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How to safely celebrate Halloween in the US this year

By Kaeli Conforti
January 12, 2022
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Communities around the country have been forced to get creative and figure out fun ways to keep the spirit of Halloween alive this year.

Let’s face it, Halloween is going to be different this year. Because of the pandemic, the CDC recommends skipping trick-or-treating and in-person parties in favor of lower-risk activities like carving and decorating pumpkins with your family or having virtual costume contests with friends. If you’re willing to wear a mask and stay at least six feet from others, moderate-risk activities like outdoor costume parties and visits to pumpkin patches are fine, but indoor costume parties and traditional haunted houses are now considered to be higher-risk.

While theme park favorites like Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World have been cancelled—die-hards can still attend socially distanced Halloween-themed events at Hersheypark, Dollywood, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and select Six Flags theme parks as long as they book tickets ahead of time, wear a mask and have their temperatures checked upon entry—communities around the country have been forced to get creative and figure out fun ways to keep the spirit of Halloween alive this year. Here’s how you can still celebrate safely.

Salem, Massachusetts

While Salem is best known for its witch trials of the late-1600s, it’s also a hot spot for all things Halloween. This year, however, Salem will be closed the last weekend of October and its Haunted Happenings events are moving online. Visit the Virtual Haunted Happenings Marketplace to see and buy creative wares from local artists, tour a historic home on a virtual house tour and tune in to see who wins the Halloween at Home Costume Contest.

Hudson Valley, New York

While most of Sleepy Hollow’s Halloween events have been cancelled due to the pandemic, some, like the All Shorts Irvington Film Festival and Tarrytown Music Hall’s Harvest Hunt and Virtual Ghost Tour are moving online this year. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Walking Tours and a few other in-person events are also being held with Covid-19 restrictions in place, though you’ll need to book tickets online since no last-minute walk-ins will be allowed in this year. Nearby in Croton-on-Hudson, don’t miss The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, happening now through November 1, then Nov. 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time online and mask wearing and social distancing are required.

Long Island, New York

In Old Bethpage, you’ll find the second location of The Great Pumpkin Blaze, operating at limited capacity now through November 1, then Nov. 4-8. In Yaphank, fans of drive-thru haunted houses can brave The Forgotten Road in Southaven County Park. Purchase tickets and download the audio tracks before you go, then play them as you drive up to each of the marked signs in this immersive 30-minute Halloween experience.

Washington, D.C.

From ghost tours and scary drive-in movies to pumpkin-centric celebrations and Halloween happy hours, there are plenty of ways to celebrate safely in the capitol this year.

Yorktown and Norfolk, Virginia 

For a real treat, head to the Paws at the River Market pet costume parade at 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, part of Yorktown Market Days. Nearby in Norfolk, it’s Halloween at the Chrysler Museum of Art, where staff members dress up as their favorite works of art and kids can create their own glass-blown pumpkins (timed tickets are available online). Spooky virtual tours are also happening via Facebook Live at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, as is a virtual Mystery at the Museum Zoom event starting at 7 p.m.

Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia

The Savannah Children’s Museum is hosting “Tricks, Treats, and Trains,” at the Georgia State Railroad Museum. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta also has a number of Halloween themed activities happening from October 24–31, like a costumed dance party, spooky exhibits about spiders in The Science Bar and Halloween themed arts and crafts in the Creativity Cafe. Tickets must be booked in advance and all children ages five and up are required to wear a mask.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Pick up a pumpkin from Lafreniere Pumpkin Patch, dress up for the Jefferson Community Band Halloween Concert on October 29, watch Ghostbusters from your car at the Pontchartrain Center, and visit the New Orleans Nightmare Haunted House, among other themed events this year in Jefferson Parish.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

This year, Chattanooga Ghost Tours is running its Murder & Mayhem Haunted History Tour as well as a neighborhood Halloween decorating contest, listing the most spirited houses on its website so people can check them out from their cars.

