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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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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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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.

Government shutdown, whatever!: The Statue of Liberty joins the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and national park sites in Colorado and Utah in reopening.

Give me your poor, your tired, your shutdown masses yearning to travel free. On Sunday morning, the Statue of Liberty, the very symbol of American resilience, not to mention beaucoup bucks for New York’s travel industry, reopened her doors to the public for the first time since the partial government shutdown began 12 days before. But don’t thank Congress — New York State will foot the bill of $61,600 a day over the next several days to keep Lady Liberty’s doors open.

The news comes amid some partially hopeful news for travelers and national parks lovers everywhere: On Saturday, Grand Canyon National Park reopened its doors as well, with the state of Arizona forking over $651,000 for the next 7 days to keep the Grand Canyon open. (That amounts to $93,000 a day — less than the $112,000 the feds say is needed to fund park operations each day.)

However, moves by both states – as well as South Dakota, which sees Mount Rushmore reopen beginning Monday, along with national parks in Utah (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, and Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments) and Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) – are the exception. Yellowstone, America’s first national park, remains closed. “Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government,” says a spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead.

In the case of New York State, a lot is riding on the Statue of Liberty’s reopening: The iconic landmark sees 3.7 million visitors a year, generating nearly $200 million in economic activity and supporting over 2,000 jobs. Already Lady Liberty had seen a tough year and a half, suffering extensive damage, along with nearby Ellis Island, from Superstorm Standy. It took a year of extensive rehabilitation before the Statue of Liberty reopened, in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony just in time for July 4 celebrations. Then came the government shutdown, just what everyone needed.

Since the shutdown, roughly 400 jobs have been lost at the Statue of Liberty and nearby park sites, reports CNN. And while the Statue of Liberty just reopened yesterday morning, with state funds temporarily allowing visitors to take the ferry over to the monument on Liberty Island, the state budget is only a temporary fix. While New York has given the green light to fund Lady Liberty for the next few days, it will then assess its financial commitment every 2 days if the federal shutdown continues, says Cuomo.

No no telling what will happen after next week. So if you’re looking to see these great American landmarks, and you’re within traveling distance, now’s the time to visit.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Most tourists visit Paris because there are so many amazing things to do and see like the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles and Sacre Coeur Basilica. But if you’re a friend of felines, then you may want to stop by Le Café des Chats.

Customers can grab a simple breakfast — freshly squeezed orange juice and scrambled eggs with mushrooms — and admire the 12 cats that are usually wandering through the café, perched on their cat condos, or watching passersby from the front window. With more than 11 million cat owners in France, this new cat café might be a new trend.

According to BBC travel, the café’s owner, Margaux Gandelon, took her cue from the 150 cat cafes that have become extremely popular in Japan. Margaux has worked with animal welfare and the health department to ensure proper standards for both the cats and the customers.

Don’t worry — there’s much more to see and do in the City of Light if cats aren’t your thing. Get inspired by our photos of the amazing tourist attractions you can’t leave Paris without seeing. And don’t stop there; enter to win an amazing trip for 2 to Paris. Your perfect Paris getaway awaits!


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Tell cancer to take a hike

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month now in full swing, dozens of organizations nationwide are sponsoring events for survivors and supporters to get out there, have fun … and become a little more courageous. What better way than through travel?

It’s important to participate in an annual Race for the Cure — find one here – but why stop there? Adventures can come in simple treks, even a hiking trip near your home.

Diane Mapes, DoubleWhammied.com blogger, on a Seattle-area hike last October

That’s what Diane Mapes (pictured, left) found. In the weeks before this Seattle-based writer, and blogger of the very fearless (and funny) Double Whammied blog, underwent a double mastectomy in April 2011, she hiked up Tiger Mountain, a small peak just east of Seattle. After surgery, and before chemo, Mapes went to Dungeness Spit, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca (a few hours west of Seattle), and walked all the way to the end and back — 13 miles, in all, that felt pretty good.

“Getting out in nature makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger and that challenges aren’t insurmountable,” says Mapes, speaking from her Seattle home just 2 weeks after undergoing reconstructive surgery. “Travel has been really important to me,” she adds, “even the small trips.”

Beat Cancer, Have an Adventure

Dozens of organizations nationwide promote adventure travel on the road to beating cancer – and both survivors and supporters can participate. Every year, Climb Against the Odds supporters climb the nearly 15,000-foot-high Mt. Shasta in Siskiyou County, CA – sign up for the 2014 climb here. For climbing adventures abroad, check out Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.

Or grab an oar, the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission sponsors dragon boat teams. Bike up for Tour de Pink, which sponsors rides from coast to coast – next one up is in Southern California, Oct. 18-20. Love to fish? Join Casting for Recovery on a fly-fishing retreat in the great outdoors. Or catch a wave with Boarding for Breast Cancer.

Check out There is Life After Breast Cancer for more travel adventure ideas.

