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Salem Witches Curse Shutdown

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While international tourists are shaking their collective fists at the closed gates of National Parks, another faction within the travel industry is grappling with the ugly effects of the government shutdown: witches, warlocks and their looky-loo friends in Salem, Mass.

After all, October is usually an extra-magical time of year for the hometown of the infamous 1692 witch trials. The month-long “Haunted Happenings,” which includes a psychic fair and witchcraft expo, conjures up about $30 million in revenue for the town, according to a recent AP article.

But here's the fly, or frog, in the ointment: Salem’s visitors center—the nerve center for the event—is run by the currently defunct National Park Service.

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Not Just for St. Pauli Girls Anymore: Dirndls All the Rage at Oktoberfests

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If you’re going to an Oktoberfest this year, you might suddenly think the place is overrun with waitresses—those women wearing traditional dirndl outfits with a corset top, apron and peasant skirt. But this year, according to a recent report from Reuters, it’s the female customers who are donning the fashion, embracing that when-in-Bavaria spirit in increasing numbers.

The fashion trend is spreading outside the beer gardens, too. Flight attendants on some Lufthansa flights in recent weeks have been wearing dirndls, in honor of Oktoberfest season, and as perhaps the ultimate stamp of approval, Pippa Middleton was spotted wearing her own dirndl at a recent festival in Austria.

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Paso Robles Celebrates Harvest Weekend

The grapes of Napa often grab the headlines coming out of California wine country but the discerning vino cognoscenti knows that the Golden State harbors some of the best wineries in the world along its central coast. In the thick of it is Paso Robles, a vast countryside of rolling vineyards where vintners sport rustic spurs on their cowboy boots and the pace of life is calm. The annual Harvest Wine Weekend kicks off today, Friday, and promises to be the most robust yet. Over 150 wineries will host grape stomps, tours, tastings, dinners, and pairings (wine and bacon anyone?). One oenophile who will be traipsing around Harvest is Paso Wine Man (above)—the unabashed, vivacious Paso wine country cheerleader whose verve for the region’s splendors knows no bounds.

T+L caught up with the wine man before the big weekend to uncover his wines of choice; find out what makes “Tuscany with cowboys” so special; and why Paso Robles's brand of reds can’t be made anywhere else.

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Five Inventive Fall Beer Flavors

the Bruery Autumn Maple beer

Small-batch breweries are mixing in inventive autumnal ingredients. Here, a taste of the season’s best.

Autumn Maple
Where to Try It: The Bruery, Placentia, Calif.
Tasting Notes: This Orange County brewery, in a former warehouse, has made headlines for its creative brews—including this sweet and spicy one made with 17 pounds of yams (yes, yams)—plus cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, and maple syrup. 715 Dunn Way; 714/996-6258.

Fuego del Otoño
Where to Try It: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Café & Brewery, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Tasting Notes: Head to the brewery’s laid-back restaurant for a sample of its annual fall release, a blend of anise, cinnamon, and Michigan-grown chestnuts that’s aged in oak barrels. The deep flavor also features the brand’s calling card—a smooth sourness, thanks to a special yeast. 311 S. Main St.; 734/913-2730.

Punkin Ale
Where to Try It: Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Tasting Notes: Pumpkin beer should complement pie, not taste like it. Luckily, founder Sam Calagione has mastered restraint: the taste of the fresh fall squash and hints of cinnamon and allspice are noticeable yet subtle—and are best enjoyed at the cozy brewpub. 320 Rehoboth Ave.; 302/226-2739.

Golden Delicious
Where to Try It: Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., Pleasantville, N.Y.
Tasting Notes: This gold-toned beer isn’t technically made with fruit—but a stint maturing in apple-brandy barrels at a cozy brewery lends it cider-like sweetness and a tart bite. 99 Castleton St.; 914/741-2337.

Babayaga
Where to Try It: At events throughout the Northeast.
Tasting Notes: Some of the barley malt in this stout—from the roaming brewery Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project—is smoked over rosemary. Who says the herb is just for hearty fall fare? 617/682-6419.

Photo by Lars Klove

No Taxation Without a Vacation: Tax-Day Hotel Deals

After spending over an hour on hold waiting for help from the IRS last night, boy could I use a break. Luckily these four hotels are cashing in on tax-season deals (and puns!).

