Anyone up for a Caber Toss?

From California to Mississippi, here are the top five must go-to Celtic festivals coming soon

The onset of fall signifies many things: jewel-colored foliage, a smokiness in the air, and…Celtic festivals? That's right. While pumpkin and craft beer festivals are far more ubiquitous this time of year, Celtic festivals remain popular with people yearning for a taste of Ireland and Scotland.

The Celtic people have a long and storied history dating back to the 7th or 8th century BC. The other existing populations, the Romans and Greeks, saw them as barbarians, but this was a misleading label. They were fierce warriors (often rushing into battle naked accompanied by a cacophony of shouting, war-horns, songs and insults), but the barbarian description was a bit far-fetched.

In fact, during the Iron Age, the Celts fairly exploded with forged (instead of cast) jewelry that was distinctly different from other styles of the age. The torq, or torc, an iconic neck ring emblematic of Celtic jewelry, still survives today. It is believed that the Celts were quite proud of their creations and often wore torqs into battle.

Today, Celtic people reside primarily in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, and Brittany, but many descendants also live in the US. And, of course, you don't need to have Celtic ancestors to enjoy the delights of the Celtic culture today. Here are some of the most popular Celtic festivals to partake in this fall:

Tucson Celtic Festival, November 2-4

This combination Celtic festival and Scottish highland games event happens yearly in sunny Tucson, Arizona. You'll encounter vendors hawking hand-forged decorative weaponry, Celtic jewelry of all shapes and sizes, and traditional Scottish apparel. In between the highland games (where men and women sporting kilts attempt to throw various heavy items as far as they can and carry tall wooden beams across a field course in record time), you can listen to the bagpipe bands or cheer for your favorite piper at the solo piping and drumming competition. There's also the opportunity to catch the ever-popular highland dance routines. At the Tucson Celtic Festival you may get to watch people performing the Ghillie Callum (the sword dance of war), or even the Seann Truibhas, which is a traditional nod to shedding the hated constraining trousers in favor of the beloved kilts worn by native Highlanders.

You haven't lived until you've jammed with a man in a kilt

KMVR Celtic Festival and Marketplace, September 28-30

This 22-year-old mainstay takes place in the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, CA. Started by KMVR star Annie O'Dea in 1996, it now acts as a fundraiser for KMVR Community Radio and draws over 7,000 visitors of all ages who flock to the festival to watch musical and dance performances on a total of 11 stages. This year the lineup includes the Seamus Egan Project, helmed by the teen prodigy Seamus Egan. Egan, who is widely known as the founder of the beloved Irish-American band Solas, as well as the composer of The Brothers McMullen soundtrack, will perform with other talented Irish musicians. Also featured are The Black Brothers, singing siblings who supplement their harmonizing Irish brogues with banjo, cittern, and guitar. If dancing's more your taste, stop by the Friday Night Ceilidh (an Irish/Scottish social event) where you can kick up your heels and get down to the sounds of live traditional Irish music, or watch the competitive dance troupes whirl across the various stages.

Reach for the sky and don't drop the weight!

Celtic Festival and Highland Games of the Quad Cities, September 14-15

Iowans love this Celtic festival, held in Centennial Park in Davenport. Learn more about the storied history of the Celtic people in the Education area (specifically the Celtic language, customs, music, and dance), or admire the colorful tartans on display as the various Clans march with the time-honored parade through the festival. Of course, no Celtic festival would be complete without the Heavy Athletics competition (throwing events), featuring the Clachneart and Braemar Stone throw, the weight throw, and the sheaf toss. While many other Highland game events evolved into modern day Olympic sports (including shot put and hammer throw), unsurprisingly, the sheaf toss never quite made the cut; the goal is to toss a bale of hay as high as you can using a pitchfork. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable activity to watch others partake in. There's also lively music from the Black Hawk Pipes and Drums, and dance performances by Colleen's Clogging and Celtic, and the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, among others.

The mighty pipers lead the way

Celtic Music Festival & Scottish Highland Games, November 10-11

Southerners in Harrison County, Mississippi gather every year to celebrate Celtic heritage at this combination music and Highland games festival. Boasting musicians like Kracker Dan, a seven-member folk string band hailing from Alabama, and Seven Nations, which has been pleasing fans with their unique take on Celtic music since 1993, this festival is sure to entertain even those who claim no Celtic heritage. Feast on meat pies and gourmet Welsh cakes, shop for charming kilts (and even corsets) at the marketplace, and keep an eye out for the parade of Clans.