Louisville, Kentucky

Don’t miss the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular drive-thru experience at Iroquois Park, happening now through Nov. 1 from dusk until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Be aware that there may be up to a 2.5-hour wait, so bring along your favorite Halloween movie to watch in the car until it’s your turn to go through.

Miami, Florida

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables is hosting a special Yappy Hour and pet costume parade on Oct. 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Both humans and their dressed up fur babies will receive complimentary snacks during the ticketed event. Over in Miami Beach, restaurants along historic Española Way are offering Halloween night specials on food and cocktails, making it a great spot to grab some outdoor grub.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s popular Crypt Run is a virtual 5K this year, so sign up through the website and run it on your own terms. This year’s iteration of the Music Box Theatre’s annual scary movie marathon will take place at the Chi-Town Movies Drive-In through Oct. 31. Fans of The Shining will love Room 237, an interactive pop-up experience and lounge at Morgan Manufacturing. You’ll be a guest at the Overlook Hotel, with its giant hedge maze, Gold Room cocktail bar, photo-ops based on movie scenes and specially themed drinks like “Redrum” and “Come Play With Us.” Hocus Pocus fans should stop by the “I Put A Spell On You” pop-up bar and kitchen at Homestead On The Roof now through Nov. 8, where you can taste cocktails and dishes inspired by the film.

St. Louis, Missouri

Celebrate Halloween at Union Station now through Oct. 31, by wearing your favorite costume, spending 30-45 minutes walking through the tent maze and four historic train cars—all decked out in spooky decorations featuring witches, skeletons and other creepy creatures—and taking home some candy and a pumpkin to decorate. Book your tickets ahead of time online, where there’s also an option to add a scenic ride on the St. Louis Wheel.

San Diego, California

Mostra Coffee is hosting Movie Nights Under the Stars, where you can catch a showing of Casper or Coco on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30, enjoy dinner and dessert, and win a $50 cash prize in the costume contest. Each adult ticket comes with a Mostra beverage, while each children’s ticket comes with a trick-or-treat bag full of candy. Those with little ones should check out Gyminny’s Spooky Drive-Thru, where you can safely catch a circus show, dress up in your favorite costumes, and get some goodie bags from your car.

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Inspiration

6 great outdoor activities in Puerto Rico

1. Take a Tour of Old San Juan While Castillo San Felipe del Morro is closed until further notice, there are still plenty of interesting things to do in Old San Juan, whether you decide to go solo with one of GPSmyCity’s audio tours or with a group. Covid-compliant historical walking tours are available through Viator from $41 per person. San Juan Food Tours aims to keep patrons safe on its three-hour Flavors of Old San Juan tour (from $94 per person) and two-hour Rum Runners Craft Cocktail Tour (from $49 per person), while Spoon has similar health and safety protocols in place for its food and cocktail themed walking tours, ranging from $75 to $99 per person. To see San Juan from the water, East Island Excursions offers tours from $79 per person for daytime sailings or $95 per person for sunset sailings as long as guests fill out a health questionnaire before boarding. Misty jungle path through the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. ©Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock 2. Get Back to Nature in El Yunque National Forest El Yunque National Forest is open but you’ll need to reserve an entry ticket online for $2 per vehicle ahead of time to visit the La Mina Recreation Area on Rd 191. Time slots between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. can be booked up to 30 days in advance. Note that La Mina Falls and Big Tree Trail will be closed for construction until 2022. Remember to keep your mask on and stay at least six feet from anyone outside your group. 3. Hike to Cueva Ventana (Window Cave) If you’re staying on the western side of the island or looking for an easy day trip from San Juan, Aventura Cueva Ventana (or Window Cave) near Arecibo is a fun place to go hiking, see petroglyphs and stone carvings left behind by Puerto Rico’s earliest inhabitants and check out the views from the cave’s window-esque opening. Tickets are $19 per person and there’s a $2 discount if you visit Wednesday to Friday. All visitors must comply with stringent hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing measures at all times. ©watcherFF/Getty Images 4. Explore Bioluminescent Bay by Kayak On the eastern end of the island, Island Kayaking runs guided tours (from $53 per person) to Bioluminescent Bay near Fajardo. You’ll be organized into kayaks per group—as in, you won’t be seated with strangers—masks must be worn throughout the tour and anyone with a temperature over 100.4 won’t be allowed to join. Their two-hour Glowing Bay Adventure tour takes you through a mangrove forest out to the bay, where tiny creatures called pyrodiniums bahamenses light up all around you whenever you move your paddle and kayak. 5. Visit a Rum Distillery While the Bacardi Rum Factory has halted its tours now, another historic rum distillery, Ron de Barrilito, is open. Rum tasting tours and mixology classes, available from $80 per person, must be booked ahead of time online as the number of guests will be limited to allow for social distancing. 6. Head to the Beach or Condado Lagoon If you’re a fan of sunbathing, surfing, boogie boarding, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking or other recreational beach activities, it really boils down to this: stay with your own group, remain at least six feet from others and keep your mask on whenever you’re not in the water. Military tank left behind on Culebra Beach. ©Tinapat Kotumrongsak/Shutterstock

