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Will Costa’s new ‘slow cruising’ entice passengers?

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 12:22 p.m. October 23, 2013

The Costa neoRomantica

The Costa neoRomantica is one of two ships to debut Costa’s new slow cruising experience.

Costa Cruises will launch “slow cruising,” a new concept for the line, in February on Costa neoRiviera and Costa neoRomantica. The experience features longer itineraries, extended time in port that may include an overnight, shore tours that emphasize cultural attractions and are limited to 25 or fewer guests as well as local foods and wines in the dining rooms.

“Slow cruising and the neoCollection is a premium grade product aimed at a sophisticated, slightly older clientele,” says a Costa spokesperson.

Because the two neoCollection ships carry about 1,250-1,500 passengers, the Costa neoRiviera (624 cabins) and the Costa neoRomantica (789 cabins) are able to visit smaller ports that the megaships cannot.

Compared with the typical Costa seven-day Mediterranean cruise, the Costa neoRiviera’s Mediterranean Spirit slow voyage takes 12 days and includes less visited ports such as Olbia, Sardinia and the Isle of Elba. The itinerary is available June 5 through Sept. 1.

The Costa neoRomantica sails Northern Europe on 13- to 15-day voyages. The ship stops at Bornholm, Denmark, on its 13-day Northern Capitals itinerary, departing from Amsterdam June 25, Aug. 2 and Aug. 26. The ship’s Beyond North Cape itinerary, departing Amsterdam July 7, extends the scenic views off the Norwegian coast by sailing beyond the Arctic Circle to the Svalbard Islands.

Costa officially debuts slow cruising Feb. 9, 2014, with its Grand Africa Tour, a 62-day voyage from Dubai to the coast of India, the islands of the Indian Ocean—the Seychelles, Maldives, Mauritius and Reunion—Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, St. Helena, Senegal, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Morocco and Savona, Italy. The voyage can be booked from Dubai to Cape Town, South Africa, or Cape Town to Savona.

Costa neoRomantica entered service in 1993 and completed a $129 million refurbishment in 2012. Costa neoRiviera entered service in 1999 as Iberocruceros’ Grand Mistral and was totally refurbished in 2005. New suites and cabins were added in 2007. Fares for the 13-day Baltic slow cruise start at about $2,036 per person.


Dog Halloween costume parade packs in the pups in NYC

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 12:25 p.m. October 23,2013

A wire terrier dressed as daredevil Evel Knievel competes in the costume contest.

A wire terrier dressed as daredevil Evel Knievel competes in the costume contest.


Dogs costumed in their Halloween best will accompany their fancifully attired owners on parade in New York’s Tompkins Square Park on Oct. 26. One of the largest dog Halloween events in the USA, the East Village park last year saw more than 500 terriers, bulldogs, Labradors, pugs and lovable mutts put on the dog.

The “pawsitively” clever outfits earn rewards. Winners in various categories can howl with pride about their Broadway show tickets and the cute four-footers can wag after receiving $50 gift certificates plus treats from Purina’s Beggin’, one of this year’s sponsors.

In past years, a golden retriever wearing antlers and a Santa suit pulled a sleigh, a corgi came as a bus stop, a West Highland terrier packed in the spinach for his Olive Oyl and Popeye pet parents, and small dogs dug deep into their inner superstars, appearing as John Lennon, Evel Knievel and Halloween dog contest NYCeven Michael Jackson, complete with one glittering silver bootie.

This year marks the 23rd annual fundraiser for the dog run located in the park. Admission is free. Attendees may purchase $5 raffle tickets for a mini-iPad.

Halloween Dog Contest Tompkins Square Dog Run“The event is a way to share hilarious moments with pets and their owners,” says Garrett Rosso, volunteer manager of the dog park. “One year all the pugs came as Chinese take-out. Martha Stewart liked the costumes so much that she made them for her dogs.”

