It’s (Almost) Fall, Y’all

This is usually one of my featured posts for October, but I’m really over the hot and humid Summer weather. Gimme all the hoodies, boots, apple crisp, jack-o lanterns, crunchy leaf piles – you name it! I’m so ready.

If you haven’t already guessed, autumn is my favorite season. Most of all, I love that you can walk from the front door to the car without breaking into a sweat. It’s one of the best times to get out and get moving. And what better way to do that, than to check out some of the area’s best haunted attractions.

My husband and I started a tradition of visiting different haunted houses/hayrides each weekend from late September through the end of October. This will be our SIXTH year. Not only is it a crazy good time, but between the scares, belly laughs, and trekking through cornfields and woods, it’s also a pretty awesome way to burn some calories and squeeze in a few thousand extra steps. Gotta make room for the apple crisp and cider doughnuts at the end!

In my experience, PA is good for haunts – they are perfectly creepy, gory, and even downright funny. Actors are allowed to touch you in the sense that they can poke, prod, run fingers through hair, and in some cases, put you in a cage or jump up on a wagon and drag you off. Call me crazy, but I think these things add to the suspense, fear, and entertainment, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Tips

  • Plan Ahead – We (well, I) like to map out our haunts in early September so we have a clear action plan. Some of the places we travel to are over 3 hours away (this is serious stuff!). If you don’t want to drive 6 hours or more round trip, check out some local hotels and make a weekend getaway out of it.
  • Visit Early – Most attractions are open the last two weekends of September, which is actually the perfect time to go. Lines are short and you can get by with paying for the base ticket instead of upgrading (see below).
  • Dress in Layers – Fall weather is unpredictable. Remember the time it snowed on Halloween? It’s always a good idea to wear pants if you will be in a wooded area (deer ticks). Two years ago we needed hand and foot warmers because the wagon ride was so cold. Last year I worked up a sweat in a t-shirt. Just check the weather before you go.
  • Wear Proper Footwear – This shouldn’t have to be said, but still – don’t wear flip-flops, sandals, or heels because…duh. Choose something that will support your feet while walking on uneven ground. Boots or sneakers are always good options.
  • Splurge for the VIP Pass – When it comes to haunted attractions (and amusement parks), I really believe in going all-out. You might spend $25 or more per person for a VIP ticket, but that will allow you to skip the lines and go first. Why is this a big deal? Believe it or not, you could be waiting in line for hours before you even get to go through one attraction. That just sucks the fun right out of everything. Do yourself a favor – get this pass and you can do the royalty wave to everyone else as you board your wagon.

NY/PA Attractions

#6 – The Barn of Terror

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Photo property of The Barn of Terror

My Rating: 1.5 Stars

Location: Lake Katrine, NY

Cost: CASH ONLY – ATM on site

  • $33 per person (2017 price)

Theme: Creepy Farm Family

Duration: About 60 minutes

Review: I kept waiting for something to happen and it just didn’t. First you walk through an 8-room barn and silo, then you take a bus down to a corn maze. The barn was dark and the costumes were pretty cheap and mostly looked the same – bloody hockey mask and black robe. The corn maze was so boring I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Truly disappointing that the space is there, but the creativity isn’t. After 16 years in business (this year), you would think there would be more excitement.

Bottom Line: Don’t waste your time. Regardless of the stellar reviews on Facebook, this “haunt” is not worth your time or money. The only reason it gets 1.5 stars is that I got quite a few steps in thanks to the corn maze.

#5 – Headless Horseman

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My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Location: Ulster Park, NY

Cost: Prices cheaper online.

  • $45.90 + tax – Online Ticket
  • $49.95 + tax – On-site Ticket
  • $25 extra for Scream Pass (aka VIP badge of honor)
  • Special discount for opening night

Theme: The Hollow

Duration: 2.5-3 hours (depending on wait times)

Review: There are 10 attractions (including a hayride, corn maze, and several haunted houses) and a little “village” of gift shops and cafes, which makes for a full evening. All guests must go through a bag check / metal detector after purchasing tickets. Keep this in mind because that line gets long fast and all ticket holders are considered equal until you pass through the gates. The hayride theme changes slightly every year, but the other attractions are pretty much “fixed.” Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. Last year we went on opening night back in September and were disappointed that the company didn’t take advantage of their 25th year in business to do something special for the guests. It was like any other year with the ridiculously long lines and predictable haunts.

Bottom Line: If you live in or around the Hudson Valley, it’s worth it at least once. Otherwise, meh.