Inspiration

The best wineries in Virginia

The year 2020 has held some major ups and downs for me, but there is one wonderful milestone it has witnessed. It seems appropriate that in October, otherwise known as Virginia Wine Month, I finally hit my goal of visiting 100 Virginia wineries while visiting Stars in the Valley, a new (and tasty) winery that’s less than two years old. People are often surprised to hear that Virginia is home to nearly 300 wineries and is tied for the fifth largest wine producing region in the United States. However, wine has been grown in Virginia for over four centuries, dating back at least to 1619. Now, I could go into all the history about Jefferson’s struggle to produce drinkable wine at Monticello or the (re)discovery of a native Virginia grape by Dr. James Norton, but my guess is that you’re really here to find a weekend escape with good friends, good wines, and good views. One of the most important things to know about Virginia wine is that it will consistently challenge your expectations. It may seem obvious, but there is no single, universal way of making any specific type of wine. This is wonderfully evident here in Virginia. You may come across a chardonnay that is reminiscent of your Napa Valley oakey chards, that is to say tasting like a tub of buttered movie theatre popcorn, but then the very next chardonnay you taste may be a crisp, stainless steel with bright apple notes and no hint of butter or oak. Basically, there is something for everyone: whites so sweet they’ll make your teeth ache, full bodied reds, wines made from other fruit, and more. My quest to hit 100 wineries truly started with wanting to understand more about the wines I like so that I could stop wasting money at the grocery store, but it grew into so much more than that. As you're out tasting, no matter where you are, be sure to pay close attention to some of the grapes that show the best of what Virginia has to offer: Chardonnay, VIgonier, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Norton, and Petit Verdot. Ask your wine educator their recommendations (and don’t forget to tip them!). Learn about basics like residual sugar and aging, as these will help you learn what to look for in the future. But most importantly, find what you like, and enjoy it! The best wineries in Virginia I hope to pass on some of what I’ve learned to you! After much humming and hawing, and countless hours spent looking at my Virginia wineries spreadsheet (yes, I have a spreadsheet), here are my favorite wineries across the state of Virginia! Best overall: Michael Shaps Wineworks, Charlottesville Virginia I first discovered Michael Shaps back in 2016 on a “Gals and Dogs” wine weekend in Charlottesville. It’s a slow meander up a gravel driveway, surrounded by light woods. You’ll actually have to drive straight past another winery to get there, but don’t get distracted, because what’s at the end of the path is definitely worth the wait. Not only has Michael Shaps multiple gold medals in the prestigious Virginia’s Governor’s Cup wine competition, he’s done so year after year. But what I love most is that his wine list is also the precise definition of “something for everyone.” Shaps makes wine both locally here Virginia and at his estate in Burgundy (for you old world aficionados). He makes boxed wine and wine for refillable growlers under a label called Wineworks that is meant to be high-quality yet also budget conscious -- perfect for those of you who’ve needed a little extra calming during these quarantine times. He also makes a sweet dessert wine that is literally named Raisin (not to be confused with raison!) d’Etre. If Charlottesville is too far away for you, Shaps also makes wine for a handful of other wineries, including Shenandoah Vineyards (off I-81) and The Barns at Hamilton Station (near Leesburg). I highly recommend the following wines: ● Michael Shaps Petit Manseng: You absolutely have to try my favorite grape to be grown in Virginia. The Petit Manseng was historically grown in France to make sweeter or dessert wines, but here in Virginia, you’ll often