Get witchy in Salem, MA

Witches aren't the only thing you'll find in Salem. Read about my trip to the gorgeous New England town.

My mom and aunt were dying to visit Salem, Massachusetts during Halloween. They love all things witchy and they enlisted me to be their travel companion. Since it's just a quick four hour drive, we piled in my aunt's car and hit the road for an impromptu girls weekend. We ended up having a blast enjoying all of the Halloween paraphernalia, walking around the crisp autumn streets, and munching in the countless cafes in the area.

We definitely did a number of notorious tourist activities for the area like taking part in one of the many dress-up photo opps around town (pictures below). We went inside the business and the employee helped us pick out the perfect gowns, cloaks, hats, and broomsticks. I chose a dark purple to match the blood red lipstick I had chosen for the weekend's festivities. Even my aunt's dog Jackson partook and dressed up in a little cape. The employee then escorted us to an area with various backdrops and props and let us play. Definitely the most fun photo shoot I've ever been a part of.

Witch photo opp in Salem, MAPhoto by: Anie Delgado

Witch photo opp in Salem, MAPhoto by Anie Delgado

Inspired by the fun hats we wore in the photos, we walked around the center of town or what they refer to as Heritage Trail and purchased our own witches hats off the street. The area surrounding the Visitor Center has many tours and attractions to offer but we skipped most of them to opt for a more self-led weekend. Our top priority was to see the house that they shot Hocus Pocus in since we're such big fans of the movies. It was very exciting seeing the real house from one of my favorite childhood movies, but an even better surprise was around the corner. As we were walking to another Hocus Pocus site, we happened across the Salem Harbor which is absolutely gorgeous. We couldn't help but stop for some photos and to enjoy the sunny autumn day.

With our new witch hats near the Visitor CenterPhoto by Anie Delgado

The Hocus Pocus HousePhoto by Anie Delgado

Gorgeous Salem HarborPhoto by Anie Delgado

After all of this walking we were hungry. We stopped in the Witch's Brew Cafe, solely for its namesake and were not let down! Mainly bar food with some seasonal fare. I had a salad because I was vegan at the time and though simple, it was refreshing and filling. My mom and I shared one of their seasonal pumpkin pie martinis which tasted just like the real thing and definitely had a kick to it.

To follow our late lunch, we continued to stroll around the more residential parts of Salem admiring the beautiful architecture. Many of the buildings are marked with a plaque that tells you about the history of the property. Many of the residential homes here are painted muted bright colors that contrast the gorgeous bay brilliantly. There are tons of little shops along the way. We stopped in a shop that advertised psychic readings which seemed to be popular in this area. We decided to give it a shot. The women who read me sat in a big chair surrounded by colorful pillows in a curtained off section in the back of a spiritual bookstore. She had a large book with tons of numbers and diagrams in it in front of her. She had me pull tarot cards and did a reading of them. If you're wanting to know all the juicy details, to put it simply I would have an amazing career that would begin to flourish in a few years. As for love? I'd be destined to have trouble with men. A flourishing career? I'll take it!

Spooky Halloween decorations in SalemPhoto by Anie Delgado

One of Salem's many gorgeous historical buildingsPhoto by Anie Delgado

We ended our adventure with another stroll by the gorgeous Salem Harbor. We were reluctant to leave it but the weekend was over and it was time to return to the city. Salem is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've visited and a perfect weekend getaway for New Englanders and Northerners. Check out visitor information here.

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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.

💀💀💀💀/5

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.

💀💀💀💀/5

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

realitypod

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…

💀💀💀💀💀💀/5


Destinations

The 10 Best Ethically-Conscious Zoos Across America

From coast to coast, these zoos are doing their part to help wildlife.

With fall weather making us all eager to spend more time outdoors, it's the perfect time of year to pay a visit to the zoo.

Just about every major city has a zoo where visitors can get up close and personal with wild animals, but of course, not all zoos are created equal. Particularly if you've watched Tiger King, you probably already know that some zoos do much more harm than good.


Thankfully, there are also many zoos who are doing great work in conservation efforts and creating the best environment possible for their animals and the animal lovers who want to visit them. Below, we've rounded up just a few of the most ethical zoos in the United States.

San Diego Zoo

As one of the most popular zoos in the country, the San Diego Zoo specializes in endangered animals and focuses on saving them from extinction. They also partner with other zoos around the world to share their research in rehabilitation and conservation that would be difficult, if not impossible, to conduct in the wild.

Austin Zoo

Located on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, the Austin Zoo started as a goat ranch and has gradually grown into one of the state's most animal-friendly zoos. Now boasting over 300 animals from over 100 species, the Austin Zoo operates with a mission to assist animals in need, taking in exotic animals that need to be rescued or rehomed due to a variety of reasons.

Indianapolis Zoo

With a strong commitment to conservation, the Indianapolis Zoo supports efforts around the world to save endangered animals and their land. They are home to over 1,400 animals in habitats that closely mimic those of the wild and have been adopting more eco-friendly practices in addition to their conservation efforts.

Woodland Park Zoo

Located in Seattle, Washington, the Woodland Park Zoo is one of the country's most ethical zoos. They focus on recreating their animals' natural habitats as closely as possible, and the zoo also has conservationist breeding programs on-site to help grow the populations of endangered species.

St. Louis Zoo

Not only is the St. Louis Zoo free to visit, but it's absolutely massive; here, you'll find 19,000 animals from 600 species over a sprawling 90 acres. According to their website, the zoo has "witnessed dozens of cheetah births, hatched and reared endangered Micronesian kingfishers and returned Puerto Rican crested toad tadpoles to ponds in their native homeland—to name only a few successes." The St. Louis Zoo also has a program called the WildCare Institute, which takes a holistic approach to healing troubled ecosystems.

Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo might not be the first attraction you think of when it comes to New York City's outer boroughs, but it offers a much-needed slice of wildlife in the concrete jungle. This zoo is home to award-winning habitats that span over 265 acres. Outside of the city, the Bronx Zoo employs thousands of conservationists who work to protect endangered exotic animals in the world's most threatened environments.

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

In addition to impressive worldwide conservation efforts, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium—located in Omaha, Nebraska—features the world's largest geodesic dome. This dome creates a realistic desert environment that acts as a home to countless animals and plants.

Columbus Zoo

Ohio's Columbus Zoo houses over 7000 animals from over 800 species. They've made great strides in breeding endangered animals, such as the three polar bear cubs who were born at the zoo in 2016. The Columbus Zoo also boasts a massive 100,000-gallon coral reef tank, and some of the country's best primate habitats.

Alaska Zoo

It should come as no surprise that the Alaska Zoo is a fantastic place to see your favorite arctic and subarctic animals. Located in the city of Anchorage, this zoo focuses on arctic creatures you won't find at your zoos in the continental United States. They especially focus on polar bear rescue.

Denver Zoo

Colorodans are known for their love of the great outdoors, and their appreciation for Mother Nature translates into the practices at the Denver Zoo. They were the first zoo in the country to go above and beyond usual conservation efforts by getting rid of traditional enclosures, creating realistic habitats for their 4,000 creatures from over 600 different species.

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7 Products to Make Your Home Feel Like a Vacation

Sometimes the best place to get away from it all is the place where you're most at home.

With the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, it's hard not to miss the freedom to hop on a plane and fly off to some exotic destination.

But with most of the world shut off to American tourism, and social distancing still being a major concern, there has never been a better time to bring that sense of freedom and fun into your own home. Even if you don't have the option to travel like you used to, these products offer some affordable escape from the comfort of your home.

Wall Decals

Wall decals

Amazon

Sometimes all you really need to get out of your rut is a change of scenery. Redecorating a room where you spend a lot of your time can make it feel like you're somewhere brand new. And wall decals are among the quickest and cheapest ways to achieve that effect.

Turn your favorite room into a floral scene, a desert landscape, or something more whimsical in a matter of minutes. Coming in various sizes to provide either small touches of color, or wall-size tableaus, it's a simple peel-and-stick process to turn a familiar space into something. These tropical hibiscus decals from RoomMates bring the island vacation you've been craving into your living room for under $15.

PrettyLitter

PrettyLitter

We often overlook the sense of smell as a factor in setting the atmosphere of a space, but you have probably noticed that most homes have a distinctive smell, and that most likely includes your home too. And if you find a way to change that distinct smell, suddenly you're somewhere entirely new.

Of course there are any number of candles, sprays, or essential oil diffusers that can lend your home a temporary transformation into a pine forest or a French bakery, and they can make for nice change of pace. But if you own a cat and want to fundamentally transform and improve the background smell of your home, there is no better way than ditching old-fashioned clay cat litter for something that actually works.

There are some different options on the market, but PrettyLitter not only traps odors–it changes color to help you monitor your cat's health, and is delivered to your door on a monthly basis—so you can skip the litter errand and focus on enjoying your at-home vacation for just $22 a month.

Exotic Edible Plant Kit

passion fruit

If you're willing to put in a little more effort than just sticking some decals on your walls, it's possible to really bring some exotic life to your home in the form of a plant kit. These kits make it (relatively) easy to grow and tend to plants from around the world.

They can add some vibrant color and lively scent to your home, and edible plants—from hot peppers to this passion fruit plant—have the added bonus of delivering flavors from far away, so even food you grow in your own home can take your taste buds on vacation. All for around $25 with shipping.

Cocktail Machine

If you're the type of traveler who prefers to splurge on an all-inclusive resort with an open bar, then you might want to take some of the money you saved by staying at home and buy yourself a robotic bartender. That's essentially what you get with the Bartesian Premium Cocktail and Margarita Machine.

Rather than buying a bunch of ingredients and equipment for mixing your own drinks, you just have to stock up on some cocktail pods and fill up the machine's four glass bottles with your favorite liquors. Suddenly you have a fully stocked and staffed bar available whenever you're ready for a refill. At around $350, and around $2.50 per cocktail pod, the Bartesian isn't cheap, but with the money you're saving on airfare, you can afford to keep your all-inclusive staycation buzz going.

Night-Light Projector

Another great way to transform your space is with some interesting lighting. There are a number of amazing and surprisingly affordable projectors that can make a dark room feel like an entirely different planet, but this ocean wave projector from GoerTek, with a variety of color settings, has the added feature of soothing nature sounds to help you relax. It's also under $30.

Spa Set

spa set

As long as you're giving yourself a chance to relax, why not take that to the next level with some truly pampered luxury? No garment on earth is quite as comfortable as soothing as a bath robe, yet most of us only wear one when we're at a hotel or a spa.

It's time to bring that comfort home, and while you're at it, why not take a soothing, French rose bath with a bath bomb, body wash, lotion, and an exfoliating scrub brush. The full spa set from Ellen Tracy is available for just $40.

Solar Therapy Lamp

therapy lamp

One of the best reasons to travel during the winter is to go somewhere where it doesn't feel like winter! The short days and long nights of winter months cause many people to experience seasonal symptoms of depression. Travelling somewhere with more sunlight can be a great option for escaping those winter blues, but if you're stuck at home you can still get the light you need.

Solar therapy lamps mimic the color and brightness of actual sunlight, and can be used in dark winter mornings to reset your circadian rhythm and make you feel like your soaking up some rays on the beach. This therapy lamp from Miroco is available for under $40.

So the next time you're feeling stir-crazy and want an escape from the familiar, consider bringing your vacation home with one of these products.