Visit the Top 10 Haunted Houses in the U.S… If You Dare
Need Halloween weekend plans? Make a trip one of these top 10 haunted houses in the U.S., as selected by the Haunted Attraction Association. (Yes, that's a real organization! Their awards banquet is called the "Oscares.") To reach the top 10, houses are judged on multiple criteria, from meeting safety standards to introducing new features. Expect everything from state-of-the-art special effects to truly disturbing scares—some operators even consult psychologists on how to craft the best experience. Budget tip: Go with friends for discounted group ticket rates or on a weekday for a lower entrance fee.
Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cost: From $19, easternstate.org
Why it'll freak you out: One haunted house in an actual abandoned prison is scary enough, but Eastern State Penitentiary offers six. The Machine Shop attraction, where "evil pervades," is the penitentiary's most interactive attraction yet. Willing guests are grabbed, separated from their group, dragged into secret passageways, and sometimes end up as part of the show.
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Cost: From $19.99 Thursdays and Sundays, from $24.99 Fridays and Saturdays, scarehouse.com
Why it'll freak you out: This is truly diabolical: The ScareHouse has a sociologist on staff who has studied the science of fear. Bear that in mind as you enter The Summoning attraction, new this year. You think you're being inducted into a secret society in October 1932 (with period costumes and props), but then things take a nasty turn.
Nightmare New England
Location: Litchfield, New Hampshire
Cost: From $39.99, nightmarenewengland.com
Why it'll freak you out: If campfire ghost stories leave you shivering, the legend of Litchfield's reclusive Bishop family, a mysterious clan suspected of foul play when locals went missing decades ago, will get your attention. Nightmare New England's Bishop Legacy attraction is devoted to the myth...or is it reality? Don't miss the Haunted Hayride, a new attraction for 2015.
Location: Pontiac, Michigan
Cost: From $23, hauntedpontiac.com
Why it'll freak you out: Four stories of unique time-travel dimensions make up this huge attraction, based on the legend of a mad scientist who invented a time machine gone horribly wrong...and disguised it as a haunted house. Now you're Dr. Colbert's guinea pig. The Slice of Time feature trains 45 cameras on you and snaps a 180-degree image of you screaming. Talk about a souvenir.
Location: Waukesha, Wisconsin
Cost: From $13, wisconsinfeargrounds.com
Why it'll freak you out: New this year is Morgana's Escape, a terrifying haunted house experience that you alone have the power to escape. The doors are locked, leaving you trapped in the dark—the only way out is to find the three keys that unlock the tomb.
The Dent Schoolhouse
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Cost: From $20, frightsite.com
Why it'll freak you out: Is there anything creepier than child ghosts? Legend has it that crazed Dent Schoolhouse janitor Charlie McFee went on a long, drawn-out killing spree, stuffing bodies of students into the walls and hanging them in the basement, before angry families infiltrated the school and found the carnage—which you'll tour. Vintage '50s decor makes the building extra-chilling—as does the fact that Dent Schoolhouse was once a real school.
Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream
Location: Tampa, Florida
Cost: From $60 to $70 depending on which night you go, seaworldparks.com
Why it'll freak you out: If animatronics don't faze you, physical terror might. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay morphs into a Halloween fright fest now through Oct. 31st. Falcon's Fury, a new ride that opened last year, is the continent's tallest freestanding drop tower: Reach the top, and the ride pivots 90 degrees so that riders make the 60-mph drop facedown. Or rattle some corpses by shooting zombies in the Zombie Containment Unit.
The House of Shock
Location: Jefferson, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.
Cost: From $25, houseofshock.com
Why it'll freak you out: Satanic imagery and large-scale pyrotechnics define this 23-year-old NOLA institution, located under the Huey P. Long bridge in Metairie. This year's main attraction is called "The Resurrection," a fitting name considering the New Orleans community came together to save the site after the 25,000-square-foot haunted house was slated to be shuttered after last year's season.