find them dry and bursting with tropical flavor. ● Wineworks BOX Rosé: Shaps was actually the first Virginia winery to offer “boxed” wine, and like all of his wines, there’s an attention to detail that produces quality but this time at a lower price point. A different blend annually, this light, dry rose is guaranteed to be your summer favorite! ● Michael Shaps L. Scott: This luscious red is a blend of Tannat, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and it’s well-balanced to provide a round mouthfeel that is smooth and velvety, making it the perfect wine for the coming winter months and the corresponding hearty meals. Pippin Hill Winery in Charlottsville. Photo by Kathleen Saylor.Hidden Gem: Linden Vineyards, Linden, Virginia Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all about Linden Vineyards, home to my other favorite winemaker in Virginia. Thankfully recommended to me a few years ago by a friend in the industry, I’m now passing along this insider knowledge to you. Linden Vineyards is a hidden gem, located on a hill overlooking one of three vineyards that are the sole source of Linden’s grapes, nestled mere miles away from I-66, about an hour from DC. Without a sign drawing in traffic from the highway, Linden has focused on creating quality wines that speak for themselves. And boy do they! Jim Law, the owner of Linden Vineyards, has built it into one of the pillars of Virginia winemaking. One of the older wineries in Virginia, Law broke ground nearly 40 years ago in 1983 and has been nurturing his vineyards ever since. He treats winemaking like an art form, and it’s truly evident in the outstanding wines that are produced year after year. It’s evident from the moment you walk in the door. There’s an air of seriousness blended with appreciation. You’ll not find kids or dogs running under foot here, just fellow wine lovers, an incredibly knowledgeable staff. And some of the best wine in Virginia. If you find yourself out that way, do yourself a favor and try some. Here are my favorites: ● Avenius Chardonnay: My personal favorite, that I remember years after tasting it. Avenius, named for one of three vineyards that produces all of the grapes for Linden, offers a minerality that complements nicely the fuller bodied nature of this Chardonnay. This tends to be more of a “Chablis” style Chardonnay in that it is well-balanced and not overly oaked. ● Claret: Now, if you’re like me, you may have thought that Claret was something that English gentlemen drank 200 years ago, but this one should change your thinking! Really, all a Claret is is a Bordeaux (often a red blend). If they still have it, I’d go for the 2015 vintage as it was a great growing season all around. It’s balanced and medium-bodied, and a great sipping wine! ● Best on a budget: Ox-Eye Vineyards is one of the few downtown tasting rooms I’ve visited in Virginia, but I dig it’s industrial vibe. You’ll find it nestled into an old brick storefront in Staunton, Virginia, a charming old town off I-81. They have an excellent list of wines in the $20 range. My favorite for the summer is their dry Riesling. ● Best Views: There’s a reason Pippin Hill Winery is a South Charlottesville favorite. You’ll see families and bridal showers meandering over their lush, gardened hills, making a day of being in this beautiful valley. They also have a vineyard-to-table kitchen that allows you to enjoy the most natural pairing of all: wine and food. My pick here would definitely be the Viognier. ● Best Organic: Nestled at the top of a rather steep gravel drive Arterra Wines is home to a winemaker who embraces a more minimalist technique, allowing the grapes to express themselves in the most authentic way possible. When you’re here, if it’s available, you must try their Malbec. ● Best Dog Day Out: If you’re like me, and you like a slightly slower pace, Muse Vineyards is the place for you. It’s low key, amazing wines, sedate hikes through vineyards, and you can take your furry friend right up to the tasting counter! While you’re there, don’t miss out on a classic Virginia varietal, the Cabernet Franc.