Halloween Dog Contest  Tompkins Square NYCShopping stats show that Martha’s one of the pack: Last year Americans spent $370 million on Halloween pet costumes, $70 million more than in 2011.

Details: Tompkins Square Dog Run, 500 E. 9th Street between avenues A and B, Tompkins Square Park. Noon to 4 pm.

Photos: Robert Kreizel

Discover underwater wonders at Toronto’s new aquarium

by Candyce Stapen @familyiTrips, USA TODAY 3:20 p.m. October 17, 2013

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada located in Toronto

Sharks zigzag overhead as you move through the 315-foot-long, clear tunnel in Dangerous Lagoon, a highlight of the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada located in Toronto.

Where can you see a 100-year-old lobster with claws the size of footballs, a 396-pound grouper and a three-inch seahorse?

They inhabit Toronto’s new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. The largest such facility in Canada debuted Oct. 16. Its 135,000 square feet showcases 16,000 marine animals from around the world and more than 450 species in 1.5 million gallons of water.

In the Canadian Waters Gallery, view mega-lobsters, as well as largemouth bass and a giant Pacific octopus. A moving sidewalk takes you through the Dangerous Lagoon, a 315-foot clear tunnel, the largest in North America. Look up to see sandbar sharks zigzag above your head and come eye-ball to eye-ball with barracudas and sawfish.

In Planet Jellies, admire moon, spotted and upside-down jellies as they pulsate and float. In the Gallery learn about fragile ecosystems and delicate critters such as red lionfish, leafy sea dragons and seahorses as tiny as three inches. At the touch tanks and pools, pet bamboo sharks, Atlantic stingrays and horseshoe crabs.

Limit your wait at the popular facility by obtaining timed-entry tickets online. Tickets from $29.15 adults, $19.43 Youths and Seniors, $9.70 children ages three to five. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.


Plant a tree in Hawaii to help restore historic forest

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 12:29 pm October 15, 2013

A tour group plants a koa seedling on the slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island

A tour group plants a koa seedling on the slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Visitors to Hawaii can now get rooted in Hawaii’s culture by planting a koa tree seedling on the slopes of Mauna Kea, land that long ago belonged to King Kamehameha the Great. Back when Hawaii’s first king ruled, the koa forests turned the volcano’s flanks green. But a century of clear cutting for sugar cane and pineapple farming, plus cattle ranching in this Big Island region, destroyed most of the trees. Only a few remain.

You can change that by signing-on for the new Hawaiian Legacy Tour, operated by Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods’ (HLH) non-profit arm. On these unique trips, you go off-road through the 1,000 acres that HLH set aside for reforestation, passing young trees and the few remaining old giants whose spreading branches serve as habitat for the akepa and akiapola’au, two of Hawaii’s rare birds.

These majestic old growth trees provided the seeds for the new ones. Once reserved only for royalty, koa trees grow nowhere else on earth. So far, HLH has planted more than 200,000 trees. Most are koa, but other plantings include native Hawaiian trees and shrubs such as mamane, naio, sandalwood and ferns.

You select and plant your seedling and, afterwards, receive a certificate with your tree’s unique RFID number and GPS coordinates. You can then plug those into Google Earth to check on your tree’s growth.

HLH is also a for-profit company that sustainably grows tropical hardwoods for harvest.

Details: 1 .5 hour tour, $110 per adult, $55 per child, free under age five. 3 hour tour includes the tree planting plus more sightseeing along the Umikoa Trail, $180 per adult, $90 per child, free under age five.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods,


It’s becoming a breeze to rent Caribbean villas

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 7:49 am October 11,2013

Flower Hill, a five-bedroom villa in Jamaica, comes with a private pool and a staff that includes 2 butlers, 3 housekeepers and a chef.

Flower Hill, a five-bedroom villa in Jamaica, comes with a private pool and a staff that includes 2 butlers, 3 housekeepers and a chef.

