- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New airline offers flights just for pets

DENVER — A new airline for pets is taking off with weekly flights to five airports across the country.

Beginning July 14, Pet Airways is flying pets to and from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport; Chicago Midway International Airport; Rocky Mountain Airport in Broomfield, Colo., near Denver; Hawthorne Municipal Airport near Los Angeles; and Republic Airport on Long Island, serving the New York area.

The airline allows cats and dogs to travel in carriers in the main cabin of the plane, rather than the cargo hold. While some airlines allow small animals to fly in the cabin as long as their carriers fit under the seats, Pet Airways has no limit on size.

The carrier will not transport human passengers other than crew and attendants to care for the animals during flights. Pet owners will have to fly separately.

One-way fares start at $149. Many of the flights on the airline’s limited initial itinerary are already booked full with a waiting list, depending on the animal’s size.

To prevent pets from getting sick, there won’t be any beverage or snack service.

For more information, click here.

Bus tours to Michael Jackson’s Indiana hometown

CHICAGO — A tour company is selling tickets for a tour from Chicago to Gary, Ind., to see Michael Jackson’s childhood home and other places associated with his years there.

The King of Pop Hometown Tour, created by Chicago-based J W R Tours, promises stops at 2300 Jackson St., which was the singer’s boyhood home; Mr. Jackson’s junior high school; the high school his siblings attended; the steel mill where his father worked; and one of the first places the Jackson 5 performed.

“Share in the rich history of 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana as J W R Tours takes you to the place where it all began,” the tour description says.

Ads for the tour also promise “never-before-told funny stories from former classmates and childhood friends.”

The tours are scheduled to start July 25, with departures Saturday, Sunday, Thursday and Friday. Buses depart 12:30 p.m. from a parking lot near Borders in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and return 3&#189 to four hours later. The 30-mile trip to Gary takes a little under an hour each way. Tickets are $55 ($45 for ages 6-12; free for under 5).

Hotel and airport pickups are also available for participants with reservations.

For more information, click here.

‘Staycation’ makes it into the dictionary

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Staycations are so mainstream they’re now in the dictionary, but that doesn’t mean they’re fun.

The word “staycation” was one of about 100 new words added to the latest edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The dictionary defines a staycation as “a vacation spent at home or nearby.” John Morse, president and publisher of the Springfield-based dictionary publisher, said staycations have become so popular the dictionary could not ignore them.

Offering tips on how to improve your staycation is now something of a cottage industry. SavingsOnArrival.com advertises itself as a “free service that offers savings on local attractions,” perfect for “pre-staycation planning.” Bills.com offers tips on how to “supercharge a staycation” by making a budget, thinking like a tourist in your own hometown, and ordering in takeout food so you don’t have to cook.

But LastMinuteTravel.com’s promotion took a different tack, announcing unequivocally that “Staycations Suck.” The Web site is inviting people to share stories of lousy staycations in order to compete for real vacations that will be awarded as prizes. The staycation sob stories must be in the form of a tweet, a Facebook wall post or a video.

For more information, click here.

Architecture walks in Manhattan

NEW YORK — Interested in New York history and architecture? Check out the walking tours offered by the Municipal Arts Society on everything from Beaux Arts buildings on the Upper West Side to the neighborhood around the city’s new High Line, an old elevated train track reclaimed as a park.

But if you can’t fit a tour into your schedule while you’re in town, the Municipal Art Society of New York has just come out with a guide that allows you to do it yourself: “Ten Architectural Walks in Manhattan.”

The $30 paperback was co-written by art and architecture critic Francis Morrone and Matthew Postal, an architectural historian, both of whom frequently lead tours for the Municipal Arts Society.

The book’s 10 chapters cover downtown preservation and planning, with an eye to early Manhattan history; downtown skyscrapers; the High Line neighborhood; the Flatiron District; the Art Deco architecture of Midtown; Grand Central Terminal; Park Avenue; Modernism in Midtown, including Columbus Circle; Central Park; and Hamilton Heights in Harlem.

If you do want to check out a tour in person, visit Municipal Art Society’s Web site to see the schedule and prices. Most tours are two hours and run $15. They include visits to neighborhoods all over the city and not just in Manhattan, from Coney Island in Brooklyn to the green spaces and historic homes of the Bronx to the Asian neighborhoods of Queens.

Explore themed driving trails in N.C.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The site of Babe Ruth’s first professional home run and a hotel visited by the Marquis de Lafayette are two of the many historic attractions on a dozen themed trails in and around Fayetteville, N.C.

Ruth hit a 135-yard home run in March 1914 at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds while playing an exhibition game with the Baltimore Orioles. A plaque marks the site on Gillespie Street. It’s part of Fayetteville’s All-American Adventure trail, which also includes the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, the Fayetteville Motor Speedway, riding stables, sport centers, batting cages and a skate park.

Fayetteville was named for Lafayette, a French military leader who served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. The city claims to be the first in America named for him, in 1783, and the only namesake city that he visited. Stops on Fayetteville’s Lafayette Tour include the Lafayette Hotel, where he was feted on his two-day stopover in 1825, and the home where he stayed, now known as the State Banking House.

Other trail themes include black heritage and the Civil War.

For more information, click here.

New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign narrowing to 28 candidates

ZURICH — The list of finalists for the new 7 Wonders of Nature campaign will be narrowed to 28 on July 21 in Zurich, where the effort is based.

Once the final 28 are announced, the public will be able to vote via the Web, text message or phone on the final seven. The seven winners will be announced in 2011.

