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Top 7 Best High Tech Haunted Houses according to Metropolitan Home magazine

These spooky spots feature countless modern tricks.  Simple corn mazes and scarecrows on a stick have nothing on these top-rated haunts from across the US. These creepy haunted houses feature the latest in cutting-edge, high-tech tricks and treats guaranteed to keep you on your toes and screaming in fright.

THE DARKNESS HAUNTED HOUSE (St. Louis): With $1 million in renovations, the Darkness guarantees a scare. Be sure to check out the new TerrorVisions in 3D, featuring manic circus clowns, as it is lauded as the best 3D haunt ever (Tickets start at $15,

The Darkness Haunted House (St. Louis)

BATES MOTEL (Philadelphia): The Bates Motel grabs patrons' attention during the haunted hayride with huge pyrotechnics then confuses them with 12 fog machines and animatronics run by computerized controls (Tickets start at $12,

Bates Motel (Philadelphia)

13TH GATE HAUNTED HOUSE (Baton Rouge, Louisiana): While plummeting 13 stories in the old services elevators, be sure to notice the elaborate Hollywood-quality special effects at this top-rated venue (Tickets start at $20,

13th Gate Haunted House (Baton Rouge)

HOUSE OF SHOCK (New Orleans): Before you set foot into the 20,000 square foot House of Shock, take in the stage show, which shoots flames 75 feet into the air. Inside, the newest addition is a wall of metal barrels that fall inches from your head (Tickets start at $20,

House of Shock (New Orleans)

HOUSE OF TORMET (Austin): Can't make it all the way through House of Torment's new Rise of the Abominations with thrilling animatronic monsters? Scared guests will be ushered out to have their picture taken and posted on the "Wall of Shame" (Tickets start at $15,

House of Torment (Austin)

NETHERWORLD HAUNTED HOUSE (Atlanta): Netherworld's multi-level haunted house features a spinning tunnel that turns your stomach and keeps you guessing. And beware of the animatronic Lava Monster (Tickets start at $20,

Netherworld Haunted House (Atlanta)

DENT SCHOOLHOUSE (Cincinnati): Patrons set off moving props when triggering infrared sensors then walk through the Claustrophobia Room where air bags push in from the walls. On the way out, don't touch the walls - packed with low-voltage electricity, they will shock hands (Tickets start at $13,

Dent Schoolhouse (Cincinnati)

Posted by Amanda, in Travel.

Bon Appétit Names Top 10 Best New Restaurants

Bon Appétit's September issue lists its annual Top 10 Best New Restaurants. The following is a list of the restaurants along with a recipe from that restaurant which is available on the Bon Appétit website.

Spring Hill: 4437 California Avenue SW, Seattle; 206-935-1075

    • Without much fanfare, the Pacific Northwest has become one of the most exciting foodie destinations in America. Between Seattle and Portland, there are an increasing number of top-notch, chef-driven restaurants--and Mark and Marjorie Fuller's Spring Hill in West Seattle is at the top of that list. Mark shows respect for the region's amazing seafood (Kumamoto oysters, Dungeness crab), but also has the culinary skill to play with texture and flavors. His food manages to be beautiful without being ornate. The sleek space, which Marjorie works with confidence, and the dazzling open kitchen only add to the lofty dining experience.
    • Go to the Bon Appétit website to get Spring Hill's recipe for Black Cod with Fennel Chowder and Smoked Oyster Panzanella

Bon Appetit Top 10 Best New Restaurants Spring Hill
Cakes & Ale: 254 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, Georgia; 404-377-7994