Houston Terror Dome
Location: Houston, Texas
Cost: From $20, houstonterrordome.com
Why it'll freak you out: Two words: evil clowns. More interested in the party than the freak show? Groove with full-body-airbrushed zombie dancers and a live (or would it be "undead"?) DJ on Saturdays.
Location: Sanger, California
Cost: From $15, hobbsgrove.com
Why it'll freak you out: The dead rise from the grave in The Hollows haunted forest, and bloody limbs dangle from ceilings in the Hobb's Grove Haunted House. For milder scares, the haunted hayride is open to families with kids under 8.
11 Ways Social Media Can ROCK Your Travel World!
1. Trip planning is now much more personal Firsthand recommendations from your peers for where to fly, eat, or stay next sure beat sifting through pages of strangers' reviews. Start simple: Use Facebook's Graph Search to find which of your friends has been to a destination you're considering visiting. In the search bar at the top of the page, type something like "My friends who have been to London" or "My friends who have been to Kensington Palace." Up pops a list of friends who have journeyed to the Big Smoke, so you can ask them for their recommendations. If nobody you know has toured the royals' abode, you can instead see a list of friends of your friends who have—and then message them to see what they thought of it before you shell out $27 for a ticket. If you're tossing out a travel question as your Facebook status, be as specific as possible. Instead of, "Does anyone know any family activities to do in Chicago?" say, "Does anyone know of a zoo in Chicago that I can take my five-year-old to in September?" Facebook reps say the more specific and engaging you are in your post, the more recommendations you'll get. Pinterest's Place Pins feature—pins that have a location attached to them—was built specifically for travel planning, says site community manager Enid Hwang. Create a new board and enable the "Add a map" option, then start adding Place Pins to create nice-looking itineraries for weekend trips, road trips, and dream trips. Share the board with your travel companions who can pin ideas too or send the whole board to others who are thinking of taking a similar vacation. 2. Hungry? No more wandering aimlessly for mediocre food Ugh—what's more of a travel bummer than wandering into a restaurant that looks authentic, then later realizing it's a tourist trap slinging slop? Tap on "breakfast," "brunch," "lunch," "dinner," or "dessert" on the Foursquare app to see highly rated restaurants that match your tastes nearby, including those recommended by people you know. Food truck hounds, rejoice: Roaming Hunger's app tracks street food via tweets and a finely honed calendar, so you can check out the most popular carts in major cities, add your favorite cart to the list, and see which vendor are nearby. The new GPS-enabled mobile site from Eat Your World, a guide to traditional, native foods and drinks around the globe, points you in the direction of inexpensive local foods and encourages member participation: If you see it and eat it, snap a pic and add it to the site. If an authentic food "experience" is what you're after, request a home-cooked dinner via Meal Sharing—in return, you can help prepare the meal, bring a gift or entertain with a story, or pay a "chip-in" price for ingredients. 3. It's a great way to scoop up deals To save major bucks on travel, be liberal with the "like" button. Following airlines, hotel chains, booking sites, and rental-car companies on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and liking them on Facebook plugs you in directly to special rates and discounts—you'll see them in your feed before you even seek them out. On Pinterest, bloggers like Great Walt Disney World Tips pin discounts and time- and cash-saving ideas. While you're strolling in a new neighborhood, open Foursquare's app and scroll down to "offering a special." Check in to one of those establishments, and you could nab anything from a major discount to a free item—we once scored a free glass of champagne at a Las Vegas nightclub and complimentary strawberry fondue at a martini bar in the Midwest. Wherever you go, look for promotions featuring special Instagram hashtags: Share your snapshots to enter contests that shops and travel brands hold to win free swag—or free trips. 4. Inspiration has never been so beautiful Have you ever fought the urge to buy a plane ticket on a whim solely based on seeing a gorgeous photo of a place you'd never been to? Us too. Following Instagram and Pinterest accounts that post lush, eye-popping pictures, like Tourism Australia—and BT, of course!