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Travel


A friendship on the rocks

Looking back, our friendship first bumped into some rocks six years ago. From there it kept dropping, scraping metal against jagged stone, before regaining stability and getting airborne again — just barely — in the last few years. So it seems fitting that it took a hike into the deepest, rockiest gorge in the country to revive the battered relationship between me and one of my longtime...
Adventures in space: new carry-on rules

Adventures in space: new carry-on rules

It’s the first year that United Airlines will be offering “basic economy” fares — the lowest prices on a particular flight, but with notable restrictions such as: You don’t receive a seat assignment until check-in (and sitting next to your traveling companions is not guaranteed); you’re the last to board; and you’re not allowed to bring on a full-size carry-on...
What happens between now and Ringling's closure in May?

What happens between now and Ringling's closure in May?

ELLENTON, Fla. (AP) — The owners of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced Saturday that they will close the 146-year-old show in May.  Kenneth Feld, the chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, said declining attendance combined with high operating costs are the reasons for closing.   Here's where things stand with the iconic show:  ...

Soaking in luxury in historic Bath, England

Check In  The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Beau Street, 44-1225-358-888; thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk.   Rates   Rooms from 255 pounds (about $315).   Basics   In a city that has attracted visitors to its mineral-rich thermal baths since Roman times, the opening of the first hotel with its own natural thermal spa on site was a major event. The Gainsborough Bath...
7-decade passion for toys fills Mexico museum

7-decade passion for toys fills Mexico museum

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Even as a child, Roberto Shimizu loved collecting things.  So when his Japanese immigrant father opened a stationery and toy store in Mexico City in 1940, Shimizu began a lifelong quest to save and collect toys.   More than seven decades years later, that youthful fascination lives on in the Antique Toy Museum, a four-story building packed with objects that...

Cuba is high on this year's must-see travel lists

It seems like every travel organization in the country is out with its "must visit" list for 2017. What do they say? They're literally all over the map, but one place gets repeated mentions: Cuba.  The U.S. Tour Operators Association singled out the island nation as the hottest destination of 2017, while the website for the travel guidebook Frommer's listed Cuba as one of the best places...
The taste for classical music is expanding at New York City eateries

The taste for classical music is expanding at New York City eateries

On a freezing night in December, a bundled-up young crowd filed onto benches in Mast Chocolate's factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. They drank wine and ate candy while a 32-piece orchestra sounded the opening notes of Verdi's "Macbeth," presented by the three-year-old LoftOpera.  Though the mood was relaxed - toppled beer bottles clanged and a DJ played during intermissions - the actors...

'Europe's last dictatorship' has a new plan: tourism

It's a flat, landlocked country most known for its chilly winters. It was famously dubbed the "last dictatorship" in Europe - a place where even the country's leader, in place for the past 22 years, has described his politics as authoritarian. It's a former Soviet republic where the KGB is still called the KGB, and where people still work on collective farms and at state-owned vodka companies...
How to take part in inauguration weekend

How to take part in inauguration weekend

Where to Go Now: Washington, D.C  On Friday, Jan. 20, around noon, President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to become the 45th president of the United States; Vice President-elect Mike Pence will be sworn in before Trump. The occasion marks the country’s 58th presidential inauguration.   Inauguration Day...
Affordable fitness getaways in January

Affordable fitness getaways in January

After the feasting and revelry of the holidays, attention in January often turns to fitness and health. Domestic and international hotels have designed packages with spa treatments, fitness classes and eating cleanses to help travelers detoxify.  At Gurney’s Montauk Resort and Seawater Spa on Long Island in New York, rates drop in the winter. In addition to on-demand audio meditations by...
Snowshoe to Stargaze Point for untouched powder north of Idaho City

Snowshoe to Stargaze Point for untouched powder north of Idaho City

IDAHO CITY, Idaho — Don’t let the Pioneer Fire stop you from exploring the Park N’ Ski snowshoe trails in the Boise National Forest north of Idaho City.  I joined a State Parks and Recreation-led hike to Stargaze Point last weekend, which was the annual Free Ski & Snowshoe Day for the department.   Our group found acres of untouched powder, spectacular views and no...
Obama adds Alabama civil rights area to Park Service

Obama adds Alabama civil rights area to Park Service

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — President Barack Obama signed an order Thursday designating an historic civil rights district in Alabama as a national monument, placing several blocks of a city once rocked by racial violence on par with landmarks including the Grand Canyon.  The National Park Service will now have oversight of a downtown section of Birmingham, Alabama — a focal point of civil...