Courtesy of Ballpark Boathouse

A week into the government shutdown, tourists and furloughed employees alike in Washington, DC, are asking, “What do we do now?” While we don’t have the answers for when the shutdown will end or what’s going to be the state of our country after, we do have some ideas to take our mind off the shutdown while it’s happening.

So for those who find yourself in DC with some time on your hands, here are a few things to do:

Churchkey

Enjoy Happy Hour … All Day Long
Drink your debt-ceiling worries away at the numerous bars and restaurants in the district that are offering shutdown specials. Nothing like a little comfort food or cocktails to ease stress and put a smile on your face. Check out Washington Post’s growing list of places to eat and drink for less during the shutdown.

See DC From the Water
Tourists and locals should take a chance to see the city from another angle  — from the water.  Ballpark Boathouse, the only public boat rental open during the shutdown, is extending their kayak rental season by staying open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as long as the government shutdown continues (and until the water temperature hits 55 degrees).

Photo by Kathleen Rellihan

Check Out Other Neighborhoods
Tourists might normally stick to the Mall and downtown, but the shutdown of the National Monuments is the perfect excuse to see less tourist-trodden territory. Escape downtown and head to the eclectic U Street neighborhood for a taste of African-American history, indie shopping and inventive restaurants. And on Saturdays, you can check out the new District Flea for some wallet-friendly shopping.

Take Up a New Hobby
Out of work? Put those idle hands to use by learning a new craft. Fibre Space in Old Town, Alexandria, is offering free knitting lessons for federal workers on any day the government is closed. Or perhaps you have always wanted to try yoga, but didn’t have the time. STROGA yoga studio in DC is offering free noon classes to those with a government ID.

Get Snap Happy Outside of DC
While there might not be any photo snapping of national monuments for the time being, tourists and locals can see a different side of the area by taking a photo safari outside of the city. Shoot the barns and bridges in nearby Frederick, MD, or capture the morning light in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, just an hour’s drive away. Or head out on a leaf-peeping adventure outside DC now that fall foliage is starting to peak in the area.

No matter where you are in the US, don’t let the government shut down your vacation.  Here are travel alternatives outside DC during the shutdown.

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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.

Courtesy of Siemens AG, Munich/Berlin

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 8, Londoners will get a first glimpse at the future of the Tube in London. The lnspiro — a full-size model of a futuristic train created by Siemens, the company behind the idea — will be on display at The Crystal exhibition center in Royal Victoria Dock to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.

The world’s first underground railway opened in 1863 between Paddington, in central London, and Farringdon, just north of the city, using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. Today, the Underground is a public rapid transit system serving 270 stations, including a large part of Greater London and parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex counties.

Siemens sees the Inspiro as the Tube’s future. And it’s probably no coincidence that the news of this futuristic prototype comes at a time when the government just awarded funding to the Transport for London to improve the tube service across the capital.

So in a nutshell, here’s quick rundown of the new train’s perks:

  • 30% more space on the train by adding dividing doors between carriages
  • 30% more energy efficient than current models
  • Full air-conditioning across all of its spacious carriages
  • 20% brighter with use of LED lights

Courtesy of Siemens AG, Munich/Berlin

The train can be operated without a driver, which may ruffle feathers at the trade unions if London were to use them in the future. And no word yet on whether the city will make a bid to use the prototype across London. So until then, locals will have to deal with overcrowded trains.

Austin City Limits is here. The annual 3-day music fest kicked off Friday morning in Austin’s Zilker Park, and will draw an anticipated crowd of 6,500 music fans over the coming days.

Just in case you can’t make it to the Lone Star State capital this weekend, though, the event has something new in store for attendees this year: For the first time ever, Austin City Limits will unfold over 2 consecutive weekends. That means if Oct. 4-6 doesn’t work for you, you still have Oct. 11-13 to head on down to Austin. Between now and then, there’s a whole lot in store — here’s a roundup of highlights of Austin City Limits 2013.

The beer alone makes a trip to Austin worth it. This year, Austin City Limits has opened a beer lover’s dream — the brand new, 20,000-square-foot Barton Springs Beer Hall. This playground for beer lovers features 15 brews, from local drinks like Hill Country’s own Real Ale, to brews from around the country. Kick back, drink up and enjoy a game of football on big screen TVs in the hall.

And, of course, there’s food, lots and lots of food. Austin Eats Food Tours will be on-hand, featuring local restaurant delicacies, as well as plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Expect to find foodie favorites such as chef Tim Love’s Love Shack, Austin’s Pizza and Second Bar + Kitchen by chef David Bull, alongside new culinary favorites such as La Condesa, Frank and mmmpanadas.

The good part about the money you spend: A portion of funds raised will go toward supporting the Hill Country’s Conservancy’s Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile hike and bike trail in Austin; additional support will go toward a carbon offset project spearheaded by the Texas Climate & Carbon Exchange.

For tips on staying in and getting around the city that keeps it weird, check out our Austin City Guide. Plus, if you love music as much as food, you’ll want to take an Austin Foodie Foray. And once you pack up and leave, send us a postcard from Austin — we’ll want to know how it goes!

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