Travel's Best for 2014

Luxury hostels, Cuba, local brew pubs and the Jersey Shore – they’re all reasons to pack your bags in 2014. See what hot destinations and travel trends are our favorites for 2014.

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ScareHouse (Pittsburgh, PA)

ScareHouse (Pittsburgh, PA)

ScareHouse is the place to be this year, especially because it has an exclusive partnership with Legendary Entertainment to help create the scariest Halloween to date. Featured attractions include The Summoning, Pittsburgh Zombies: Black Out and The Basement. This Halloween haunt offers a big-budget sensibility without losing its hometown appeal. “ScareHouse is my pick because sociologist and ‘fear expert’ Margee Kerr is always on staff to research and develop new ways to truly disturb visitors,” says geek culture and paranormal pop-culture expert Aaron Sagers. 960 1280

ScareHouse  

Fright Dome (Las Vegas, NV)

Fright Dome (Las Vegas, NV)

Located in Circus Circus’ Adventuredome, the Fright Dome is one of Las Vegas’ largest and longest-running Halloween attractions. With 6 new haunted houses, the theme park is transformed into a pitch-black, lights-out, haunted spectacle – easily making it the scariest on the Strip. The 5-acre theme park also includes 25 rides and attractions, multiple live shows at night and 4 new scare zones, including the Clown Overload Zone. “My personal nightmare of clowns with glowing eyes surrounding me came to life,” says Zak Bagans, lead investigator of Ghost Adventures. “I had the worst panic attack. Needless to say, I’ll go back again, because it was badass!” 960 1280

  

Netherworld (Atlanta, GA)

Netherworld (Atlanta, GA)

With more than 200 animated monsters and 100 live actors, Netherworld is one of the nation’s most famous attractions. Having been featured on TV and in movies such as Zombieland, this spooky attraction has amazingly detailed sets. “And unlike other Halloween attractions, Netherworld’s creepy characters greet patrons in the parking lot before they purchase tickets, scaring them off before they even enter,” says Larry Kirchner, owner of HauntWorld.com and Halloween Productions. 960 1280

  

The 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

The 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

The 13th Gate is one of the most, if not the most, elaborately detailed haunted houses in America, thanks to a construction crew that includes award-winning set designers, lighting and sound technicians, and special-effects artists. Sets are over-the-top and feature live animals, including snakes and gators. In each of the 13 themed indoor and outdoor areas, more than 100 professional actors and 12 special makeup artists help bring the horror to life. “Hollywood production companies have rented the attraction multiple times to film movies such as The Reaping,” says HauntWorld Magazine owner Larry Kirchner. “The 13th Gate is, without any doubt, one of the best haunted houses in America.” 960 1280

  

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Haunted House (Weston, WV)

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Haunted House (Weston, WV)

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is one of the most memorable haunted locations for Ghost Adventures lead investigator Zak Bagans, who completed a live 7-hour investigation with the Ghost Adventures crew. The spirits that roam the asylum’s halls are extremely active, and tours are offered to see how the mentally insane lived and died within these walls. “It is undeniably the scariest overall haunted attraction that I’ve been to in the US, outside of the Fright Dome,” Zak says. Additionally, visitors can participate in zombie paintball, a fall festival and the Asylum Ball, which includes a costume contest. 960 1280

  

13th Floor Haunted House

13th Floor Haunted House

The 13th Floor Haunted House is the largest and longest indoor haunted attraction in Colorado. It was renovated this year with 2 new attractions. “Watch evil take control of unwilling bodies in Undead: The Possession, or run for your life as terrifying ghouls and monsters come alive as you walk through Dwellings of the Dead,” says TravelChannel.com video project manager Arthur Hsu. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as Microsoft Kinect, the robotic monsters are more than capable of frightening the victims who dare to venture into the 13th Floor. 960 1280

  

Bennett’s Curse (Jessup, MD)

Bennett’s Curse (Jessup, MD)