Inspiration

The motel from Schitt's Creek is going up for sale

For the past six years, the CBC/Pop TV series – a fish-out-of-water comedy starring Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel Levy, and Annie Murphy as a once-wealthy clan forced to relocate to the boonies – has filmed in Mono, Ontario, renting out a one-time motel to stand in for the show’s main location. And soon, fans will have a chance to stake their claim on the Rose family business. In an interview with the Orangeville Banner’s Chris Halliday, owner Jesse Tipping revealed the motel would go up for sale in October, a decision he put off when the pandemic started in favor of housing those who needed to quarantine. “We were able to help out a great organization locally with their need,” Tipping said. The property has appeared onscreen in multiple productions © Courtesy of CBC Prior to COVID-19, the motel served as home base for a host of young recruits attending a prep school basketball program nearby, as well as a filming location for Netflix’s Umbrella Academy, Amazon Prime’s 11.22.63, and David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, the Banner reports. It was also listed on Airbnb at one point, though its onscreen fame was downplayed. “We didn’t advertise for you to come stay at Schitt’s Creek or the Rosebud motel,” Tipping said. The real-life property may lack the signage of its onscreen counterpart, but before the pandemic, fans of the show flocked to see it in person, staging photo shoots and leaving reviews online – in character, of course. “We just kind of let them enjoy it because if they are not bothering anybody,” Tipping said. “People really get a kick out of it.” It's been a good couple of weeks for Schitt's Creek fans. After enjoying huge success at the Emmy Awards last month, sweeping the comedy categories with wins for best actor and actress, best supporting actor and actress, best comedy series, and outstanding writing and directing, the show’s sixth and final season landed on Netflix ahead of schedule – a pleasant surprise to many fans.

