12 Most Extreme Places in America
The United States has always been a land of extremes. European explorers were staggered by the sheer vastness of the land, and generations of immigrants have arrived here with the biggest dreams imaginable. We decided to dig in and explore America's highest highs, lowest lows, and a number of other extremes (quick: how many people live in America's smallest town?). Here, a dozen of our favorite points that embody our nation's capacity for wonder—plus tips for actually getting to these amazing destinations, some of which can require a plane trip and a rental car.
1. HOTTEST COMMUNITY: LAKE HAVASU CITY, ARIZONA
Death Valley may be the most scorching spot in America, with temperatures that can reach 130 degrees F, but Lake Havasu City in Arizona earns the gold star for the hottest place where lots of people actually live. The town is home to more than 50,000 residents, all of whom have found a way to survive summer temperatures that regularly top 100 degrees F and can reach as high as the 120s. What keeps folks here is what also draws thousands of visitors, including 45 miles of lakefront for boating, fishing (blue gill and crappie are anglers' favorites here), and hiking amid volcanic rock, sparkling geodes, and other desert formations. Lake Havasu also boasts two unexpected attractions: It is home to more than a dozen 1/3 scale miniature lighthouses that dot the lake's shores, and London Bridge, purchased in 1968 from the City of London for more than $2 million, shipped more than 5,000 miles, and reassembled in Arizona. The bridge is now the second-most-popular tourist site in the state, after the Grand Canyon.
Get there: Las Vegas is the nearest major airport, about 150 miles from Lake Havasu City; round-trip flights on Delta from New York City start at $338. London Bridge Resort offers condo-style suites, three restaurants, a beach bar, and a pool (1477 Queens Bay, Lake Havasu City, londonbridgeresort.com, doubles from $95).
2. EASTERNMOST POINT: ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
United States territories are surprisingly globe-spanning, and the nod for easternmost point goes not to the Maine coast but to tiny St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That means that, without a passport, you can immerse yourself in a culture that blends Caribbean, Dutch, French, British, Spanish, and Danish influences all in a package less than 23 miles long and eight miles wide. With all the expected to-dos you associate with an island paradise (swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, fine dining, and golf), St. Croix also offers the old-world architecture of Christiansted, with homes dating back to the 18th century, and a "rain forest" near the western shore. (It's not technically a rain forest, but private land open to visitors, with a bounty of tropical flora and colorful hummingbirds, warblers, and other birds.)
Get there: Round-trip flights on American Airlines from New York City start at $359. Hotel Caravelle is near Christiansted's historical sites and has a restaurant, bar, outdoor pool, and spa onsite (44A Queen Cross St., Christiansted, hotelcaravelle.com, doubles from $136).
3. COLDEST COMMUNITY: FAIRBANKS, ARKANSAS
With average winter temperatures below -5 and highs only in the mid-40s, you may wonder what draws visitors to Fairbanks. Sure, the city's population is warm and welcoming and its gold rush history is still tangible in sites such as the Pioneer Museum, with its dioramas and murals. But most tourists are here to see the Aurora Borealis. Also known as the Northern Lights, the aurora will be at its peak in 2013 due to heavy sunspot activity at the end of an 11-year cycle, producing the appearance of crackling skies filled with bright blue, green, and red patterns for more than 200 nights over the course of the year. August through April is primetime for aurora-viewing, and if you spend three nights in Fairbanks you have about an 80 percent chance of a clear night. Ask your hotel if it offers middle-of-the-night wake-up calls to rouse you in time to see a display.
Get there: Round-trip flights on Alaska Airlines from San Francisco start at $937. When you're ready to warm up in the "great indoors," the Hampton Inn and Suites offers welcome amenities like Cloud Nine beds, complimentary breakfast, and a pool and fitness center (433 Harold Bentley Ave., hamptoninn.hilton.com, doubles from $104).