Sometimes a hotel room just isn’t enough. For those in search of parlors and patios to gather a far-flung family or privacy in the form of their own moonlit pool, booking a villa, cottage or condo is the way to go.

“The biggest benefits are more space, more privacy and the convenience of having a kitchen,” says Jon Gray, senior vice president of HomeAway, a vacation rental company. Rentals often come at less cost than booking multiple hotel rooms.

“The average rental is $1,500 a week for a two-bedroom, two-bath property,” Gray says. “The average hotel room is 325 square feet, and the average vacation home is 1,850 square feet.”

Some villas, especially in the Caribbean, come with a butler who can serve you a daiquiri at sunset on your private deck and a cook who dishes up lobster curries for dinner.

But how to choose? Vacation rental marketplaces, such as FlipKey and HomeAway, function like digital bulletin boards, enabling owners and renters to meet. With huge inventories, these companies do not inspect units. The owner-written descriptions may be accurate or inflated. Typically, there’s no on-site management or local team to contact if something goes wrong.

Villa rental companies, such as WIMCO and Villas & Apartments Abroad, may provide concierge services and destination expertise, and they help match properties to clients’ personalities.

Here are some prime companies for vacation home rentals in the Caribbean:


FlipKey offers condos, cabins, houses and villas. Users can book about 40% of the lodgings online, and properties with the best combination of reviews, rates, photos and other factors rise to the top of their lists.

Properties: 240,000 listings in 12,000 destinations, including 15,000 in the Caribbean.

Filters: Search by deals, Internet availability, lodging type, bedrooms, price, pool, child-friendly.

Pros: Large inventory with user reviews. Pay through FlipKey Payments and receive free insurance up to $10,000 if the lodging proves to be significantly different from what’s described or is unavailable.

Cons: Lodgings not inspected. A booking fee may be required. No concierge service.

Sample fee in Jamaica: $400 a night for a three-bedroom, beachfront, staffed villa.


Also owned by HomeAway, it’s a smaller site that focuses on special offers and last-minute deals, which appear at the top of lists.

Properties: 35,000 in 70 countries; concentrated in Florida and the Caribbean.

Filters: Search by deals, last updated, bedrooms.

Pros: Easy to find deals.

Cons: No online booking. Lodgings not inspected. No concierge service.

Sample fee in Jamaica: $208-a-night average for a three-bedroom rental.

Villas & Apartments Abroad

Owner Sylvia Jones has been advising clients on rentals for more than 40 years. She focuses on high-end lodgings, particularly those that can host multigenerational families and VIPs.

Properties: 400+ worldwide; Caribbean is a top destination.

Filters: Search by bedrooms, budget, golf, horseback riding, piano, gym and staff.

Pros: Service and ultra-luxury listings. Showcases some villas that can handle weddings.

Cons: Luxury villas are pricey.

Sample fee in Jamaica: $7,000 for seven nights in a five-bedroom villa in summer, staffed with a cook, butler and maid., 212-213-6435

WIMCO Villas

WIMCO focuses on luxury villas, each of which has been viewed by a staff member. Arranges snorkel outings, boat charters, restaurant reservations and other services.

Properties: 1,200 villas, including 800 in the Caribbean.

Filters: Search by villa name, location, size, date, pool, child-friendly and more.

Pros: User-friendly site; 24/7 concierge service.

Cons: Luxury villas are pricey. Fewer user reviews than on mega-sites.

Sample fee in Jamaica: From $277 per bedroom, per night for a five-bedroom villa that can be rented as a three- or four-bedroom villa. Includes staff., 800-449-1553

HomeAway and VRBO

With 775,000 properties in 171 countries, HomeAway Inc., which includes HomeAway, as well as VRBO and VacationRentals (see below), is the world’s largest online vacation rental marketplace. HomeAway and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), the older company, post essentially the same inventory, with some exceptions. VRBO has fewer filters to sort material. About 15% of HomeAway and VRBO’s inventory is bookable online. Instead of concierge services, the sites encourage renters to contact owners for local information. Rental insurance is available for a fee.