Europe's ski season is off to a dry and worrisome start in the Alps

Ah, the Alps. Land of the mountain chalet and piping hot mugs of mulled wine, sipped between glorious runs down some of the most challenging ski slopes in the world.  Except this year, the challenge is having ski slopes at all.   December was Switzerland's driest month on record. The country received .07 inches of precipitation, way down from the average of 3.5 inches. "There is...
How an author found the real Florida

How an author found the real Florida

Cathy Salustri, author of “Backroads of Paradise: A Journey to Rediscover Old Florida,” delights in letting people know that to really discover Florida, you have to turn off the congested interstates and explore the state’s towns and cities. “Legally, we’re one state, but we’re really a bunch of different states,” she said. “I want people to see that...
At Grand Canyon, cancer survivor on rim-to-rim-to-rim hike

At Grand Canyon, cancer survivor on rim-to-rim-to-rim hike

I'm having a moment. The Colorado River, flowing fast and brown after several days of rain, is 20 feet below. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon, my destination, is nearly 5,000 feet above, nine miles away via the Bright Angel Trail. It's only 8 in the morning and already upward of 80 degrees. I find a smooth granite boulder in a patch of shade and sit and start crying.  Hiking from the Grand...
Heading to the Hill Country? Don’t miss this new place to stay

Heading to the Hill Country? Don’t miss this new place to stay

When my husband and I started planning a one-night getaway to celebrate our 10-year anniversary in October, Fredericksburg was the natural choice. A morning hike at Enchanted Rock followed by an afternoon of wine tasting and an evening strolling Main Street and two-stepping at Hondo’s is my idea of a perfect day. The only problem for two people who are not exactly fans of traditional bed and...
The five reservations you need in Vegas

The five reservations you need in Vegas

Las Vegas, city of sin. But it’s also a city of numbers. Each year, more than 40 million people visit, bringing with them $50 billion to spend at casinos and clubs. But it’s not all sin that rakes it in — in recent years, an increasing portion of that pot is going toward Las Vegas’s now-world-class restaurant scene. There’s a good news/bad news scenario. Bad news first...
In Cabo San Lucas, fishing for marlin reels in the soul of Baja

In Cabo San Lucas, fishing for marlin reels in the soul of Baja

We’ve been offshore for a few hours now. I’ve stomached an interminably choppy ride up the Pacific coastline from the southern tip of Baja California. I’ve watched deckhand Abraham expertly rig up multiple rods, securing them with a rope and pulley system that makes our 31-foot cruiser, the Tiburon, resemble a floating praying mantis. Our brassy reels, whose thick lines are slowly...
Can restaurants take a stand during inauguration without alienating Trump voters?

Can restaurants take a stand during inauguration without alienating Trump voters?

WASHINGTON - In a political environment where every action generates an equal and opposite reaction, restaurants that want to signal their discomfort with the policies of the incoming Trump administration have to orchestrate their moves carefully during inauguration weekend. Anything labeled, or just perceived, as a protest could meet with significant backlash.  So this week, as Nando's Peri-Peri...

Your 2017 travel forecast

2017 is shaping up to be a year of big change for travelers. In addition to a new president whose policies could affect where and how Americans travel, there are also major changes on the way from leading travel and hospitality brands, including new airplane cabins, hotel loyalty programs and theme park expansions. Below, a guide to what to expect in the new year.  — Changes to Airplanes...
North Korea is a bad trip if you're looking to get high

North Korea is a bad trip if you're looking to get high

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea has been getting some pretty high praise lately from the stoner world.  Marijuana news outlets including High Times, Merry Jane and Green Rush — along with British tabloids, which always love a good yarn — are hailing the North as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. They've reported North Korean marijuana...
Foodie adventures in charming Boonville, Calif.

Foodie adventures in charming Boonville, Calif.

There are hidden California treasures nestled in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, where vineyards unfurl along the hillsides and the tiny town of Boonville offers a foodie paradise. Culinary inspiration is contagious in this hamlet, where everyone knows everyone, and we weekenders can dabble in all the deliciousness.  Sampling Table 128’s paella, Pennyroyal’s goat-sheep laychee...
Reasons to take your vacation days this year

Reasons to take your vacation days this year

2017 is practically begging you to take a trip. Airfares are down and gas prices are below what they were last year at this time. Plus, more than half of you are still not using all your vacation days, according to Bankrate.com, so the odds seem in your favor. Of course, you would expect us to say that. But the next time you post to Instagram or send something by Dropbox, know that these ideas came...