4. WESTERNMOST POINT: AMERICAN SAMOA
Most of us are stunned to realize that the U.S. territories extend west of French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Easy to miss on the globe, American Samoa rewards those who are intrepid enough to make the trip with towering mountains, gentle waters, and friendly locals who will actually serenade you (and invite you to sing along) on their buses. With a population of fewer than 65,000, you'll also find elbow room on white-sand beaches such as the 2.5-mile-long Ofu Beach, the 5,000-plus-acre National Park of American Samoa and its rain forest birds, and the major town, Pago Pago. Visit during the dry season, May through October, and, because the only direct flights to American Samoa are from Samoa and Honolulu, consider making this destination just one stop on a South Pacific excursion.
Get there: Round-trip flights on Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu start at $937. The Tradewinds Hotel in Pago Pago offers access to sites such as the iconic Leone Church and Mount Alava. Guests can also enjoy the onsite pool and fitness center, coffee shop, and complimentary breakfast (Main Road, Pago Pago, tradewinds.as, doubles from $140).
5. HIGHEST POINT: MOUNT MCKINLEY, DENALI NATIONAL PARK, ARKANSAS
Denali National Park would be an extraordinary destination even if weren't home to the tallest peak in North America, 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. The park comprises 6 million acres that most visitors navigate via 92-mile-long Park Road, which parallels the stunning Alaska Range and allows access to a number of visitors' centers and six campgrounds. The park even has its own Big Five, a North American variation on the popular African safari hit list: If you're lucky, you'll spot moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. Although the park is open year-round, most people visit from mid-May to mid-September, when most visitors' centers are open, offering ranger talks and other interactive education programs. Summer bus tours are a convenient way to experience highlights of the park, including interpretive trails, scenic overlooks, and education programs. More ambitious travelers can learn about backpacking, dogsledding, and mountaineering opportunities at nps.gov/denali.
Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from San Francisco to Anchorage (about 150 miles from Denali National Park) start at $540. The Denali Perch Resort is located 13 miles outside the park (for Alaskans, that's next door) and offers two restaurants, a free area shuttle service, assistance with tours and tickets, and rooms have either river or mountain views (Mile 224 George Parks Highway, 907/683-2523, doubles from $125).
6. LOWEST PLACE: DEATH VALLEY, CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA
Death Valley is not only the lowest point in the United States—its Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level—but also the hottest and the driest. This stretch of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in California and Nevada is known for temperatures in the 100s for five months out of the year (the record high was 134 degrees, in 1913), unexpected deluges that bring fields of wildflowers, and, in winter, snow that can be seen dusting the higher peaks surrounding the valley. That's not to say it isn't a popular tourist destination. On the contrary, unique (and wildly diverse) attractions such as hikers' mecca Golden Canyon and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes make Death Valley a one-of-a-kind destination that's totally worth the trek. Explore Death Valley National Park via nps.gov/deva before you arrive—it's an excellent site that will help you choose among the varied offerings of this forbidding but beautiful place.
Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from New York to Las Vegas, about 130 miles from Death Valley, start at $338. Stovepipe Wells Village offers basic rooms with air-conditioning (vital here!) and an onsite restaurant (Highway 190, Death Valley National Park, escapetodeathvalley.com, doubles from $95).
7. OLDEST COMMUNITY: ACOMA, NEW MEXICO
Here in the U.S., we run the risk of applying the word tradition to institutions, such as the Super Bowl, that are less than 50 years old. So Acoma, NM, comes as a surprise to many. This community, which was originally settled by Native Americans, dates back to 1150, placing it squarely in the company of some of the oldest of old-world sites, such as medieval European cathedrals. About an hour's drive from Albuquerque, visit the Sky City Cultural Center for guided tours of an ancient pueblo on a sandstone bluff, explore the Acoma Pueblo Indian Museum, shop for traditional Native American crafts at the tribal-operated Gaits'I Gallery, and if gaming is your thing drop by the Sky City Casino Hotel for slots and table games.