#4 – Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride

My Rating: 3 Stars

Location: Glen Mills, PA

Cost:

  • $43 –  Combo – General admission to all three events
  • $79.50 – VIP Combo – Front of the line privileges to all three events
  • $104.50 – Super VIP Combo – Front of the line privileges to all three events, PLUS: VIP parking, hot dog, popcorn, soft drink, and t-shirt

Theme: The Walking Dead Meets Prehistoric Times

Duration: 90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There were zombies, there were dinosaurs. There were also spiders, snakes, and clowns. A scare for everyone. It was just okay. We went on a weekend in September – there weren’t any lines so we were able to get by on just the base ticket. There were only three attractions – hayride, corn maze, and haunted house. The theme was a bit odd, but the special effects were pretty cool. I love Psycho and A&E’s Bates Motel series, but there was little connection to both. I think the majority of my disappointment stems from just wanting more.

Bottom Line: If you’re in the area, I would recommend checking it out for a fun evening. But if you have to drive over an hour, I’d say skip it.

#3 – Pure Terror Scream Park

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My Rating: 4 Stars

Location: Monroe, NY

Cost: CASH ONLY. Prices cheaper on-site.

  • $45.25 – Online General Admission
  • $68.69 – Online VIP Admission

Theme: Clowns

Duration: 90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There were clowns. Lots of clowns. There were also spiders and very dark places. A scare for everyone, really. After I got over the frustration of finding the place, parking, and waiting in line, it was fun. We went on opening night so it was cheaper and there were fewer people. There are six haunted houses that are seriously awesome. One group is admitted at a time, which causes a really long wait in line, but a better experience once you’re actually inside. The makeup and special effects were so good that it was hard to tell real person from prop. I love that they incorporated the 2017 release of IT into one of the houses – very nice touch! Last year was our first visit, but according to the website, the content is freshened up each year. This will definitely be an annual trip!

Bottom Line: Don’t wait – add this to your list.

#2 Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

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My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Location: Spring City, PA

Cost: Online tickets have varying service charges

  • $20 – Individual Attraction Tickets
  • $35-45 – Combo Pass – General admission to 3 haunted attractions
  • $49 – Super Combo Pass – General admission to 4 haunted attractions
  • $78 – Pennhurst VIP Pass – Front of the line privileges to all 4 haunted attractions

Theme: Insane Asylum

Duration: Approx. 2 hours

Review: This place is really cool because it used to be a real asylum. The original buildings have been re-purposed to create a haunted insane asylum, catacombs, and more. There isn’t a hayride, but you won’t be disappointed by the 3 main attractions: Pennhurst Asylum, The Morgue (new for 2018), and Containment Tunnels. The Mayflower After Dark is a self-guided tour of an original campus building. There are creepy clowns and walking dead, but the real terror here is the idea of the insane asylum and the horrible things that were probably done there. That and the fact that you spend a lot of time walking in near darkness and through strobe lights. While you are waiting on the lines, you may or may not be terrorized by the cast members. Luckily, the VIP pass will help you avoid this. I (we) can’t wait to visit again this year!

Bottom Line: You’ve gotta go! This one will be on your list for years to come.

 #1 Reaper’s Revenge Haunted Attraction

My Rating: 5 Stars

Location: Scranton, PA

Cost: CASH ONLY – ATM on-site; Online tickets have a $2.75 service charge

  • $35-45– General Admission
  • $70 – VIP Package
  • $25 VIP Upgrade (on-site ONLY)
  • $3 – Parking

Theme: All Things Creepy

Duration: 75-90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There are 4 attractions including a hayride, dark forest walk-through, pitch-black indoor walk-through, and zombie maze. There are hillbillies, spiders, zombies, government officials (scariest of all). The Grim Reaper and Michael Myers even make appearances out in the woods. There’s also something really cool that happens during the hayride, but you’ll have to just take my word for it because saying too much would just ruin it. The combination of so many different attractions and a super long and enjoyable hayride makes this my (our) number one choice. The first time we did this, we were laughing, we were screaming, we were having so much fun. We wanted to do it again. Last year we made a special trip on Friday, October 13th – right after we got hitched!!

Bottom Line: Make the trip. I don’t care if you’re in California, Florida, or Toronto. It’s worth it.

I hope you go and have a great. I’d love to know if I’m missing out on any good ones 🙂

Happy (Almost) Fall!

Fitness Junkie

About a year or so ago I thought I’d start another blog focused solely on the books I read, which is about 50 a year. It was fun at first but quickly became a full-time job to manage two completely different blogs. Clearly, I need more hours in the day.

Then I realized that Diary of a Snacker is the perfect platform to blog about books related to personal development (PD), fitness, health, cooking, and more. So I give you Little Book Bites – posts about books worth sharing.

