Unique Gift Ideas for the Travelers In Your Life

Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show

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Travelers can be hard to buy for. They usually pack light, have already bought what they need, and not everyone likes trinkets and stuff. As someone who loves gifts, but cherishes the experiences more I can totally get that. This year I’m putting together a list that’s (hopefully) more meaningful for travelers and super helpful for people searching for gifts.

Book Subscription

Books are one of the things that let you travel when you’re stuck at home. They’re also an easy item to pack. I love book subscriptions because so many support small bookstores and they allow the subscribers to customize their picks for a more personal experience. Currently, I subscribe to Book of the Month and I’m choosing between The Book Drop and Page1 Books if you needed suggestions. Another fun way to share the gift giving experience? Swap books with a friend or leave/take a book at a Little Free Library anywhere in the world!

If you want to take it a step further, I make book adventure boxes. (Sorry for the shameless plug). Each of my boxes comes with a book from a genre you choose, a handmade bookmark, a handmade postcard, an add-on item that goes with the theme of the month, and a scavenger hunt. This scavenger hunt lets you experience the book’s events, tastes, etc as you read it. Plus you can take all of it on vacation with you! Check out my store here or on Etsy.

Photo or Art Print of their Favorite Place

Sometimes the best gift is remembering some of your favorite places. Whether you print out a favorite photo your friend or loved one took on their travels or you have an artsy print made for them, the meaning behind it will be there and inspire happy memories.

Most of the prints on my walls are photos I’ve taken that have especially great memories attached and I love seeing them everyday. It makes me want to travel more, but I’m motivated to plan something epic so I can look back on those photos the same way I do with the ones already on my wall. I also have a few art prints of my current town, because hey, it’s home and I love it. There are endless options for it and picking something custom like that is part of the fun of the holiday season.

Spices to Experience New Tastes

Food is always a highlight of traveling. You get the chance to experience authentic tastes, try new foods, and discover new combinations. Eating at a local restaurant featuring the same cuisine will take you back, but eating out for every meal just isn’t a good idea. That’s where spices come in.

A spice shop opened up around the corner from me and it honestly changed my cooking experience. We’d always buy our spices and herbs from the grocery store and had no idea what we were missing until we tried the “real” stuff. Do yourself and everyone on your list a favor and send them samples of spices and herbs they love or haven’t tried before from someone who makes them for a living. The level of taste is mind-blowing and takes me back to my travels every single time.

A Class or Local Experience

Foodie traveler on your list? Try a cooking/baking class as a gift.

Booze-loving traveler you need a gift for? Try a local wine tasting or brewery experience.

There’s so many ways to get creative with gifts for people who love to travel. It’s almost guaranteed they love to try new things and will always be up for a fun, new experience they can share with you and other loved ones. Once you know what activity your friend would love, you can start searching your area for fun experiences to share!

It’s also a fun way to challenge yourself on keeping your gift-giving budget reasonable. For active travelers you can give them a coupon for a hike with you whenever they choose. You can also have a baking competition in your house or something equally as fun without breaking the bank.

Self Care Items

Ever come home from a trip feeling like hot garbage? I think we all have. That layer of airport smell and feel that lingers on your skin and clothes. The overall tiredness of your brain. The funk you get in to come home to a pile of laundry and stuff to unpack and work to go back to. Ugh. Time for some self care.

Travelers are notorious for pushing through and dealing with uncomfortable situations, but we often forget to treat ourselves and take care of numero uno once we get home. Coming back to reality is much easier knowing I have clean pjs, fuzzy socks, bath bombs, and face masks waiting for me at home. It’s also great knowing these make fantastic stocking stuffers.

What Other Items Do You Love As a Traveler?

Let me know in the comments below! Also, I’m not affiliated with any of these links (except my own store!). I just love the products and have gotten them recently, so I wanted to share the love and promote some local, small businesses!

I’d love any recommendations you have so I can finish my holiday shopping as well!

An International Twist on 10 Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes

I don’t know about you, but the same dishes and seasonings year after year have me bored. That’s why I wanted to share something different this year. Traveling is somewhat getting back to normal, but why not bring the travel to your own kitchen this holiday season? If I hadn’t already prepped and gotten ingredients for Thanksgiving I would be making so many of these.

Whether you use these as inspiration for your cooking this year or just enjoy the mouth-watering that comes with looking at these recipes, I hope you enjoy this foodie post. I love bringing an international twist to my cooking whenever possible and wanted to share a holiday version with you!

A Twist on Turkey

Photo from RachelRayMag.com

There’s no doubt that turkey is the main attraction for Thanksgiving meals, so why not spice it up? Literally. Many people complain that turkey isn’t super flavorful and that’s such an easy fix.

South Korea is home to some of the best and most unique flavors on the planet. Think kimchi, bulgogi, and gochujang. Almost all of their spices and marinades pack more than a mouthful of explosive and delicious flavors into any dish. Try this recipe for Sweet & Spicy Korean Braised Turkey if you like somewhat spicy foods with a subtly sweet flavor in there as well.

Tandoori Turkey is another way to shake up your turkey gobbling. I adore Indian food, but my body can’t handle super spicy foods. Trust me, no one wants to see me sweat profusely and turn awkward shades of red. However, tandoori turkey is a blast of flavor without the spiciness and oh my goodness I can’t wait to try this. With blends of garam masala, paprika, and garlic you just really can’t go wrong.