Get there: Round-trip flights on American Airlines from Chicago to Albuquerque start at $450. Sky City Casino and Hotel has an onsite restaurant, fitness facility, and spa (Acoma Village, skycitycasino.com, doubles from $84).
8. BIGGEST CITY: NEW YORK CITY
New York has been the most populous city in the U.S. since the first census was taken in 1790, but it wasn't until the inauguration of the Erie Canal in 1825 that its numbers really took off, nearly tripling by 1840. By connecting the Hudson River to Lake Erie, the waterway ushered in a new era in trade that rocketed the city to the economic preeminence it enjoys to this day. For visitors, that prosperity translates into unparalleled art collections, theater, music, and cuisine. And while world-class museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim can come with a hefty suggested donation, New York also offers some of the choicest low-cost—or free— attractions anywhere in the world, including holiday department-store displays, the immense Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and public skating rinks in several locations, including cozy Bryant Park, right in Midtown.
Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from Atlanta start at $254. The Jane Hotel is right on the Hudson River in the bustling, vibrant West Village; its bunk-bed "cabin" room is incredibly reasonable by NYC standards (113 Jane St., thejanenyc.com, doubles from $125).
9. SMALLEST TOWN: BUFORD, WYOMING
It doesn't get any smaller than Buford. Why? Because the town has only one resident, Don Simmons, the proprietor of The Buford Trading Post, a gas station and convenience store. If you're making a cross-country road trip on Interstate 80, it's worth stopping in Buford (between Cheyenne and Laramie) just to say hi, and to tell the folks back home that you've seen it. And since the town was purchased in an auction in September, it's not clear how long it will hold its title. Looking to do more than just pass through Buford? Nearby Vedauwoo State Park offers a breathtaking mountain landscape that flatlanders back east would die for.
Get there: Well, you're not going to fly to Wyoming just to see little Buford, but round-trip flights on Frontier from San Francisco to Cheyenne, about 30 miles away, start at $478. Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites Cheyenne has an indoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and is near the historic Wyoming State Capitol (1741 Fleischli Parkway, hiexpress.com, doubles from $109).
10. BIRTHPLACE OF MOST PRESIDENTS: VIRGINIA
While most grade-school students know that four of the first five presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe) were born in Virginia, the list goes on: Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson also entered the world in the Old Dominion. That historical density is reflected in the variety of amazing attractions you can find in Virginia, including historic downtown Richmond, the re-created colonial town of Williamsburg, Washington's estate at Mount Vernon, the home Jefferson designed for himself at Monticello, the National Cemetery at Arlington (on the grounds of what was once Confederate General Robert E. Lee's estate), and such Civil War battlefields as Manassas and Fredericksburg.
Get there: Round-trip flights on United AirTran from St. Louis to Norfolk (near Colonial Williamsburg) start at $491. Crowne Plaza Williamsburg was built on the Fort Magruder battleground and is walking distance to Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement; indoor and outdoor pools provide a welcome break from theme-park and historic-site frenzy (6945 Pocahontas Trail, crowneplaza.com, doubles from $99).
11. BIGGEST LAKE: LAKE SUPERIOR
With an area of nearly 32,000 square miles, Lake Superior is not only the largest lake in the United States but also the largest freshwater lake in the world. Bounded by Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this northernmost and westernmost of the Great Lakes was carved by glaciers 10,000 years ago and is so big (roughly the size of South Carolina) that it has its own climate, more akin to a coastal region than one so far inland. Among many beautiful parks and beaches along the lake's shores, Isle Royale National Park is perhaps the standout, with world-class canoe and kayak routes, hiking, and even scuba diving the lake's depths. Visit nps.gov/isro to start planning your visit.
