Halloween in NYC the Third: Less Horrifying Happenings

Central Park Pumpkin Flotilla, p/c http://roundtripnuevayork.com/halloween-en-nueva-york/

Central Park Pumpkin Flotilla, p/c: roundtripnuevayork.com

I’ve gone Halloween-crazy on this here blog! Check out the first and second installments of my Halloween in NYC series.

Halloween is obviously a holiday that a lot of people associate with ghouls, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. But not everyone really likes to celebrate by being terrified on the reg (I don’t agree with you but I will defend to the death your right to feel this way). The good news is that there are plenty of NYC activities that are less intense but still…

David Caruso puts on shades

…plenty spirited.

CSI Skyline Yeahhhh

  • The Village Halloween Parade: Talking about Halloween in NYC and not mentioning the parade is pretty much tantamount to heresy or treason or something else appropriately hyperbolic. Everyone should experience this at least once in their lives, if only for the fact that we as a people need to see more choreographed dances to Thriller. Caveat spectator: the parade gets cuckoo-bananas crowded, so get there plenty early and I dunno, do, like, a root chakra grounding meditation to make sure you can handle all the craziness.

  • Grim Reaper on Halloween in NYC, p/c https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUE2mVDtELw

    Grim Reaper on Halloween in NYC, p/c JonneyETV

  • People watching around the Village: If you’re not feeling the parade but you still want to participate in some festivities, you can honestly just walk around Greenwich Village for a few hours. Revelers are coming to or going from the parade, or looking for bars where they can celebrate, so this is a great way to people watch and enjoy things on your own terms. In my experience, everyone goes all out and is really excited to show off their costumes, and it makes for a really fun, communal atmosphere.

  • Watch the November 1 walk of shame: This one is slightly evil, but I can’t resist. If you’re not too partied out yourself, think about hopping on the subway and seeing if you can spot folks still in costume making their way home after an eventful night.

  • Pumpkin Flotilla in Central Park: Moving on to more family-friendly things!! This one sounds way too adorable: carve a pumpkin and bring it to the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center on October 25, then set that gourd off for a twilight sail on the Harlem Meer.

  • New York Botanical Garden’s Haunted Pumpkin Garden: This one is pretty much marketed for kids, but if you’re a freewheelin’ grownup who just digs looking at some pumpkins, I say check it out. They’ve got some of the most talented master carvers around pitching in, including Ray Villafane, the “Picasso of Pumpkin Carving.” This runs every day from now through Halloween.

  • Bronx Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo: Ok, this is how much of a devoted journalist I am for you guys: I actually called the zoo to confirm this was happening because the info wasn’t on their site as I wrote this. And Boo at the Zoo is really not to be missed! If you’ve ever wanted to see big cats playing with pumpkins or elephants smashing gourds, this is an achievable goal! Kids are encouraged to dress up and there’s also a not-too-scary haunted house. This kicks off the first weekend in October and runs every weekend throughout the month.

  • Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, p/c http://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/spooky-cuteness-overload-the-30-best-photos-from-the-halloween-dog-parade

    Wayne and Garth at the dog parade, I die. P/c Lauren Spinelli

  • Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade: Eee, this just sounds so cute I can’t stand it. Head to the dog run at Tompkins Square at noon on October 24th, and get ready for more adorableness than you can shake a fetching stick at. For a taste of what to expect, you can see photos from last year, but seriously, if you have to wonder about whether or not a dog parade is a good use of your time, you should probably reconsider your life choices.

  • As of now, this is probably all the Halloween coverage I’ll do, but if there are any cities y’all want me to cover, my arms are pretty flexible. As in, twist them. This is the best holiday ever, after all, and what better way to bid adieu to FOMO than by planning a rockin’ All Hallows’ Eve?

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Halloween in NYC, Part the Second: Haunted Houses

Nightmare haunted house in NYC, p/c http://jadedviewer.blogspot.com/2010/10/nyc-haunted-house-nightmare.html

Nightmare Haunted House, p/c jadedviewer.blogspot.com

Aaaaaand I’m back with more Halloween in NYC goodies! If you missed the first installment, you can check it out here.