A Twist on Side Dishes

Photo from GlobalTravelAdventure.com

It’s impossible to not be bombarded by squash during the Fall in the United States and it just gets worse around Thanksgiving. I love squash and eat it almost every day, so I’m constantly looking for ways to change up my recipes. Then I discovered the recipe for Zimbabwean Corn and Cheddar Stuffed Squash and my life changed. Two of my favorite veggies AND cheese in one dish? This is a need.

If you’re not familiar with Za’atar it’s a blend of many spices commonly used in the Middle East. It typically contains oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and basil. Instead of your typical dinner rolls, why not try Za’atar Flatbread for a cultural infusion of delicious into your meal?

Photo by Christina Holmes on foodandwine.com

In my opinion, meals are always better when you add Central and South American spices and flavors. Chipotle Roasted Carrots are the perfect example of this. Whip up some mole poblano which contains chiles, raisins, and even chocolate or roast carrots in a smoky chipotle adobo style for a veggie dish you won’t forget.

Chinese spicy mashed potatoes? Oh la la count me in. Lao Nai Yang Yu Potatoes recipe is such a fun twist on plain potatoes. With garlic, chiles, green onions, and Chile paste, this not only adds a pop of color to the dish but creates a massively flavorful side dish everyone will love. If spicy isn’t your thing, you can always substitute the chiles for a pepper that’s less hot.

A Twist on Stuffing

Photo from chowhound.com

Stuffing has never been my favorite, but if I had Israeli Couscous Pilaf with Dates, Almonds, Cinnamon, and Parsley on the menu I’d inhale it and go back for several more servings. Instead of stuffing your turkey with plain bread why not try couscous that adds even more flavor with cinnamon, fruit, and parsley as an alternative to stuffing.

At some point you’ve probably thought that making a turducken is way too complicated but it would be amazing. Maybe that’s just me. Then I discovered people add sausage to their turkeys as stuffing and my mind was blown. THEN I found this recipe for Smoky Chorizo Stuffing that nixes the sausage and uses chorizo and I basically died and went to culinary heaven.

A Twist on Dessert

Photo from bhg.com

Dessert is one of my all-time favorite things. If I have the opportunity to bake or taste a new dessert, I won’t say no. Thanksgiving desserts are typically pies and an overload of pumpkin. I wanted to find something a bit different to keep the international twist going.

Maple Pecan Baklava seems like the best alternative to a traditional pie. You get lots of flaky layers as well as the traditional maple and pecan flavors. Baklava can be customized with so many fun flavors that the options are pretty much endless in what you can create.

Is it Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? Probably, but something would feel off. Pumpkin pie can be quite boring without ice cream or something to drizzle on top. This Dulce de Leche Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie takes the boring and completely blows your tastebuds out of this world. You get the pumpkin with fantastic dulche de Leche. Then you add a crunch to break up the creaminess and then you can drizzle chocolate or any other drizzle on top to make it even more special.

Which Recipe Is Your Favorite?

I feel like I need to make all of these basically any time I have people over for dinner. I’m cooking tomorrow and you can bet that I’m going to add an international twist to my dishes this year!

Exploring NYC in One Day: A Photo Story

There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless

Simone de Beauvoir

I live in Lancaster, PA which almost no one has heard of. I hadn’t even heard of it until Will had a job interview here. Luckily, it’s an amazing, small city that’s 1.5 hours from Philly, 2 hours from Baltimore & Washington D.C, and 3 hours from NYC.

When I lived in England, I had two INCREDIBLE flatmates who I’m lucky to say I’m still friends with 9 years later. One of them, Olivia, told me she was coming to NYC and I knew I had to take the train over to meet her, so that’s exactly what I did.

We spent the day with absolutely no plan except to enjoy spending time together for the first time in almost a decade. How does that even happen!? Anyway, we had the best day and I wanted to share it here.

Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you have to spend a fortune to have an incredible trip to New York. I spent $20 over the course of the entire day and that was just on food. I did a post a while back about it as well and you can find that here. Was this the most touristy of trips? Nope, but I discovered places I’d never been with one of my favorite people and hopefully I can inspire someone else to explore more of this city without spending a fortune!

Getting There

I knew I didn’t want to drive to the city, so I could relax and not worry about traffic so I booked a train from Lancaster to Penn Station. My local Amtrak website didn’t have tickets available, so I booked through Wanderu. I’d never heard of it before so I was nervous using it, but it was so easy to use, got me where I needed to be, when I wanted to be there. Highly recommend! The train was uneventful (woohoo!) and I alternated between falling asleep, reading, and watching the world go by out the window.

Times Square and the Search for Breakfast

Olivia and I got so caught up in talking and catching each other up on life that we realized we had walked over a mile and were hungry. Now, you can’t go to New York and not get bagels. You just don’t do that. Not when there’s no other bagel one the planet that can live up to them. I promise this isn’t a myth.

We didn’t want a bagel in one of the tourist spots and by the time we realized we were hungry we’d walked all the way to Times Square. After some research we found a local spot that seemed like it had the best bagels ever according to reviews. What was it called? Best Bagel and Coffee. Back towards the train station we walked.

Ho-ly shit were they the best bagels ever. I kid you not, it was the best bagel I’ve had in my life. Asiago bagel with sun dried tomato cream cheese. I need more in my life. Yes, I will go back to NYC just to get bagels from them.