Sometimes we like to coordinate

Hood Canal Highland Celtic Festival, September 1-2

Grab your tartan and hotfoot over to this yearly Celtic festival in Belfair State Park in Washington. You can meet the queen and her court, or watch herding demonstrations every few hours. There's a beer tent that opens at 10am (pace yourself!) and traditional athletic events spaced throughout the day. You'll certainly get your fill of jousting as well: the Seattle Knights, the Pacific Northwest's favorite jousting troupe, perform every half hour throughout the festival. For those looking to indulge in some lighthearted Clan camaraderie, be sure to bring your official flag and clothing to proudly show off during the parade.

Don't worry about your heritage playing a role in your enjoyment of these festivals. No matter your ancestry, a Celtic festival is a winsome experience for anyone seeking some piping, hearty meat pies, kick-up-your-heels dancing, and, of course, brawny men and women hurling large boulders across a field.

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If you've googled one thing during this pandemic, it is definitely: "Thai food near me."

Thai food has remained one of the most delicious and sought after takeout gems; and in New York City, specifically, there are so many delicious options that it can be overwhelming. Often unlike Chinese food, Thai food offers fresher ingredients and versatile cuisine options. Whether you want some Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, or some coconut milk-infused curry or even just some soup, Thai food is good for any occasion. But with so many options, how do you know you're getting the freshest ingredients at the best price? Here are the best spots to order take-out from, and we even broke it up by borough for you.


Manhattan: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

Reviewed by The Times as "fresh, vivid and intense," Fish Cheeks offers solid takes on traditional Thai Cuisine. Their speciality remains seafood, so their Crab Friend Rice and Coconut Crab Curry are delicious highlights. Their Tum Yum is also to die for, made with fresh galanagal, lime leaves and lemongrass.

The version [of tum yum] here hums with fresh galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass. Shrimp and knobby mushrooms simmer in a broth that gets extra body from milk, a twist I've never seen before but one I approve of. It could be spicier, but the use of bird's-eye chiles is far from shy.

Manhattan: Lan Larb

thia food

Arguably some of the best Pad Thai in the city, Lan Larb is focused mainly on the food of Thailand's northeast region. As a result, there is often a combo of meat and seafood involved in most dishes, such as the Lao Chicken Soup, which combines fresh chicken with pickled fish and a steamy brown broth. The menu will make your tastebuds whirl if you're one for experimentation, if not, their Pad Thai is iconic and filling enough on its own.

Brooklyn: Ugly Baby

Brooklyn has always been teeming with amazing Thai food joints, but Ugly Baby is the borough's most established success story. The Carrol Gardens sensation was preceded by two long gone Red Hook restaurants known for their authentic Northern Thai cuisine. With Ugly Baby, a name which comes from an ancient belief in Thailand that ugly children bring good fortune, chef Sirichai Sreparplarn had mastered his craft. The restaurant quickly gained glowing praise throughout Brooklyn and New York, and their take on Khao Soi Nuer and Kao Tod Nam Klook remain the stuff of legends.

Queens: Ayada

ayada thai

Ayada's cuisine is so good that it made a New York Times journalist cry at his table. Not out of emotion though, but out of spice. For those looking for a truly bold eating experience, this Queens Thai restaurant holds nothing back when crafting their drunken noodles or Pad Thai, but that spice is what makes it one of the best spots in the city.

Bronx: Ceetay

​While the Bronx isn't necessarily a buzzing Thai food borough, Ceetay's asian fusion cuisine is of the highest quality and will appeal to anyone desperately needing to nom on some noodles. Their sushi is amazing but their Pad Thai is packed with amazing flavor. Seasoned with onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peanuts, scallions and cilantro, this Pad Thai is packed with flavors and will slam your taste buds in the best possible way.

Travel

5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany

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Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland

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The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy

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Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru

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Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico

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It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.



Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.

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Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.

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McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.

💀💀💀💀.5/5

Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.

💀💀💀💀💀/5

Every Hell House in America

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In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…

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