccentricity, with drag costumes being a focal point. (Last year, both women and men dressed up as the fame monster herself, Lady Gaga.) Besides people–watching, there is entertainment; last year, there were six stages featuring Halloween–themed aerialists, marionettes, a "rock & roll strip show," and a crowning of Queen of the Carnaval. But above all, partiers should put their game faces on: The designated times for the gathering is 6 to 11 p.m., but that doesn't stop people from showing up in costume on the boulevard at noon—and carousing until about 3 a.m. [Due to risque nature of costumes and party atmosphere, this gathering is not recommended for children.]

To stay: Hollywood Bed & Breakfast, 1701 N. Orange Grove Ave., Hollywood, Calif., 323/874-8017, hollywoodbandb.com, from $150

For more information: westhollywoodhalloween.com/


When: Select evenings through November 5, 2011, assorted times

How Much: Tickets start from $20

Putting your typical community's haunted hayride to shame, Terror Behind the Walls employs Hollywood–worthy lighting and sound and more than 200 actors to scare the bejesus out of visitors. The building itself is frightening enough: the penitentiary, opened in 1829 and once one of the nation's most notorious before being discontinued in 1971, is now the site of abandoned, increasingly decrepit cell blocks, guard towers, and isolation areas. The tour actually starts in the former recreation yard, where actors costumed as "insane prisoners and sadistic guards" do their best to startle you. [For children 7 to 12, there is a less–scary gathering called Family Nights].

To stay: Chestnut Hill Hotel, 8229 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, Pa., chestnuthillhotel.com, from $149

For more information: easternstate.org


When: October 20–23, 27–30, 2011, 5 – 8:30 p.m.

How Much: $8

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of its annual Halloween event—called the World's Largest Halloween Party!—the zoo gets completely transformed by more than 15 exhibits, such as the Land of Oz, Ogre Swamp, Toyland, and Dino–mania. There are many costumed characters roaming the grounds for photo ops: Captain Jack Sparrow, Dorothy from Oz, and Shrek have all made appearances. One special exhibit is Pumpkinville, USA, a hillside bedecked in 160 glowing pumpkins, all intricately carved by an artist called Black Cat Crossing and many with themes, such as Elvis, John Wayne, and the Beatles. For an additional fee, guests can get on rides like the Not–So–Haunted Carousel and Zip Line Over Pirate's Cove.

To stay: Inn at Woodhaven, 401 S. Hubbards Lane, Louisville, Ky., 888/895-1011, innatwoodhaven.com, from $105

For more information: louisvillezoo.org/halloween/


When: October 22 and 29, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

How Much: $55 for full–day admission to park plus party; $25 for just the evening party

Legos transform themselves in any season, but the folks at Legoland go all out for Halloween. The centerpiece is the "not–too–spooky" Brick–or–Treat Party Nights built around themes such as Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. The evenings feature a dance party, a costume contest for children 12 and under (categories include "Best Star Wars," "Most Lego Themed," and "Most Creative"), trick–or–treating, fireworks, and entertainment acts such as jugglers, unicyclists, and stilt walkers. Of course, the party festivities are in addition to 128–acre park's regular offerings, including more than 60 rides, a water park, and food options galore, all surrounded by the kind of elaborate Lego models—a brontosaurus made from more than 2 million bricks, a mini version of Las Vegas that took the park's builders about 16,000 hours to make—you and the kids can only dream about making.

To stay: Inn at Moonlight Beach, 105 N. Vulcan Ave., Encinitas, Calif., 760/561-1755, innatmoonlightbeach.com, from $139

For more information: california.legoland.com


When: Select nights through November, 7 p.m. – Midnight

How Much: Tickets start from $52, which is on top of the cost of park entrance (starting at $79).

It's a little–known fact that people over the age of nine are not allowed to wear costumes at Disney World—except during Halloween. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Winnie the Pooh all wear costumes, which you'll see during the Boo–to–You Parade, one of many events throughout the evening. There is also free face–painting, a dance show, Happy HalloWishes fireworks, trick or treating (in previous years, the candy has been sponsored by Mars' M&M;'s and Snickers brands), and the attractions and rides that Disney is known for (Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, It's a Small World). The Disney characters aren't the only ones dressed up: the entire park is done up with Halloween–specific decor, lighting, and music.