Bryant Park

Neither of us had ever been to Bryant Park and we’d heard there was a Christmas market going on as well as ice skating. We spent a little while exploring the stalls and seeing all of the fun holiday items people had made.

Bryant Park also offers free ice skating in their rink… what they don’t tell you is they charge $15-45 for skates. Guess how much the adult sized skates cost? Yeah. Needless to say, we skipped the ice skating and wished they didn’t advertise it as free. It was cute to watch though!

The Drama Book Shop

After wandering for a few miles, we stocked up on snacks and stumbled on this bookstore. It sells books focused on theatre, film, and TV and had the COOLEST book display I’ve ever seen. There were lots of cute reading nooks and it even had a small coffee shop inside. It was book/film heaven.

All of the Walking and Exploring

We wandered back towards Times Square to meet Olivia’s brother and then set off walking again. This time, it was towards part of the city I didn’t even know existed. The High Line is a linear park that’s elevated and used to be part of a railway system in the city. Now it’s a park and trail that gives visitors a fantastic view of the city and waterfront near Hudson Yards. It’s lined with lots of plants, making it one of the prettier spots in the city.

Along the way we explored Chelsea Market and we saw The Vessel for the first time!

Another New York Staple

The other food you can’t miss in New York? Pizza. Stella’s Pizza was freaking amazing. You can get two giant slices and a soda for $5. It’s worth every single glorious bite and then some.

What’s your favorite part of visiting New York City? Let me know in the comments below!

Airydale Retreat Glamping Weekend: A Photo Story and Review

A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions

Oliver Wendell Holmes

I started a new job as a personal trainer a few months ago at a new gym and love it. However, getting a lot of new information at once and a ton of new clients then a promotion and new responsibilities left me wanting a vacation. Will worked almost 6 weeks straight without a break working 12 hour shifts. We were TIRED. We were burned out. We booked a mini vacation.

Our friends had recently stayed at a glamping site, Airydale Retreat, and loved it, so we decided to check it out. We fell in love with their Cardinal sites because it was 1. dog friendly, 2. had a freaking SLIDE, and 3. looked super cozy and had great amenities.

Our weekend for a cozy, mini road trip, super fun getaway was booked for Halloween weekend and we couldn’t have been more excited. Below are all of the things we got to and what what we thought about them! Spoiler alert: we had a fantastic time and would absolutely do this again.

Friday, October 29

It’s raining, it’s pouring, it’s… the perfect time to take a road trip… Yeah. To say it poured down raining would be an understatement. However, we got the car packed, the pups in the car, and we were off to our first stop also known as lunch! We stopped in Harrisburg, PA to visit Ever Grain Brewing which is a favorite food stop for me and a favorite beer stop for Will.

Highly recommend this grilled cheese sandwich.

We rolled up to the entrance which was nestled in a super cute valley with a view of the mountains in the distance.

It stopped raining for the most part so we got to explore and settle in without getting drenched. Oh. My. Goodness this campsite was adorable. The tent was massive, the fire pit and cooking area was huge and well provisioned with a skillet, dutch oven and some utensils, and there were plenty of spaces where we could curl up and relax.

Atlas loved getting to chase sticks and roam around and Mickey had some great new smells to explore. Inside was just as cute! Yes, I brought too many books to a weekend vacation. I’m living life to my fullest.

It started pouring again, so we opted to get takeout instead of trying to light a fire in a torrential downpour. Will got us pizza from Speck’s Deli & Gourmet Pizza and it hit the freaking spot.

Supreme pizza from Speck’s = supremely delicious pizza experience. That night was pretty cold, however we took full advantage of the heater the campsite provided and we had brought our own heater and extra blankets. We were pleasantly surprised at how well the tent held heat and honestly the slight chilly room that morning was the perfect excuse to stay in bed a little longer.

Saturday, October 30

The rain stopped overnight so we wanted to take advantage of the kitchen area below the tent. They had a kettle for coffee and a mini stovetop where we could heat up the meal-prepped breakfasts we brought with us.

We can’t go to the mountains or even on vacation without some sort of hike. Will found a trail called 1,000 steps that looked fun, so we set out immediately after breakfast. The trail takes its name seriously and does indeed have 1,000 steps that let you climb the mountain almost vertically. There are plenty of places to take a quick breather and while it was challenging it was a lot of fun.

Sadly, I forgot to get a picture of our lunch from Taste of the Valley. I had a fantastic shredded bbq chicken sandwich and I ate it so quickly I forgot about the picture. I also splurged on a pumpkin whoopee pie and oh my goodness it was next level good.

The rain picked up again by this point so we went back to the campsite, showered, and relaxed. If we had come to Airydale in the summer, the shower would’ve been perfect. I’m a huge wimp in the cold and while the shower did have hot water, it just wasn’t substantial. It did what it was intended and I appreciated that.

We decided to beat the rain and visit a local brewery that was dog friendly. We ended up at Shy Bear Brewing and were so happy we did. Our dogs were allowed in their enclosed patio so we were all super warm, the staff loved on our dogs, and the food/beer selection was so diverse and tasty. I honestly will plan another trip back to the area just to eat at this place again.

What do you do after eating delicious food and enjoying a date with your boyfriend and dogs? You go back to your campsite and take an hour to light the fire because everything is soggy and appreciate the effort he makes to give you a cozy campfire experience. In the end, we got it lit and enjoyed hanging out and reading by the fire.

