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9 Spooky Ghost Walks Across the U.S.

By The Budget Travel Editors
October 26, 2018
Old street lit up at night
F11photo/Dreamstime
It's said that paranormal activity abounds if you know where to look, and these ghostly guided tours have the inside scoop.

Halloween comes just once a year, but the spirit world never sleeps. From coast to coast, America is full of spectral sightings and unexplained phenomena, and we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite ways to take it all in. Suspend those skeptical tendencies, summon up a sense of humor, and strap in for an otherworldly ride.

1. Ohio State Reformatory Ghost Walk: Mansfield, Ohio

dreamstime_l_87752326.jpg?mtime=20181025083603#asset:103537Ohio State Reformatory (Sandra Foyt/Dreamstime)

Seventy miles northeast of Columbus, in the county seat of Mansfield, the Ohio State Reformatory offers a full slate of preternatural programming, from spectral tours and ghost hunts to private courses in paranormal investigation. As the former site of the state penitentiary, the Romanesque Revival building is a fount of ghostly activity, and its two-hour evening tours cover the institution’s long, gruesome history with aplomb. (Fun fact: As the stand-in for the titular prison in 1994’s Shawshank Redemption, the Reformatory is a stop on the so-called Shawshank Trail, and it also offers a History Meets Hollywood tour for fans of the film looking for a less spooky time.) Dress warmly, as the 19th-century building isn’t heated, and be sure to book in advance, as spots fill up quickly. In October, the tour schedule is set aside in favor of a month-long haunted house, so make your Halloween plans accordingly.

Guided tours are held from April to September with the occasional offering in November. $25 per person; children under the age of 13 not permitted; ohiostatereformatory.org

2. Spirited Stroll: Brooklyn, NY

Green-wood-cemetery-ghost-walk.jpg?mtime=20181025083819#asset:103539Green-Wood Cemetery (Elzbieta Sekowska/Dreamstime)

A lush, tree-lined oasis of calm in middle of bustling Brooklyn, Green-Wood Cemetery covers 478 acres, and as the site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, its history is a bloody one, with nearly 400 casualties on both sides of the line. And that’s not to mention its roster of permanent residents: More than half a million dearly departed are interred here, from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein to Boss Tweed and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Wander the spirit-soaked grounds with the cemetery’s cult-favorite event, a two-and-a-half-hour, historian-led excursion that hits all the gory high notes, with a stop in the super-creepy catacombs—normally off limits—for good measure.

Tours are held annually on Halloween weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday (weather permitting). $25 per person; green-wood.com.

3. White House Pub Tour: Washington, D.C.

America's capital is arguably the capital of scandal and misconduct, so it’d be an understatement to say there are lots of skeletons in the proverbial closets of Washington D.C. Nightly Spirits’s White House Pub Tour introduces you to some of them. On the two-and-a-half-hour pub crawl, stops include three or four historic pubs and buildings. You'll get stories about the allegedly resident spirits and, well, spirits. (The drinkable kind, that is) There’s a specific beverage at each site to accompany the storytelling session. 

Tours take place Thursday through Saturday at 8:30 p.m. $25, not including drinks, 21-plus only; nightlyspirits.com/dc-tours/white-house-tours/

4. Killers and Thrillers: New Orleans

french-quarter.jpg?mtime=20181025085250#asset:103541French Quarter, New Orleans (Wangkun Jia/Dreamstime)

New Orleans—city of jazz, Mardi Gras, the two-foot drinking vessel, and voodoo. Few cities can claim a voodoo priestess as one of its primary historic personalities, but that’s just what Marie Laveau is. Her former home—and site of many legendary voodoo rituals—is just one stop on Ghost City Tours’s Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned, one of the options that falls under the company’s Killers and Thrillers duo. This 90-minute walkabout highlights the devilish deeds of the city’s ferocious women throughout history. Another option is the company’s Killers and Thrillers West, which visits the sites where vicious crimes took place and hauntings are said to linger as reminders. Both tours are so seriously scary that they’re adults-only.  

Both tours take place nightly year-round; $29.95 per person, children under the age of 16 not admitted; ghostcitytours.com/new-orleans/

5. Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington: Wilmington, North Carolina

Once a fire-prone, tar-and-wood-filled community, not to mention a significant player in the slave trade, the port city of Wilmington has seen its fair share of heartache. But academic tours have you covered on that front—you won't get a serious deep-dive into the nature of such atrocities on your ghost walk. For a frothier take on historic tragedy, sign up for a ramble through the old downtown area, led by a costumed guide who customizes each excursion with stops at his or her favorite haunts (an unassuming alley, an impressive mansion, a tiny graveyard alongside a circa-1840 church) for story time. The tall tales are told in broad strokes with most of the bloody details omitted, so it’s suitable for small fry...as long as they’re not nightmare-prone.