So, if you’re not the touring type, I mean, first of all I pity you, I really do, but there is still plenty to do in NYC in preparation for All Hallows’ Eve (I guessssssss). So let’s get to planning some more Hallowrific good times.

This week, we’re talking about haunted houses! Because honestly, what would Halloween be without a haunted house?

  • Blood Manor: This and Nightmare, which we’ll talk about next, are arguably the biggest haunted houses in the City, and they’re both done really well. Blood Manor now has something called Touch Me Thursdays, where the cast members are allowed, yes, to touch you (only with your consent though!), so if you want to step up your horror game, you do you.

  • Nightmare: A few years ago, Nightmare was riding the Twilight high and did a vampire concept — and it was actually really, really good: one of my all-time favorite haunted house experiences. This year’s theme is Horror Show, which means that they’ll actually put on eight mini horror productions. So you can be super hardcore this October, make multiple trips, and see a different thing each time! (And if you have that kind of budget for Halloween, let’s talk and maybe you can sponsor an NYC trip for me or something, haha.)

  • Blackout: Ugh, Blackout. So, full disclosure, I’ve never been, mostly because nothing sounds less appealing to me than a haunted house with a safe word. But this one is consistently written up as the most terrifying one in the country, so far be it for me to withhold that information from my loyal readers. It’s 18+ (for violence and sexual situations), requires you to sign a waiver, and often makes you go through alone. My recommendation is to do a little Google research before you go and decide for yourself if Blackout is right for you. Here’s a review to get you started.

  • New York Haunted Hayride, p/c http://newyorkhauntedhayride.com/photos/bike_clown/

    New York Haunted Hayride, p/c newyorkhauntedhayride.com

  • New York Haunted Hayride: Brand new to NYC, the haunted hayride takes place on Randall’s Island. It’s an offshoot of the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, which usually gets good reviews. So this is your chance to get in on the ground level and try something completely new!

There are a few more haunted houses of note, of course, so check out NYMag’s 2014 guide for another POV. Of course, things may change between 2014 and 2015, so be sure to do your own research.

I’ll be back again next week with some decidedly less-scary options, because I am nothing if not thorough (and also a wee bit obsessed).

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Spooky Halloween Activities in NYC

I’m originally from the Northeast, and since moving to the South I start longing for my temperate home state right around mid-August, without fail. It just doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get up there this fall — truly the most wonderful time of the year — and that’s a tough thing to deal with. So today we’re going to say so long to some of my own personal FOMO and chat about Halloween in New York City!

I lived in New York City for quite a few years and can almost unequivocally say that no place does Halloween better. Sure, sure, I may be biased, and to be fair, no, I have not been to Salem since middle school, but New York just does the (BESTBESTBEST) holiday right. So let’s kibbitz about all the bone-chilling things that are available for you to do!

Starting with…ghost tours! Ghost tours, ghost tours, ghost tours. I’m a history nerd who loves thrills and chills, so forgive me for straight up GEEKING OUT about this:

  • Merchant’s House: The Merchant’s House is supposedly the most haunted house in NYC, so they really get into the Halloween…spirit (muhahahaha). During Halloween they decorate to look like a 19th century home during a mourning period: black crepe everywhere, memento mori accessories, the whole deal. They also host candlelight ghost tours, lecture series, readings, and live music. Here’s the full October calendar of events for you to peruse.

  • Robert Gonyo as Professor Mortimer

    Robert Gonyo as Professor Mortimer

  • Haunted Manhattan Tours: My super-talented friend Robby, otherwise known as Professor Mortimer, hosts a tour of Greenwich Village that is not to be missed. His good friend Frankie the Bartender also hosts an East Village tour where you can hear about ghosties as you have a pint.

  • Green-Wood Cemetery tours: There’s nothing like a trek through a historic cemetery to get you in the Halloween mood. Green-Wood hosts a few tours that are just the ticket: a moonlight walking tour (accompanied by live accordion music?!?), Into The Veil: An After-Dark Exploration, and a Spirited Stroll that’s held during the day (and also lets you go into the catacombs, ooh!).