This haunted spectacle outside Baltimore is one of the top Halloween attractions in the mid-Atlantic region. It features 3 terrifying haunted houses — Medieval Underworld, Inferno 3D and Sanctuary of Insanity — and the owners of this popular haunt continue to add monsters and twists to keep the attractions exciting for new and returning visitors. Arthur Hsu says, “Not only has Bennett’s Curse been featured on Travel Channel’s America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions 3, but it has consistently been ranked by several sources as one of the best Halloween attractions in the US.” This spooky spot is also among the first to frighten its victims with the latest cutting-edge technology. 960 1280

  

Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando, FL)

Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando, FL)

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando should be at the top of anyone’s Halloween bucket list, especially fans looking for big-budget scares. Aaron Sagers says, “Movie industry experts craft haunted houses so loaded with detail that visitors walk through and feel like they’ve been dropped into an episode of The Walking Dead or the movie From Dusk Till Dawn.” Other popular attractions featured at the theme park include Bayou of Blood, Dollhouse of the Damned and Roanoke – Cannibal Colony. Those willing to face their fears can also enter, at their own risk, the Halloween house for a face-to-face meeting with Michael Myers, the iconic masked slasher from the movies. 960 1280

ROBERTO GONZALEZ  

Festival of the Dead (Salem, MA)

Festival of the Dead (Salem, MA)

Salem, MA, is historically known for the 1692 Witch trials that left 20 people executed. This year’s Festival of the Dead includes 2 weeks of events and parties designed to bring out your inner Witch. Attend a séance to speak with the dead, share your stories with others at the Mourning Tea, pick up new ghost-hunting techniques or learn about death’s macabre customs and strange rituals. Finish the festival with the Official Salem Witches’ Ball on Oct. 31, and you’ll leave this town spellbound. Author, TV personality and paranormal expert Jeff Belanger says, “This town will cast a spell on you.” 960 1280

Chad Champoux  

Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)

Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)

The Queen Mary was built in the early 1930s as a luxury trans-Atlantic ocean liner, but it was pressed into military service to carry troops during World War II, when hundreds died in and around the ship. This Halloween, the haunted ship is offering its Dark Harbor tours with 4 new attractions: the Soulmate maze, the B340 maze, Voodoo Village and Monster Midway, which features a freak show, a mechanical monster and a new ride, the Sinister Swings. “Keep your eyes open, because those ghostly apparitions you see may not just be another special effect,” says Jeff Belanger. And before you go, make sure you check out the Ghost Adventures’ lockdown and investigation of the Queen Mary. 960 1280

  

Fan Favorite: Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, KY)

Fan Favorite: Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, KY)

We asked and the majority of the people who responded on Twitter and Facebook told us that Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in Louisville, KY, should be the fan favorite pic for Travel’s Best Halloween Attractions 2014. Built in 1908, the original building was designed to accommodate up to 50 tuberculosis patients. Today, it’s the site for paranormal investigations, tours and creepy sightings. Add it to your must-see spooky spots on Halloween. 960 1280

unknown  

Best Country to Keep Watch On: Cuba

Best Country to Keep Watch On: Cuba

Airlines, hotel chains, cruise companies and US travelers alike are all hopeful for an official removal of the travel ban on Cuba after President Obama’s announcement of plans to re-establish diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country. With the possibility of this once-difficult-to-visit destination’s rigid travel restrictions easing up, our dreams of mojito-fueled nights of salsa dancing in colorful, classic-car-lined streets will be that much easier to attain.  960 1280

Walter Bibikow  

Best Meal-to-Go: Beefsteak

Best Meal-to-Go: Beefsteak

Move over, bacon: Veggies are getting the celeb-chef treatment this year. Chef José Andrés is taking on the trend of fast-casual restaurants and opening a vegetable-focused chain in early 2015. It’s called Beefsteak (named after a type of tomato, for those who don’t know) and will serve up healthy food, fast. While steering away from calling it a vegetarian restaurant, Andrés wants merely to make meat the side dish for once and celebrate the unsung power of vegetables while bringing wholesome food to the masses.   960 1280

