Top ski resorts
NEW YORK -- Looking for the best skiing in North America? According to the readers of Conde Nast Traveler, it's in Alta, Utah.
The "ski terrain" in Alta got the highest ratings in the magazine's annual poll on the 50 best ski resorts on the continent, with readers singling out the Alta Rustler's Lodge and the Alta Lodge for kudos in that category.
The next-highest ratings for excellent "ski terrain" went to Vail, Colo., with magazine readers listing four resorts in Vail: Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, the Lodge at Vail and the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. Other surveys often mention Vail as offering the best skiing in the country.
The Balsams in Dixville, N.H., got a perfect score of 100 in the "top accommodations" category for ski resorts. The Dixville resort also won top honors for best "town ambiance," just barely beating out several resorts in British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb Mountains for that award.
The survey, printed in the magazine's December issue, rated three properties in Snowmass, Colo. - the Snowmass Club, Silvertree Hotel and Stonebridge Inn - as having the best "lifts and lines" in North America.
For the best overall average score in all categories, the top five winners were the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Westin Resort & Spa, both in the Whistler Blackcomb Mountains; the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek, Colo., the St. Regis in Aspen, Colo., and the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek, Colo.
The poll was conducted by asking readers to evaluate 187 ski resorts in North America that they had visited in the past three years. Honors were awarded based on the ratings of the first 1,489 readers who responded.
Top holiday destinations
NEW YORK -- If you're headed to Orlando, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa this Christmas, you've picked one of the most popular holiday destinations in the country.
Those were the top five places for Christmas bookings among users of Orbitz online travel. Orbitz customers traveling abroad picked San Juan, London, Cancun, Paris and Mexico City as favorite Christmas destinations.
As for New Year's, New York and Las Vegas made the list of the top five domestic hotspots, according to Orbitz statistics, along with Orlando, Denver and Fort Lauderdale.
CHICAGO -- L. Frank Baum wrote "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" on the Northwest Side. Upton Sinclair immortalized the city's stockyards in "The Jungle." And poet Carl Sandburg, who lived at 4646 N. Hermitage Ave., nicknamed Chicago the "City of Big Shoulders."
The winter issue of Illinois Now! magazine is highlighting these and many other literary sites in and near Chicago. They include Sandburg's birthplace in Galesburg, Ernest Hemingway's birthplace in Oak Park, an exhibit at the Historical Society of Oak Park about "Tarzan" author Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Ray Bradbury's boyhood home in Waukegan.
The magazine comes with a map to help locate all these sites. For a copy of the magazine or more information, call (800) 2-CONNECT or visit www.enjoyillinois.com.
WINTER PARK, Fla. -- If you're taking a cruise to the Caribbean, chances are you'll only be spending a few hours in any given port of call.
To make the best of your time in Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados and the other islands you'll be dropping in on, do a little advance research. The December issue of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine, published in Winter Park, Fla., offers a list of best beaches, must-sees and best buys for 20 of the Caribbean's top ports of call.
Recommendations include visiting the zoo in Belize and the Coral World undersea observatory in the Virgin Islands; sampling Tortuga rum cake on the Cayman Islands; and enjoying the miles of white sand at MoBay's Doctor's Cave Beach in Jamaica. For shoppers seeking unusual mementos, the magazine mentions the shop at San Juan's Museo de Arte in Puerto Rico and the Guavaberry Emporium on St. Martin.
NFL theme park
HOUSTON -- Professional football's interactive theme park, "America Online Presents the NFL Experience," is coming to Houston, Jan. 23 to 25 and Jan. 29 to Feb. 1.
The event features more than 50 interactive games for fans of all ages, from a "Kids' Zone" for young children to the challenging "RCA Fantasy Play By Play," which allows fans to showcase their passing skills. At the Topps Super Bowl XXXVIII Card Show, fans can obtain free autographs from 40 current and former NFL stars. Memorabilia will also be on sale.
The 800,000-square-foot theme park will be set up at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. They are available from (866) TIX-4NFL, through Ticketmaster outlets in Houston, or online at www.superbowl.com.
LONDON -- If you're planning a trip to England any time soon, you could save yourself some money by buying a BritRail "Great British Heritage Pass."
The pass provides admission to more than 600 historic homes, castles, gardens and ruins, including Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace in London, the Roman Baths in Bath, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and Bodnant Gardens in Wales.