Get there: Round-trip flights on Delta from New York to Detroit, start at $288. Rock Island Lodge is a bit of a splurge, but it's inside the Isle Royale National Park and offers unparalleled access to the park's activities (Isle Royale, reachable by ferry from Houghton, MI, rockharborlodge.com, cottages from $223).
12. BIGGEST RIVER: MISSISSIPPI RIVER
At 2,320 miles long, the Mississippi flows from Lake Itasca, in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, passing through or bordering 10 states and draining water from 31 between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Range. While there are a number of major cities along the river, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis, and Memphis, if you have to choose just one Mississippi River destination, head down to the river's mouth, to New Orleans, for authentic jazz at Preservation Hall, a ride on one of the city's historic streetcars, the unique cuisine and party scene in the French Quarter, and, this winter, the Super Bowl.
Get there: Round-trip flights on United AirTran from Los Angeles start at $423. The French Market Inn is walking distance from Bourbon Street and includes an onsite coffee shop (501 Decatur St., frenchmarketinn.com, doubles from $132).
7 Great Culinary Bike Tours
The French aren’t the only ones who can pair a meal with a pair of wheels. A fresh crop of culinary bike tours is leading American city slickers to restaurants that are well worth the trip. Charlotte Taste & Cycle Charlotte The pace on this three-hour tour is Southern-drawl slow, so don’t count on burning off most of those deep-fried calories. And you’ll consume quite a few along the way at places such as Price’s Chicken Coop, celebrated for its fried bird, and Mert’s, where the house specialty is the “soul roll,” filled with collard greens, black-eyed peas, and chicken. You’ll also sample a few morsels of local history: As you wind through bustling Uptown (home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame) and the post-industrial South End, your guide will run through the Queen City’s history, from its early days as a Native American trading center to its modern incarnation as the South’s banking hub. Know Before You Go: Gratuities aren’t included in the tour price, so be sure to bring along extra cash to tip your guide and servers. Tours depart from 401 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Wednesday through Sunday year-round, $55 (includes bike and helmet). San Francisco Streets of S.F.’s Food Tour Don’t be daunted by the city’s famously sloping streets: This six- to eight-mile tour avoids heart-pumping hills in favor of a mellow ride on urban-friendly, ergonomic bikes. Stops aren’t fixed, but you’ll likely cruise to the Mission District for killer Mexican at hole-in-the-wall Vallarta taqueria and Hayes Valley for artisanal coffee at Ritual Roasters. One local favorite is a bit of a moving target: Roaming mobile food market Off the Grid takes its ever-changing roster of food trucks to a different Bay Area location each day of the week. Know Before You Go: Have your camera ready—tours often pass architectural landmarks (City Hall), as well as pop-culture ones (Twitter’s headquarters). Tours depart from Fulton and Pierce Streets, on the north side of Alamo Square, dates available year-round, $95 (includes food, bike, and helmet). New Orleans New Orleans Culinary Bike Tour This leisurely, 10-mile jaunt departs from the touristy French Quarter, but the point of this tour by Confederacy of Cruisers is to highlight how locals live. To that end, bikers spend up to four-and-a-half hours steering their Schwinns through traditionally Creole areas, like Tremé and Faubourg Marigny. Stops vary depending on the day—and the seafood in season—but you can expect staples like gumbo and po’boys. Bonus: Mid-ride, sole tour leader Cassady Cooper shares lessons on music and antebellum architecture. Know Before You Go: Pork and shellfish are always plats du jour. If you have dietary restrictions, consider one of the company’s other tours, like the History of Drinking in New Orleans Bike Tour. Tours depart from 634 Elysian Fields Ave., Wednesday through Saturday year-round, $85 (includes bike, helmet, water bottle, and tips for the servers). Chicago Fork and the Road It all started when two food-loving pals began rounding up their friends for bike tours of Chicago gelaterias and taco joints. Now in their fourth year, Fork and the Road’s 12- to 18-mile tours are centered on quirky themes, such as global bakeries (Vietnamese, French, and Middle Eastern) or the Silk Road, with stops at Chinese, Afghani, and Turkish restaurants. Know Before You Go: Bikes and helmets aren’t included in the tour—or the tour’s fee—so BYO or prepare to rent. The ride starts and ends near Bike and Roll stations, where you can rent wheels for as low as $10 per hour, or $20 for an all-day rental through chicago.bcycle.com. Tours depart from Intelligentsia Coffee (53 E. Randolph St.) or Kitchen Sink Café (1107 W. Berwyn Ave.), check site for dates, $50–$65. Portland Bites by Bike America’s most bike-friendly city shows off its other trademark—fresh locavore