Posts by Valerie Bonk

The “Day of the Dead,” or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is a national holiday celebrated in Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2. Families and friends gather together to remember and pray for those who have died. Dia de los Muertos is famous for its ornately decorated skeleton costumes.

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Photo by Getty

Much like the hit show Breaking Bad caused an influx of visitors to Albuquerque, NM, this year, the newest take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, that premiered on Fox last month, is leading flocks of curious visitors to vacation to the tiny New York town of the same name.

Sleepy Hollow village administrators have noticed a significant increase in the number of visitors wandering around Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the Headless Horseman Bridge with several tours of the area selling out as early as September – something that just doesn’t happen.

Sleepy Hollow, which was just picked up for a second season, is loosely based on the 1820 legend, but with a modern twist: Protagonist Ichabod Crane has been resurrected centuries after his death to save the town of Sleepy Hollow, and of course the world, from forces of evil.

The village, located on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, is home to “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” author Washington Irving’s gravesite and served as inspiration for the made-up town where Irving’s story of the legendary “headless horseman” took place.

The town of Sleep Hollow is embracing its new-found fame and record website traffic, creating a spooky commercial encouraging visitors to trek to the area featuring ghosts, ghouls and the headless horseman himself shopping for groceries and going about normal everyday activities.

And the attention might only gain more steam. Rumors from the show’s production company are that the cast itself will visit the town and are looking for possible storylines from the iconic area to bring to prime time television.

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Halloween Destinations
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Diplo, Prince George, the Red Sox and even Frankenstein make an appearance in this week in photos. See what some of our favorite blogs, including Buzzfeed and Nomadic Matt, have in store in this week in travel.

Do you have plans on where you’re going to hide during the zombie apocalypse? A viral post on Buzzfeed featured a town in Australia that is so far away from civilization that outer space is, in fact, the closest destination. You might want a buddy for companionship if you find yourself traveling to Western Australia anytime soon.

Two Boy Scout leaders were removed from their positions after a trip to Utah went awry last week. During a visit to Goblin Valley State Park, the leaders pushed over an ancient rock formation that is about 170 million years old and posted a video of their actions on Facebook. The leaders said that the rock formation was loose and they feared it was “dangerous” to the safety of the scouts. Park authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into the incident.

Are you a “travel hacker?” Nomadic Matt says you should look into it. Travel hacking is a term used to describe those savvy frequent fliers who strategically use their “miles” to get free flights. While it may sound complicated and not worth the hassle, he says that’s not an excuse and that with a few tips you can be racking up free transportation in no time.

If you think that the person you shared a taxi with was a little rude or wild and crazy…you haven’t seen anything yet. VICE has “exposed” some of the unbelievable behavior that takes place in taxis these days. After watching this video, you’re going to want to give a cab driver a hug.

Haunted houses, costume parties, and trick-or-treating are often seen as the “traditional” Halloween events that many Americans participate in each year. But one of the increasingly popular attractions taking over fall includes a stroll through real creepy crawlies, bats and “unnatural mysteries” at one of the nation’s zoos.

Coined as a “boo at the zoo,” the events attract people of all ages and offer a twist to the standard neighborhood trick-or-treating. As you prepare to make your Halloween plans, take a look at these 5 popular October zoo events:

1. Oakland Zoo  (Oct. 26 and 27)
Children get a free ride on the “spooky boo train” as well as access to exclusive trick-or-treating among the animals at this zoo-wide event at the Oakland Zoo in California. The event is included with admission and offers participants a chance to make treats for the zoo’s animals and explore monster myths through educational stations.

2. Smithsonian National Zoo (Oct. 25, 26 and 27)
Collect candy while visiting the animals and Halloween decorations at the Nation’s historic zoo in DC. While it’s not exactly cheap (tickets are $30 for non-members), the event sells out and benefits the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) foundation.

3. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Oct. 25, 26, 27 and 31)
Watch hippos play with pumpkins, rhinos explore ghosts and birds fly above your head at the Cheyenne Mountain “Boo at the Zoo” event. The “creatures” of the zoo are “let out” at this annual event as zoo keepers put on multiple educational Halloween-themed shows.

4. Bronx Zoo (Now through Nov. 3)
Encounter a dinosaur safari and creepy craft workshops at the Bronx Zoo’s annual Halloween bash. Visit the “winged icons” of Halloween, including bats, owls and vultures, before embarking on a trip back in time through a dinosaur safari during the annual New York tradition.

5. Tampa’s Lowry Park (Oct. 24 through 27)
The Halloween zoo event at Tampa’s Lowry Park is so frightening that there are “skull ratings” for the attractions. Features include “Pharoh’s Tomb of Revenge” where artifacts come alive and the scariest ranked attraction of all, “Tangled Terror,” which features a “failed experiment” with carnivorous plants.

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Halloween Destinations
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Photo courtesy Disney

More than 2 years after the announcement of an Avatar-themed land at Animal Kingdom Park, Disney has released much anticipated details of the plans to idolize James Cameron’s blockbuster movie through rides and attractions.