  • The Halloween Extravaganza at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine: Missing the Halloween events at St. John’s is one of my major regrets. Not only do they host crypt crawls where you can hear stories of those entombed at the cathedral, they also show silent movies, accompanied by with the organ. This year they’re showing F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, über-creepy and absolutely perfect. Need another reason? Check out this amazing video of 2009’s Procession of the Ghouls!

  • Make your own tour! Time Out has a spooktacular list of the top ten most haunted spots in the City. Explore on your own and find out what sort of things go bump in the night.

Well kids, I still have A LOT to say on this topic, but I’ll end here and continue another day. Until then, stay spoooooooky! (And for those who are more faint of heart, I promise I’ll deliver something for y’all, too.)

Can I get a hygge?: Winter in Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens at ChristmasTivoli Gardens at Christmas (photo by @mandy_n)

It is absolutely the wrong time of year to even think about what I’m about to write about, buttttttt… my blog, my rules. Neener neener!

So, there’s this Danish concept called hygge which, like all the best foreign words, cannot really be translated into English. The closest we can come is “cozy,” but really it’s all about soft candlelight (or #literally ALL the fairy lights — see photo above), a roaring fire, a warm boozy beverage, and good companionship. It’s one of the ways the Danes get through the long, dark winters (though there is a summer version of hygge that mostly involves barbecues and picnics) and still have their sanity more or less intact.

And it’s hygge that I think of when it’s been 95 degrees every day for basically the last two months.

Leslie Knope - Everything Hurts and I'm Dying gif

So what better time to put FOMO-busting to good use? Let’s hygge it up!!

My dear friend Mandy and I traveled to Copenhagen in November 2013: prime hygge season! We stayed in Nørrebro, a funky neighborhood just outside of center city, perfect to escape to after a day of sightseeing.

There are tons of cozy and comforting places to visit so you can get your hygge on.

  • Ravnsborggade: One block up from the waterfront, this small street is lined with adorable boutiques that, come mid-November and after, host miniature Christmas markets. Antique shops like Ingerslev Antik (#22) let you outfit your own home with all the vintage hygge you can, while Bungalow (#17) has stylish paper goods, Christmas ornaments, lights, and textiles for decorating with a more modern, but still homey, touch.

  • Sandwich from Smag in Copenhagen

    ~*~*THE*~*~ sandwich from Smag (photo again by @mandy_n)

  • Smag: This sandwich shop’s cafe is not really all that much in line with hygge, but their food itself is some of the most comforting you will ever eat. (If you’re looking for a cozier setting, you can take your food to Kaffeplantagen just up the street; they won’t mind.) Take, for instance, their smoked salmon sandwich, which when we had it was complemented by dark rye bread, a green pea puree spread, whole peanuts, arugula, and pea pods. We had to fight temptation to not go back for it every day we were in Copenhagen.

  • Kaffeplantagen: Danes are famous for their love of java, so where else to look for hygge than in a coffee shop? Grab one of Kaffeplantagen’s creamy, foamy lattes — be sure to dust it with cinnamon, if the barista hasn’t already — and choose from their beautiful selection of pastries. They also serve savory food, but in limited quantities, so try to get there right at lunch if you’re looking for something heartier (and if for some bizarre reason you’ve decided to forgo eating at Smag).

  • Bevar’s: Bevar’s is one of the more hyggelig cafés in Nørrebro. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and also have free Wi-Fi, so it’s a popular all-day hangout spot. The crowd turns livelier in the evenings, though, when there’s often musicians performing. On these nights, people put their computers away and start chatting with unfamiliar faces; however, the music is still low enough where you don’t have to shout. If you’re there on your own, grab a glass of wine at the bar and make conversation with the bartender; they’re happy to give you some recommendations on how to find what’s hygge in town.

  • Barking Dog: What better way to warm up on a damp, chilly day than with a hot toddy? The Barking Dog offers several different kinds (though unfortunately you won’t find the standard Christmas gløgg — mulled wine), and its café has plenty of nooks where you can hole up and forget about the rest of the world for a while. Their cocktails are handcrafted — think specially chipped ice, freshly zested citrus, etc. — so they take about 3-5 minutes to prepare. Service takes a while on weekends, but it’s quite an enjoyable show to watch.