The list of 77 nominees from which the 28 will be chosen includes the Amazon, the Galapagos, Mount Kilimanjaro, Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, Canada’s Bay of Fundy and Australia’s Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). The only site in the continental United States is the Grand Canyon. Puerto Rico’s El Yunque rainforest is on the list also.

Swiss-Canadian adventurer Bernard Weber, who started the Wonders campaign, said his aim is to “create respect and enthusiasm … for the beauty of our planet.”

The campaign to showcase the world’s most impressive natural wonders began after a global grassroots contest selected the seven man-made wonders of the world in 2007. More than 100 million people participated in the first contest, choosing India’s Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Rome’s Colosseum, Peru’s Machu Picchu, Brazil’s Statue of Christ Redeemer, the rock city of Petra in Jordan and Mexico’s Chichen Itza pyramid.

For more information, click here.

National Trust seeks ‘Distinctive Destinations’

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is seeking nominations for its 2010 list of Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

The list has been issued annually since 2000. This time, however, once the 12 places are announced Feb. 3, the public will, for the first time, get to vote on a “fan favorite.”

The National Trust selects the destinations to honor places that offer authentic cultural and recreational experiences. On the 2009 list were Santa Barbara, Calif.; Athens, Ga.; Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich.; Virginia City, Nev.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Litiz, Pa.; Bristol, R.I.; Hot Springs, S.D.; Franklin, Tenn.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Lake Geneva, Wis.

Nominations for the list can be made by convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, Main Street offices, Historic Hotels of America, and other tourism, preservation or local organizations. Individuals who want to nominate a place are encouraged to contact an organization of this type to support the submission. There is a $150 application fee.

Applications are due Sept. 1, and may include images, video and letters. Forms can be accessed by clicking here.

Udaipur named world’s best city by Travel + Leisure readers

NEW YORK — The annual list of the World’s Best Cities as chosen by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine was topped by a city that many Americans may not be familiar with: Udaipur, India.

Last year, the No. 1 city on the survey was Bangkok.

Asked if she was surprised by the result, Travel + Leisure Editor in Chief Nancy Novogrod said: “I was, but I’m kind of intrigued. It’s a city I love. It’s in Rajasthan, it’s an ancient city around a lake, and it has a beautiful palace with some great hotels and superb resorts,” including the Taj Lake Palace and the Oberoi Udaivilas.

Luxury hotel companies are opening properties there because “they are looking for these very special destinations that are unspoiled, that do offer a very rich and real sense of the culture of the region to guests,” she said.

Ms. Novogrod also spoke highly of the city’s art collections and shopping opportunities for fabrics, antiques and handmade clothing.

Ms. Novogrod added that among her magazine’s readers, she has noticed a “huge migration and interest away from the classic European capitals and classic resorts to destinations that offer a very particular sense of place… . The world has gotten smaller in some ways, and the traditional places have gotten less interesting and more familiar.”

Another factor that may have contributed to the No. 1 ranking for Udaipur is that for the first time in the survey’s 14-year history, results were included from readers of Travel + Leisure’s international editions in South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Australia and New Zealand, Turkey and Mexico.

The magazine’s World’s Best list is based on results of a questionnaire made available online to Travel + Leisure readers. Respondents are permitted to complete the survey only once and are screened in an effort to remove responses from travel industry professionals.

Completing the top 10 list of best cities behind Udaipur this year were Cape Town, South Africa; Bangkok; Buenos Aires; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Florence, Italy; Luang Prabang, Laos; New York; Rome and San Francisco.

Other No. 1 spots went to Bushmans Kloof Cedar Mountains in South Africa as best hotel; Bali as best island; Crystal Cruises as best large-ship cruise line; the Yachts of Seabourn as best small-ship cruise line; Singapore Airlines as best international airline; Virgin America as best domestic airline; and Mii amo, a Destination Spa at Enchantment in Sedona, Ariz., as best destination spa.

Complete results are online at the magazine’s Web site or in the magazine’s August issue, on newsstands July 24.

Food and wine festival in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort will be the site of the city’s first Food Network Southern Food & Wine Festival from July 31 to Aug. 2.

The event will feature Food Network celebrity chefs, wine-tasting, cooking seminars, shopping and a search for the country’s top amateur “Slow-Cooker.”

Also on hand will be celebrity TV chefs Alton Brown, Pat and Gina Neely, and others, along with demonstrations from some of Gaylord Opryland’s executive chefs.

Dining events include Craft Beers and Craft Food, $65 a person, Aug. 1 at 1 p.m., with five beers and five pub-inspired courses.

A variety of packages are available, starting at $135 a person based on double occupancy at the resort.

For more information, click here or call 888/999-6779.

Handful of hotels offering e-readers to guests

MIAMI — Never mind Wi-Fi or even iPod docking stations. The latest digital accessory to be offered by hotels is an e-reader.

EPIC, a luxury property in Miami open since December, is one of a handful of hotels now offering e-readers for guest use. Others include the Algonquin Hotel in New York, which has been offering Kindles since last fall, and Gansevoort hotels in New York and the Turks & Caicos.

At the Gansevoort hotels, the e-readers are preloaded with a selection of classics and best sellers. The Algonguin Kindles come preloaded with a titles penned by members of the Round Table, a literary group that lunched at the hotel in the mid-20th century, along with other topical selections. For Father’s Day, the Algonquin offered President Obama’s “Dreams From My Father” on the e-readers.

EPIC, part of the Kimpton chain, is providing Sony Readers to guests on its club level (top two floors) and to those using the pool deck. Each e-reader is preloaded with a new title from a variety of genres.

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