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Summer isn’t a season often associated with horror, other than the maybe the dread of scorching heat and larger theatrical horror releases. It’s a season that often feels more like a countdown to the best season of the year, Fall. There’s a lot more to do and see beyond the dark, a/c cooled theaters this summer, though, making that countdown to Halloween way more fun and interesting. If you’re planning a road trip or summer vacation, these stops are worthwhile for the horror fan:
Kingsland, Texas – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Grand Central Cafe
Just over an hour’s drive northwest of Austin is the little town of Kingsland, where horror fans can dine on pancakes and burgers while perusing memorabilia from Tobe Hooper’s seminal 1974 horror film at the Grand Central Café. Why would a café on the property of a Texas Historic Landmark have memorabilia from the Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Because it’s the renovated house featured in the film as the Sawyer clan household. Over two decades later, after falling into a state of disrepair, the house was transported from its original location in Round Rock to the grounds of The Antlers Hotel. Now, the Sawyer home is Grand Central Café. If that’s not enough inspired horror dining for you, you can also chow down on Texas barbecue at the restored site of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre Gas Station, just southeast of Austin in Bastrop, Texas.
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania – Blobfest (July 13-15)
This annual 3-day event is hosted by the Colonial Theatre in celebration of, you guessed it, the 1958 horror film, The Blob. Held rain or shine, the even kicks off with a re-enactment of the famous scene from the original film in which a panicked crowd flees the theatre under attack by the amorphous creature from space. Aside from screenings of The Blob, there are numerous screenings of additional retro horror classics, live music, special guests, contests and more.
New Orleans, Louisiana – Horror Headquarters in the French Quarter
One of America’s most haunted cities also happens to be a busy city for film productions. You could spend a lot of time taking ghost, cemetery, and voodoo tours, or even perusing the morbid Museum of Death and barely scratch the surface of horror-themed offerings. But if you’re looking to get up close and personal with some beloved horror movies and TV series, then the French Quarter also marks notable film locations for shows like American Horror Story (the Hermann-Grima House is a central location of the series) and Adam Green’s Hatchet. In other words, New Orleans is a treasure trove for horror fans.
Estes Park, Colorado – The Stanley Hotel
This Colonial Revival hotel nestled in Estes Park boasts stunning views being situated a mere few miles from Rocky Mountain National Park. But for a horror fan, it’s the place where Stephen King stayed in 1973 for one-night in room 217. He and his wife were the only guests there that night, but he was convinced they weren’t alone, and that stay became the inspiration behind The Shining. The hotel has long been investigated for paranormal activity, and room 217 remains the most requested room. There are 90-minute tours nearly every night from May 31st to December 31st that delves into the dark nooks and corners of the hotel to introduce visitors to the spirits of the 100-year-old hotel.
Austin, Texas – Jaws on the Water (June 15-August 4)
The popular Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow event is back again this year to celebrate one of summer’s all-time best summer horror movies: Jaws. Of course, in true Rolling Roadshow-style, this is the definitive way to celebrate; with a movie-themed inner tube, attendees float in the water of Lake Travis, in the picturesque Beachside Billy’s Water Park, to watch Jaws while divers below the surface emulate the monstrous shark. Our own Trace attended the event last year and went more in-depth on what to expect. It doesn’t get much more summer for a horror fan than this.
Blairstown, New Jersey – the Friday the 13th Diner
While the site of the infamous Camp Crystal Lake, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, is privately owned by the Boy Scouts of America, and therefore not open to the public very often, there’s another way to get up close and personal to the classic summer slasher. Scenes from the original film were shot on Main Street in the quaint town of Blairstown, which hasn’t changed much since filming. Strolling down Main Street on a self-guided tour should help you work up an appetite to dine at Blairstown Diner, also featured in the film, on Route 94. Classic diner food and friendly locals make it worth the stop, but beware any residents on bikes that warn of your doom.
San Jose, California – Winchester Mystery House (July 13)
Not even Helen Mirren could make the biographical horror film Winchester as interesting as its source material early this year, so why not visit the real place? Reportedly among the most haunted of places in America, the Winchester Mystery House was once the residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm mogul William Wirt Winchester. Her inheritance after his death resulted in daily construction to the home to appease the spirits who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles. The daily, round-the-clock construction resulted in the strangest house in existence, with dead ends and secret passageways that twist and turn in dizzying ways. Tours are offered on the regular, but Friday the 13th brings a distinct type tour that allows visitors only a flashlight to see their way through the dark. The next Friday the 13th is this July.
Bangor, Maine – A Stephen King Tour
The home of prolific horror author draws thousands of fans to Bangor every year, just to see his house. But the inspiration behind King’s fictional town of Derry means a lot more to see than just his house. The cemetery featured in Pet Sematary, the looming Paul Bunyan statue that terrified Richie Tozier in It, the truck stop the served as the basis for Maximum Overdrive, and so many more pit stops that fans will recognize. You can even pay to take a tour that will bring you to all the notable stops on Bangor from which King drew inspiration. After that, feel free to stop by the bookstores that specialize in King collectibles and titles.