Sunday, October 31

Sunday morning found us sleeping in again and loving life. Unfortunately the weather decided it didn’t love us and started to rain…again. We hung out for a bit, but decided to pack up early and find breakfast somewhere on the way home. One of my biggest regrets from the trip was not being able to go down the slide because it was soaking wet. Next time!

We found a cafe called Standing Stone Coffee Company that looked good and told us their patio was dog friendly. Win! We drove there and basically had the hardest time choosing just one meal from their menu. They might be a small town cafe, but the space had a giant personality that was welcoming and fun. The food was just as great.

We would 100% go back and honestly wish they had a location in our town. After we enjoyed our breakfast we drove back home. Keeping up with the fact that it was Halloween we listened to the true crime podcast called Morbid. Because what better way to end a weekend in the woods during spooky season than with a scary recounting of serial killers?

Ever since we moved to Lancaster we love handing out candy to trick or treaters. We are lucky enough to be friends with all of our neighbors so we sit on the porch, chat, and have a great time together with all of our dogs. This year Will found matching pajamas for us and the dogs. Trick or treating in the city was supposed to be the Friday we left, but because of the weather it ended up being Sunday so we could participate! The pjs were a huge hit.

International Candies You Need to Try This Halloween

Sometimes I think that the one thing I love most about being an adult is the right to buy candy whenever and wherever I want.

Ryan Gosling

Candy is one of the top 3 best things about Halloween. Yes, as adults you can go out and buy any candy you want at any time…but Halloween adds a dash of nostalgia, there are always sales, AND the selection is way better. Why limit yourself to candy from your own country?

Below is a candy culinary tour of the world featuring some, but certainly not all, of the top candies from several countries you can treat yourself to this spooky season and the rest of the year. Let’s face it, candy is amazing no matter the time of the year.

White Rabbit — China

Photo from says.com

This popular candy has been around since the 1940s. Once you remove the outer wrapping you’ll enjoy an edible layer of rice paper before the creamy vanilla and milk flavors pop onto your tastebuds. It originally came with a Mickey Mouse on the wrapping, but the political climate prompted a switch to the well-known rabbit on the wrapper today.

Akuafo Bar — Ghana

Photo from tradeafricaonline.com

Most of the world’s chocolate comes from Africa, but it isn’t a super popular treat there. Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa beans. The lemon flavored candy bar is named after the farmers who tend the crop and whose efforts allow the world to enjoy its favorite treat.

Cadbury Chocolates — England

Photo from bbc.com

From Creme Eggs to Dairy Milk bars, there are very few chocolates in England that aren’t part of the Cadbury empire. The variety seems endless with the multitude of flavors, textures, and sizes you can choose from. All of them are delicious and worth a try if you cross the pond.

Baci Perugina — Italy

Photo from eataly.com

In the 1920s, a candy maker decided she wanted to do something with the leftovers nuts she had in her factory. As a result, Bacis/Bacios were born. They are milk chocolate whipped with chopped nuts, topped with a whole hazelnut and THEN are covered in a delicious layer of dark chocolate.

Allens Fantales — Australia

Photo from justsweets.com.au

Anyone else love chocolate-covered caramels? They’re called fantales because each wrapper comes with celebrity trivia on them, making them perfect for fans. The candies gained fame in Australia in the 1930s at the same time talkies, aka movies with sound, were gaining in popularity. They still have celebrity trivia on them today!

Brigadeiro — Brazil

Photo from bettycrocker.com

Brazilian chocolate truffles? Get in my belly now. Candy legend says this treat was named after a Brigadier General who lost a presidential election in 1945. As far as candy goes you can even make them yourself pretty easily. Simply make fudge balls and top with sugar or sprinkles. If you’re feeling fancier than that why not try pistachios, matcha, or coconut on top?

Coffee Crisp — Canada

Photo from candywarehouse.com

If Kit Kats make you happy then Coffee Crisps will absolutely bring you joy. However, it’s manufactured in Toronto and isn’t distributed outside of Canada. Oh dang it, you’ll have to plan a trip to an amazing country for candy. The horror! (All the sarcasm). It’s a creamy coffee center wedged between two wafer layers and covered in chocolate. Delicious!

Durian Candy — Malaysia

Photo from prosciuttificiociarcia.com

Durian fruit my be one of the most offensive smells known to mankind, however the taste is another story. The candy itself takes on the creamy whipped cream lie taste with underlying hints of garlic or cheese. Everyone says it tastes different to them and that it is experience. It might not be your new favorite candy, but it’s worth a try!

Lokum/Turkish Delight — Turkey

Photo from gct.com

Turkish Delights are a gummy/jelly candy covered in confection sugar. This treat has been around since the 1700s, so you know it’s got to be good if it can stand the test of 3 centuries worth of time. In its original recipe it’s composed of sugar and molasses or honey. Today more variations can be found including pistachio and pomegranate.

Pass Pass Pulse — India

Photo from mishry.com

These brightly colored candies taste like raw mangoes with a surprise center consisting of powdered spices. The spicy center has a tangy taste that is definitely a different experience for anyone not used to the combination, but it is extremely popular in India and the surrounding countries as mangoes are often eaten with tangy spices.

Mozartkugel — Austria

Photo from tasteatlas.com

f pistachio marzipan and nougat coated in chocolate sounds wonderful to you, then chow down on some Mozartkugels. These chocolates have several wrapper variations depending on where you buy them. Visit the Salzburg confectioner, Konditorei Fürst, to get the original version wrapped in silver and blue. Most other places sell the version featuring Mozart himself.