grub—on this easy-paced, five-mile ride, which coasts through downtown, the artsy Pearl District, and the historic Northwest neighborhood. Pit stops on the three-and-a-half-hour ride offer highbrow treats: cookies sprinkled with fleur de sel at Two Tarts Bakery, cola-braised Thai pork at Nong’s Khao Man Ghai food truck, and artisanal chocolate at Cacao. On Saturdays, the tour visits the 250-vendor Portland Farmers Market, where riders can refuel with fresh produce. Know Before You Go: If you supply your own wheels, Pedal Bike Tours will knock $10 off the tour price. Tours depart from 133 SW 2nd Ave., Tuesday through Saturday year-round, $69 (includes bike and helmet). Washington, D.C. International Bites by Bike Launched this March in conjunction with the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, International Bites by Bike will run throughout 2012. Itineraries aren’t set yet, but rides during blossom season played to the D.C. power-lunch set, with stops at sit-down restaurants instead of food trucks, in areas like Dupont Circle and U Street. A typical outing let riders sample one dish at three spots: Southern-themed Eatonville, Asian-tinged Scion, and swanky bistro 1905. Know Before You Go: Although you’ll be in bike lanes, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of cars whizzing by, this tour may not be ideal for you. Tours depart from the Old Post Office Pavilion, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, check site for dates, $89 (includes bike, helmet, and food). Austin East Austin Bicycle Food Tour Andy Potter guessed that most visitors to the city never make it to the hip but less-developed East Side. So he and his wife debuted the East Austin Bike Tour, a roughly six-mile, four-hour trek that shows off the area’s ethnic restaurants and funky retro food trailers. A recent agenda included snacks from Argentina (Buenos Aires Café), Japan (Love Balls Bus), and West Africa (Cazamance trailer). Know Before You Go: The tour typically stops at a brewery, where riders are free to imbibe (the fee includes two alcohol samples). Helmets aren’t mandatory for adults here, but ask for one, especially if you’re boozing. Departure points vary by tour, Fridays year-round, $69 (includes food, bike, helmet, and drinks).—Nicole Frehsee MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 10 Restaurants that Started a Food Movement 15 International Dining Etiquette Rules that Might Surprise You 6 Ways to Keep Your Stomach Safe Anywhere on Earth
How To House-Sit Your Way Around The World
You’ve heard about pet–sitting, but what about house–sitting to save money while traveling? Dalene and Peter Heck are one Canadian couple who did just that: five years ago, they sold everything for the sake of travel, and started a website, Hecktic Travels, about how they saved over $30,000 in accommodations costs by house–sitting their way around the world. The basic idea is reciprocity: keep an eye on someone's home while they're away, and you get to stay in it for free. It's a win–win since the owners get the peace of mind in knowing their houses (and sometimes pets) are safe, and you get to take the price of accommodations out of your vacation budget. (You'll also save money on food, since your lodgings now include a kitchen.) Jobs can last anywhere from two weeks to six months and give new meaning to the term culture immersion. "The best part about the whole experience has been the ability to really dig in to a destination and get to understand the culture. We get to know people and visit places that regular tourists never would," said Dalene Heck. A number of websites, such as TrustedHousesitters.com, House Sitters America, The Caretaker Gazette, Mind My House among others, provide listings for a fee (ranging from $20 to $60 depending on the membership), but consider this an investment. The couple recommends creating an account on multiple websites to increase your chances of being chosen for a coveted house–sit job. Planning ahead is the key, since it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully flesh out the details of a contract. House–sitting hopefuls from the U.S. should remember to check Visa requirements for countries they plan to apply for, Dalene warns. "In 28 countries of Europe, Americans are only allowed 90 days total at a time, so the dream of bouncing around from house–sit to house–sit indefinitely isn't really an option there." How did they find out about this underground travel trend? During a trip to Ecuador in 2009, the two met an elderly American couple who had been house–sitting around the world for a whopping 16 years! They inspired Dalene and Peter to apply for their first gig in British Columbia, Canada, and shortly afterward, the couple took on a six–month long stint in Roatan, Honduras. Over the last three years, they've also been house–sitters in Ireland, Belgium, England, Spain, Turkey, and the United States. For more details about house–sitting contracts, the best ways to find opportunities, and tips on how to be a good house–sitter, purchase the couple's e–book, "How to Become a House–Sitter and See The World" for $19.99 on their website.