Tours are held nightly from March 1 to November 30 and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from December 1 to February 29. Adults, $13; seniors, students, and military, $11; children ages 6 and under, free; hauntedwilmington.com.

6. The Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour: Granbury, Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the history. And, so legend has it, the ghosts. San Antonio is getting a lot of attention this year with its various 300th anniversary celebrations, but Granbury, a historic city that doesn't tend to get as much attention as Texas’s major metropolises, should not be overlooked. The Granbury Ghosts and Legends tour is an hour-long guided walk through the historic Downtown Square, where it’s said that the spirits of notorious figures with names like the Faceless Girl and Lady and Red still roam, trapped in another dimension. The costumed guide will share all their spooky stories and more along the way, including a bit about Jesse James's connections to the town.

Tours are held year-round on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.; $10 per person, $7 for kids 12; undergranburytours.com 

7. Night Spirit Tour: Estes Park, Colorado

Stanley-Hotel-Shinning-Movie.jpg?mtime=20181025084138#asset:103540The Stanley Hotel (Coljh09/Dreamstime)

Its facade won’t be familiar to fans of the Kubrick masterpiece, but Colorado’s Stanley Hotel played a vital role in The Shining. After an overnight in suite 217, Stephen King was inspired to write the book upon which the film was based, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, the century-old property remains home to an abundance of paranormal activity, and its nightly tours explore the nooks and crannies that ghosts have been known to frequent. (Be forewarned: As a disclaimer, the hotel won’t guarantee any interactions “due to the fact that spirits are not on payroll.”) For a more in-depth experience, check into one of the “Spirited” rooms, a collection of quarters—including the suite where King laid his head—with a history of supernatural sightings.

Nightly tours are held year-round. Adults, $28; hotel guests, military, AAA, and seniors ages 55 and up, $25; children under the age of 10 not permitted; stanleyhotel.com/night-spirit-tour.html.

8. Spooked in Seattle: Seattle

ghost-alley-seattle-pike-place.jpg?mtime=20181025090048#asset:103542
Pike Place Market, Seattle (Minacarson/Dreamstime)

Spooked in Seattle promises “real ghost stories by real ghost hunters” on its tours. Sightings, however, don't carry a guarantee. The most popular offering is the 90-minute Pioneer Square Ghost Tour, which covers all sorts of locations in the city’s oldest neighborhood, from a hotel to Seattle’s oldest restaurant. You'll get the low-down from your lively tour guide about the the ghostly guests that reside in each place. There’s also a venture down into an underground area with only a flashlight—and the trusted tour guide—to steer you. Another offering is the Pioneer Square Haunted Pub Tour, a bar crawl that explores the seedy doings that went down in the city and a look at the paranormal activity that’s allegedly caused by the spirits of the people who suffered the consequences.

Guided Pioneer Square Ghost Tour is offered nightly. $17 per person, $15 students and seniors; spookedinseattle.squarespace.com/tour

9. The Original Santa Fe Ghost Tour: Santa Fe, New Mexico

As the second-oldest city in the country, it’d be shocking if there weren’t an abundance of restless souls in Santa Fe. Get to know them under the expert tutelage of Peter Sinclaire, a local who’s been communing with the area’s ghosts for 25 years. The tour winds through the streets of Santa Fe, where eagle-eyed participants might spot La Llarona, an eerie specter mourning the children she drowned in the Santa Fe River, or rub elbows with the city’s most celebrated spirit, Julia Staab, a high-society dame who loved the familial manse—now a luxury property called La Posada de Santa Fe—so much that even now, more than 130 years later, she refuses to move on. She’s been known to hang out in the men’s washroom on the ground floor, so be sure to down some liquid courage at her namesake bar before venturing in.

Tours are held on Friday and Saturday nights from March to November and Saturday nights from December to February. $16 per person; theoriginalsantafeghosttour.weebly.com.

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These Tourism Slogans Are Meant to Entice You...