And without further ado…

Title: Fitness Junkie
Authors: Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Genre: Fiction
DS Rating: 3.5/5

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Maybe you’re not into fitness. I can respect that because five years ago, I wasn’t either. And that’s why Janey Sweet, the protagonist, is like my soul sister. Okay, I’ve never had to drop 30 pounds to keep a job, I’m not a divorcee in my thirties, and I’ve never had a guy take me dumpster diving on a first date. But I can relate to the desire to fit in at the gym, I’ve choked down a glass of green juice just to be healthy, and I’ve demolished a tower of French toast in one sitting (last week, not kidding).

On the other hand, maybe you’re totally obsessed – a true fitness junkie. I’m sure you could laugh at yourself for all of the times you’ve tried the latest fad cleanse, overpaid for fitness classes, and went to the extremes to lose five pounds. I know I’m guilty.

Sometimes you just need a light read and this is it. I finished Fitness Junkie in less than 48 hours because it was so addicting and fun. I just HAD to know what happened next in the saga of Janey. Put this one on your book list right now!

Going to Universal Studios FL? You NEED an Annual Pass!

I’ve been wanting to do a write-up on Universal for ages. My husband and I love it there, and I mean LOVE in every sense of the word. We’ve gone 1-2x a year since 2014 and it’s like our second home….1,000 miles away. Sometimes we drive and other times fly (they both have their benefits), but we always end up spending a good chunk of our vacation time in the sunshine state.

Actually, in four days, we’ll be on a plane headed back. I just can’t live without frozen Butterbeer and few dozen rides on The Mummy.

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This is, hands down, my FAVORITE ride!

In the past, only Florida residents were able to invest in an Annual Pass. But, not this year! Get this: for less than the price of a 2-park 3-day ticket*, you can get access for the ENTIRE year. Sign me up and take my money!

The Preferred Pass**

This one right here is your ticket to fun. It’s the mid-tier annual pass that gives you a year of access to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

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The Perks:

  • 10% off all restaurants, photos, and select merchandise
  • 15% off at Hard Rock Cafe
  • 20% off Blueman Group & City Walk Party Pass
  • $3.00 off Admission at AMC Universal Cineplex 20
  • Free self-parking (after your first visit; a $22.00 savings each visit)
  • And so, so much more

Be aware that Universal Express or Express Unlimited passes need to be purchased separately at each visit.

Is a Universal Express Pass upgrade worth the price?

Universal Express grants you one-time front of the line access for each ride, while Universal Express Unlimited lets you go again and again until you toss all that carnival food you just ate. (Sorry, not sorry for the visual.)

The first time we went, we were novices. I was shocked by the prices; a 2-park 1-day base ticket will set you back $170*, so we decided to forgo the upgraded Universal Express passes, which were almost the same price as the tickets.

Oh, what a rookie mistake. We ended up standing in some lines for over an hour in the hot sun. It sucked a lot of the joy out of the day and I left with a mean sunburn.

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That step count, though…

If you want a truly enjoyable experience, it’s ESSENTIAL to splurge for the Express Unlimited pass, even just for one day of your stay. Imagine all of the rides you could take if you weren’t standing in line all day. We always get our money’s worth. Last month we went on every ride at least twice (some as many as 25! Not joking.), spent over 11 hours walking around, and racked up almost 30,000 steps. Per day.

Now go out and get your annual pass. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
*Ticket prices change almost daily. Please visit Universal’s site for up-to-date pricing.
**Other pass options available, visit Universal for more details.

Hey, I’m still here…

This post is months overdue, but it’s been a challenge to find the right words (even for a writer). Recently, I’ve been struggling with some things – both physically and mentally – and I just felt that if I couldn’t get my shit together, how could I possibly offer fitness or lifestyle advice with any semblance of authenticity?

So far my husband and I have had a summer full of beautiful experiences. We’ve traveled to California and Florida, camped in Upstate New York, rode our jet-ski around the Statue of Liberty, and went to the drive-in on at least three different occasions. We installed a hot tub in our backyard, put the final touches on our basement gym, and planned a few future renovations. I also perfected a cookie recipe, developed a matcha addiction, and have read over ten enlightening books since the beginning of May.

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Anyone else think of Full House when you see this?

Most people would think “wow, she’s living the dream!” am I right? Well, even with all of that good stuff, I’ve still felt empty, drained, unhappy, and stressed. I’ve had bouts of anxiety about being 28 years old without any real career direction or goals. I’ve struggled to do simple things like laundry. I’ve failed at so many fitness and nutrition programs. And don’t get me started on being too tired.

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Poolside in Rancho Mirage, CA

You see, there was no way in hell I could encourage someone to spend 2% of their day working out when I couldn’t even spend 1% washing the freakin dishes. I would have told myself off.