Properties: 575,000 in 139 countries. About 50% U.S. inventory; other concentrations in the Caribbean, Europe, South America, Asia.

Minimum stay: Varies by owner.

Filters: HomeAway: Search by price, bedrooms, accommodation type(apartment, condo, cabin, castle, villa, etc.), location (mountain, beach, skiing, golf, lake), luxury, budget, air conditioning, pool, child-friendly, wheelchair-accessible. VRBO has fewer options.

Pros: Useful filters narrow the huge inventory. Many user reviews.

Cons: Lodgings not inspected. A listing’s position is determined by the package purchased by the owner. No concierge service. A booking fee may be required in addition to the rental fee.

Sample fee in Jamaica: $176-per-night average for a two-bedroom rental, and $341-a-night average for a three-bedroom rental.;


Villa vacations come with many great bonuses but also some big bewares. Here are some tips to make your time away as sweet as the location.

* Use a reputable site or agency that’s been in business for awhile.

* Decide how much customer service you want. Vacation rental marketplaces don’t match you to a property and don’t arrange outings at the destination, but a villa rental agency will do both.

* Find out if a booking fee for the property you want is required. If an owner has purchased a low-cost posting plan with the vacation rental marketplace, then you may be required to pay the company an additional fee of about 5%-10% of the rental price.

* Get the rental dates, fees and rules in writing before you pay.

* Understand what is and isn’t included in the rental fee. Some properties may not come with sheets, towels or pots and pans, or the owners may charge extra for these items.

* Know the payment schedule and cancellation policy. Typically, a 30% deposit is required to hold a reservation and full payment with no refund is required 60 to 90 days before departure, although these rules vary by owner and by agency.

* Find out whom to contact at your destination in case of a problem, lock-out or an emergency.

* Pay online with a credit card or through a payment service such as PayPal. These provide more protection should something go wrong than does payment by personal check.

* Get suggestions about outings and area restaurants before departure from the owners or from the villa rental agency.

* Discuss how expenses for groceries, car rentals, outings and restaurant meals will be shared by your group. Never assume that everyone plans to share the costs equally and don’t leave home with this gang, even if they are your best friends or family, unless you are comfortable with the financial arrangements.


Should you tip a flight attendant?

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 4:28 pm October 9, 2013

annoying-fliers250Savvy travelers know to tip the taxi driver, the airport skycap, the hotel bellman and the restaurant’s waiter. But what about the flight attendant?

A surprising 27% of some 900 respondents to a poll posted by Airfarewatchdog, said they give gratuities, 20% as thanks for a job well-done and 7% as a reward for being made more comfortable.

Despite the exchange of cash, Corey Caldwell, spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants, says “Passengers should not tip flight attendants because flight attendants should not accept tips. As professionals, as first responders, just like police and fire fighters, a flight attendant’s first mission is to maintain the safety and security of passengers in the cabin.”

United Airlines and many other carriers explicitly forbid flight attendants from accepting tips. “I’ve complimented flight attendants and pilots on a job well done as I’ve been leaving the plane, “says New York publicist and frequent flyer Mara Begley. “But I haven’t actually tipped them.”

What if the flight attendant goes above and beyond, finding extra pillows for your 92-year-old mother with sciatica or providing a near limitless supply of wet wipes to clean the upchucked lunch your queasy toddler dumped on the stranger sitting next to you?

“United does appreciate hearing positive comments about our crews and employees,” says Luke Punzenberger. “We recommend that passengers go to our website to share their experiences.”

Since other travel industry employees receive tips, says George Hobica, Airfarewatchdog founder, “I see no reason not to tip flight attendants. But my preferred way of saying thank you is to bring on boards a (factory sealed) container of chocolates, shortbread cookies, or other treats.”