To stay: Caribe Cove Resort Orlando, 9000 Treasure Trove Lane, Kissimmee, Fla., 877/299-4491, caribecove.com, from $94

For more information: disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magic-kingdom/special-events/mickeys-not-so-scary-halloween-party/


When [for Horseman’s Hollow event]: October 21–23, 27–30, times vary by evening.

How Much: $20 (Saturdays are $25)

Ah, the charms of fall in upstate New York: leaf–peeping, apple picking, quaint country inns, antiquing—and Hessians feasting on rotting corpses. At least that's what you'll find in the land of Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman. The Hudson Valley's Philipsburg Manor has been transformed into Horseman's Hollow, an interactive haunted house populated with vampires, witches, and the occasional Hessian lurking in the shadows and along a half–mile candlelit path on the grounds. This event is not recommended for children under 12, nor, according to its website, "adults who are claustrophobic, have heart or respiratory conditions, are prone to seizures, or have other chronic health conditions." For a less agita–inducing night, try the Great Jack–O–Lantern Blaze, a display of more than 4,000 elaborately carved and illuminated pumpkins at Van Cortlandt Manor, an 18th–century riverside property in Croton–on–Hudson, N.Y., with expansive gardens.

To stay: Alexander Hamilton House, 49 Van Wyck St., Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., 914/271-6737, alexanderhamiltonhouse.com, from $142

For more information: hudsonvalley.org

—Charlotte Twine


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Disney's New Restaurant Policy Is Hard to Stomach

Walt Disney World guests will have to pay a fee if they make restaurant reservations and fail to show up. As of October 26, the reservation policies at many of Walt Disney World's best restaurants are changing. A credit card number will be required for a reservation to be accepted, and if guests want to cancel the reservation, they must do so 24 hours in advance. If a party is a "no-show," or if the guest doesn't cancel in time, the card will be charged $10—per person. Yes, instead of a flat $10 per "no-show," Disney will charge $10 for each person in the party. Reservation for six? You'll be charged $60 for failing to show up or cancel on time. This may well mean guests could wind up hungry and angry. The Disney insider site WDWMagic reports that the policy will be in place at 19 Disney restaurants. Generally speaking, the restaurants with the new policy are the nicer, fine-dining type establishments. One example is the Contemporary Resort restaurant Chef Mickey's, which offers this head's up: Cancellation Policy Updates, Begin October 26, 2011 To ensure consistent Guest service, a one-day cancellation policy will apply to new reservations at this dining venue beginning October 26, 2011. If a Guest cancels within one day of the reservation or if the dining party is a "no show" for the meal, a cancellation fee of $10 per person will be charged to the credit card used at the time of booking. It goes without saying: If you make a dinner reservation at Disney, it's best to actually use it. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The Completely Obsessive, Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World Confessions of a Disney Cast Member Trip Coach: Walt Disney World


Are You Going To Or Avoiding London 2012?

