The ultimate Halloween bucket list for travelers – part 1

I am a hardcore Halloween fan. I honestly don´t know where this obsession comes from, since I did not grow up in a country where Halloween is particularly popular. But, somehow, this festivity just spoke to me, and I adore everything about it! It´s fun, it´s scary….it´s a cozy season filled with decorated warm mugs of pumpkin spice lattes, skeletons, jack-o -lanterns and old school horror movies. What´s not to love?!

Thus, every year I try to make the best out of the short season and organize a Halloween-themed trip around October. Sadly, somehow, it always ends up not happening for various reasons – except for 2018, when we did manage to go to Disney´s and Universal´s party. This means I have mostly been a frustrated traveler around this time of the year, with tons of dreams compiled in years of research about the coolest places to be around/or on Halloween day. I know, sounds awful, lol.

But the truth is that even though most of these itineraries did not turn into experiences, I had tons of fun reading about them, gathering info and even asking myself if I would have the courage to go through some of them! So, today I´m sharing my Halloween bucket list with you, and I hope you have as much fun as I did putting this together!

Halloween party at Stanley Hotel, USA – party like it´s 1977

Who is not familiar with the stories can think the sight of the hotel is quite soothing

I have recently wrote about the Stanley Hotel in a September post. This iconic hotel received worldwide fame as the place that inspired Stephen King to write the horror classic “The Shining“. If you have a chance to read about the night he spent here, it is quite interesting to say the least. Just to torture your curiosity: he and his wife arrived at the hotel on the last opening day before it would shut down for winter, and they were the only guests spending the night there on that day. They dined alone in the huge dining hall listening to the recorded orchestra play – an eerie atmosphere. He also had nightmares that night that involved his son and the hotel hallways. If you wanna know more stories about this mysterious hotel, check out this video, where one of the employees talks about room 217.

The hotel marketing team did not sleep on duty, of course, and has been exploring its reputation offering night tours and three Halloween parties. Yes, three! It´s a Halloween dream come true.

The twins’ costume is always a hit at the party (picture from the Stanley Hotel Facebook page)
I love that they take a group picture every year (picture from the Stanley Hotel Facebook page)

The first one happened on October 23rd this year: The Shining Ball. In this one, costumes are optional (I wonder who would dare to show up at a Stanley Hotel Halloween party without a costume). The Halloween masquerade will take place on the 28th and on the 29th this year. The event is pretty luxurious, costing around $120/pp, including limited drinks, snacks, a live band, DJ and live performances. There´s also The 311 Halloween Ball on October 31st. Last year they threw a murder mystery dinner around this time, but I guess they decided to go all-in with parties-only in 2021.

From all of these options, my fav is definitely the Shining Ball – it´s a classic and it features a bunch of the content in the movie/book. The hostesses, for example, are usually dressed as the twins. The ticket price can be quite scary too: $150/pp, including basically the same things as the masquerade ball.

Stanley Hotel Instagram page: here.

A night at Clown Motel, USA – for some scary laughters

Disturbing…but, somehow, also alluring (picture from Clown Motel Instagram account)

It all started with Alfred Hitchcock. He made roadside motels become a realization of our worst nightmares. So, what better way to spend this freaky time of the year in one?

But not just any one: the Clown Motel managed to put together two of Halloween´s most cliché elements we love to disdain – scary clowns and a forsaken-looking motel in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and it´s also attached to a cemetery. I guess that makes three elements.

Though I do think the claim of “USA´s scariest hotel” is debatable, nobody can deny this place sends out major creepy vibes. During daylight, it looks just wrong, inappropriate. At night, it looks like a bad dream in the middle of the Nevada desert.

One of the simpler rooms (picture from TripAdvisor)
The gift shop (picture from Clown Motel Instagram account)

You might be asking yourself how did this come to be? I was too. It happens that this is a tribute hotel to a man called Clarence David, who loved clowns. Now he is buried right next door to a clown motel, which was inspired by his own themed collection. Man…I´m considering withdrawing the “debatable” from the claim in the last paragraph.

A night here costs from $70 to $125 a night, which can be quite pricey for a motel. What I find interesting about this place is that some rooms are dedicated to different clowns or horror movies like It, Friday the 13th and Halloween; but I find the simpler standard rooms the scariest, with their outdated bed sheets and carpet. There´s also a shop where you can buy themed clothes, mugs and magnets. There you can check out their clown collection as well, which has currently more than 2000 clown memorabilia.

Last year they organized a Halloween hunt mystery, where people could buy tickets to participate in 3 different days. They haven´t announced any events for this year´s celebrations.

Though I´m a fan of the theme and I had a blast at Universal Studios scary clowns’ area at their 2018 Halloween party, this might be a tad too much for me. I mean, I think the hotel is a great idea, but the cemetery right next door might cross my line. At least I know the neighbors won´t party all night. Or will they?

Clown Motel Instagram page: here.