‘Yes’ to the dress: Wedding gown shoppers flock to NYC

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 4:03 pm EDT October 2, 2013

Brides line up at Kleinfeld, NY, for a wedding gown sample sale

Brides line up at Kleinfeld, NY, for a wedding gown sample sale.

The saleswoman at Kleinfeld, New York’s bridal gown emporium, offers sage advice. “A dress is not like a man,” Renee Pinto cautions. “A man, well, you can get used to him. He grows on you. But a wedding dress– you have to love it right away.”

Such instant matches prove hard to find. That’s why a growing trend in going-down-the-aisle fashion is to travel with your posse to purchase your gown. And the prime destination for those packing glittery, ever-after hopes and Manolo heels is Manhattan.

Why? “New York is the fashion capital of the world,” notes Ronnie Rothstein, co-owner of Kleinfeld, among the world’s largest bridal stores. At any one time, its 35,000-square-feet showcase 1,950 different styles from 50-60 designers. Rows upon rows of poufy princess fantasies, A-line lace flowered dresses with billowing trains, tight satin trumpet gowns and sleek Gatsby-era, beaded samples bloom in Kleinfeld’s stockroom.

“In the last four to five years, we’ve seen more and more friends and family from out-of-town travel with the bride to help her buy her dress,” says Rothstein. “We have people who drive from Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Maine, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Every day we have people from Ireland, England, Scotland, Italy. Our three biggest international markets are Canada, Mexico City and Brazil. They make a weekend out of it, booking two to three appointments. “

In between, the betrothed and their best girlfriends and close family take in the Big Apple.

“The brides see this as an excuse to have fun,” says Lindsay Mann, spokesperson, for Mark Ingram Atelier, a Manhattan salon featuring 15 designers in about 3,000-square-feet. “We have a very large international clientele from the Middle East, Australia, South America and South Africa, and clients from Chicago, L.A., Dallas, Atlanta and San Francisco. There are so many great bridal stores in New York, so many different experiences,” says Mann.

Since Gabriella New York Bridal Salon debuted in 2008, the 3,000-square-foot boutique has experienced a 15%-20% increase in international clientele, according to spokesperson Michael Dougherty. Along with New York and U.S. clients, brides come to Gabriella from Europe, Asia and many from Brazil. “They want the New York experience of high-end service and designer gowns,” says Dougherty, who describes Gabriella Salon as having “more of a downtown chic, hip girl’s vibe.”

Part of New York’s cachet, no doubt, comes from Say Yes to the Dress, the number one rated bridal show in the world, broadcast in 60 countries, and filmed at Kleinfeld. Launched Oct. 2007 and entering its 11th season this fall, the series reveals the mini-dramas and many dresses a bride goes through before finding peace with her entourage in the form of a dream dress.

Sample sale and shops

On Oct. 8, from 3-7 p.m., Kleinfeld offers one of its four yearly sample sales. Gowns are marked down as much as 70%, with prices starting at $699. Forget about wearing running shows to grab armfuls of dresses. Line-up before 10 a.m. when Kleinfeld hands out numbers, then return by 2:30 p.m. Kleinfeld allows 40 brides on the floor at once, each choosing three gowns at first. It’s likely you will share a dressing room with another bride, so wear proper underwear.

Kleinfeld’s non-sale dresses, $1,500 – $10,000+, with most in the $2,500-$4,500 range.

Gabriella New York Bridal Salon, dresses from $2,500-$12,000, most in the $3,500-$6,500 range.

Mark Ingram Atelier, dresses $5,000-$20,000, most in the $5,000-$9,000 range.


Which Cities rate as most and least honest?

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 10:25 EDT September 26,2013



What would you do if you found a wallet containing $50 (or the equivalent), a cell phone number, a business card and a family photo? That’s precisely what Reader’s Digest aimed to find out by dropping 12 such lures on sidewalks and in parks in 16 major cities in Europe, North and South America and Asia. Of the 192 wallets “lost,” 47% were returned.

