Follow the Trail of Literature's Favorite Vampires
Vampires have intrigued, terrified and dominated pop culture for hundreds of years, and while the "Twilight" novel collection craze is new, vampire fanatics have been traipsing through Transylvania on the search for Count Dracula and dodging vampires in New Orleans' French Quarter long before the Cullen family enthralled "Twilight" readers. Set off on your own vampire vacation inspired by literature's greatest blood suckers in Transylvania, New Orleans and Forks, WA.
Stay: Bypass the touristy spots, and enjoy classic Transylvanian style and service in any of the 7 rooms at the Fronious in Sighisoara.
Do: Get back to vampires' earliest roots in pop culture with a visit to Romania to follow the trail of Count Dracula through Transylvania's dense forests and winding mountain drives. Bram Stoker appealed to the local's dark folklore when he created the infamous vampire in 1897. Though fictional, Dracula was inspired by Romanian ruler Vlad Tepes, more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler, the harsh leader who ruled Wallachia from 1456 to 1462. To best experience the wild countryside, rent a car so you can easily access the small towns or join a Dracula-themed tour with the Romanian Tourism office. Though Brasov is a main stop on most Dracula tours of Transylvania, Bran Castle actually has only unconfirmed ties to Vlad the Impaler and the fictional Dracula. Instead, it's the decrepit Poenari Fortress, overlooking the Arges River at the bottom of the Carpathian Mountains, that is considered the true Dracula's castle. Today, all that remains are the castle's ruins and the nearly 1,500 steps that lead to the top. There's also plenty for curious Dracula-seekers to see in the town of Sighisoara, the well-preserved medieval city where Vlad the Impaler was born, teeming with atmospheric cobblestone streets and churches.
Eat: Enjoy a meal in the restaurant on the first floor of the Vlad Dracul House in Sighisoara's Citadel Square where Vlad the Impaler lived from 1431, when he was born, to 1435. After your meal, head upstairs to check out the medieval arms in the Museum of Weapons.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Stay: While it's not likely you'll have any run-ins with blood suckers at the French Quarter's stylish Hotel Monteleone, it may be difficult to rest in peace entirely thanks to some reported ghostly shenanigans on the premises.
Do: There were whispers of vampires in New Orleans dating back to the 1880s, long before author Anne Rice put this city on the map with her collection of vampire chronicles. In the early 20th century, there were tales of Jacques Saint Germaine, a wealthy and mysterious man who mingled with high society and hosted dinner parties where he never ate but drank wine that, unbeknownst to his guests, was later found to be laced with human blood. Learn about the legends of these creepy night stalkers on Haunted History Tours' New Orleans Vampire Tour, a 1.5-hour stroll through the French Quarter.
Eat: In true vampire spirit, forgo food and instead slurp down witch's brew, midnight potion or dragon's blood at the Original Dungeon, a supposedly haunted club complete with a coffin and signature cocktails, tucked away in a French Quarter alley.
Stay: Formerly known as the Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast, this Forks, WA, inn was appointed as the Cullen House by the Tourism Board and plays the part with messages from the "Twilight" character Esme for visitors.
Do: Before the "Twilight" phenomenon, Forks, WA, was a quiet town that blended in with its Pacific Northwest neighbors. But the "Twilight" frenzy continues to keep pace, and the town has responded with plenty of tours of the spots described in the books and movies. There are a number of guided tours, but you can save some money and travel at your own pace on a self-guided tour. Visit the Forks Tourism Office for details on iconic "Twilight" spots around town and then check out to the Forks Community hospital at 530 Bogachiel Way (just don't take Dr. Cullen's reserved parking spot) and First Beach in La Push, home of the Quileute Nation and the "Twilight" werewolf community. There's no shortage of "Twilight" paraphernalia around town as well as signs noting literary landmarks for those who haven't memorized a map of Bella's stomping grounds.
Eat: Recreate Bella and Edward's first date over classic Italian dishes like Bella's Mushroom Ravioli at Bella Italia in Port Angeles, WA.