201004-b-tax-istockjpgThe Kimpton Hotel Group (like T+L favorite Kimpton Palomar Hotel) is offering a Sweet Tax Relief package: The hotel will waive the hotel and restaurant taxes for stays through April 30th. The Hard Rock San Diego has an EFFEN! Taxes package—also expiring April 30th—that not only waives hotel and restaurant fees but also includes an EFFEN! Brand Vodka cocktail (get it?).

Also in the tax-pun-vein, the Trump International Miami is offering a 1040EZ deal through May 30th which features three nights and two massages for $1,040. Lastly, you can save some green at the eco-friendly San Francisco Orchard Hotel group (Orchard Hotel and Orchard Garden Hotel) with their own version of the 1040EZ deal: book by April 15th for a $10.40 discount on hotel rates. Now, if only you could figure out how to write these stays off as a business expense?

Charlotte Savino is the online listings editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: iStock

Snowy Fun at Alaska's Famed "Fur Rondy"

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In Alaska it’s about surviving winter—a long, long winter. Fortunately, people in Anchorage have not only a frontier spirit but a sense of humor. And so there is Fur Rendezvous, affectionately called the "Fur Rondy" by locals, now in its 75th year and serving up 10 days of crazy winter fun from Feb. 26 - Mar. 6.

The festival leads up to the start of the more serious Iditarod dog sled race, which kicks off March 7 (and runs a 1,200-mile course to Nome).

Racing is part of the action during Fur Rondy too, in the form of the World Championship Sled Dog Races, with 30 mushers and their teams competing for an $80,000 purse, on a 25-mile course. But that’s about as competitive as Fur Rondy gets.

Other festival events, as I witnessed for the first few days, range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including whacky snowshoe softball (competitors fall a lot), a Frostbite Footrace (costumes optional) and the World’s Largest Outhouse Race (yup, teams competing pushing outhouses).

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Contest Watch: Beat the Winter Blahs

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Have the short cold days got you down? These sizzling contests may just sweep you away.

201001-small-yapta-01jpgYapta’s “9 Months of Paradise by Marriott Sweepstakes”
Since June, Yapta has been giving away a trip a month. There’s one more month left and February’s prize is a 5-night, 6-day hotel stay at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas. To enter, use Yapta.com's flight tracker to monitor the price of a flight; each flight counts as an entry into the drawing (maximum 25 per person). The drawing is Februay 28th, so go ahead and track spring break plans—it might end up being free! Other prizes include Bose headphones and Starbucks cards—both certain to help with the winter crankies.

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Geared for Winter

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On a recent journey to Iceland, I discovered 66° North. Named for the island’s Arctic latitude, this rugged outdoor clothing line is a favorite of Icelandic explorers, mountain guides and the Olympic ski team, competing in the 2010 Winter Games at Vancouver next month. While climbing around glaciers, riding horses in the highlands, and fishing on a long-line day boat off the Westfjords, I wore a black weatherproof Esja parka ($456). My first hoodie! So what if I looked like Kenny from "South Park"?

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Holiday Must-Sees: "The Nutcracker" on Both Coasts

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The holidays have become the traditional time for productions of the Nutcracker.  The ballet, through Tchaikovsky’s evocative score, depicts a child’s inner life and imagination—a world transformed by dancing snowflakes and exotic lands of sweets and fantasy. What better time to indulge a bit of fantasy? Here are two, not-to-miss stagings, from the classic to modern interpretations.

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Holidays on Ice: St. Regis Atlanta Opens Skating Rink

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Growing up in Marietta, Georgia, I had only one option for ice-skating: a spiritless indoor rink, where everyone in the entire state seems to come at the same time. It was practically an ice box packed with jostling skaters, some visibly sick from too much ice cream cake (the only snack offered other than pizza), and the music director assumed we would truly enjoy top 40 jams like MC Hammer's Pray in constant rotation.

Fortunately families now have alternate options.

Recently the St. Regis Atlanta (opened April 2009) started a new tradition—transforming its outdoor Grand Terrace into a festive ice skating rink.

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