Tourism is a competitive business. Every destination—cities, states, national parks, hotels, historical landmarks, etc.—is vying for your attention, time, and money. All of which, of course, is in limited supply. But neither the time nor the money comes into play if the place doesn’t have your attention. And that’s where savvy marketing comes in. Nearly every country on this vast planet has a slogan to make you perk up and take notice and inspire you to come visit. And let’s just say some slogans have a good chance of grabbing your attention by the collar while others might float past you unnoticed with bland reminders of their beauty or friendly residents or geographic locale (Portugal, for instance, beckons with the claim “Europe’s West Coast” and Nigeria announces “Good people. Great nation.”). And others might just make you giggle or, in some cases, furry your brow in bewilderment. You're invited FamilyBreakFinder, a British company that offers tips for family vacations, created an epic map of tourism slogans around the world and it is, without a doubt, captivating. Tourism marketers have a tough job, to be sure: to capture a nation’s spirit in a few bite-size words. Some don’t tout any bells or whistles. They give us just the facts—well, just a fact—and they give it to us quick. There’s “Magical Kenya” and “Epic Estonia.” Germany is “Simply inspiring” while the Netherlands is “The original cool,” Uzbekistan is “Naturally irresistible!” and Denmark is “Happiest place on Earth!”  Some nations express a bit more authority, presenting their catchphrase as a demand or instruction. Romania tells the world “Explore the Carpathian Garden” and Poland orders you to “Move your imagination” and if the Caucasus region is calling you, “Visit Armenia. It is beautiful.” For a bit of positive reinforcement, “Travel in Slovakia. Good idea!” Albania’s slogan has us a bit befuddled, though. They say “Go your own way!” Is it just us, or does that sound like they’re turning you away. Looking at the map as a whole, it seems there are a few countries that need to have a powwow and come to some agreements. Mozambique beckons with “Come to where it all started” while Egypt and Ethiopia declare “Where it all begins” and “Land of origins,” respectively. We’re not sure if this is a case for anthropologists and archaeologists or philosophers. Comedy and tragedy The tourism bureaus with what we imagine to be the toughest jobs work in any country where residents are trying to flee or have fled. In Africa, Rwanda avoids debate or unease with “Remarkable Rwanda.” West of the Himalayas we’re reminded “It’s beautiful. It’s Pakistan” while in the Middle East, if you’re thinking of visiting Petra or the Dead Sea or the Desert Castles, Jordan tourism wants to assure you “Yes, it’s Jordan.” On a serious note, though, with the unspeakable and devastating destruction of late Syria’s “Always beautiful” slogan may, sadly, need some retooling.   A little comic jab or pun is a dependable way to stick in people’s minds. Morocco, for instance, broadcasts “Much Mor.” And then there’s one of our personal favorites: “Djibouti: Djibeauty.” Another tactic for being memorable? Make an effort to make no sense. El Salvador does a pretty good job with this one, declaring itself “The 45 minute country.”

Inspiration

5 Great Things to Eat in Mexico City

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Inspiration

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The two-story, 13,000-square-foot winery is surrounded by eight acres of botanical gardens and farms where they grow more than a dozen different fruit crops (lychee, anyone?), including the blueberries for their specialty blueberry wine. Tastings are very low-key, allowing you to sip as you mosey around the property. Hungry? Take a wander over to the Blue Grove Baking Company, which serves vegan and vegetarian options among its selection of flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, and home-baked goods. Check out seasonal events like Oktoberfest, a British Festival, and, of course, the Blueberry Festival. 2. 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Other options include the First Flight Tasting featuring limited production wines, a Sonoma Inclusive tasting of the entire region, and a behind-the-scenes peek at the state-of-the-art bottling facility. 3. Wolf Mountain Vineyards: Dahlonega, Georgia Located on Wolf Mountain, this 10,000-square-foot winery (www.wolfmountainvineyards.com) sits 1800 feet above the fieldstone-encased cellar overlooking the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The high elevation provides the vineyard with warm days and mild evenings, which give the grapes a long warm period to flower, set, and ripen, and helps explain the 200-plus medals its wines have won. Enjoy tastings of six bottlings with impeccable views of the vineyard and mountains, then grab a full glass and locally sourced bites from the café on the open-air veranda. A Sunday brunch changes monthly and includes a themed cuisine, live music, food and, of course, vino. Gourmet Winemaker Dinners are sporadically announced and include a Cellar Reception with appetizers, a three-course dinner, and paired wines. 4. Bendell Cellars: Cutchogue, New York The Hamptons may boast celebrities, nightlife, and pristine beaches, but when it comes to wine, you’ll want to head to the North Fork, Long Island’s more laid-back coastline. Bedell Cellars (www.bendellcellars.com) sits in Cutchogue, a quiet town known for its stunning views of craggy cliffs overlooking the Long Island Sound and miles of bucolic farm land. Bedell, however, features 75 acres of vineyards. Tastings take place in the refurbished New England-style barn with a mahogany garden pavilion and intimate loft area with vaulted ceilings and fireplace. Elegant small plates are the draw at its seasonal restaurant, Noah’s. Book a group reservation for a sommelier-led tasting of both current and limited production wines or just walk in to customize an individual tasting. Local events include live music, wine and cheese parings with samples from New York City’s famed Murray’s Cheese, and even stargazing evenings organized by a local observatory, complete with telescopes. And wine specials.  5. Raffaldini Vineyards: Ronda, North Carolina Nestled near the Yadkin Rover and Blue Ridge Mountains, this Tuscan-style villa and tasting room (www.raffaldini.com) sits at a 1200-foot elevation and is the centerpiece of the winery’s 40-plus acres that grow classic French and Italian varietals. Regular tastings are offered on a walk-in basis and include a commemorative Riedel glass. And because the National Wildlife Federation recognizes the vineyard as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat, you’ll want to join one of the moderate hikes with vintner Jay Raffaldini, which are offered on select Sundays throughout the year. Other events include the educational Afternoon in Tuscany, a two-hour wine experience with lunch, a guided tour of the property, and an outdoor concert. Various Italian festivals take place throughout the year. 6. Chateau Ste. Michelle: Woodinville, Washington (Courtesy Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery) Founded in the 1930s and producing European varietals since 1967, this Washington state winery (www.ste-michelle.com), which uses grapes grown in the eastern Columbia Valley, is lauded for its eight different styles of Riesling. The Woodinville-based namesake Chateau is surrounded by 105 wooded acres and located just outside Seattle, making it the perfect pit stop if not a destination. The new state-of-the-art visitors’ center lets you customize your afternoon. 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Hotel We Love: Hellenthal Lofts, Juneau, AK