The new “land” is expected to open to the public in 2017 and will transport visitors to the mythical world of Pandora featuring floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees. The expansion will be the largest in Animal Kingdom history.

The detailed plans were released at the first ever D23 Disney fan expo in Japan, with Cameron appearing in a video filmed on the Avatar performance capture stage to talk about the inspiration for the new park.

Photo courtesy Disney

“In my wildest imagination growing up I don’t think I could have ever envisioned a day when something that I created would live inside a Disney theme park,” Cameron said.

Features of the new attraction include chances to “fly” across the planet on the wings of giant creatures as well as explore the scenery of the mythical planet.

“The land comes to life when you interact with it and seems to be a living creature itself,” said Joe Rhode, a veteran executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. “All of the beauty, the wonder, the scale, the grandeur that you remember from that film, that’s going to be yours.”

Even though the announcement comes more than 8 years after the release of Avatar, the hype of the “blue people” will continue through the opening of the new attraction with the premiere of Avatar 2 in 2016, Avatar 3 in 2017 and Avatar 4 in 2018.

The International Balloon Fiesta floats into Albuquerque, NM, a sea of pink washed over the NFL and toasts were made at Oktoberfest in this week in photos. Not to be outdone, Betty White makes an adorable appearance in this week’s travel news roundup.

Whether you need to review your safety guidelines or not, take a 4-minute break from work and watch this video from Air New Zealand featuring none other than 91-year-old Betty White, explaining  “safety old school style.”

Unfortunately you have to wait a little longer to see if you will be able to keep your electronic devices on during flights. Due to the government shutdown, the highly anticipated ruling from the Federal Aviation Administration on in-flight use of electronic devices has been delayed because of the required furloughing of 15,000 FAA workers.

And if you’re looking to take traveling to the next level, this week Nomadic Matt has 27 golden rules for “becoming a master traveler.” The tips –- which he says will give you “expert ninja-like knowledge” of travel — include getting a no-fee ATM card, using tourist boards, avoiding taxis and traveling alone at least once.

If you’re one of the many pet lovers who faces the difficult dilemma of finding a place to board your pet that’s both safe and convenient, airports are looking to help you out. Several airports across the nation including New Orleans International, Houston JFK and Chicago Midway have opened on-site pet boarding “resorts” that are open 24 hours a day. Now you can pamper your pooches with “pawdicures” and even have them meet you curbside when your plane lands.

Lake Natron

Photo by Thinkstock

It’s not exactly the vacation capital of the world due to its isolated location, but Lake Natron in Tanzania, Africa, is turning heads for what’s appearing from the depths of its alkaline concentrated water.

Almost everything that goes into the lake comes out dead and mummified, appearing to have “turned into stone.” Ash from volcano Ol Doinyo contaminated the lake, creating high concentrations of soda and magnesite that make it impossible for animals diving into the lake to survive.

Photographer Nick Brandt came across “calcified” birds and bats during a trip to the area. He captured images of the animals that he placed in poses as if they were still alive and published them in a new book titled “Across the Ravaged Land.”

Scientists suggest that the animals are confused by the “glassy” reflection of the water and enter the surface, causing them to get trapped and slowly calcify. The only creatures that survive this concoction are alkaline tilapia; fish that have adapted to the lake’s extreme conditions. Flamingos in the area can also survive standing in the water because of the protective skin or “shell” on their legs.

While the views and images from the area are striking, most travel sites say the lake is most appreciated from above as getting to the lake itself can be treacherous. It’s a 5-hour drive from the safari camps of the Serengeti’s Loliondo area and the accommodations at Lake Natron consist of tarp covered tent areas.

Also, with lake surface temperatures soaring above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a water PH level equal to pure ammonia, and an evaporation rate that is ten times that of the region’s rainfall, it’s not exactly an ideal swimming or fishing hole.

But for the intrepid traveler, the views and science behind the area can make for an unforgettable experience.

This Week in Photos

The US government shut down for the first time in 17 years, thwarting tourists’ plans in Washington, DC — but it was business as usual for the rest of the world in this week in photos. Whether you’re trying to salvage your vacation — or trying to forget the whole thing — our favorite travel bloggers came to the rescue.

If you had a trip planned to one of the nation’s nearly 400 national parks, historic sites and monuments in the near future, you’re most likely working on rescheduling your vacation. The Daily Traveler has put together a list of government shutdown alternatives featuring ways to visit historic sites and still get a dose of history to work around the indefinite closing of the nation’s national monuments and parks this week.

When it comes to planning your next trip, Nomadic Matt has 17 easy tips to help with the process. Stemming from his personal experiences, Matt’s helpful tips include everything from picking a destination and planning activities to automating your bills and telling your credit card companies you’re traveling.

When you’re tight on money for the trip you’re planning, Johnny Jet suggests that travelers remember there’s always a couch to stay on if you can’t afford a hotel. Couchsurfing.org matches adventurous travelers with hosts that open their homes to strangers looking to explore the globe.

If you’re flying this fall and find that the airplane seats are a little too close for comfort, know you’re not alone. According to a post on Gadling, 9 out of 10 passengers would like to see reclining airplane seats banned. Next time, look behind before you recline.

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