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Travel Briefs


TKTS booth reopens, now takes credit cards

The TKTS booth in New York’s Times Square has reopened in its old location with a new updated look that fits in with its neon-bright neighborhood, and a new policy of accepting credit cards.

The new booth, which sits on a traffic island at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue at 46th Street, is a fiberglass shell encased by an all-glass structure that sits under a glowing red glass staircase.

The Theatre Development Fund says the pedestrian space of the once-crowded island, known as Father Duffy Square, also has been updated and enlarged by 115 percent. Hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers line up at the booth daily to buy same-day tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows for up to half off the price.

TKTS had been temporarily located at the Marriott Marquis Hotel during the renovation. The new booth opened Oct. 16.

One big, welcome change for theater-goers: The new TKTS booth at Duffy Square accepts credit cards, while the old one only took cash.


Amtrak offers USA Rail Pass to U.S. residents

Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass is now available for purchase in the U.S.

Until recently, the pass could only be bought by travelers who lived outside the country.

The passes are available for 15, 30 and 45 days of travel. The 15-day pass offers eight segments of travel for $389. The 30-day pass offers 12 segments of travel for $579. The 45-day pass offers 18 segments of travel for $749.

Amtrak counts a segment of travel each time a passenger boards a train or connecting Amtrak Thruway bus.

The passes are priced the same regardless of when you travel, but you must begin your travel within 180 days of purchase.

Also note that the pass is not a ticket. Passengers must also have a ticket and reservation for each train they board.

If your travels are likely to take you to multiple points in California, you might be better off with Amtrak’s California Rail Pass, which offers seven days of travel in a 21-day period for $159.

The USA Rail Pass is not valid for travel on Amtrak’s Auto Train or Acela Express. Some other restrictions apply. Details at (800) 872-7245 or tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak/selectpass/ for more information.

SEOUL, South Korea

City draws 100,000 visitors since December

About 100,000 tourists have visited historic sites in the North Korean city of Kaesong since a new tour program opened in December last year.

Seoul-based tour operator Hyundai Asan Corp. said in a statement that the number of tourists to Kaesong, just north of the heavily fortified border, exceeded the 100,000-mark in mid-October.

Company officials said the tourists have mostly been South Koreans but added that 2,600 Americans, Japanese and other foreigners have taken part.

Hyundai Asan has run another high-profile tour program to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain since 1998. But it has been suspended since July when a North Korean soldier fatally shot a South Korean woman who allegedly wandered into a restricted military area at the resort.


Queen Elizabeth 2 leaves NY for last time

After four decades of plying the world’s oceans, the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth 2 made its final visit to New York.

The ship is scheduled to be converted into a five-star floating hotel in Dubai, the flashy resort center in the United Arab Emirates.

Its send-off from the Big Apple on Oct. 16 featured a rendezvous with sister ship Queen Mary 2 at the Statue of Liberty and a fireworks shower before the two cruise ships headed home to Britain together.

They had a similar rendezvous last January but that event also included the newest Cunard liner, Queen Victoria.

Launched in 1969, the QE2 has made at least 26 round-the-world voyages and weathered a 95-foot wave during an Atlantic hurricane. At 70,000 tons — less than half the size of the QM2 — it is still considered big enough to succeed as a desert luxury hotel.

The ship’s final trip will run from Southampton, England, to Dubai, in November.


Lucky magazine hosts pre-holiday event

Bargain designer merchandise, jeans fittings, and even help with taming your eyebrows will all be part of Lucky magazine’s fifth annual Lucky Shops.

The event is scheduled to take place Nov. 7-8, at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W. 18th St. A portion of the proceeds go to benefit the Robin Hood Foundation, which targets poverty in New York City.

More than 10,000 shoppers from 35 states attended the event last year. The shop-a-thon offers designer merchandise at up to 70 percent off retail prices with music, giveaways and complimentary drinks (for those 21 and older).

Items on sale will include designer fashions from Vera Wang Lavender, Tracey Reese, See by Chloe and many more. Other merchandise ranges from home decor, accessories, jewelry, beauty items and fragrances to jeans, bags and shoes, with brands like Dr. Martens, Kate Spade and Nine West.