—can increase your wanderlust and help you pick where to go next. Instagram's official blog's Local Lens series spotlights talented snappers' favorite places to shoot in their city—if you like what you see, hit up that neighborhood. While you're traveling, search for the hashtag of the place you're in on Instagram or Twitter—#berlin, #montmartre, #strawberryfields, you name it—to track down cool sights and perspectives you might have missed. Racy as it sounds, #travelporn is one of our favorite 'gram hashtags to peep for pretty pics. 5. Making brand-new friends while traveling is less intimidating Solo travelers don't have to feel alone while they're globetrotting. Obsessed with Instagram? You'll love Instameet, photo-snapping events organized by Meetup that are offered everywhere from Melbourne, Australia, to Shreveport, Louisiana—often during "magic hour," the time of day when the sunlight is just right to grab that perfect photo. Backpackers unite on Backpackr, a social network for nomads that shows you who's nearby and doles out virtual passport "stamps" in for every country you visit. If hotels are more your speed, the brand-new HelloTel app's network enables you to meet new friends and/or business contacts who are staying at the same hotel you are—choose "business" or "socializing" and connect on either a public forum or via private message. (Yes, you can block people from seeing any of your information.) We've also heard of "Tinder tourism," in which singles use the popular Tinder dating app to find very, ahem, personal tour guides abroad. What happens in Bulgaria stays in Bulgaria, we suppose. 6. The postcard and scrapbook aren't obsolete—they're just different Why bother sending a physical letter when you can just take a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your phone and post it on your mom's Facebook wall? Well, because Mom, Grandpa, and pretty much everyone else still likes postcards. The Postagram app melds the social and the physical worlds by sending custom paper postcards using photos from your Instagram, Facebook, and Dropbox accounts for a dollar or two a pop. You can even schedule the delivery. And although most of us wish we had enough time to keep a physical scrapbook of all of our travels, let's face it: Posting them online is easier. Facebook says it's constantly tweaking its photo album feature's organization so your most-liked photos float to the top. After a family vacation ends, Dropbox is particularly handy for compiling everyone's photos in one place for the rest of the group to see and upload to social media. While you're still luxuriating on the beach with the fam, consider creating your own personal vacation hashtag, like #TheSmithsInMexico, to use on Instagram and Twitter to see everyone's thoughts and photos at once. 7. There's an extra incentive to behave Cause a scene on a plane, train, or automobile, and you could find your antics uploaded to YouTube or Vine, live-tweeted, or—worse—posted on the popular Passenger Shaming Facebook page, run by a former flight attendant. Bad behavior that the site has documented includes bare feet propped up on an airplane headrest (ew!), two travelers pounding on the inside of an airport's plate-glass window to try and stop their plane from leaving, and a woman changing a diaper directly on the tarmac (yes, the actual road that airplanes taxi on). Regular citizens are getting in on the act, too, using the hashtag #passengershaming on Twitter and Instagram. Might want to re-think that third whiskey soda, lest your aggressive snoring end up on SoundCloud. 8. Fellow travelers can be your new virtual, in-the-know BFFs Travel-specific social networks just "get" passionate travelers, which is especially nice if your IRL friends aren't adventurous. The soon-to-be-launched planning and booking app UnPaved's interface will show which of your connections has been to a destination before, who's there now, and what tips they've shared. If you're a sucker for a nice narrative while you're exploring, read others' lovely short travel stories and savvy tips on Findery. Or trust in the hive mind at Trippy and ask vetted travel experts questions like "What are the best hikes in Slovenia?"—readers upvote the best answers, so you see the best recs first. Road warriors, you'll want to download Waze, a navigation app that helps you beat traffic and find the cheapest gas prices with the help of real-time info from other drivers and community-updated maps. 9. You can chatter with airlines and travel fans without picking up the phone Lost bag? Delayed flight? Lack of snacks on the plane? Whatever's bugging you in the air, you can tweet directly at airlines to get answers or, at the very least, information on what to do next. Delta's @DeltaAssist account answers questions 24/7, and @JetBlue and @AmericanAir have also been noted for their responsiveness. Have your confirmation number handy and be prepared to direct-message them your specifics. If you're feeling proactive and do the research yourself, you can even ask them to rebook you on specific flights if yours is delayed. Looking for good, old-fashioned travel conversation and useful money-saving tips? Twitter's head of travel, Jeff Flores, recommends searching for Twitter hashtags like #ttot (travel talk on Twitter), #SMTravel (social media travel), #TravelTuesday, #CruiseChat, #RTW (round the world), and #TNI (traveler's night in). 