The Washington Post  

Best Under-the-Radar Destination: Guatemala

Best Under-the-Radar Destination: Guatemala

While other Latin America countries have been more on the radar for travelers — especially Mexico and Costa Rica — Guatemala hasn’t received the tourism spotlight it deserves. With 33 volcanoes, a World Heritage Site in the city of Antigua, Mayan ruins, and the mystical volcano-ringed Lake Atitlán​, Guatemala is brimming with intriguing history, colonial grandeur and outdoor adventures that will keep every type of traveler intrigued. Take in the breath-taking beauty of Guatemala at Casa Palopo, a boutique hotel with panoramic views of Lake Atitlán and 3 majestic volcanoes across the shore. ​ 960 1280

Image Source  

Best Reason to Take a Cruise: Total Solar Eclipse

Best Reason to Take a Cruise: Total Solar Eclipse

Think all cruises are the same? How about a cruise to see a rare eclipse? A total solar eclipse on March 20, 2015, will be visible from the remote Faroe Islands, between Norway and Iceland.  Several companies are offering cruises to witness this rare event, which will not happen again until 2026 and, if you’re lucky, could include another awe-inspiring show from Mother Nature — the northern lights. With pricey tickets selling out for a phenomenon that lasts no more than 2 minutes, 47 seconds, we imagine there will be many prayers made for a clear day. 960 1280

Karl Lehmann  

Best Extreme Sport: Volcano Boarding

Best Extreme Sport: Volcano Boarding

With new luxury eco-resorts cropping up, Nicaragua seems to be on every travel list for 2015. There’s 1 extreme sport in particular here that’s catching our attention: volcano boarding. Racing down an active volcano at speeds of up to 30 mph on a wooden sled — sounds like a life highlight, right? That is, if you don’t fall.  Adventure junkies should proceed with caution and wear protective gear, because you don’t want to get cut by volcanic ash on a tumble.  960 1280

Matthew Micah Wright  

Best Outdoor Adventure: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Best Outdoor Adventure: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Hollywood isn’t the only one trying to re-create Cheryl Strayed’s Wild journey; throngs of fans inspired by the best-selling author’s 1,100-mile solo trek are hitting the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the country’s longest and wildest thru-hikes, in record numbers. With the film adaption of <i>Wild</i>, we expect 2015 to usher in even more rookie hikers on the PCT. Embracing the growing interest, the Pacific Crest Trail is sharing fans’ stories and even Strayed’s exact route, so you can follow in the author’s footsteps. We suggest wearing better-fitting boots, though. 960 1280

Anne Marie Fox  

Best Reimagined Destination: Haiti

Best Reimagined Destination: Haiti

A Caribbean island nation with a vibrant Creole culture and stunning beaches, Haiti was a hot travel destination back in the 1970s, when the Clintons even honeymooned there. Now, 5 years after the devastating earthquake that shook the country, curious travelers and sustainable travel companies are trying to put this often-overlooked and feared destination back on the tourism map. Using local suppliers in an effort to keep money in the country, G Adventures is one of the pioneering companies that firmly believes tourism can be a force for good in Haiti — and it’s launching 5 Haiti trips in 2015 to prove it. 960 1280

  

Best US Comeback City: New Orleans

Best US Comeback City: New Orleans

Marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2015, New Orleans is celebrating its resiliant nature and welcoming travelers more than ever as it looks forward to its tricentennial in 2018.  So if you haven’t been to Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest or eaten your way through the city, overindulging in beignets and shrimp po’boys, don’t go another year without visiting America’s comeback city.   960 1280

Franz Marc Frei  

Best Travel Gadget: Apple Watch

Best Travel Gadget: Apple Watch

With the highly anticipated Apple Watch going on sale in 2015, the travel world is gearing up to support wearable technology. A watch that doubles as a smartphone is the latest advance that will make it easier to plan and manage travel. Hotels, airlines and travel companies are now offering smartwatch apps that let you check in, book flights and download boarding passes … all from your wristwatch. With a hands-free device, it’s that much easier to score fleeting travel deals on the go, too.  960 1280