    • At the age of 27, Billy Allin gave up his job as a money manager and enrolled in culinary school. After graduation, his cooking skills landed him gigs at renowned restaurants, including Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Watershed in Decatur. With his farm-to-table cooking philosophy fully established, Allin and his wife, Kristin, decided it was time to open "the restaurant where we would want to eat," he says. That restaurant is Cakes & Ale (from a phrase in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night meaning "the good things in life"), located east of downtown Atlanta. The couple's ideal restaurant turns out to be a 50-seat neighborhood spot where the kitchen staff often answers the phone when you call to make a reservation, and a chalkboard announces the daily menu, which features simple, precise dishes like braised rabbit grits with saba vinegar and spring onion; buttermilk-rhubarb fool; and the addictive arancine here.
    • Go to the Bon Appétit website to get Cakes & Ale's recipe for Citrus Arancine with Pecorino Cheese

Bon Appetit Top 10 Best New Restaurants Cakes & Ale

Bar Jules: 609 Hayes Street, San Francisco; 415-621-5482

    • "How many bowls of clam chowder can you make before you lose your mind?" That was the question Jessica Boncutter asked herself just before quitting her job at a popular San Francisco oyster bar. After she resigned, she headed for London to take a break and hang out with friends--and that's when inspiration hit. "All of my friends were opening restaurants over there, and I said to myself: If they can do it, I can do it." When she returned to the Bay Area, she got to work on Bar Jules, a bohemian lunch and dinner spot in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood. The chalkboard menu, consisting of fewer than ten dishes, is big on California produce and sustainable ingredients, which, to be honest, is nothing new in San Francisco. What is new is that there's no mantra on the menu, no stuffiness in the dining room--and there are no reservations. Chef Boncutter's simple food includes everything from a perfectly cooked wood-grilled burger to the lamb stew below. One thing you won't find on the menu? Clam chowder.
    • Go to the Bon Appétit website to get Bar Jules' recipe for Lamb with Preserved Lemons

Bon Appetit Top 10 Best New Restaurants Bar Jules
No. 7: 7 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn;

    • The walls are brick and plaster. The ceilings are pressed tin. And the waitstaff is straight out of an American Apparel catalog. In short, it's a quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood joint. But the first sign that No. 7 is doing things a bit differently than your average hipster restaurant is the fried broccoli appetizer: an entire head of broccoli covered in an impossibly crisp tempura batter and paired with a hummus-like black bean sauce and a dill and grapefruit salad. It's a mishmash of disparate ingredients that somehow succeeds. The same goes for the deconstructed romaine salad (romaine heart, mozzarella-wrapped quince, lemon) and the pumpkin-seed-crusted tofu featured below. The risk-taking, slightly theatrical menu comes from chef Tyler Kord (left), who worked at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Perry St before opening No. 7.
    • Go to the Bon Appétit website to get No. 7's recipe for Pumpkin-Seed-Crusted Tofu with Lemongrass Broth, Rice Noodles, and Poached Eggs

Bon Appetit Top 10 Best New Restaurants No. 7

Woodberry Kitchen:  2010 Clipper Park Road, Number 126, Baltimore; 410-464-8000 

    • In the early 1990s, long before sustainable, local, and organic became the calling cards of chefs everywhere, Spike Gjerde was showcasing the abundance of the Chesapeake Bay. With the opening of his latest spot in the historic Clipper Mill complex--a brick-and-wood space that has the look and feel of a restored farmhouse--Gjerde takes his farm-to-table commitment to the next level. A wood-burning oven is the centerpiece of a kitchen that turns out dishes like roasted Rappahannock River oysters, Roseda Black Angus Farm hanger steak, and fantastic flatbreads.
    • Go to the Bon Appétit website to get Woodberry Kitchen's recipe for Spiced Pear Flatbreads with Goat Cheese and Mustard Cream
Bon Appetit Top 10 Best New Restaurants Woodberry Kitchen

Continue reading "Bon Appétit Names Top 10 Best New Restaurants " »

Posted by Amanda, in General, Travel.

Top 10 Best Airports of 2009

Every year Skytrax, a company that specializes in aviation research, organizes a massive consumer satisfaction survey to determine the best airports in the world. This year 8.6 million passengers at 190 airports offered up their opinions on everything from airport navigation to culinary options to amenities, in order to establish this year's winners. For the first time in seven years Hong Kong fell to second place, beat out by Incheon Airport in South Korea. Still, Skytrax reports that the top three contenders were neck-to-neck, making this year's contest the closest ever.