Travel talk: Family spring break; first-time cruisers

Q: I'm looking for a warm, beachy family spring break (March) destination in the Caribbean. Kids' ages are 12 and 5. Considering both all-inclusive type resorts (for the pools and convenient meals/drinks) and renting a house or condo. Trying to find a balance between over-commercialized/crowded and too sparse/nothing-to-do. We're mostly content hanging at the pool or beach, but do like going out to...
Tips for first-time cruisers

Tips for first-time cruisers

Have you never taken a cruise before? Well, Cruise 1st appropriately enough has gathered a list of first-time cruiser tips, contributed to by yours truly, to inspire you to step aboard with the following helpful suggestions.  Emma Gray of Emma’s Travel Tales starts off by suggesting port research. Not only is it important to consider what to do onboard — including packing for the...

No Olympics or World Cup, but plenty of sports to cheer on

Sailors, skiers and fans of activities such as tug of war and rock ‘n’ roll dancing — the competitive kind — will find much to like on the global sports circuit in 2017.  Super Bowl LI, or 51, is scheduled in Houston on Feb. 5. Lady Gaga will appear at halftime.   Held every two years, the Alpine World Ski Championships head to St. Moritz, Switzerland, Feb. 6-19...
Shifting visa fees can make travel to Vietnam confusing, costly

Shifting visa fees can make travel to Vietnam confusing, costly

We were thrilled when we found $730 plane tickets from Chicago to Vietnam.   Friends had recently traveled to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, so we knew we’d need to get our visas ahead of time.    What we didn’t know was that we had booked our October flights shortly after the country changed its visa regulations.    In April, according to a State Department official...
Where to go in 2017

Where to go in 2017

Here are 17 destinations that look especially fetching right now. The list includes cities, countries, islands and national parks on five continents; bohemians and Slovenians; spherical Canadian treehouses; vast Vietnamese caves; train tracks at 14,000 feet; and the mother of all Marimekko stores. Some of these spots are in the middle of building booms. Some are celebrating historic anniversaries...
Head to San Antonio for lights, carolers — and an Ansel Adams exhibit

Head to San Antonio for lights, carolers — and an Ansel Adams exhibit

From a seventh-floor hotel balcony in downtown San Antonio, the holiday lights on the River Walk sparkle like someone shot a cannon full of glowing confetti sky-high. I soak in the twinkling view a few more minutes, then button my jacket and head downstairs to join the festive crowd. I love San Antonio at Christmastime. I try to visit sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, so I can...
These are the best- and worst-performing airlines in the world

These are the best- and worst-performing airlines in the world

For those who insist that traveling is all about the journey, we say this: It really depends on which carrier you're flying.  Aside from variations in cabins and service quality, there's the major concern of how likely you are to get delayed. Fly on the wrong airline and your odds of a delay are as high as 55 percent; choose the right one and that number shrinks way down to just 11 percent. That's...

A year to toast independence, reformation and satire

Political unions, milestones related to deceased authors and the commemoration of one major religious event highlight the 2017 anniversary calendar.   Germany will examine the Protestant Reformation that began in 1517 when Martin Luther tacked up his 95 theses on what he viewed as abuses by the Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg. Among planned events are exhibits in Berlin, Eisenach and Wittenberg...
Japan's magic metropolis

Japan's magic metropolis

Reviewing ItsEasy’s remarkably simple in-app passport renewal process

Renewing your passport is a pain. It ranks right up there with visiting the DMV and going in for a root canal as things you would want to do with your free time. In an era of automation, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. This year, I tried and fell in love with ItsEasy’s app and its promise of a simple and efficient way to renew my passport. ItsEasy has a nice website as well...
When the room is the view

When the room is the view

Sometimes a hotel is just a place to sleep. Other times, it’s a destination. The following hotel openings, scheduled from late 2016 to late 2017, belong to the latter category: worthy of trips in their own right.   BHUTAN    Six Senses Bhutan    Five new lodges known collectively as Six Senses Bhutan are expected to open in August, offering inn-to-inn circuits. With...
SeaWorld San Diego ending killer whale show

SeaWorld San Diego ending killer whale show

SAN DIEGO (AP) — SeaWorld San Diego is ending its long-running killer whale show after years of outcry and falling attendance prompted it to renounce theatrical orca displays.  The show that featured killer whales cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of the Shamu Stadium pool will have its final performances on Sunday.   This summer, the park will unveil a new attraction...
Turkey's tourism takes big hit after extremist attacks

Turkey's tourism takes big hit after extremist attacks

ISTANBUL (AP) — The once bustling Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is astonishingly quiet. The shops and restaurants in the city's trendy Istiklal Street are all but empty of foreign customers and the hotels in the upscale Nisantasi district are nearly deserted.  Turkey's economy is suffering in the face of a string of extremist attacks — including the nightclub massacre of New Year's revelers...