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Travel Briefs


Tree lightings taking place around country

Here’s a holiday activity that’s easy on the budget: official Christmas tree lightings. They’re usually free, though some drive-through displays charge admission by the car, and most are up through New Year’s Day or a few days later.

The famous celebration at Rockefeller Center takes place Wednesday, 7-9 p.m.

If you can’t be part of the crowd that night, watch from home on TV or stop by in person later in the season.

In Washington, D.C., the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse will be lit Thursday.

Tickets for the ceremony have already been distributed, but you can see it through Jan. 1.

On Tuesday at 5 p.m., the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

If you’re celebrating Christmas in California, stop by the 100-foot fir tree at The Grove in Los Angeles, which was lit Nov. 23, and is decorated with 10,000 lights and 15,000 ornaments.

On Christmas Eve in Louisiana, more than 100 bonfires are built along the banks of the Mississippi in the locales of Lutcher, Gramercy and Reserve. It’s an old Cajun tradition, to guide the way for “Papa Noel.” Gray Line offers a six-hour trip to see the event, departing 3 p.m. from New Orleans, including a tour of the Destrehan Plantation and dinner.

The cost is $76 for adults, $48 for children. Reservations can be made at (800) 535-7786 or at www.graylineneworleans. com.

In Boston, Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree every year as thanks for relief sent from Massachusetts following the Halifax Explosion in 1917. This year’s tree will be lit Thursday, 6-8 p.m., on the Boston Common.

The Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Daley Plaza takes place Tuesday at around noon.

Detroit’s tree was lit Nov. 21 at Campus Martius Park. You can go ice skating there when you visit.

Des Moines, Iowa, offers 3.3 miles of “Jolly Holiday Lights,” a nighttime drive-through display in Water Works Park, through Jan. 1. Admission is $9 per car.

The Oglebay Resort & Conference Center in Wheeling, W.Va., hosts the Winter Festival of Lights, through Jan. 4.

Some cities have man-made lighting displays shaped like trees instead of the real thing. In Charleston, S.C., the “tree” of lights will be lit Saturday, 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m. in Marion Square.

In Texas, on Dec. 7, Austin lights a man-made 155-foot-tall tree of lights strung from the city’s Moonlight Tower.

On Monday4, the city opens its Trail of Lights in Zilker Metropolitan Park, running nightly through Tuesday3, a mile-long, walk-through display of lighted scenes including Santa’s House.

Even Honolulu has an official Christmas tree. It will be lit Saturday at Honolulu Hale, the local City Hall.


Museum of Art waives fee through Jan. 18

The New Orleans Museum of Art — already free to Louisiana residents — is also offering free admission to out-of-state visitors through Jan. 18.

The dates coincide with the citywide international art show called Prospect.1 New Orleans, and the museum’s exhibit of 108 pieces by jeweler Peter Carl Faberge from the Hodges Family Collection.

NOMA is participating in Prospect.1, showing work by nine of the 81 artists featured. The citywide exhibit’s organizers wanted every bit of it free.

Director John Bullard said the holidays are the perfect time to check out both exhibitions and revisit the permanent collection, and free admission means people can visit repeatedly and really get to know the art.

A grant from The Helis Foundation has let the museum admit all Louisiana residents free since it reopened after Hurricane Katrina.

After Jan. 18, the museum will return to free admission for state residents, and an $8 charge for adults visiting from out of state. The out-of-state charges for seniors will be $7, and $4 for children ages 3 to 17.


Ski resorts bracing for layoffs

Ski resort workers at three Colorado mountains are bracing for layoffs as a Canadian resort operator says the poor economy will force job cuts.

Intrawest Corp. did not say exactly how many jobs will go at its three owned or operated Colorado resorts — Copper Mountain, Steamboat Ski & Resort and Winter Park.

But the Vancouver-based resort operator says the drop in business at its resorts is unlike anything it has experienced in recent years.

The company employs 22,000 workers during the peak winter season in Canada and the United States.

Intrawest also operates Canada’s Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort, a major venue for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.


Bronx Zoo turning off holiday lights

The Bronx Zoo is bringing in reindeer and turning off the lights at its annual evening holiday light show.

Zoo officials have decided to have a daytime Wild Wonderland instead of the usual nighttime event.

On hand will be Clydesdale horses, reindeer and craft workshops where children can make eco-friendly tree ornaments.

By keeping the lights off, zoo officials hope to reduce the zoo’s carbon footprint, which is a measure of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.

The zoo says moving the event to the daytime will reduce its carbon footprint by an amount equal to the annual emissions of a three-person household.

Winter Wonderland will be open beginning Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Details at www.bronxzoo.com.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica

Tourists will have to pay new $15 tax

Tourists flying into Costa Rica soon will have to pay a new $15 tax.

The new tax replaces a 3 percent tax on hotel rooms. It was approved Nov. 20 by Congress and is expected to take effect later this year.

The new tax should generate $25 million a year to help the government’s Costa Rica Tourism Institute encourage more visitors to try the Central American nation.

The 3 percent hotel tax only generated about $10 million a year and was hard to enforce.

Tourism is a $2 billion a year industry in Costa Rica.

The country attracts nearly 2 million people visitors a year. It is known for ecotourism.

ST. PAUL, Minn.

Titanic exhibit coming back to Minnesota

An exhibit featuring artifacts from the Titanic is coming back to Minnesota.

The Science Museum of Minnesota hosted the exhibit in 1999, and the exhibit with new items will be back in St. Paul starting June 12.

New items from the sunken ocean liner that will be on display include 62 perfume vials that were taken from the wreckage in 2000.

Next year’s exhibit also will also include a gallery dedicated to Minnesota connections to the tragedy.

The Science Museum says tickets that include the exhibit and general museum admission will cost $23 for adults and $18 for children and seniors.

The Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912.

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