Bars, bars, bars: Barhopping in Reykjavik

Reykjavik at midnight

Reykjavik at midnight

Yikes, only a few posts into this blog and I’m already awful at it! It’s been over a month since I blogged, but in that time I went to Iceland, helped friends plan (and pack for!) a trip to Paris, and am now helping other friends plan a vacation in Iceland and France. So I have been keeping busy on the travel front; I just haven’t been sharing it with you fine folks.

Well, last time we left off at restaurants in Reykjavik, so this post let’s chat about a few of the bars — only this time I have the added bonus of in-person knowledge.

I got into Reykjavik on a Saturday at 5:30am. As a result, I was totally out of sorts all day and unfortunately didn’t get to appreciate the full Saturday-night pub crawl that normally happens (starts at 11pm, ends ????). So, most of my bar experiences happened midweek when Reykjavikers don’t normally hang out, and to be sure, I mostly met ex-pats on these adventures. Still lots of fun, still great people and good conversations, but less “authentic” perhaps. (I still met my fair share of Icelanders, though, so you can put your tiny violins away; I shall soldier on!)

Anyway, without further ado, let’s talk about bars!

  • Mikkeller and Friends Reykjavik: Mikkeller is a Danish brewery that I really wanted to go to when I was in Copenhagen, but didn’t have enough time. They brew a vast amount of beers and let you sample before you buy, which, if you’re a completist, can probably get you in some real trouble! I came here directly from my dinner at Dill (they share a building) and wasn’t ready to go home yet, and I’m glad I did.

    It’s a dude-heavy atmosphere for sure (men at a beer bar, go figure) but very laid-back; I felt totally comfortable coming here on my own. I chatted with a Spanish guy who lives in the same town as my parents — small world, amirite? — and his Icelandic friend, so it’s definitely a great place to get a mix of locals and travelers.

  • Drinx Bar at Kex Hostel: Kex is not your typical youth hostel filled with young backpackers touring on the cheap. They have a variety of rooms at different price points, so all sorts of folks stay here. It’s also really well integrated into the town, and Reykjavikers often come here for a drink or two at Drinx. I spent my birthday in Iceland, which was a Monday night — not exactly a huge party night for Icelanders — and figured Kex would be a good place to grab a drink since it has an international “population,” if you will.

    The bar is beautiful: it’s done up to look like the library in a manor home, and it faces the bay, so you have a view of the water and the mountains across the way. (How’s that for poetry.) They serve food and of course also have a decent drink selection — it was here that I tried Brennivín, one of the most famous Icelandic schnapps, and affectionately nicknamed “Black Death.” There was a ton of people there, even on a Monday night, so I was able to make some friends and properly ring in my new year!

  • Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar (or just Ölstofan): This was where I attempted a leg of the Saturday night pub crawl, mostly because I had heard that it was a good fit for the 30something crowd. :/ Turns out it was just the thing for my jet lag; I was able to have a quiet drink while still feeling right proud of myself for managing to be out on the town. It’s very neighborhoody, very chill: when I first got there it was about half-empty but over the hour or so I spent it got calmly raucous. The bartenders will chat with you and you can also talk to your neighbors; if you’re feeling less social there are tables around the perimeter where you can hole up and do your own thing.

  • Snaps: I had dinner here my first night in town, still in a jet-lagged haze. In fact, I almost didn’t go here at all, but it conveniently was a 5-minute walk to my apartment, so it was my compromise with myself. It ended up being a fantastic spot with delicious food. I suppose it’s mostly known for being a restaurant, and a very popular one at that: if you don’t reserve in advance you’re probably going to be sitting at the bar, which is where I happily ended up. Almost the moment I sat down my two seatmates and I got to talking, and we more or less spent our entire dinner in conversation. The bartenders/waiters were awesome and really accommodating — good-naturedly humoring my neighbor when he asked about four different waitresses what the catch of the day was when he didn’t believe it was a type of catfish. Snaps was a fun and delicious introduction to the town, and it rightly earns its title of one of CNN.com – Reykjavik’s coolest bars.

  • Waffles and whipped cream

    My beauties!