  

Best Travel App/Website: EatWith.com

Best Travel App/Website: EatWith.com

With the rising success of peer-to-peer websites such as Airbnb, start-ups are popping up using similar concepts but connecting travelers to foodies around the world. One of our favorites, EatWith.com, connects hosts who love to cook with travelers who want a taste of local cuisine. From a 9-course meal on a family farm in Florence, Italy, to sampling typical Peruvian dishes in the Andes Mountains, what could be a better way to experience a destination than to connect with locals over a homemade meal? 960 1280

  

Best Destination Wedding Spot: Florence, Italy

Best Destination Wedding Spot: Florence, Italy

With some of the world’s biggest celebrities — including most eligible bachelor George Clooney and internet-breaking Kim Kardashian — tying the knot in Italy in 2014, brides-to-be are imagining their own Italian fairy-tale weddings. Feel like a superstar yourself by saying your “I do’s” at the luxury hotel Il Salviatino, an exquisitely restored, 15th-century villa perched on the hillside of Fiesole with sweeping views of Florence and the rolling Tuscan countryside. Even if your groom isn’t George Clooney, you couldn’t have dreamed of a more romantic wedding destination.  960 1280

Antonio Pistillo  

Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah

Home to both Dead Horse State Park and Arches National Park, the resort-like town of Moab offers some of the most stunning red-rock scenery you’ll ever experience, says Anna Vawser of blog, The Legendary Adventures of Anna. Whether you’re a novice outdoorsman or seasoned explorer, there’s no shortage of exciting adventures to be had, including mountain biking, hiking and 4-wheeling. Vawser recommends “rock climbing among the gorgeous cliffs, touring the Hell’s Revenge Jeep Trail and whitewater rafting down the grand Colorado River.” 960 1280

Green River at sunset, Canyonlands National Park  

Black Hills, Dakotas

Black Hills, Dakotas

Want remote, rugged beauty with a heaping helping of Americana? Then head directly to the western Dakotas. “Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorials are some of the largest mountain carvings ever, a testament to the United States’ ‘bigger is better’ motto,” says the Martin family of thatTripUSA.com. “Awesome day trips include the historic Wall Drug Store (a rustic mall for weary travelers), Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (an underground, nuclear-themed throwback to America’s Cold War) and the Enchanted Highway (home to rest stops decorated with a bunch of world-record sized scrap metal sculptures).” While you’re there, visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the Martins' favorites, for a chance to be surrounded by herds of buffalo, chattering cities of prairie dogs, deer, and herds of wild horses. 960 1280

South Dakota Tourism  

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Remember what absolute silence sounds like? Most days, neither do we. That’s when we escape into the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree National Park, a treasure trove of its namesake Joshua trees and rock formations like Skull and Arch Rock. Kinga Philipps, our resident National Parks expert, suggests “spending days bouldering among Martian-looking landscapes, exploring the palm-fringed oases, watching [fiery] sunsets and experiencing silence so golden that you can hear the rush of air through a bird’s feathers as it flies overhead.” 960 1280

Robb Hannawacker / NPS  

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

You can comb the states over and not come across a body of water more mind-blowingly beautiful than Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. “The lake is the purest shade of blue, surrounded by striking, 2,000-foot cliffs,” Vawser says. Formed in a dormant volcano’s crater, the magnificent blue lake is entirely filled from direct precipitation of rain or snow – the crater receives an average 44 feet of snow a year! “You can make your way down the Cleetwood Trail for a swim, try your hand at fishing, or have a relaxing picnic while enjoying the view,” says Vawser. Just don’t put off your summertime visit – Crater Lake’s first snowfall is often in September. 960 1280

Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

Just off the coast of Cape Cod, MA, Nantucket is full of New England charm, great restaurants, eclectic shops and truly stunning beaches – making it a summer island paradise. The Grey Lady [nicknamed for its mystical fog and weathered grey-shingled houses] educates and delights, says Travel Channel host Don Wildman. “The Whaling Museum provides the sea legs for future readers of Moby Dick and Great Point Lighthouse is a family expedition for the books.” 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh in the summer? Hear us out on this one. Home to more than 39 colleges and universities, Pittsburgh is bubbling over with young people helping to redefine the city. Steel City has even become an arts destination thanks to institutions such as the iconic Andy Warhol Museum, as well as the Mattress Factory, a contemporary art museum with room-sized installations spread throughout a 4-story warehouse. “It’s not only one of the hippest cities in America, but also it’s located in the great expanse of western Pennsylvania,” Wildman says. “Spend the day in town at the Carnegie Museums, then head south to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to see an architectural wonder or to Ohiopyle State Park for thrilling whitewater.” 960 1280

Carmine Sarazen / Visit Pittsburgh  

Everglades National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park, Florida

<a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/road-trips/articles/everglades-national-park-florida">Florida’s Everglades National Park</a> has one of the most unique ecosystems in the US, a subtropical paradise of plants, birds and rare wildlife -- even manatees. But don’t just take our word for it. “Take an airboat tour and keep your eyes peeled for alligators and crocodiles – it’s the only place in the world where they coexist,” says Philipps. The Everglades offers an array of activities, from fishing, camping and hiking to biking, kayaking and canoeing. Explore the tropical mangrove forests and miles of sawgrass, says Philipps. “Just don’t forget the bug spray.” 
960 1280

Everglades National Park  

Bannack State Park, Montana

Bannack State Park, Montana

If you’re road tripping through southwestern <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/montana/photos/experience-montana">Montana,</a> James Fisher, founder of <a href="https://roadtrippers.com/">Roadtrippers.com</a>, suggests pulling into Bannack State Park for a taste of America’s past. Just 2.5 hours south of Helena, “Banack State Park is not only gorgeous, but also a perfectly-preserved ghost town that you’re invited to explore,” Fisher says. Founded in 1862 after a major gold discovery on Grasshoper Creek, this massive abandoned mine town in Beaverhead County has 2 campgrounds and more than 60 buildings (most of which can be explored). Don’t miss “Banack Days” during the 3rd weekend in July, when you can see Bannack as a boomtown. The “historical reconstitution” revives gold rush times, with reenactments by miners and an old-timey breakfast served in the old Hotel Meade. 960 1280

John Elk / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

Finger Lakes, New York

Finger Lakes, New York

The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is known for its world-class wineries, gourmet restaurants and spectacular scenery, but there is a hidden gem located along Route 14, just 4.5 hours north of NYC. “You should detour to Watkins Glen State Park,” Fisher says. “It looks like a scene out of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but it’s actually a breathtaking waterfall gorge.” With 19 waterfalls, and 2 miles of lush forest, crystal-clear streams and 200-foot cliffs, road trippers can camp, swim and hike along rim trails that overlook the awe-inspiring waterfall gorge. 960 1280

Lamar Gore / USFWS, flickr  

Washington DC Metro Area

Washington DC Metro Area

No childhood is complete without a visit to our nation’s capital. “The list of free or nearly-free attractions is virtually endless: The White House, Capitol Hill, Smithsonian Institute (we recommend the National Air and Space Museum and Museum of American History), Washington Monument, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Ford’s Theater, the National Archives and National Zoo; to name just a few,” says the Martins. Baseball fans can choose to root for 2 MLB teams, the Washington Nationals on the SW Waterfront or the Baltimore Orioles, whose throwback-style stadium is within easy driving distance from DC. The Martins say, “Another treat -- during the summer only -- is a free evening concert by the Marine Band and Bugle Corps (known as the 'President’s Own') as well as an awesome precision demonstration by the US Marines’ silent drill team (with rifles and fixed bayonets flying)!” 960 1280

Panoramic Images / Getty Images  

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