ON A DARK, MOONLESS NIGHT, my friend and I joined a small group as we quietly walked the narrow cobblestone streets of New Orleans, listening to our guide tell tales of the sights around us. She pointed to shadowed, curtained windows, some even shuttered, and described unimaginable acts that took place behind them. She shared stories of horses and wagons rolling along these same streets, carrying the dead. She talked of “people” said to have been spotted for generations. Our group hung onto our guide’s every word as we crisscrossed the city during Haunted History Tours’ New Orleans Vampire Tour. Afterward, over drinks, we recounted the stories we had heard, imagining what had happened in the bar where we sat … across the street … in our hotel … and what spirits and otherworldly creatures may lurk about.
Imagine our surprise the next morning as, snuggled in the comfort of our beds in the hotel room, we tuned the TV to the Travel Channel only to see our guide from the night before telling some of those same vampire stories to a national audience.
New Orleans is considered the most haunted city in the United States, “a place where the dead refuse to rest” and which voodoo queens, professed vampires and other practitioners of the mystical arts call home. This city embraces its darker side and “welcomes everyone: the living, the dead and those souls in between.” In fact, one can enjoy myriad vampire, ghost and cemetery tours year- round, and New Orleans & Company even developed a haunted walking itinerary that highlights spots throughout the city where visitors are most likely to encounter spirits.
When asked about New Orleans’ appeal to those who seek haunted destinations, Sidney Smith, owner, Haunted History Tours, explained, “The earliest French settlers were warned by the Native Americans not to build a city here because the area was cursed. Violent death and strong emotion contribute to hauntings and paranormal activity, and we’ve had no shortage of it.
“A lot of people say, ‘Rest in peace,’” he continued. “But what if you can’t?”
In February the Travel Channel surveyed more than 2,000 people from across the United States about their haunted travel interests and shared its findings in the “Open Mind Strategy/ Travel Channel Quarterly Trend Report.” Through the survey, researchers discovered 51 percent of those asked agree they have an interest in traveling somewhere known for being haunted or having paranormal activities, and when queried, 58 percent agreed they believe in ghosts.
Getting back to vampires, Dracula may be a fictional character dreamt up in Bram Stoker’s mind, but though the author never visited Romania himself, Dracula’s castle was based upon a description of the very real Bran Castle in Transylvania. In his novel, Stoker wrote Dracula’s castle sat “… on the very edge of a terrific precipice … with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm [with] silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.” Voilà — Bran Castle. Last year, the castle remained the No. 1 attraction in all of Romania, welcoming more than 835,000 curious guests. Embracing its vampiric legacy, Bran Castle will host a Halloween party Nov. 2.
The Catacombs of Paris have been an attraction since they first opened to the public (by appointment only) 210 years ago, in 1809. In 2018 480,000 people visited the world’s largest ossuary, or room in which the bones of dead people rest. To reach the ossuary, visitors must descend 113 steps into the cool tunnels, where they follow a nearly one-mile path, flanked with bones and skulls on either side. It takes approximately an hour to wind past the remains of the dead before climbing 112 steps back to fresh air.
Taking another look at Travel Channel’s “Open Mind Strategy” report, 53 percent of respondents indicated they don’t believe in ghosts but might get freaked out in a haunted house. If it’s spooks they’re looking for, myriad options await across the United States, from one-off haunted houses to theme parks completely transformed to add fright to the night.
The haunted house industry takes loads of frightful imagination and surprises to catch even the professionals off guard. That is just what The Darkness in St. Louis did when it opened its doors to the Haunted House Association during an annual trade show in March. It is so frightening, the association deemed The Darkness “one of the best haunts in the entire world.”
Halloween Horror Nights returns to Universal Orlando for another chilling run; it received the Best Halloween Event Golden Ticket Award for 11 years from Amusement Today. Those on the West Coast need not fear — Halloween Horror Nights will terrify park goers at Universal Studios Hollywood, too. Both parks feature Stranger Things from Netflix, and taking a cue from the era of the popular series, “the ’80s return with an all-new vengeance, bringing with them some of the biggest frights from the era.”
Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood will each give park goers bone-chilling thrills with 10 all-new haunted houses full of terror; one of the houses at each park features seasons 2 and 3 of Stranger Things. Each of the two parks also features five scare zones and live entertainment. Halloween Horror Nights, which frights on select nights through Nov. 2 in Orlando and Nov. 3 in Hollywood, promises “no escape from the decade that just won’t die.”
Seeking out thrills and chills is not just for an older crowd, however. This year, Mickey’s Not- So-Scary Halloween Party began mid-August at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and the spooktacular party continues on select nights through Nov. 1. Kids can dress up as their favorite Disney characters or create their own characters; go trick- or-treating throughout the park (teal-colored treat bags are available for those with allergies); mingle with Disney characters dressed in their “haunt- couture”; watch spellbinding performances; and enjoy a new fireworks spectacular complete with state-of-the-art projection effects, lasers and lighting.
On the West Coast, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, get in on the fiendish fun, too. Spooky décor, characters in their Halloween costumes and entertainment that will live on in dreamland can be found throughout the two parks through Oct. 31.
“Haunted tourism is a very real and often overlooked industry,” explained Amy Bruni, co-host of Travel Channel’s Kindred Spirits and owner of boutique para- normal travel company Strange Escapes. “Allegedly, haunted sites are noticing more and more that their ghosts are actually attracting guests — and interest — more than ever before. This has every- thing to do with the popularity of paranormal television and horror films and also the fact that ghosts are a belief system for many. They [people] want to know more, and sometimes the idea of experiencing something spooky and then being able to leave is the perfect opportunity to do so.”
First opened in 1742 by George William Wilton, a seller of oysters, shrimp and cockles near Haymarket in London, Wiltons continued drawing diners with its delicious food for more than two centuries. This summer, Wiltons celebrates its 280th birthday and its place as one of London’s most beloved fine-dining establishments with a unique dining experience.
Whether you prefer a villa on the beach or an ultra-luxe suite downtown, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Los Cabos.
Resting on the edge of Reykjavik’s Old Harbour next to the soaring, sparkling glass edifice of Harpa concert hall and conference center, the brand-new Reykjavik EDITION brings a new level of swish lodging to Iceland’s capital city. Steps from Laugavegur — the city’s main shopping street — and an easy walk to a wide selection of museums, restaurants and cafés, the newly opened hotel delivers high on luxury and service in a location ideal for becoming fully engaged in the energy of this spirited capital city.
Recently, more than 345 million people globally watched OMNIYAT light up the sky for the launch of AVA at Palm Jumeirah, Dorchester Collection, Dubai thanks to more than 500 drones. Now, OMNIYAT will once again illuminate the sky with one light to signify the groundbreaking of AVA at Palm Jumeirah Dorchester Collection, Dubai.
United Airlines remains firmly committed toward sustainability in aviation. The latest development in its eco-conscious goals includes working with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with biotech firm Cemvita Factory. Cemvita looks to develop a revolutionary new way to produce SAF by using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes. Additionally, United Airlines Ventures (UAV) recently announced an equity investment in Fulcrum, and United has invested more in SAF production than any other airline in the world.
In time for summer, the recently opened Palacio Provincial hotel in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, launched a new exploration-driven offer. The Sip & Savory Summer offer includes a mixology tour for two adults, a sweet or savory welcome amenity and a hotel-branded gift.
Considering an autumnal adventure or Thanksgiving trip this year? Well, with walkable cities, cozy pubs and lots of seasonal festivals, the island of Ireland is calling. And if you need more reasons to Press the Green Button and go, take a look and see what awaits you on the Emerald Isle …
Monticello, New York, population 6,400, is an old Catskill town in Sullivan County that thrived from the 1950s–70s, with hundreds of country resorts. Although the town lies just a two-hour drive from Manhattan's cultural attractions, Monticello always seemed light years away in terms of cultural ambiance.