10. Options for local, personal tour guides are limitless Travelers looking for a targeted, authentic experience no longer have to rely on big, expensive tour companies to show them around a new town. Sites like Vayable and Localyoo connect you with activities proffered by real, live locals for a nominal fee, from a $25 bike tour of sights and eats in Barcelona to a historical, communism-focused tour of Berlin, given by a woman who grew up under communist rule, for $10. On freelance task site Fiverr, five bucks buys you local travel and language expertise—it takes a little searching, but you can find gems, like a culinary tour of Mumbai given by a tech geek. Sure, they're more of a gamble than going on a traditional tour, but other users' comments and ratings can help you decide which ones to pursue, and some sites have a money-back guarantee. Or, combine the tour experience with a place to crash. For years, Couchsurfing has touted the "good vibes" that come from staying with its members in their homes, and newcomer Voyaj helps you "pitch" yourself via YouTube video to find a host family abroad. In return, you're encouraged to exchange something from your culture—like dance or language lessons. Money saved, immersive experience earned. 11. Your favorite works of art are now interactive Stuffy museums get a whole lot more exciting when you make a game of taking in the exhibit. Considered controversial in some circles but invigorating in others, the first-ever Museum Selfie Day was held this past January 22: Museum professionals encouraged visitors to turn the cameras on themselves and pose with the art, then post it to social media with the hashtag #museumselfie. People in hallowed halls around the world—from the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatarto the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh—participated. The institutions themselves are getting in on the act too: Follow your favorite old-school museums and contemporary galleries for promotions, exhibit previews, art humor, and peeks behind the scenes. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's YouTube channel, for example, features videos of artists discussing their work; New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art posts Instagram photos of the museum after all the visitors have left with the hashtag #emptymet. #eerie
Do YOU Live in America's Coolest Small Town 2015?
What does it feel like to live in America's Coolest Small Town? Ask the folks in Berlin, Maryland. In February, they topped our list, edging out Cazenovia, New York, and 13 other finalists to win the 2014 title. And they threw one heck of a victory party. (We know because we were there!) How can YOUR town get to be America's Coolest Small Town 2015? Well, it's really up to you. If you think your town has got what it takes, we want to hear about it. Nominate Your Town Now and share what you love about living in—or visiting—your fave town. And don't forget to talk it up and share photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (tag them #ACST2015) to help your town's chances of being named a finalist. (When you share photos of your town on Instagram and tag them #ACST2015, you may even see them featured on our "Trending Cool Towns" page—how cool is that?) Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns 2015 contest is looking for American towns with a population under 10,000 and a certain something that no place else has: great shops, food, a unique history, a breathtaking location, peerless music scene, art galleries, or maybe something cool we haven't even thought of yet! We invite you to tell us a little about your town today (click on Nominate Your Town Now). And don't forget to share your town's coolest restaurants, attractions, and lodgings on social media—tag your posts with #ACST2015 to help generate buzz! We'll gather nominations until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2, then we'll review them to narrow the list to 15 finalists. We'll use your votes (from BudgetTravel.com and from social media posts tagged #ACST2015) as a guide, and also look for diversity in geography, attractions, architecture, and other factors we consider cool. In January, we'll post the 15 finalists and ask our audience to cast their votes. In February, we'll announce the 10 winners. Wanna know what it really feels like to live in America's Coolest Small Town? It all starts today. Nominate Your Town Now!