Inspiration

How to see the best of Montana in 7 days

Montana is criminally underrated. Its natural beauty has earned it the nickname “The Last Best Place” and, after a week-long road trip across the state, you’ll have a hard time arguing otherwise. The western half of Montana is particularly spectacular thanks to the wonders of Glacier National Park, Flathead Valley, and its many small town splendors. But don't miss out on the beautiful highways that wander around the 100+ mountain ranges in the state. One of the many unintended consequences of COVID-19 travel restrictions has been the rebirth of the American road trip. Instead of flying to far flung places, people are escaping in their vehicles, in search of rest and respite. Luckily, there is only one way to properly see Montana in all its glory-- road trip. Due to the sheer size of the state, it would be nearly impossible to scratch the surface of Montana in a week. Instead, spend your time enjoying the Western side of the state-- where buffalo roam in front of snow capped mountains. Trip length: 7-10 days; 448 miles (720km) Best time to visit: August through mid-September (fewer crowds, weather is still warm) Essential photo op: Lake McDonald Can’t miss experience: Driving Going the Sun Road Quick road trip summary: Day 1- Kalispell and Flathead Lake Day 2- Wild Horse Island and Bigfork Days 3 and 4- Glacier National Park Day 5- Missoula Day 6 and 7- Bozeman and West Yellowstone Optional additions: Whitefish Kalispell Start your Montana adventure in quaint Kalispell! This quintessential Montana town, which will only take a day out of your itinerary, is the gateway to Glacier National Park, making it the best introduction to the state any first-time visitor could ask for. It’s an essential rite of passage for every visitor to order a huckleberry milkshake from Norm’s News. Flathead Lake, Montana. ©Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet Flathead Lake If you have the time, drive 14-minutes south towards Flathead Lake! It’s the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River and an idyllic place for a picnic. In warmer weather, you’ll see people stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and horseback riding around the Lake. You might also spot Flessie, the resident lake monster that locals swear dwells in the water. Flathead Lake is also home to guided Llama treks for the extra adventurous. Whitefish A 20-minute drive north from Kalispell will land you in Whitefish, a gorgeous town known for its ski slopes and high-end boutiques. Whitefish also has quite the reputation for its “romantic getaway” status. Montana has the second most breweries per capita in the country (just behind Vermont), and Whitefish has plenty of them. Because of this, it’s almost a requirement that you grab a craft beer from a locally-owned brewery like the Bonsai Brewing Project. If you happen to be visiting during the summer, check out the town’s farmer’s market for local vendors selling everything from florals to produce and handcrafted jewelry. Short on time? Skip Whitefish (for this visit) in lieu of exploring Flathead Lake. The Rocky Mountains in Montana. Photo by Donnie Sexton. Bigfork Bigfork, Montana, nearly qualifies as a hidden gem. It gets overlooked regularly by those passing through, but that’s a mistake. Bigfork is so picturesque it was proudly featured in the Hallmark film “Christmas in Montana”. Bronze bear fountains are dotted throughout the town, adding to its Western feel and shops along the main street sell homemade preserves from native berries. Make sure to try a pint of the local brew at Flathead Lake Brewing Company. Wild Horse Island For a totally unique Montana experience, head to Wild Horse Island. The island, which is actually a state park, is inhabited by bighorn sheep, deer, bald eagles, and (just as the name suggests) wild horses. You can kayak or paddleboard out to the island if you’re feeling fit, or opt to relax on a boat ride from Bigfork. Glacier National Park. Photo by Donnie Sexton. Glacier National Park Warning: visitors who travel to Glacier National Park may never want to leave. If there is one single spot you simply cannot miss on a visit to Montana, it’s Glacier. As the Crown Jewel of the state, it could keep you occupied with its scenic trails and glacial lakes for days on end, however, you’ll want to allow yourself a minimum of two days. First-time visitors to Glacier might feel overwhelmed by the wealth of options for what to see and do, but there are some clear winners topping any must-see list, including: stopping by Lake McDonald, hiking Grinnell Glacier, and, of course, driving Going the Sun Road. This 50-mile stretch of road is a feat of engineering that takes about 2 hours to drive one-way. The Highline Trail and Avalanche Lake are also well-worth seeing. Helmville Rodeo. Photo by Donnie Sexton. Missoula As far as college towns go, Missoula, Montana, is one of the best for outdoor enthusiasts. It is also one of the country’s quirkiest. An autumn visit to Missoula calls for a hot cup of caffeine at Clyde Coffee, Butterfly Herbs, or Break Espresso. Enjoy your joe while you stroll around the city and take in its many murals and Tibetan prayer flags flying from front porches. There are plenty of local businesses to support, including Hometana, The General Public, and Rockin’ Rudy’s. On the way to Missoula, make sure to stop in at Ninepipes Museum to support Indigenous art and designs. Bozeman Venture further south and you’ll land in Bozeman. Made extra popular with tourists thanks to the television series “Yellowstone” (starring Kevin Costner), Bozeman is known locally as the “California of Montana” due to the number of start-up companies. Despite its reputation as a “pass-through” place with pseudo cowboys and obvious wealth, Bozeman is remarkably easy on the eyes. it only takes a heartbeat to see why everyone wants to live there. Bozeman has a thriving food and coffee scene (local favourites include Nova Cafe, Jam!, Five on Black, and Plonk), historic ghost tours, and luxury spas. Bozeman is also home to the Bozeman Stampede Rodeo, the Montana Ballet Company, and rowdy Montana State University football games. Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Donnie Sexton. (West) Yellowstone National Park Montana might be home to only 3% of Yellowstone National Park, but that sliver is steeping with phenomenal views. Fill your days up here with fishing, whitewater rafting down the Yellowstone River, and hiking the nearby trails. After all your outdoor recreation, treat yourself to dinner and huckleberry ice cream at Arrowleaf Ice Cream and Grill. Beartooth Highway in the Summer. Photo by Laura Brown. Red Lodge Montana and the Beartooth Highway The Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile All-American road connected the town of Red Lodge, Montana to Yellowstone National Park. It is considered one of the most beautiful drives in America. It is typically open in the summer months, but those with adventurous snow experience can try their hand at a snowmobile in the winter. Stop over in Red Lodge for a charming small western town experience.