The pass is valid anytime within six months of the date it is issued, and once you begin using it, it is good for from four days to a month, depending on which pass you buy.
The pass also comes with a free 44-page booklet describing the properties, their hours of admission and maps.
If you buy the pass between Jan. 1 and Jan 31, you'll get nearly a third off the regular price, and if you visit three or four properties, the pass will pay for itself. The regular price for a pass good for four consecutive days is $35, but the discount price is $25; the price for a one-month pass is being discounted from $102 to $71.
For more information, call (866) BRITRAIL or visit www.britrail.net.
HILO, Hawaii -- The Big Island Visitors Bureau has just published a new vacation planner full of tips, maps and information on a variety of attractions.
The brochure lists cultural sites, parks, beaches, golf courses, resorts, hotels and activities such as stargazing from the summit of Mauna Kea or exploring the lava flows of Kilauea volcano.
To receive a copy of the 50-page booklet, call (808) 961-5797 or visit www.bigisland.org.
WWII in DC
WASHINGTON -- The dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend will kick off a summer of events honoring the men and women who served in the war.
There will be dozens of events, exhibits, performances and tours with a World War II theme, from the end of May through Labor Day. Official events include the dedication ceremony for the monument on May 29, a four-day National World War II Reunion on the National Mall, and an entertainment salute to the veterans.
Other highlights will include an exhibit of real-life spy stories, the Navajo codetalkers and the use of propaganda during the war at the International Spy Museum; an exhibit at Union Station of war photos from The Associated Press, including Joe Rosenthal's iconic picture of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima; and a film series at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center in nearby Silver Spring, Md., showing "Patton," "Casablanca" and other legendary movies of and about the era.
For more information, call the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp. at (202) 789-7000 or visit www.washington.org.
Healthy airline food
WASHINGTON -- Chips, a chocolate bar and a ham sandwich.
That's the type of meal many airline passengers are buying these days, now that in-flight food service has been replaced with goodies for sale. A new report suggests that healthy eating has disappeared along with the free, prepackaged salads.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine rated major airlines on the availability of healthy food and found that only Delta's Song Airline consistently provided "healthy options," which the organization defined as vegetarian or vegan (egg- and dairy-free) meals.
The committee also found healthy meals could be special-ordered ahead of time by calling Alaska, American or United, but the doctors' organization recommended that passengers who want low-cholesterol, low-fat and high-fiber food from other airlines "will want to pack a lunch or purchase a meal in the airline before boarding."
Song won top honors for offering "healthy vegetarian and vegan meals as part of the buy-on-board menu on all flights."
"It's both disappointing and surprising to see such a lack of vegetarian food on the menus given its growing popularity," said Brie Turner-McGrievy, who did the research for the report.
To see the full report, visit www.pcrm.org.
Shopping in Paris and New York
NEW YORK -- Looking for fine soaps in Paris or hip streetwear in Manhattan?
Insight Guides has put out two compact, easy-to-use books, "Shopping in Paris" and "Shopping in New York" ($9.95 each) that provide a comprehensive listing of all the major - and some of the minor - shopping destinations in each city.
The stores range from well-known designer boutiques like Anna Sui in Soho and Yves Saint Laurent on the Champs-Elysees, to obscure specialty shops like the Village Chess Outlet on Greenwich Avenue and La Galcante in Les Halles, which sells antique magazines.
Listings are organized by neighborhood and by category, with a handy index that makes it easy to find the a store, whether you're looking for footwear, chocolate or a cooking pot.
The books include maps and suggestions on "where to unwind," from cafes, bars, bistros and tea shops to bakeries, diners and jazz clubs.
NEW YORK -- Do you need a loss-damage waiver when you rent a car? Can you get a refund if your tour operator skips a scheduled stop?
"Traveler's Rights: Your Legal Guide to Fair Treatment and Full Value" (Sphinx Publishing, $21.95) provides the answers to these and many other questions. The book was written by lawyer Alexander Anolik, who co-founded the International Forum of Travel and Tourism Advocates, and John Hawks, executive director of the Consumer Travel Rights Center.
As for the answers to those questions:
-In most cases, the authors write, if you have insurance on your personal automobile, you are covered for car rentals and do not need loss-damage waivers.
-Most tour companies post notices reserving the right to change itineraries, but if the tour was changed substantially from what was promised, the authors say you may be able to claim breach of contract.