Some of the winners have amenities as wide-ranging as golf courses, casinos, spas, and indoor gardens, making them veritable destinations in their own right (and making it easy to see why consumers love them). Surprisingly, not one airport in North America made the top ten, not even the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, which won first place in the region.

1. Incheon International Airport: In addition to placing first in the world (up from third place last year), this light-filled airport in Seoul, South Korea also won first in class for cleanliness. It's easy-to-navigate layout (only one terminal) also makes it a favorite among consumers, but what really catapulted this Korean masterpiece to first place are all of the extras--everything from a golf course, casino, and spa, to seven indoor gardens and a museum dedicated to Korean culture that houses a collection of relics covering 5,000 years of Korean history.

Incheon International Airport
2. Hong Kong: After seven years on top, Hong Kong must be smarting after losing first place to Incheon. Still, there's nothing painful about layovers at this airport. Like Incheon, it's single-terminal layout makes navigation easy and you won't go hungry here-- the airport placed first in class for dining. The design is first-rate with awesome views over Hong Kong and while the city is only 25 minutes away by shuttle, you might not want to leave before exploring what the airport has to offer--you can do everything here from watching a movie, to having your nails done to catching a round of golf or shopping a string of boutiques (Prada, Gucci, Versace) that rivals New York's Fifth Avenue.
Hong Kong International Airport

3. Singapore Changi: Changi in Singapore may not be as futuristic in design or airy and light-filled as the top two winners this year, but what it lacks in outward design, it more than makes up with interior appeal. Not only did the airport place third worldwide, it also topped the "best amenities" list. At Changi, it's not hard to relax before a flight--travelers can nap in one of the napping areas, unwind on an orchid-filled indoor nature trail, get a massage at their spa, catch a movie at their 24-hour theater, or even cool down in the rooftop swimming pool.

Singapore Changi Airport

4. Zurich: Moving up to fourth place from eighth place last year, Zurich also ranked first among all European airports. Sure, Zurich boasts its fair share of between-flight amenities, including an IMAX theater, a planetarium, and a museum which contains over 3,000 objects pertaining to the history of transportation, but it's really their dedication to customer service that has kept them moving up the ranks year over year. Zurich airport ensures that customers are happy and things are running smoothly with a central office that coordinates everything from airline arrivals and baggage to customs and security.

Zurich Airport

Continue reading "Top 10 Best Airports of 2009" »

Posted by Amanda, in Travel.

Gentlemen's Tonic, a unique establishment founded in the heart of Mayfair, London, has recently opened its international flagship location in Houston, Texas

Gentlemen's Tonic is an upscale grooming salon that affords the modern man a traditional barbershop and offers services like massages, facials, pedicures and other spa-type services for men. The establishment comprises elements of old and new: wood, leather and marble are mixed with high-tech music consoles and LCD screens in each of the private haircutting stations and treatment rooms. The services and products have been carefully selected and personally tested for quality and effectiveness and are designed to promote a sense of well-being and vitality.

Gentlemen's Tonic is the perfect antidote to the rigors and stresses of the outside world.

Gentlemen's Tonic Reception Area
Gentlemen's Tonic Ground Floor
Gentlemen's Tonic Haircutting Station

Posted by Amanda, in Beauty and Cosmetics, Travel.

Free weekend in August at all 147 National Park sites

The National Park Service will offer fee-free weekends this summer to encourage cash-strapped families to visit national parks -- and to help boost local economies. All 147 National Park Service sites that charge entry fees will waive them on August 15 and 16. The fees at these parks normally cost from $3 to $25, so it's a nice savings. 

National Park Service logo
Source:  WalletPop; WikiMedia

Posted by Amanda, in Travel.

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