  • Tiu Dropar / Le Château de dix gouttes: I didn’t expect to go to Tiu Dropar, only because it’s a French restaurant and I was mostly looking to keep to more Icelandic spots. But, having just spent 10 hours on a tour bus careening through drizzly weather, I was chilled to the bone and in desperate need of coziness. This is a basement-level spot, a bit dark but cheerily lit by candles: it’s the kind of place you want to hole up in on a dark winter evening (or a summer evening that’s 45 and rainy). The bar is quite small so it’s more a spot where you grab a table and read, or write, or just gaze off into the middle distance and contemplate life. That is, of course, when you’re not eating waffles and whipped cream. Which should really happen more often. In fact, I’m not quite sure why I’m not eating them right now.

Well, it hopefully will not be as long between posts from here on out. Like I said, I’ve been working on a lot of travel-related things, so I just need to get them up here!

Verði þér að góðu! Or, this is how the Internet told me how to say “bon appétit” in Icelandic

At this point we’ve done a lot of groundwork: we’ve talked about why making fantasy itineraries can help you beat FOMO, what kinds of resources to check out when you’re planning these trips, how to figure out what kind of traveler you are….

And, well, I’m pretty talked out right now! What I’m envisioning for this site is to share itineraries, to crowdsource awesome trips, to have a collective space to brainstorm — and ultimately, to get y’all fired up enough to take these vacations yourself!

So let’s get to some of the good stuff today. Since I’m taking a vacation in Iceland this summer, I’ll share some restaurants I’ve scouted. Now, I only have a week in Reykjavik and there’s no absolutely no way I can eat at all these places, but remember, this is a wish list! I always like to find way too many places and have them on hand: that way, I can do dinner according to my location and mood. Just want to make that clear in case any of you break out in hives thinking I’m just eating eating eating my way across Reykjavik.

Not that I’m too good for that. I am packing these after all.

Eating Pants

  • Fish Market (aka Fiskmarkaðurinn) and Grill Market (Grillmarkaðurinn): These are owned by the same people and were a favorite with my vegan friend who visited. Everywhere I read, peole are raving about the Grill Market bathroom being really cool?? Per a Tumblr post that’s not letting me link to it (but this is the original author), “it made you feel like you were underwater with the lighting and the waterfall for the sink.”
Treat yo self cupcakes
  • Dill: Right now this is regarded as one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik; it puts a new spin on traditional Nordic dishes and the menu changes weekly. I have a reservation here and this is going to be my Treat Yo Self 2015 meal.

  • Bæjarins beztu pylsur: You know what I’m also not too good for? Street meat. (Ok, here’s where I out myself as the world’s worst vegetarian; don’t worry, my stomach punishes me plenty for my sins.) Scandinavia is famous for its hot dogs and these ones are apparently the best!

  • Cafe Loki: All I know about this place is that a Twitter friend had rye bread-flavored ice cream here. That’s all I need to know, frankly.

  • Chuck Norris Bar: Seriously?? This is apparently your standard burger/fries/milkshake fare, only…Chuck Norris-themed.

  • Forrettabarinn: This was recommended on Fathom, one of my new favorite travel blogs. They serve Icelandic tapas, basically: you can get a taste of a lot of the local flavors. The menu right now says they serve seahorse??? I’m hoping that’s just a clever name for a totally normal fish, like how people in Miami eat “dolphin sandwiches” and they’re really just mahi-mahi. Because otherwise D: D: D: BUT! They also serve other totally normal- and tasty-sounding dishes, so I mean, just make sure you’re reading the menu thoroughly I guess!

  • Kaloportið Flea Market: Ok, this place is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, this is supposed to be a really cool flea market where you can browse through vintage clothing and Nordic tchotchkes for hours. On the other hand, this is where you can find traditional Icelandic foods like pickled lamb testicles and hákarl, fermented shark. Now, there’s no way in H-E-double hockey sticks I’m going to try any pickled lamb testicles, but I am curious to try shark, if only as a feat of strength. It did Bourdain in, it almost conquered Andrew Zimmern; I’m horrified but I can’t look away. Wish me luck (or sanity), I guess.

Of course there are tons and tons more. I have a whole other list of restaurants that are also famous for having great bars, so I’ll work on getting that up sometime this week as well. Until then, verði þér að góðu!