Daim — Sweden

Photo from sortedfood.com

Daims are a popular Swedish treat made of almond butter toffee coated in milk chocolate. These are the perfect two-bite size chocolate treats to satiate your sweet tooth. While they originated in Sweden during the 1950s, they are popular throughout Scandinavia and Europe.

Beacon Fizzer — South Africa

Photo from afro-caribbeanfoods.com

There aren’t many treats that taste just as good warm as they do when they’re cold, but Beacon fizzers can be enjoyed any time. They’re similar to air heads and are a very chewy candy. With lots of flavors to choose from, like blue buzz, cream soda, strawberry, and apple, you just need to try them all.

De La Rosa Mazapan — Mexico

Photo from buzzed.com

Say hello to Mexican marzipan candy. They might crumble in your hand, but they melt in your mouth with a peanut butter taste. De la Roza comes in small discs and don’t look a lot like candy. However, the smooth peanut butter taste is worth every bite.

Rakovye Sheiki – Russia

Photo from snowymelodie.livejournal.com

When you think of Russia, candy isn’t usually what anyone will think of first. Don’t let the packaging fool you, these are not lobster flavored candies. Their name translates to lobster necks and are very popular throughout the country. Good news, they are caramel-cocoa flavored. Yum!





5 International Destinations Perfect for a Thrilling Halloween

Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Last week I brought you American destinations that were perfect for a Halloween weekend trip. This weekend, we’re venturing abroad for international destinations for anyone who loves spooky season. This list certainly is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to travel destinations for a fun or terrifying Halloween. These are some of the most well-known and well-established places where Halloween has been celebrated for ages.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Let’s get this straight before I dive into this. Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is not a Halloween festival. It’s a meaningful holiday for celebrating and commemorating the deceased. I included it on this list because it aligns perfectly with spooky season as it’s all about the deceased. It starts October 31st and runs through Nov 2.

Festivities, elaborate rituals, night-time processions, street markets, and candle-lit vigils all take place to honor those that have passed and culminates on November 2nd when it’s believe spirits are able to return to their families. Sugar skulls, fantastic costumes, and elaborate parades will have you loving the spooky atmosphere around this time and there’s no better place it see it than in Oaxaca.

Dublin, Ireland

Samhain, the pagan new Year and precursor to Halloween, originated in Ireland. So, why not go directly to the source this Halloween? The original festival celebrated the dead as well as ancestors. It was believe for that one day/night the spirits could access the world of the living and people became afraid to go out at night that one day of the year.

Dublin is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a truly Irish Halloween. The city itself features costumes, fortune telling, bonfires, delicious food, and more. Meath is about an hour away and not to be missed as it hosts the Spirits of Meath Festival with even more Halloween adventures to have. If that’s not enough, pop over to Derry for the epic Banks-of-Foyle Halloween Carnival featuring haunted houses, horror storytelling, ghost tours, among many other events and sites!

Transylvania, Romania

Yes, you can celebrate Halloween in the home of the world’s most famous vampire. Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle, attracts hordes of tourists each year. Romania itself is known for its Gothic architecture which adds an even spookier ambience when October rolls around. Add to that the sordid history, such as the practice of impaling enemies on stakes at the castle. Not just a few either, tens of thousands. It has to be haunted.

Today, you won’t get impaled but you can tour the castle during Halloween to learn about the bloody history as well as other cultural and less gruesome historical facts. You’ll also be able to join tours featuring traditional Romanian dancing, Romanian cuisine, live Medieval music, and a special show including the Count Dracula wedding at Hunyad Castle. Bucharest also celebrates the Day of the Dead so stick around for another celebration after Halloween!

London, England

The Tower of London, Jack the Ripper, and even Sweeney Todd. All are sordid elements of the past that haunt London and all of the ghastly tales combine during Halloween to give you one heck of an experience. Dungeon should be your first stop if you love getting scared. It’s been around since 1976, so it knows how to terrify guests with interactive, face-to-face experiences with Jack the Ripper and other notorious villains. On top of that there are 14 shows and hair-raising rides.

Ghost walks are another fantastic option in the city, especially if you want to get some site-seeing in while you’re immersing yourself in Halloween. You’ll visit the churchyard Queen Isabella haunts, where victims of Jack the Ripper were allegedly drinking, and the site of executions.

Hong Kong

Halloween celebrations are a recent phenomenon in Hong Kong, but that doesn’t mean they are anything less than spectacular. Trick or Treating hasn’t caught on, but festivals, parties, and more abound. Disneyland is one of the biggest places to get in the Halloween spirit. You’ll experience everything related to Disney villains, including an interactive experience with them that’s unique to the Hong Kong location.

Hong Kong’s biggest theme park, Ocean Park, hosts its own Halloween Festival. Don’t miss Asia’s largest Halloween bash with 400 costumed characters and a dozen haunted attractions. There are even street shows and exclusive haunted zones. Technology is what sets this Halloween festival apart from everywhere else in the world. Do virtual reality terror rides sound like a fun time? What about selfies with ghosts using augmented reality? You’ll need to get your tickets to this park.

The city’s party district, Lan Kwai Fong, also hosts block parties and events while the restaurants and bars have themed menus. Just don’t forget your costume.

5 Spooky Season Weekend Trips in the USA to Take for Ghoulish Fun

Halloween was confusing. All my life my parents said, ‘Never take candy from strangers.’ And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Go beg for it’.

Rita Rudner

Don’t worry, I’ll do a worldwide post about this next week! But for now, we’re covering spooky weekend trips in the USA. I’m covering ones you can probably guess and others you might not know about. All are great options for anyone who loves Halloween or some good ole haunted fun.

Sleepy Hollow, New York

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, well you have homework to do. Then once you’re done read this. Finished? Awesome. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is set in an actual town in New York, making it the perfect place to visit during Halloween.

The town holds month-long celebrations that are nothing short of spook-tacular. Cemetery tours are a must here. You can tour the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery from the story where the author is buried, but don’t miss the Old Dutch Cemetery which is one of the oldest in the United States.

Once you’re done mingling with the dead, you’ll need to visit Philipsburg Manor which is transformed into a terrifying haunted house known as the Horseman’s Hollow. The star event is the Blaze featuring over 7,000 gourds lit up and carved for the occasion.

Salem, Massachusetts

You can’t have a Halloween destination list without Salem on it. As the location of the infamous witch trials in the 1600s, the town is synonymous with anything and everything witches. Every October the town embraces its sordid history and takes flocks of tourists through a number of attractions.

Take a candle-lit haunted tour of the city? Don’t mind if I do. A Witch Trials Memorial and the Salem Witch Museum? Yes, please. The town doesn’t stop there. You can visit the Witch’s Ball and a Psychic Fair & Witchcraft Expo. How cool is that? You really won’t find anywhere else more witchy during Halloween.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly is home to some of the creepiest destinations for Halloween. Historical by day, but haunted by night, Philadelphia knows how to scare people. You can keep it tame with a candle-lit tour of the historical parts of the city.

Then you can ramp it up a notch with a visit to the macabre Mütter Museum where you can see slices of brain, a wall of skulls, and many more spooky sights. Eastern State Penitentiary is considered one of the most haunted places in the city and gives off Halloween vibes even during the day. During Halloween season they add an extra evening event where the prison/museum is turned into a haunted house, complete with jump scares.

The haunted houses don’t end there. Philadelphia has the scary attraction called The Bates Motel. It was named one of the best haunted house attractions in the United States, so come prepared to be terrified.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans knows how to throw a party and its Krewe of Boo parade shows off just how creative the city can be. The Big Easy is known for its ghost tours as it’s considered one of the most haunted places in the country. Ghost tours run year-round but are especially spooky during October.

The city hosts a zombie run and its Halloween parade is unparalleled anywhere else with its floats, costumes, and celebrations. Don’t miss their world-famous cemeteries that are bigger, grander, and just all around impressive during the day time but amp up your fight-or-flight response at night during tours.

Add a dash of voodoo that the town is known for and you have an epic Halloween combo.

Long Beach, California

Long Beach might be a great beach trip during the summer, but it transforms itself during Halloween into one of the creepiest attractions you can find. Docked right off the beach is the cruise liner Queen Mary which, during Halloween, is designed to scare the pants off you.

There are 6 haunted mazes nearby with over 200 ghosts and other characters to scare you inside. The Queen Mary itself started life as a luxury cruise liner and was repurposed during World War II where it became known as the Grey Ghost. Today the ship is retired and spends life as a hotel and event venue as well as the home to several ghosts year-round. During Halloween it becomes a magnet for lovers of anything Halloween. You can even spend the night on board if you dare!

Interesting Halloween Traditions from the Victorian Era

The world turned upside down — in a good way — for one black velvet night.

Karen Fortunati

Oh the Victorian era. A time of fascinating words (gigglemugs), bizarre interests, and toxic fashion (think toxic dyes). It also makes Halloween that much more interesting and spooky when looking back. Some Victorian Halloween traditions are quite tame while others make you say “why, just WHY?”. One thing I know for sure, all of it’s entertaining. The Victorians weren’t super creepy, they just took the spooky season as a reason to ramp up their already eccentric behaviors.

Enjoy the first of my Halloween-inspired posts this year as we travel not to a destination but back in time. Don’t forget to check out previous years’ posts for all of the spooktacular travel inspiration. Below are just a few of the traditions Victorians practiced around Halloween.

Nix the Pumpkins. It’s Time for a …Wedding?

Instead of dreaming about ghouls, hauntings, and pumpkins galore, the Victorians got starry eyed and made wedding predictions. There were several ways, some odd and morbid, they would go about this but my favorite is below.

Cakes were baked with a thimble, needle, a ring, or a dime. Get the former in your cake and you’d be a spinster, maybe also with a broken tooth or bleeding mouth if you were unlucky. Get a dime or a ring and you’d have good fortune or wedding bells in your future.

Turn Up for a Turnip Carving

Photo from the English Heritage Blog

Don’t worry, pumpkins were absolutely a carving tradition in the Victorian era, but they weren’t the only gourd they carved. Turnips were a popular vegetable used to celebrate the holiday. They could even be made into turnip lanterns! Imagine walking around and seeing giant pumpkin jack-o-lanterns and their tiny turnip counterparts. I’m sold.

If you’ve never looked up how creepy a turnip can be when it’s given a carved face… you’re welcome for this section’s creepy photo. You might have nightmares, but that’s all part of Halloween. Sorry, not sorry. Carving turnips was actually the tradition before it was discovered that pumpkins were easier to carve. So, if you really want to stick to tradition, ditch the pumpkin patch and find a turnip field.

The Original Halloween Party Decorators

If you were invited to a Halloween party you’d enter the home in near-complete darkness. The only light would come from lanterns, fireplaces, carved pumpkins, and (you guessed it) turnips. Fake snakes made of tin were placed near heat sources which made them look like they were slithering around.

Guests and hosts frequently dressed in black cloaks, because creep factor, duh. If your host had a sense of humor they would shake your hand with a fake hand they’d made with a glove and sawdust.

The Queen Knew How to Party

Queen Victoria took Halloween festivities to a completely new level. One of the more infamous Halloween parties happened at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Here the queen led a procession of torch bearers with a witch effigy carried by a servant dressed as a hobgoblin all the way to a bonfire where the witch effigy was thrown in.

Other years, the crowds became too rowdy and she refused to let them inside the castle. This was probably for the best as a bunch of raucous people brandishing fire isn’t the best for safe indoor gatherings…

Halloween Duds

As with any era, there are some things you look back on and think “oh, honey”. Costumes were one of those. While they weren’t outrageous and they certainly weren’t the skimpy little things people where today, they were, honestly, somewhat boring. The Victorians loved understated costumes. They would embellish their regular outfits instead of donning a costume. Just think of how amazing their parties would’ve been if they went as nuts with their costumes as they did their decorations.

Spooky stories weren’t a thing either. Sorry thriller lovers. Romance stories were all the rage during Halloween to go along with their wedding predictions. Sometimes writers would add spooky elements, but they were typically used for the protagonist to overcome in order to get to their loved one.

Some stories were what you’d expect. Ghost stories were sometimes told around a fire while holding a burning stick. The storyteller had until the fire reached their fingers to finish their ghost story. While that adds an element of drama, it might lead to really rushed stories and no time for suspense.

What’s Your Favorite Part of Halloween?

I’m a huge sucker for the candy and for dressing up my pets for Halloween so they can hand out candy with us on our front porch! Let me know your favorite aspects of spooky season in the comments below.

10 of the Most Colorful Places in the USA

The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.

Anna Quindlen

Fall foliage always dominates fall travel blog posts, but I wanted to do something a little bit different. Yes, I wrote about the amazing fall colors and where to find them last year. Check it out! This year, I’m not limiting myself to colorful leaves. This post isn’t just a splash of color; it’s an explosion of vibrant colors and where to find them.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Oregon

You’ll have to wait until March-May to visit, but the fields on fields of blooming tulips in every color make this an amazing destination for a burst of color. The farm is one of the largest in the country for tulips and boasts over a dozen different varieties. The flowers are planted close together so you get witness a sea of multiple colors once they bloom. There’s even an annual tulip festival you can plan your trip around the get the most out of your visit.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming

Stretching the length of a football field and extending over 10 stories into the earth, this hot spring is not only massive, but a beautiful pop of color in Yellowstone National Park.The deep blue of the center is ringed by green, yellow, orange, and red rings, making it one of the most colorful hot springs on the planet. Thank the heat-loving bacteria that live in the hot spring for the bright colors.

Fall Foliage in Vermont

Vermont might be the world’s leading destination for fall colors. Three-quarters of the state is covered in forest which means you can go almost anywhere in its borders and be wowed by the changing colors of the leaves. Take a hike or a scenic drive to get the most out of your trip. While the town of Stowe is the most popular with tourists, there are plenty of nearby destinations that are just as beautiful.

South Beach, Miami, Florida

Cruise Ocean Drive to see the infamous art deco pastel-colored buildings with their neon lights, bright green grass and trees. Or visit South Beach to see the lifeguard stands that are a fun pop of color and definitely not your normal, boring stands. Miami is a vibrant city and nearly everywhere is bursting with color. While you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for color in this city, South Beach and Ocean Drive are the most impressive.

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Quarter is known for its multicolored homes, vibrant window boxes with bright flowers, and, of course, Mardi Gras beads. Wander all along Bourbon Street during the day to see the houses painted in lots of colors and explore at night to see them lit up and even more colorful. Come during the infamous Mardi Gras celebrations and you’ll see the entire city laden with colorful bead necklaces on every surface of the town.

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Maybe you’re looking for something simpler? Not a blast of every color imaginable? How about a mind-boggling array of shades of blue and white? Stretching from the Juneau Icefield to Mendenhall Lake, the Mendenhall glacier span over 13 miles. You can venture into caves or simply view with the striking backdrop of mountains. Either way, you’ll probably never see so many shades of blue or white from a natural source anywhere else.

Willow City Loop, Texas

Bluebonnets are not only the state flower of Texas, but they are iconic during any spring visit to the state. The best place to see them? Willow City Loop. Take the scenic drive and you’ll see acres of these bright purplish-blue flowers. The color doesn’t stop there. Along the with creeks and tress dotting the 13-mile loop, you’ll see red, white, blue, purple, and pink flowers in the fields. The blooming of these flowers are so popular to see that there’s even a hotline you can call to find out when they will be in peak color.

Cranberry Bogs, Massachusetts

Did you know that Massachusetts is known for their cranberries? Did you know they also grow on vines in bogs formed by glacial deposits? I didn’t either. Take a tour or simply drive by. During the harvest season these bogs turn bright red as the cranberries become ripe, making for a beautiful and unique view. You’ll also get to see the fall colors of the trees in the background for a double whammy of color.

The Palouse of Steptoe Butte State Park, Washington

When you think of the gentling rolling hills and pastoral land in Washington state, you probably don’t think it’s one of the state’s seven wonders. Think again. Hike up to Steptoe Butte at many times of the year and you’ll see a landscape of colorful patches for miles. From lush green to brown depending on the time of year and the stage of wheat growth, these hills look like an ocean. The lighting and shadows also play a part by subtly changing the colors on the hills. It’s super unique and turns wheat from a culinary heavy hitter into a colorful rockstar.

Painted Desert, Arizona

Antelope Canyon usually dominates all talk of scenic Arizona, and holy smokes the bright red and oranges are to die for. However, this destination is less well-known and even more colorful. The desert encompasses over 950,000 acres and stretches from Grand Canyon National Park to Petrified National Forest. The desert looks like a paint brushed against it with hues of orange, white, red, pink, and lavender. Add in the epic Arizona sunset and you’ve got one hell of a colorful landscape view.

Visit the Places That Speak to You

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Andre Gide

I’ve been thinking about travel more than usual lately. This past year has me, and probably all travel lovers, wishing for the day when we can safely travel wherever we want without the risk of infecting someone or getting sick ourselves. While literally EVERYWHERE is on my list to visit, there are places that would mean more to me to visit. If traveling is something you want to try or already love doing, I challenge you to reassess your list.

Whenever I travel I always go see the “must-see” places that are in every travel magazine and blog, but there’s more to a destination than that. Travel might seem like a frivolous activity to some people and that’s okay. However, to me, it’s deeply personal and travel can be one of the most fulfilling experiences if you go about it from that perspective.

Below are just a few of the ways that I plan on making travel a little more special for me in the future, but I want everyone who reads this to get inspired to do the same and choose destinations, activities, and specific sites to see that really speak to who you are in that moment.

It’s Going to Take a Lot of Time and Experimentation

Figuring out what you love, not just what everyone else wants to see or do or what the magazines say you HAVE to see takes time. It will also change throughout your life. Before moving to England, I had very little desire to see my own country. After having my English friends tell me that I had seen more of their own country after a year than they had in their lifetimes it made me reassess. There are TONS of destinations in the USA I want to experience and the travel restrictions for international travel have made me make those a priority.

You won’t know what you like and don’t like until you try it. Keep traveling. Keep experimenting. Keep searching for whatever it is that makes travel magical for you. It shouldn’t just be a way to get out of work and responsibilities. It should, in my opinion, be about making you as happy as possible. That takes time, but it’s worth it. You’ll have many, many more positive experiences if you start being honest and exploring in a way that truly inspires you.

Allow Yourself to Try New Things

Do you always say you hate looking at art in museums? Have you tried immersive art exhibits? What about taking an art class? Don’t think you’re up for crazy adventures? Redefine what an adventure is for yourself. You could go hiking, diving, walking to a new area of town where you’ve never been, or introduce yourself to a local. Hate sand in your toes? Have you tried pebble beaches?

It’s all about perspective. Instead of automatically saying no and limiting yourself, try new experiences. You can always find ways to make them into what is fun for you. Plus, if you’ve never tried it how can you know it’s not one of the best moments of your vacation? Start saying yes, but allow yourself some qualifiers to ensure you’re safe and experiencing it in a ways that’s right for you. Then, assess and see what you enjoyed and what you can possibly try in the future to make similar experiences even better. If you hate it, then you learned something along the way.

Being Anxious or Scared is Part of the Process

Whether you’re trying something new adventurous excursion or are visiting a city where you don’t speak the language, always remember that it’s okay to be anxious and even a little bit scared. If you stayed in your comfort zone you wouldn’t get very far in life. Take small steps towards whatever it is that you want to do, see, or experience. It doesn’t have to happen at once.

One trip can be about doing all of the touristy things and getting an appetizer with some exotic food you’re nervous to try. You don’t have to go from I’d like a smidge of adventure to let’s go skydiving today. Start small and notice what you like, what makes you feel alive, and how you can improve those feelings. Build slowly on that foundation and you’ll be planning the trips of your dreams every single time.

It’s Okay to Be Picky About Your Destination

Once you start to figure out what types of vacations and destinations you can start to get pickier. If you absolutely hate everything about massive cities, you don’t have to plan trips there. Try a smaller, more personable town and see if that is a great comprise, especially if you’re traveling with someone who lives for city travel. When you’re traveling on your own you get to be the boss and make every single decision to your heart’s content.

When you travel with a group, everyone needs to find a happy medium and spend time individually or in smaller groups doing things that are essential for them. Compromising in big groups just has to happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a day or two on your own seeing and doing things that you value the most.

Don’t Ever Forget How to Have Fun in Your Unique Way

What’s fun for me isn’t always fun for everyone else. One of the key parts of traveling with someone else is finding a way to make it meaningful for both of you and coordinating well so that can happen. I like to think of travel as a way to express yourself and to create an experience that is perfectly tailored to you. Will mishaps and setbacks happen? Of course. C’est la vie. That doesn’t mean you stop having fun in the best way you know how.

For me, fun used to be staying out late with friends in clubs. Today, I’m in bed at 10:30 if I’m not already passed out with my face in a book. Your definition of fun will change drastically depending on when and where you are in life and on the planet. Explore. Say yes. Have fun that speaks to you. Life is too short to do anything else.

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