Last weekend, I took the Moon staff’s advice  and embraced the pleasures of autumn. After filling my belly with hot apple cider and enjoying the kaleidoscopic leaves in the woods of northern Michigan, I joined my husband on a nippy stroll through a local corn maze, not far from our home.
Situated behind a high school, just down the road from a pumpkin patch, this particular corn maze  ($5 adults, $3 children under 14) was certainly not the largest or most complicated in the country – and as my husband pointed out, the brownish cornstalks weren’t really tall enough to produce the spooky cornfield effect of movies like Signs and Children of the Corn – but we had a good time nonetheless. In fact, it was my very first experience in a corn maze – something I’ve long wanted to do.
Because proceeds from this corn maze benefit a parent-teacher organization, it probably comes as no surprise that visitors are challenged to find ten clues within the cornstalks in order to uncover the overall design of the maze (as seen from the sky) – symbolic of a famous event in American history. With this added challenge, the maze is ideal for families, especially those with young children. And just in case you’re planning on visiting this particular maze, I won’t give the answer away.
Visiting my first corn maze last weekend, tasting my first caramel nut apple a few days later, and savoring the tail end of Michigan’s fall color display served as an excellent send-off as Dan and I prepared for our seasonal migration to southern Louisiana, where folks celebrate the fall months in a far different way. Now that we’ve made it to New Orleans, in fact, we've seen that October is less about fall colors, apple cider, and corn mazes, and more about ghost tours, haunted houses, and unabashed revelry – in celebration of Halloween.
October has always been my favorite month to be in New Orleans – it’s cool, crisp, inviting, and just a little bit eerie. If you ever have a chance, in fact, to spend Halloween in the Crescent City, I’d strongly urge you to take it. Historians and travel experts regularly cite the French Quarter as one of the most haunted places in America – and whether you believe in the spirit world or not, the sense of this city’s infamous past is palpable as you stroll the gas-lit streets at night.
Of course, the French Quarter isn’t the only spooky aspect of New Orleans. The surrounding moss-covered swamps have a decidedly creepy vibe, mansions in the Garden District as well as plantations along River Road offer their own ghostly encounters, and if you’re a fan of commercial “haunted house” enterprises, the area has its share of those, too.
Every year, Dan and I, who thrive on scary movies, look forward to the haunted house season, hoping to find one that truly frightens us. We’ve been to two of the more celebrated locales in the New Orleans area – The Mortuary Haunted House  ($20 general, $30-50 VIP treatment) and The House of Shock Horror Show  ($20) – but sadly, we were unimpressed by the overpriced, too-crowded, less-than-frightening experiences. So, in lieu of spending your hard-earned money on such a disappointing and all-too-brief haunted house cattle drive, I’d recommend participating in a two-hour Haunted History Tour  ($20 adults, $17 students and seniors, $10 children under 12) in the atmospheric French Quarter.
On such a ghost tour, which requires reservations and leaves from Rev. Zombie's Voodoo Shop, you’ll hear the sordid histories of such landmarks as the Andrew Jackson Hotel  and the LaLaurie House . You can also opt for tours that focus on vampire lore, voodoo history, or the city’s aboveground cemeteries. Of course, you could just as easily save your money and wander the historic streets on your own – on Halloween night itself, you'll find no shortage of interesting sights, from old-world vampires to well-dressed drag queens.
So, what are your favorite autumn adventures? Where do you most enjoy the fall color show, and what do you do to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve?
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.