Helsinki, Finland, wins the honesty test by giving back 11 of the 12 wallets, earning the designation “The Saints” from Reader’s Digest. “Finns are naturally honest; it’s typical for us, ” said Lasse Luomakoski, a 27-year-old business student who was one of the people who handed over the leather and the loot.

The “Shame on You” for least honest pointed fingers at Bucharest, Romania; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Zurich, Switzerland, whose locals returned four wallets; as well as to Prague, The Czech Republic, where three wallets were returned; and to Madrid, Spain, with two wallets. The city in which you should tightly clutch your cash is Lisbon, Portugal, where only one wallet boomeranged back to the owner.

What predicts whether the wallet was pocketed or turned in? Young and old, men and women, as well as those in wealthy and poor areas handed back the dropped goods. The deciding factor: upbringing and sometimes experience.

“People who returned the wallets, ” says Raimo Moysa, editor-in-chief, Reader’s Digest International Magazines, “told us over and over ‘This is the only right thing to do. I’ve been taught to do this.’ Occasionally, someone said that he or she had lost a wallet and it was returned, so that person decided to do the same.”

Places Reader’s Digest dubs as displaying “Good Values” are Mumbai, India, nine wallets returned; Budapest, Hungary; and New York, each handed back eight wallets.

“In Mumbai, people are poor and the equivalent of $50 is a lot of money. But more than half the wallets were returned, ” says Moysa.

The “Fairly Honest” places are Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Moscow, Russia, seven wallets returned; as well as Berlin, Germany, and Ljubljana, Slovenia, with five wallets returned.

“The experiment was fun,” says Moysa. “It’s certainly not scientific, but yet some part of the findings ring true.” To read more, see Reader’s Digest.


Will the terrorist attack affect tourism to Kenya?

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY 5:21 pm EDT September 24, 2013

The Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya was attacked by terrorists 9/24/2013.

The Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya was attacked by terrorists 9/24/2013.

How the recent terrorist attack in a Nairobi mall that left at least 66 dead will impact tourism is a major concern in Kenya where tourism accounts for one in 10 jobs, 20% of exports and 12.5% of GDP.

Speaking today at the Africa Hotel Investment Forum in Nairobi, David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, cited tourism in Kenya, which received 1.8 million visitors in 2012, as “a cornerstone of the economy.” He called travel and tourism “a weapon in the war against terror” which can rebuild confidence “that a country is not only safe to visit but is a place to do business.”

Business for Micato Safaris, a luxury tour operator to Africa with offices in New York, has not been affected, says Dennis Pinto, managing director. “We have had no cancellations. On Monday we got the same number of online requests for brochures that we usually get. It will take a week or two before we know the impact, if any.”

Pinto notes that this fall Micato has been busy with corporate groups. Typically, international flights arrive in Nairobi in the evening and clients spend the next day touring the city.

“We use the Norfolk Hotel in downtown Nairobi, about 45 minutes from the mall, ” says Pinto. “We moved clients to Hemingways, a hotel in Karen, a suburb, not because of a concern about terrorism but because the Norfolk became very busy with journalists. We moved people to a quieter place for their comfort level not because of security. We also lined up charter flights and flew people into the bush a day earlier. “

Pinto notes that the average traveler to Kenya does not go to the Westgate Mall as it has international chain stores. “The terrorists did not target tourists, but wealthy Kenyans and expats. Those are the people that use that mall,” says Pinto.

Travel agent Daniel Saperstein, co-owner of  Hippo Creek Safaris in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., reports inquiries and expressions of concern by people traveling in the next week or so, but no cancellations.

“We always stress that clients should get trip cancellation insurance,” says Saperstein. “Each policy is unique. Some cover terrorism, but not political unrest. With safaris, you do not get your money back if you cancel 30-60 days before departure.”

Saperstein says that the hotels in Nairobi are security conscious. “Kenya is a very safe place to visit,” says Saperstein. ” Security has always been tight in Kenya and more so now. Every park and reserve is secured both for the protection of tourists but also for the prevention of poaching elephant and rhino.”

