The leaves have turned, there’s a chill in the air and smells of apple pie and fresh cider have filled the kitchens of millions. Fall is here and with it the favorite holiday of many, Halloween. In the past I’ve written about fun places to spend the Witching Day and how to find scary destinations to get your ghoul on. This year though I want to do something different, I want to help out those folks who don’t like to be scared out of their wits and so here are some of my favorite travel destinations that are in no way whatsoever scary, spooky or otherwise ghoulish.
1. Vall de Núria – Even though the hotel in this ultra-secluded valley is reminiscent of the Stanley Hotel from The Shining, you won’t find Jack Nicholson roaming the halls of this amazing retreat. This ancient place of solitude and relaxation located in Spain’s Pyrenees is unique in that it is only accessible by train or on foot. There are no roads leading to the valley, making it an ideal place to get away from it all. The valley has been popular for centuries thanks to pilgrims who hike here to pay their respects at the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Núria. Today it’s still a popular pilgrimage site, but even more popular thanks to skiing and amazing hiking paths. Plus there’s just something amazing about being in a place so inaccessible; it truly is a place to get away, decompress and just relax. The scariest thing here is sleeping through breakfast.
2. Saskatoon – Poor misunderstood Saskatoon; the city that even many Canadians make fun of. Saskatoon and the entire province of Saskatchewan get a bad rap though and the week I spent exploring was one of the best I’ve had this year. As far as big cities go, there’s no way Saskatoon is going to intimidate anyone though. A true pioneer city, Saskatoon has had many fits and starts throughout its history, but today has emerged as a fun place to explore or use as the launching point to see the rest of the province. The scariest thing about Saskatoon is how hard it is to choose from amongst all the great restaurants. For some reason, Saskatoon has more high quality restaurants per capita than many other places I’ve been. Not only are the chefs and menus excellent, but most of them try to infuse the flavors of the province in their offerings, creating a sustainable and delicious eating experience. Nothing scary about that.
3. Bruges – An easy and popular day trip from both Paris and Brussels is Bruges, Europe’s fairytale city. If Disney were to design the quintessential European village, they couldn’t do any better than Bruges. I hate the word, but charm oozes out of every gabled building and horse drawn carriage creating a decidedly non-scary travel experience. Most people visit Bruges just to be there; to gaze upon the medieval buildings and elaborately ornate church and town hall in the middle of town. Like other towns in this part of Europe, canals grace the city creating even more cutesy travel appeal and an experience that is like none other in Europe. Add to that some of the best chocolate shops in Belgium and you have a travel destination that wouldn’t scare the meekest amongst us.
4. Lanai – In general I don’t think Hawaii is a very scary place, but to take things up a notch the least scary island has to be Lanai. The smallest of the Hawaiian islands open to tourists, Lanai is a scant 18 miles wide and home to a mere 3,000 people. Two resorts dominant the island and Lanai is traditionally known as the place to do nothing at all. A former pineapple plantation, today the island is focused entirely on tourism and making their guests feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. While there are a few ancient Hawaiian legends that may give you pause, there aren’t any ghost tours or hauntings on the island so it’s an ideal place to spend Halloween without fear of demonic possession.
5. Cotswolds – Like most children, my parents used to read to me the famous stories of Peter Rabbit. These tales of a silly rabbit live on today in the real life setting of the fictional lapine in England’s Cotswolds. The Cotswolds are a range of hills in southwestern and west-central England and are a popular place for tourists to see the stereotypical English countryside. Period movies are almost always filmed in this part of England and it’s easy to forget to which century you belong as you walk through the villages and communities of the region. One of my favorite memories was when I was just out of college and spent a few days exploring the Cotswolds. One night I sat on the back porch of a surprisingly nice hostel and watched the sun set over the rolling hills dotted only with a few fluffy sheep. At that moment everything and everyone else in the world seemed a million miles away and I couldn’t imagine ever being happier. Not exactly the stuff of a fright fest.
These are just a few of my favorite, non-scary places. What are some of yours?