About 1.5 million passengers come through Juneau’s cruise port each year, and while the compact, scenic seaside town is a stopover for many, it’s also an excellent destination for a longer stay, what with its vibrant dining and brewing scene, proximity to natural wonders and hiking (there’s over 250 miles of trails and only 42 miles of road in town), and all kinds of interesting historic remains of the booming Gold Rush era. One of those holdovers is the Hellenthal Building smack in the middle of downtown. It opened as a hotel in the summer of 2018 after extensive renovations and it's an affordable, comfortable and convenient lodging option if you plan to visit this scenic Alaskan capital city. THE STORY The building was constructed in 1916 by J.A. Hellenthal, a lawyer for a big mining company. It started out as offices then became a bank. An Art Deco-style theater was housed in an adjacent space. But the theater closed in 1971 after the building fell into disrepair. Christine Hess and Dale Whitney, who took a “left turn” from their legal careers, bought the rundown property in 2016 and after two years of planning and giving the space a complete overhaul, the boutique hotel opened in June 2018 with six airy, contemporary loft spaces, each individually designed and decorated with shrewd minimalism. The renovation, much of which Christine and Dale did themselves, preserves the building's infrastructure. Particularly impressive are the three wood beams, each made from a single Juneau-grown tree, that run across the length of the structure under the roof. They discovered this architectural marvel only after they ripped out the attic. Chris and her 80-year-old mother sanded and stained them themselves. THE QUARTERS Most units sleep six people, but the biggest, one of the lofts, features a queen bed, a pullout queen, and futon queen bed and can accommodate eight. Each of the units has an open floor plan, spacious closets, a washer and dryer, flat-screen televisions, and free wifi. They're all also equipped with a full-size kitchen complete with modern appliances, a roomy fridge, and all the cookware, flatware, and dishes you could hope for, so if you're on a budget, stocking up on food and having a few meals in would be a good idea. Just take note: grocery shopping requires a cab trip, as there are no markets within walking distance. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Three words: location, location, location. The building is smack in the middle of the bustling downtown, which is very compact. Restaurants, bars, galleries, a bookstore, and gift shops--not to mention the ocean--are virtually all right outside. THE FOOD There is not an affiliated eatery within the hotel, but Devil's Club Brewing Company is located next door in an adjoining space formerly occupied by the theater, so it's close enough. The lively brewpub with communal tables serves creative beers and pub grub with a global twist. Chris and Dale created a curated guide of their favorite nearby restaurants and bars with snapshot descriptions of each that they leave in each room alongside with a variety of Alaska-themed books. Consider it their personal recommendations. ALL THE REST The Hellenthal Lofts can be booked through Airbnb or by calling the hotel's office directly. It's self-check-in, though sometimes Chris and Dale will be there to welcome guests. RATES AND DEETS Starting at: $150 Hellenthal Lofts100 Franklin StreetJuneau, AK 99801(907)523-0703 // www.airbnb.com/room/24287288?s=51

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