Australia's Weird Wildlife Warning Signs
A car trip in Australia has its challenges including the fact driving is on the left. Distractions include a large number of weird wildlife warning signs on roadways. See the Road Signs. The Australians just assume you can recognize the black outline of the animal or bird on the yellow signs. There's no verbiage, but the point is to avoid hitting the creature with your car, not to get a nature lesson. Nowhere did my companion and I find the animal warning signs weirder—nor the amount of roadkill more plentiful—than in Tasmania, Australia's offshore state. In our rental car we drove from Hobart for the day to the 19th–century penal colony in Port Arthur, a UNESCO World Heritage site, passing all kinds of signs and squashed creatures along the way. We recognized the signs for one frightening looking creature as being the Tasmanian Devil—although on the signs it looks nothing like the cartoon version. The carnivorous marsupial is endangered due to a facial tumor disease, but some 3,000 are also killed on roadways each year. We don't meet any devils, thankfully. We do pass by deceased brushtail possums and a large hawk feasting on something unidentifiable—coincidently near the isthmus called Eaglehawk Neck. Signs also alert us to be on the lookout for penguins, wallabys and platypus. We later learn there are plenty of other creatures that wander onto Tasmania's roadways too including chubby wombats and such small marsupials as the pademelon, rat–faced bettong and pink–nosed bandicoot. Tasmania probably should win some kind of award for its number of roadway animal warning signs. The "Tassies" are very aware of the road–kill issue. There is even a RoadkillTas website, with government agencies among the sponsors. The site maps out what creatures drivers should watch out for—and where—and notes that some 300,000 Tasmanian animals fall victim to cars each year. The Tasmania parks department notes on its website that tourists often get "distressed" at the amount of road–kill they see and explains most of the animals are nocturnal and get hit at night. The warning signs are posted where the animals tend to cross the road…and that's no joke. More in Budget Travel: How to See the Best of Australia on a Budget My Australian Thanksgiving Australia's Great Barrier Reef Made Easy
8 Halloween Festivals Worth Traveling For
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. SEE PHOTOS FROM THE FESTIVALS VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE/NEW YORK CITY, NY 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. HUNTING WITCHES//SALEM, MASS. 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/ HALLOWEEN COSTUME CARNAVAL/WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. 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/ EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY’S TERROR BEHIND THE WALLS/PHILADELPHIA 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 THE LOUISVILLE ZOO 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/ LEGOLAND'S BRICK-OR-TREAT/CARLSBAD, CALIF. 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 MICKEY'S NOT-SO-SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY AT DISNEY WORLD 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/ SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. 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 MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 15 Insects You Won't Believe Are Edible Photo Tour of the Creepiest Churches on Earth 8 Items You Never Pack...But Should 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage