3 Spooky Day Trips & Overnights from NYC

October is just a day away and the season of Instagram-worthy apple orchards, haunted attractions, and corn mazes is officially upon us. October has always been one of my favorite months, but lets be honest, most Halloween events in New York City are not only overpriced but generally underwhelming. Instead, I usually choose to spend my October planning haunted little day trips and spooky little getaways; because everybody needs some autumn plans to distract them from watching the Halloweentown series on repeat, every weekend.

Historic Hudson Valley (approx. 1 hour from NYC)

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This spot has become an annual tradition for me, and offers an array of activities to take part in. One of the most popular Hudson Valley Halloween time experiences is The Great Jack’O’Lantern Blaze, a walkthrough of various pumpkin carved arrangements from Jurassic Park to a fully-functioning pumpkin carousel. Visitors can visit an assortment of historic buildings, purchase tickets to variously themed graveyard tours, and experience Irving’s Legend, a dramatic storytelling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by master storyteller Jonathan Kruk. But one of my all time favorite experiences is Horseman’s Hollow. While you wait, grab some hot chocolate and be alert as you may spot the headless ghoul himself; but the real haunts come during the almost 30-minute walkthrough which passes through historic locations like Philipsburg Manor and Ichabod’s Schoolhouse. While this haunted walk is done at various times, I highly recommend checking the sundown time and purchasing tickets after dark for a way more thrilling experience.

Warning, tickets for each of these events often sellout and typically days before you plan to go so plan on grabbing yours at least a week in advance.

Perfect Addition:

During our annual Hudson Valley day trip, we usually plan to head to the area early to make a stop at Wilken’s Fruit & Fir Farm. September is prime apple-picking season and December is when the Christmas trees are ready for picking, but October is all about the pumpkins. Disclaimer: you won’t actually be picking pumpkins off of a vine, but the assortment of pumpkins you can find scattered throughout the pumpkin patch are perfect for all of your carving needs. And if you happen to visit during the first week of October, you may be able to grab a few good apples along the way.

But if I’m being honest, the Bakery and Apple Farm Market are easily the two best reasons for going. Repeat after me, “apple cider donuts.” Between jams, marmalades, cider, pastries, and Holiday decorations, you may not want to forget your wallet in the car.

Eastern State Penitentiary  (Approx. 2 hours from NYC)

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Eastern State Penitentiary is a former American prison turned historic site, but during the Halloween Season the site opens up as ‘Terror Behind the Walls’, a chilling walk through six different attractions within the cell blocks. When you enter the attraction, you have the option for a spooky experience or a totally haunting experience, your choice of which will be represented by a specific colored glowing necklace. If you choose the spooky experience, you will experience a typical walk through. However, the other options allows the actors to touch you and essentially add you to the show. No, you will not be hurt or locked anywhere you do not want to be. But you may get placed on a girny in the ‘infirmary’ or directed towards a tunnel away from the crowd in ‘the machine shop’. Great actors, outstanding detail, and a hell of a good value.

Perfect Addition:

I highly recommend arriving to Philly a bit earlier and doing the non-spooky day tour of Eastern State Penitentiary. If you’re a history buff, like me, you’ll get a kick out of exploring the cellblocks, seeing art installations, and exploring the area all while learning more about the past through your provided audio guide. You’ll even get a chance to see Al Capone’s outlandishly decorated cell. Visitors can also take part in short, interactive experience through the hospital, dining hall, punishment cells and other areas.

Canobie Lake Park (Approx. 4 hours from NYC)

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After 6PM during the month of October, Canobie Lake Park becomes a Screeemfest. Visitors can expect monsters and zombies, zombie paintball, shows, and five different themed haunted houses: The Culling, The Canobie Lake Hotel, Carnivus, The Village, and Black Hollow Cove. The spook level is high, and the attention to details is even higher; at one point while nervously walking through the Village, you even began getting chased by zombies with what sound like real chainsaws. (Spoiler alert: they’re most likely not real chainsaws.) And should you need to step back from the haunts, head on over to Rocktoberfest! for some cover band rock music which runs the same month as Screemfest.

Perfect Addition:

If you don’t mind a 40 minute drive, head on over into Massachusetts and visit Salem, the town most infamously known for the 1692 witch trials. Between historic landmarks like the Witch House, the former home of a trial judge; the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Musuem, and an array of other attractions, this town makes for an authentic, chilling, and historic October trip.

 

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3 Spooky Day Trips & Overnights from NYC | Halloween Things to Do in October | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

3 Spooky Day Trips & Overnights from NYC | Halloween Things to Do in October | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

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A Week in 3 Minutes | Walt Disney World

 

A quick, sneak-peak at my week at Walt Disney World, where we checked out Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

When it comes to the fall and winter holidays, Disney is worth a visit based on decor alone.

For help planning your own Disney adventure, whether it be in or out of the kingdom, visit Map to Magic Vacations and begin charting the path to your magical adventure!

 

‘Street’ Art of Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Village

The banging of drums sounds from one end of the village to the other. The thick, humid air smells of boerewors and curry. A few steps away stands the entrance to the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, where you just came within yards of lions, warthogs, and as many as thirty different types of wild animals. The signs on the walls, some in Swahili, seem to say “Welcome to East Africa.” 

'Street' Art of Animal Kingdom's Harambe Village | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

“Welcome to East Africa”

But alas, you are 8,000 miles away in Orlando, Florida, in a park that welcomes approximately 30,000 guests each day to ‘Africa’, ‘Asia’, and the newly opened and imaginative, ‘Pandora’.

While Animal Kingdom typically rates below Magic Kingdom and Epcot in terms of popularity, it’s always been my personal favorite. Every inch of theming at the Walt Disney resort is perfection, but there is something about the authenticity of Animal Kingdom that is absolutely capitvating.

'Street' Art of Animal Kingdom's Harambe Village | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

After year’s of visiting, I finally took a stroll through the Harambe Village, while for the first time, realizing just how much street art and proverbial knowledge there is to find on the way.

  1. “You Are Most Beautiful”

'Street' Art of Animal Kingdom's Harambe Village | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

This wall is pretty difficult to find, and used to be the type of spot you happen to stumble upon. However, it’s recently blown up as an Instagram sensation. What you can’t tell by the image is that if you look right, there is a walkway to a behind-the-scene cast member area. Due to the location, it’s the first thing Disney cast members see on their way in and on their way out; and if that doesn’t automatically set you off on the right foot for your work shift, nothing will.

But something about this wall is very sweet and innocent, and despite it’s simplicity, is one of my favorite walls in Harambe Village.

2. “It does not matter who you are or where you are from, we are all children of the world.”

'Street' Art of Animal Kingdom's Harambe Market | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

To me, this quote has so much meaning behind it. It’s also something I wish more people were able to grasp. It’s pretty self explanatory, but I’m sure we all believe (at least those reading this) that regardless of what continent you’re born on, what language you speak, or where you happen to fall on the economic spectrum, we are all children of the world; and the world does not owe you more than it owes anybody else.

3. “To get lost is to learn the way.”

'Street' Art of Animal Kingdom's Harambe Market | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Of all the quotes that bring out my inner wanderer, and there are many, this one really tugs on my travel heart strings. I have always said that I have “reverse-homesickness”. For some reason, I’ve always felt more at home when I’m as far away from home as possible. Yes, because traveling is a passion of mine, but also because life seems to sort itself out, things start to put themselves into perspective, and problems don’t seem as large whenever you take a step back.

There are times when you need to step off of your planned trail in order to find your way, whether it be by traveling, by changing your career, by switching your major, or just making a small change. Sometimes you have to get lost before you figure out in which direction you have to go.

4. “A person who is in too much of a hurry stubs his toe.”

'Street' Art of Animal Kingdom's Harambe Market | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

When I first read this Swahili proverb, it instantly reminded me of the old “slow and steady wins the race” lesson. But once I had some time to think about it, it seemed more about being present. Often we are in such a hurry, or spend so much time focusing on where we want to be, that we miss what’s right in front of us.

Similarly, if you’re walking too fast and not paying attention to what is going on around you, you could stub your toe. And we all know that definitely falls high on the list of worst physical feelings.

5. “Kila mango ha unfunguwo wake.”

'Street' Art of Animal Kingdom's Harambe Market | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

‘Kila mango ha ufunguwo wake’ when translated, means “every door has it’s own key.” I’m sure this could mean a million different things to a million different people, but I personally feel it’s referring to people as individuals.

Each person is unique, therefore each person learns/lives/thinks in a unique way. Similarly, it takes different methods/actions/strategies to make each person open up or to help each person reach their maximum potential.

 

 

I’m sure some of these proverbs and sayings could mean different things to each person, and I’d love to read your interpretations in the comments!

 

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Must-Try Bites at Epcot’s 2017 Food & Wine Festival

I have been to four Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties, Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival, and just experienced my first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and still I think the Epcot Food & Wine Festival may have taken the top spot as my favorite annual Walt Disney World event. While many may overlook the Walt Disney resort when it comes to fine dining or food travel, frequent visitors know that the dining options offered at Disney are most often some of the highest quality dining you will experience. It’s not all Mickey bars and churros.

Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, which is currently in it’s 22nd year, offers visitors a chance to experience cuisine from the around the globe even outside of their showcased eleven countries. From top-notch culinary chefs to the freshest ingredients right out of Disney’s very own greenhouses, this really is a don’t miss event for for food lovers. Recently, I spent two whole days eating around the “world” and while I unforutnately wasn’t able to try every single offering or every single pavilion, I did get pretty close. So starting with my favorite, I’m going to sum up every pound I put on at Epcot’s 2017 International Food & Wine Festival.

 

Brazil: Escondidnho de Carne & Crispy Pork Belly

I had been drooling over the description of Brazil’s Escondidinho de Carne for weeks before the festival. And while this may at first glance seem like your typical meat pie, the seasoned meaty inside takes this simple dish to a whole other level. To top things off, figuratively and literally, the top layer is mashed yucca as opposed to your typical mashed potatoes, adding a mildly sweeter flavor. While visiting “Brazil”, we also grabbed a crispy pork belly; and while I wish the pork had been seasoned a bit more, the tenderness, and black bean and tomato combo definitely helped elevate the mild flavors.

 

Islands of the Caribbean: Jamaican Beef Patty, Mojo Pork – Mojito

The Mojo Pork had an A-rating the minute I laid my eyes upon it just because of portion size. The tapas size portions at the festival are great for sharing, and for saving room for other options but I appreciated the helping of pork after a long hot day. Being half Dominican, I have high expectations when it comes to my pork and the Islands of the Caribbean pavilion definitely did it justice! But with plenty of seasoning and red onions, it’s hard to go wrong. Jamaican beef patties aren’t usually my favorite thing, as I typically prefer the crispier shell of an empanada, but the meat filling of these mini patties had so much flavor and paired perfectly with a frozen mojito.

 

Active Eats: Loaded Mac’n’Cheese and Sweet Avocado Crema

Earth Eats: Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli

The three of these tapas sized dishes were so memorable, I probably wouldn’t be able to rank them in order. The Loaded Mac’n’Cheese, which was loaded with some peppers, onions, bacons and scallions, had a spicy kick to and was topped off with some sautéed bread crumbs it which reminded me of my mom’s hot sauce seasoned baked mac and cheese; always one of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. I wasn’t expecting much from the zucchini and ricotta ravioli, as it’s something I’ve tried numerous times, but it ended up being one of our favorite. The ratio of the filling was perfect, but it was the sweet undertone of the tomato sauce that really made it a winner.

Of course, I had to finish off these two neighbor pavilions with a Sweet Avocado Crema, as I’m not one to walk passed anything with “avocado” in the name. The avocado flavor was definitely there though not as strong as you’d imagine and ended up tasting amazing when combined with the strawberries and moist yellow cake tiers of this mini trifle. A small layer of tortilla streusel added for a tiny bit of crunch. All-in-all this dessert left me super impressed with the innovativeness of Disney chefs.

 

Hawaii: Kalua Pork Slider – Maui Splash Sweet Pineapple Wine

Most of the non-grape wines we tried at the Food & Wine Festival were slightly sweeter than most typical wines and really had the undertone of the fruit base that was used. This one may have had a pineapple undertone, but really just tasted like a typical white wine for the most part; though definitely not a bad white wine.

As for the sliders, I was so upset that each serving only came with one instead of two. The meat, perfectly cooked and seasoned, was paired perfectly with a spicy mayo that reminded me of an aioli. The sliders were finished off with a pineapple chutney and if you know me, anytime I see a dish combing pineapple with a protein base, it’s most likely what I’m ordering.

 

Patagonia: Beef Empanada and Grilled Beef Skewer

For those who may not know, Patagonia refers to the southern most cone-shaped part of South America shared by Argentina and Chile. This was one of the first stops we checked off on our “must stop at” list because…empanadas. Empanadas or Pataleos is one of the staples in my family and while I have tried and love numerous empanada variations (because love comes in all shapes and sizes) the best ones are made by one of my aunts. Well, the empanadas at this year’s festival tasted almost exactly the same. In case you were wondering, that means these empanadas are top notch.

The beef skewer was good, though honestly not much to write home about. The chimichurri sauce was tasty though and I really enjoyed the boniato puree underneath.

 

Germany: Roast Bratwurst and Apple Strudel

Germany has always been one of our favorite pavilions, due in a large part to the sweet smelling caramel shop and the large-sized bratwurst, so we were super excited when we saw the menu. The bratwurst was served in a pretzel role and despite being one of the most flavorful sausages I’ve ever eaten, the pretzel roll tasted nothing like a pretzel roll. But the bratwurst still gets an A+ for flavor.

The apple strudel was warm but served on top of a cold vanilla sauce. If you’re an apple pie fanatic like myself then this is for you; the apples were not only cooked to the perfect balance of soft but still in tact but also were seasoned with just the right amount of cinnamon. It may not look like much in terms of presentation, but it was outstanding!

 

China: Beijing Rosted Duck Bao Buns, Chicken Pot Stickers – BaiJoe Punch

The BaiJoe Punch is a combination of Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit, Lychee, Coconut, and Pineapple Juice. While Coconut and Pineapple are two of my favorite flavors, and I had no issue finishing the drink, it was a bit too sweet for my taste. The Duck Bat Buns were lovely, and so easy to eat due to how tender the duck was cooked; complete with the usual toppings of Hoison sauce, red onion, and scallions.

I did have one issue with the chicken pot stickers, and that that there were only two in a serving. All-in-all China is a must-stop and from what I hear, is one of the most popular pavilions every year. Easy to see why.

Canada: “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon – Apple Ice Wine

If you’ve ever eaten at Epcot’s “Le Cellier” than you’ll understand the appeal of this booth. While steaks at Le Cellier aren’t the cheapest option, the Canada booth pretty much gives you the option to try a steak a third of the pie of the original, for $8. The steak, covered in truffle butter sauce and mushrooms, is easily just as good as its full-sized counterpart. The Apple Ice Wine was also my favorite drink at the festival, giving off the taste of a spiked apple juice.

 

Belgium: Beer-braised Beef and a Belgian Waffle

The Beer-braised beef, wonderfully flavored in it’s own right, was served over Gouda Mashed Potatoes which is what solidified this dish as a must-eat. The addition of roasted carrots adds to the home-cooked stew feel of the dish, which I personally love.

With Florida humidity, safe to say this wasn’t the crispiest of waffles even after only two minutes of ordering. While cutting we expected the worst but surprisingly, the chocolate ganache and whipped cream saved the day and still made this a worth while semi-dessert.

 

Ireland: Roasted Irish Sausage, Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip, Warm Chocolate Pudding – Guinness Blonde Ale

While reminiscing on last summer’s trip to Ireland, we decided to go down the menu when it came to the Ireland pavilion. And while half of our order we’d re-do in a heartbeat, the other half was great just for a try. There’s this quote that reads, “Roasted Irish Sausage is always a good idea”, or something like that. In this case, it definitely a good idea; perfectly cooked with potatoes and onion gravy. Followed by the Warm Chocolate Pudding, topped with a Irish cream liquer, these were two of our favorite dishes while dining around the world.

I had tried the Blonde Guinness at the urging of my sister who was interesed, and all I have to say is…stick to original Guinness. I’m not a general fan of light beer in general, so for those who enjoy it, this may a drink worth trying. While I didn’t strongly dislike the Cheddar and Stout Dip, I didn’t particularly love it. Considering this is one of my favorite dips when munching on bar foods at pubs in New York, I was a little disappointed. But as usual, even my not-so-favorite’s had a saving grace, in this case, the brown bread.

 

Flavors from Fire: Piggy Wings and Sweet Pancake

Flavors from Fire was the first booth we tried at this year’s Food & Wine Festival and it definitely got us pumped for all of the other pavilions. The Sweet Pancake was topped with spicy chipotle chicken sausage, onion jam, and maple butter syrup. If just the description of that dish doesn’t blow your mind, than the taste definitely will. Yet another delicious combination, leaving in awe of the innovation of these chefs.

We had also ordered some Piggy Wings and while the sauce of the Korean BBQ was super tasty, we found them to be almost to tough to bite into and lacking in an adequate amount of meat. But you win some, you lose some.

 

Mexico: Rib Eye Taco

Mexico is usually my go-to pavilion in general whenever strolling Epcot and looking for a pick me up, but I still had to grab a taste during the Food & Wine. The real winner of this dish was the chipotle sauce, which elevated the flavors of the meat and provided a much needed kick. Similarly the decent amount of scallions added some crunch to the sauce moistened tortilla.

While we unfortunately missed out a handful of other pavilions, due to time constraints and lack of adequate stomach space, we had one of the best time’s at Epcot’s 2017 Food & Wine Festival. And while I wish I could’ve described a few of the other things we ate: like the Spanakopita from Greece, Mango Mama Wine from Farm Fresh, the Ginger Pork from Japan, Beef Tenderloin Tips from Africa, and the Chartucerie Cone from Spain, I think it’s best to just say that you should go and have a try for yourself.

From Disney-lovers, to foodies, to wine connoisseurs, the Food & Wine Festival is truly a dynamic event for everyone. For those looking to be even more immersed in the experience, there are seminars and events ranging from wine pairings, to chef demonstrations, to cheese seminars. For travel or design enthusiasts, you’ll get a kick of out the design of each booth which are built to reflect the culture and regions they are representing.

I’m easily an advocate for all Walt Disney events, but the Food & Wine is truly something spectacular.

 

For help booking your visit to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, click here.

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