Whether you want to attend the London 2012 Olympic Games or not, Britain wants you to know there are plenty of reasons for everyone to hop the pond next year. The U.K. is starting to ramp up its promotional efforts in the lead-up to an action-packed lineup of events next year that will put London center stage on the world map, including the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (June 2-5), the London 2012 Olympics (July 17-Aug 12) and the Paralympics (Aug 29-Sept 9). Despite the buzz the Olympics generates, they often tend to deter regular leisure and business travelers, turned off by the hubbub and ballyhoo surrounding the event. But, "Britain is open 365 days a year and the Olympics is only 40 days and it’s only in London,” said Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain, the country's tourism marketing organization. In line with that message, a new marketing campaign called 'Great' was unveiled by Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron last week in New York intended to showcase the many different aspects of the country's allure, including such highlights as shopping, music, heritage, sports, the countryside, business and creativity. "The noise about Britain as a destination is going to be greater than you have seen for many, many years," said Rodrigues. While Britain is “not offering $449, three nights in Cancun,” noted Rodrigues, there will be affordable travel options to and through the country next year despite the perception that the U.K. is expensive. For instance, he said that there has been a growth in the number of quality three-star properties around the country. And for those who want to get in on the Olympics fervor, "I believe there will be rooms available," advised Rodrigues. And, "there are still packages available including the tickets." He also noted that people who want to go to the Olympics and are having trouble finding accommodation should look into areas from which it is relatively easy to commute into London, such as Oxford. And if Olympics fans can't get tickets to any of the events, he recommended opting for an event that is open to the public, such as the marathon race, or heading to other parts of the country where the games will be aired on big screens. Far Hills, N.J.-based CoSport is the official reseller of Olympic and Paralympic tickets for the U.S. market. What about you BT readers? Are you hoping to head to the Games, or are you avoiding Britain next year at all costs? Let us know by commenting below. More from Budget Travel: How to Score Tickets to the 2012 Summer Olympics And the winner of the 2018 Winter Olympics is... South Korea London still welcoming tourists amid riots


Last-minute Labor Day deals

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Electric bike rentals smooth out sightseeing

When it comes to sightseeing, it's hard to beat riding from place to place by bicycle. Add a quiet, battery-powered motor to a bicycle, however, and you can make the experience that much better. Who doesn't want to pedal without breaking a sweat while on vacation? Riding a so-called "e-bike" feels like having a fairy godmother give you a little push from behind. The extra boost helps you cope with traffic and overtake hills with ease. Unlike a scooter, an e-bike has no noisy motor or smelly exhaust fumes. Few Americans have ridden the battery-assisted bikes in the U.S., where they average about $1,500. Yet Americans traveling abroad are increasingly test-riding the two-wheelers, as some rental companies make them available by the day at popular destinations. Last month in London, Hertz began renting electric bikes for &pound;19 ($30.50) a day from its Marble Arch location. You rent the e-bike as if it were a vehicle, booking it through the Hertz website and standing in the same line as other customers. You pick up a bike, helmet, lock, and city map. Hertz sells two types of bikes: One type still expects you to pedal, matching your effort with a boost from its motor. The other type of bike doesn't require you to pedal, allowing you to use a throttle to power the two-wheeler instead. Both types of bicycle are powered by lithium-ion batteries (similar to the ones used in many laptops). Company employees charge the batteries at night, plugging them into standard electric sockets. In this way, the batteries still slurp up juice from the grid, so they're not quite as environmentally friendly as one might first think. Earlier this week in England's Lake District National Park, about 50 electric bikes were made available for nine special trails. Provider Electric Bicycle Network knows that their "e-bikes" remove much of the hardship of going uphill, making it pleasant for non-athletic travelers to appreciate the scenery without having to pedal heavily. The organization provides two-wheelers to local businesses, such as hotels and B&Bs;, which rent them out for about &pound;25 a day. Last month, the company began the service in England's Peak District, near Manchester. Next month, it is rolling out the battery-powered bicycles in Devon in the country's scenic southwest. In Switzerland, travel agency Swiss Trails teamed up with the government and the Rent a Bike company to provide bike rentals along nine scenic trails, including three models of electric bike. You no longer have to be a fit cyclist to be able to tackle mountain passes and view lakes and alpine panoramas. You don't need a rental car to reach the trails, either. The e-bikes are for rent at 20 SBB train stations, which are easily reachable from the country's major cities. Sadly, the rental cost is high: 98 Swiss francs a day or about $119, though tax, helmet, and other items are covered. In Beijing, guided e-bike tours allow you to explore the city in small groups, allowing you to cover more territory than a walking tour can alone without getting exhausted. Half-day tours from 300 CNY or about $48. Details at bjebiketours.com. On Japan's Awajishima Island, near Osaka, more than 30 electric bicycles are available for rent as an alternative method of transport for the estimated 12 million sightseers who visit each year to see the stunning scenery. Prices start at 500 yen (about $6) for two hours. Details available at tourist offices on the island. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Theory confirmed! Credit cards have better exchange rates than banks Figure out which hotel you'll get on Hotwire How to travel like a lady