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Roughin’ in on a camping trip in Upstate NY

It’s so easy to look at social media and see all of the good things, the fun. When you’re feeling down, it looks like everyone else is having the time of their lives. Meanwhile, the black cloud is following me on every adventure and delightful moment. That, in itself, is so draining. But social media isn’t really meant to show the other side of things. Who really wants to stare at Debbie Downer all day?

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Fresh-squeezed orange juice in Miami, FL

So here I am telling you that nothing is ever going to be perfect. A picture is worth a thousand words, but how many are actually true? If you’re struggling with something too, know you’re not alone. Just keep swimming, keep on keeping on, keep trying to find something good in every day. It will get better.

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Lady Liberty herself. Look – no people!

If you need some extra encouragement, check out the Finding the Balance series I posted earlier in the year.

Look for me on Mondays again – I’ve got some catching up to do.

Peace, Love, Zen
DS

My C25K Journey – Weeks 7 & 8

Wow! I’ve been MIA for over two months, and I’m sorry.

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Happy Homeowners!!!

We just bought our first house, and while it might not be the best excuse, I’ve been extremely busy packing, unpacking, painting, and the like, and haven’t had one moment to catch you up on my C25K progress. So here we go.

I finished the program at the end of October. It was tough, but I did it and ran a 5K with my husband to celebrate.

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Zombie Run

Work was pretty hectic during that time, and it was a challenge to find opportunities during the day to go to the gym. The weather wasn’t favorable for morning or evening runs at home, and when I did have time, I had headaches that made it difficult to even get out of bed. Oh, the challenges.

30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, 8 weeks total

Week 7 & 8 Routines

Start with a 5-minute warmup, run for 25-30 minutes, and savor a 5-minute cooldown.

The last two weeks of the program I ran whenever and wherever I could. Oh, how I missed the treadmill! One day was around 70 degrees and humid, and my body was so itchy as I was running that I couldn’t stand it. The moment I went inside, it stopped. Go figure.

I’ve learned that it’s easier for me to run inside for longer lengths of time because of the air and unpredictable NY weather. The 25 minutes passed quickly as I ran in place. When I did laps around my apartment complex, I felt like I’d been running as long as Forrest Gump. No humidity = happy lungs.img_15093174728472105941280.jpgI realize that not every run is going to be perfect (even though I strive for it) and I won’t always get a mid-day workout in (my favorite time), but a run is a run, no matter how it gets done. The fact that I actually enjoy running now is probably my biggest and most satisfying accomplishment.

To see what happened at week 6, click here!

Will you take the challenge?

My C25K Journey – Week 6

Week 6 encroached a bit on week 7, but for a good reason: I got married!!! I took a few days off to plan, celebrate, and enjoy the time with my new HUSBAND! I seriously couldn’t be happier.

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My love!

And, oh yeah, I only have two weeks left in the program.

30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, 8 weeks total

Week 5 Routine

Start with a 5-minute warmup. Varied 5-22 minute jogs. Finally, savor a 5-minute cooldown.

Over the last 1.5 weeks, I ran Wednesday (10/11), Tuesday (10/17), and Wednesday (10/18) at Crunch on my lunch break. I have to say – it is hot as hell in that gym (especially when wearing leggings- first and LAST time)! I like it cold because my body tends to heat up quickly, especially when running. I can’t be the only one.

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Pre-workout – before the sweaty mess.

I was a little scared to run for 22 minutes straight after taking such a long break in between runs, but it worked out fine. It definitely helps to distract myself with something on Netflix or an audiobook.

It comes down to this: my body can do it, but my mind still isn’t on the same page. Each minute I run I have to tell myself I can do it, that I’ve done it before and can do it again, that I got this. And I do.

To see what happened at week 5, click here!

My C25K Journey – Week 5

I’m in the home stretch – just three weeks left!

30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, 8 weeks total

Week 5 Routine

Start with a 5-minute warmup. Varied 5-20 minute jogs. Finally, savor a 5-minute cooldown.

Last week I ran Wednesday at home after work, and Thursday and Friday at the gym on my lunch break. The first time on the treadmill was a little awkward because I was so used to running outside, and had no idea that I needed to use the treadmill workout on my Fitbit (see pic below). Fortunately, the second time was a much better experience and I actually enjoy running both inside and out.

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Clearly there’s a treadmill option for a reason 😉

Since week 2, I’ve been nervous about running for 20 minutes straight. The thought was so daunting – just I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. Well, I proved myself wrong, because not only did I rock it, but I could have KEPT going. It probably also helped that I was re-watching Stranger Things as I ran.

My lungs are powerful, and my mind is in the right place to continue running at least three times a week after this program ends. I’ve already signed up for a Zombie 5K in celebration – October 28th.

I think I can call myself a runner now.

To see what happened at the halfway mark, click here!