Ireland´s Banks of the Foyle Carnivalto party till you drop dead

People and buildings participate alike in the Derry festival (picture from Culture Northern Ireland)

This one might not be scary enough for most, but it sure is fun! Actually, the All Hallows´ Eve (that means, Halloween, the evening before All Saint´s day) originated in the Celtic tradition, with a festival called Samhain. During this festivity, the Celts believed the dead would visit their families. They used fire to keep warm during this time, which also marked the beginning of winter, but also to keep evil spirits away. Disguises were also used to fool bad spirits, so people wouldn´t be recognized.

As you can see, the Celts knew a thing or two about spooky stuff, and the Irish honor their History with a four-day Halloween celebration in Derry, Northern Ireland. During these four days you will see themed markets, concerts throughout the city, haunted houses, the screening of horror movies, ghost tours and, of course, a parade. Dang, I think they checked all the boxes from my Halloween dream list. And that´s why the party draws tourists from all over the world.

The 2021 street parade at Strand Road (picture from Culture Northern Ireland)

The festival´s main attraction is the spooktacular parade, which promises a musical and a visual show altogether. It culminates with fireworks above the river. Here you can check out a video showing parts of the parade and fireworks. It sure feels like the whole city turns into a big melting party of happy spookiness.

You can also find Halloween celebrations in many other Irish cities. In Belfast, for example, you can go to horror movies´ screenings on the 31st, or ghost walking tours like the dark side of Clifton Street Cemetery. This is, after all, an old country full of fairy- and not-so-fairytales as old as time, filled with beauties and beasts.

Night tour at Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica – running shoes are highly recommended

The Rose Hall property (picture from Wikipedia)

If you are a fan of horror stories, you might have heard of the legendary one of the white witch from Montego Bay, Jamaica. I know, haunting stories can travel far.

The legend goes that Annie Palmer was the daughter of European immigrants in Haiti. When her parents died of yellow fever, she was adopted by her nanny, who taught her all about voodoo and witchcraft. She grew up to move to Jamaica, more specifically into the property of Rose Hall – a pretty big plantation house full of hallways and big rooms that make a perfect setting for a horror story. And a horror story it became.

Annie murdered all the men she married (three in total), as well as many male slaves she had in her property. Her story is full of gruesome tales of beating, poisoning, and cursing. She ended up murdered by strangulation herself by a slave. It is said that Annie haunts the property until this day, walking around like she still is the boss.

A tomb at the propoerty said to be Annie´s (picture from Wikipedia)
The house comes alive at night….literally (only those doing the tour will understand this one!) – picture from Viator

If the story seems familiar to you, you might have heard it before in a song: “The ballad of Annie Palmer”, by Johnny Cash. He owned a property close to Rose Hall.

“Where’s your husband Annie, where’s number two and three?
Are they sleeping beneath the palms beside the Caribbean Sea?
At night I hear you riding and I hear your lovers call
And I still can feel your presence round the great house at Rose Hall”

Whaaa….a horror story turned into a chilling ballad song?! Tell me more!

There are 2 tours offered and, of course, if you are reading this, you will choose the night tour! Both last around 45 minutes and cover the story of the property together with its infamous owner, as well as the lavish life of European immigrants in the island. There might also be some scary encounters along your way…I wonder if this is what the website means in its landing page, showing a dark picture of the decayed house and the mysterious title “experience the magic”. Sounds like Disney, but it´s more of a mixture of The Skeleton Key and The Haunting of Bly Manor.

Dracula´s Halloween Party, Romania – for bloody tasty cocktails!

Perfect scenery for vampire tales (picture from Bran Castle´s official website)

I really cannot think of anything cooler than celebrating this festivity at Bran´s Castle in Transylvania. Though Bram Stoker, the author of the 1897 “Dracula” never mentioned this place as being the real inspiration for the vampire´s castle residence, the setting of the story in Transylvania was enough for speculation. Well, if this is the story they are selling, I´m buying it. The 14th-century castle looks absolutely terrifying, indeed out of a horror novel, especially when the fall fog envelopes the stone architecture.

The party happens on the 31st, and many people book a tour from Bucharest with travel agents that offer many pluses to the experience. Together with your ticket to the party, there´s a castle tour included, an extravagant dinner and other meals, as well as a night at a village nearby the castle for you to crash after partying all night. Rubbing elbows with the undead does come at a cost: these tours are priced starting from 220 euros (about $255). Here you can check one of the providers of this tour. Though the party seems to have been cancelled this year, there are tickets on sale already for 2022.

Inner courtyard during Halloween (picture from Bran Castle´s official website)
Love the castle´s dark atmosphere (picture from Bran Castle´s official website)

If you want to read more about the connections (or the lack of it) between the fictional story of Dracula and Bran Castle, take a look here at the castle´s official page. The location has a pretty intriguing past, which makes it even more interesting when it gets entangled with Vlad Dracula´s biography. This is a definitely an appealing place to explore around Halloween time, full of mystery and a blood-thirsty character. What else can we crave?

Honorable mention: check out my review of Mickey´s not-so-scary Halloween party. Though I do like it scary, Mickey´s Halloween was so fun! The decoration just transports you to a parallel universe. The parade is also pretty entertaining and even who doesn´t easily get sucked into Disney´s magic (like my husband) can have lots of fun.

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