Linda Friedman, CEO of Custom Safaris in Bethesda, Md., an upscale safari operator, says “It’s too soon to tell. It’s only been four days. The Kenya business may fall off, but then the Tanzania business may increase.”

Friedman does not have clients on the ground in Kenya now. “My high season is July and August in Kenya. Most of my clients have nine months to think about this. They will hang on to their bookings and wait.”

Scowsill urged conference attendees to use social media “…to support Kenyans by telling the world that they are here and that they are having a good and safe time.”


Orlando for Halloween: Frightful or delightful

by Candyce Stapen, USA TODAY, 3:03 pm EDT September 23,2013

The Walking Dead haunted house at Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 23.

The Walking Dead haunted house at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 23.

The scariest part of Halloween for parents may be what to do with the kids. Little ones clamor for costumes and candy, but often meltdown way before evening’s end. Teens crave prowling, but the sight of your masked 16-year-old and his buddies banging on strangers’ doors may make the mistress of the house more likely to reach for Mace than Mars bars.

What to do? Get over your family’s Halloween horrors by planning a getaway to Orlando. America’s theme park capital offers 13 weeks of Frightful Fun tailored to both teenagers and adults as well as to youngsters.

READ MORE: Orlando’s scariest attractions

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights 23, named the nation’s best Halloween event for the sixth year in a row by Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards, stages its 23rd season of shriek-worthy events on select nights through Nov. 2. For those seeking more giggles than ghouls, several of Orlando’s attractions offer tame trick-or- tricks targeted to youngsters. More for your goodie bag: Fall is also the best time to visit Orlando’s theme parks, bringing pleasant, not steamy, days plus doable, not endless, lines.

Teens, 20-somethings and adults

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights 23

On select evenings the park morphs into a masterfully eerie mix of eight haunted houses and streets prowled by cleverly made-up “scareactors.” Bond with your teens and 20-somethings as you try to make it through these terrifying dwellings and suburban neighborhoods based on scary pop culture television shows, video games and movies.

Walk through An American Werewolf in London, a take on the classic film of the same name, and witness the blood-curdling transformation of a college student into a creepy night prowler. Drop into Resident Evil, based on the horror video game series, and battle Zombies, Cerberuses and the dastardly Nemesis.

You can double-down on scream-worthy moments from Walking Dead, the popular AMC television series. In the show’s haunted house, “walkers”—zombies—pursue you as you push through prison halls, parking lots and other places in fictional Woodbury. The show’s relentless un-dead also take over this season’s Street Experience, an outdoor recreation of Walking Dead’s world. Trailing blood and bad manners, the zombies stalk the woods, survivor’s camp, and the farm, popping out at you when you least expect it.

During Halloween Horror Nights, you can also watch two edgy live shows and catch some rides. Among those remaining open is Universal Orlando’s newest, Transformers: The Ride-3D. Because the after-dark chills pack a wallop, Universal Orlando recommends Horror Nights for ages 13-years and older.

Details: Select nights Sept. 20-Nov. 2. Purchase a separate ticket for Horror Nights or add on the evening with a Stay & Scream ticket.

Orlando Halloween for youngsters

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Park

Watch costumed Disney characters parade and listen to Cruella de Vil, Oogie Boogie sing and other not-so-mean villains sing. Select nights through Nov. 1

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular

Grab sweets at Trick or Treat stations, meet fanciful critters such as Gummy Worm Wanda and Salt Water Taffy, and end the day at a dance party with Princess Penelope. Weekends in Oct.

LEGOLAND Florida’s Brick-or-Treat,

Ogle the world’s largest LEGO Jack-O-Lantern, build a spooky LEGO creation, follow the brick-or-treat-trail to find goodies, and greet friendly ghosts and Mr. Potato Head. Saturdays and Sundays in Oct.


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