Surprise! These Are the World's Top Honeymoon Destinations
Wedding "party," indeed! Vegas, baby, Vegas is the most popular spot in the world to honeymoon, according to new data from Facebook—but it's not U.S. residents who are making it No. 1. International newlyweds most want to live it up in Sin City. That factoid and others were uncovered after the latest round of stat-crunching from the Facebook Data Team. The social network examined information from users who posted a "marriage event" this year and then checked in somewhere 20 miles or farther from their hometown within two weeks. Voilà: crazy amounts of intel about who's honeymooning where in 2014. A sample like this isn't comprehensive, of course, but it does provide a voyeuristic snapshot into the romantic-travel plans of a certain social-media-savvy demographic. Here are some of the more fascinating findings: After Vegas at No. 1, Hawaii and Mexico are the next most popular honeymoon locales for couples around the globe. Top destinations for all (international + U.S.) couples: 1. Las Vegas, USA 2. Lahaina, USA 3. Honolulu, USA 4. Playa del Carmen, Mexico 5. Cancún, Mexico 6. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 7. Montego Bay, Jamaica 8. Antalya, Turkey 9. Castries, St. Lucia 10. Gramado, Brazil Among U.S. couples, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, is the No. 1 spot for a honeymoon. Top destinations for U.S. couples: 1. Lahaina, USA 2. Castries, St. Lucia 3. Honolulu, USA 4. Montego Bay, Jamaica 5. Las Vegas, USA 6. Gros Islet, St. Lucia 7. Playa del Carmen, Mexico 8. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 9. Ocho Rios, Jamaica 10. Cancún, Mexico Ever-classic Hawaii is right up there again—in fact, Facebook says, if you zero in on U.S.-only honeymoon hot spots, destinations in Hawaii make up half of them. U.S. couples traveled a median of slightly more than 500 miles away from home. Compared with the 70 other countries included in the roundup, the U.S. is almost smack dab the middle, as far as in distance traveled for a honeymoon. Couples from South Korea, Italy, and Qatar traveled the farthest—up to about 4,000 miles for South Koreans. One hundred-plus couples flew more than 12,000 miles away for their getaway—literally halfway around the world. (Sayonara, in-laws!) Facebook says Spanish couples who traveled to New Zealand and Peruvians who traveled to Thailand were a large portion of them. Only 19 percent of U.S. newlyweds took an international trip. Why do U.S. couples tend to stick close to home? Romantic-travel expert Susan Breslow Sardone, of About.com and author of Destination Weddings for Dummies, said the reasons could be economic, but the U.S. is no slouch when it comes to bringing the romance. "We've got a very diverse and interesting country," she says. "So whether a couple wants to honeymoon in a tropical location like Miami and the Keys, ski the great mountains of the Rockies, go camping in the open West, or experience cities with fantastic cuisine like NYC and San Francisco, they don't need to cross an ocean to do it." Let's keep this conversation going. Like Budget Travel on Facebook and share your honeymoon advice!
5 "Boomtowns" You MUST Visit ASAP
It's crunch time! Bloomberg recently released its list of cities around the globe that will be the most crowded in the year 2025. The top five? Hong Kong; Salvador, Brazil; Mexico City; São Paulo; and Singapore. All the more reason not to put off traveling to these destinations any longer! Bump them up on your bucket list instead, using some of our favorite travel tips for each town as guidance: Hong Kong. Go during the Chinese New Year celebration, in February. High season in Hong Kong is December, so by waiting a couple of months, you'll not only save on airfare and hotel rates, but there are fewer visitors and less hotel occupancy. Plus, you'll get to attend the annual Hong Kong Arts Festival, which takes place around the same time. Salvador, Brazil. Consider checking out Salvador's Carnival as an alternative to Rio's. The celebrations are just as eye-popping, but most events are free. Mexico City. A mere $4.50 buys you admission to the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, which Rivera himself designed. Inside are thousands of pre-Hispanic pieces from Rivera's own collection. São Paulo. Completely free and constantly changing, Beco de Batman, in the Vila Madelena neighborhood, is a long, winding alley of gorgeous street art. Think of it as an open-air graffiti gallery. Singapore. For less than $10, you can score a full meal from a “hawker centre”—an outdoor collection of halls that sell inexpensive food, such as chicken satay and a wide variety of noodle dishes. To avoid tourist traps, dine with the locals at Chinatown Food Centre, Maxwell Food Centre, or any neighborhood hawker centre.