A special boutique will offer gently used designer and one-of-a-kind items from Armani, Jimmy Choo, Chanel and others, while a Lucky Denim Bar will help you find the perfect fit in jeans, with free hemming while you wait. A “brow bar” will offer professional eyebrow help with any purchase of Benefit cosmetics, and celebrity stylist Danna Weiss will provide style consultations in the Chevy Malibutique.

Tickets for the first day, Nov. 7, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., are $35, while tickets for Nov. 8, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., are $20; www.luckyshops.com or (866)-458-2598.


Officials dedicate visitor center at site

An American Indian chief conducted an ancient tribal ceremony to bless the first building to be completed at the site of the American Indian Museum and Cultural Center.

Representatives from several Oklahoma-based tribes joined state officials in dedicating a 4,000-square-foot visitor center, part of a complex of buildings, courtyards and earthen mounds that eventually will include a 125,000-square-foot museum at the intersection of Interstates 35 and 40 in Oklahoma City.

Officials said the museum will be a cultural tourism destination that will draw visitors from throughout the nation and the world to Oklahoma City to learn about the history of the state’s 39 Indian tribes.

During dedication ceremonies Oct. 8, Wyandotte Chief Leaford Bearskin used a smoking cauldron of charcoal, tobacco, cedar and sweet grass to bless the new building.

The dedication ceremony concluded with a prayer by the Rev. Eddie Lindsey in his native Muscogee (Creek) language.

The architecture of the new building is made up of the same basic materials the museum will be made of: timber, zinc, glass and steel.

Architect Bill Fain said the roofline of the visitor center forms a cantilevered curve that is one of a series of circular spirals recurring throughout the project and speaks to native ideals of harmony and progress in living with the earth.

The complex is scheduled for completion in 2012.


National Geographic opens whale exhibit

A whale exhibit from New Zealand has opened at the National Geographic Museum in Washington.

The exhibit “Whales Tohora” opened Oct. 15, making its first stop on a North American tour. It features a nearly 60-foot sperm whale skeleton and a model of a blue whale’s heart that visitors can crawl through.

Susan Norton, director of the National Geographic Museum, says the exhibit also explores the cultural significance of whales. It will show jewelry, weapons and contemporary art from the Maori culture. Some pieces incorporate whale teeth and bones.

The show was organized by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which holds one of the world’s largest whale collections. It will be on view in Washington through Jan. 18.


Disney unveils fantasy-laden resort hotel complex plan for Oahu, first of its kind

KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) — Seventy years after his first ride on Hawaii surf, Mickey Mouse is finally coming back to the islands.

Disney’s plan for a Hawaii hotel complex is far from another Disneyland, both in distance and concept.

But Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ first venture in the islands will add 830 hotel and vacation time-share rooms, a fantasy-laden water play area and an 18,000 square-foot spa to the rapidly expanding Ko Olina resort on West Oahu.

The complex is expected to be completed in 2011.

A detailed scale model of the complex was displayed at a news conference with Disney officials and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

It’ll be the first such complex for Disney away from a theme park, combining a 350-room hotel with 480 vacation villas on one of Ko Olina’s four man-made lagoons, which already feature a Marriott hotel and timeshares, a luxury condominium project and wedding chapels.

“We plan to offer the opportunity for our guests to vacation in a completely new way, very different than they do at our theme park resorts, when they come here to Hawaii — to be surrounded, to discover Oahu, to discover the Hawaiian Islands,” said Disney resorts chairman Jay Rasulo.

The resort is expected to hire 1,000 “cast members,” Rasulo said. Many will come from Oahu’s relatively low-income Leeward Coast.

He noted that one of Walt Disney’s earliest films, “Hawaiian Holiday” of 1937, featured Mickey on a surfboard in the islands.

Disney has several themed resort hotels near Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida, but has never built a hotel and time-share complex that will stand on its own. Hawaii has no full-scale amusement park.

Rasulo had said there were no plans to expand the resort into a theme park.

The timeshare units will be part of the 350,000-member family-oriented Disney Vacation Club, which has eight other resorts.


New water park opening in Pennsylvania

LAKE HARMONY, Pa. (AP) — A new indoor water park is scheduled to open in Pennsylvania on Oct. 31 at the Split Rock Resort & Golf Club.

The new $19 million park, called H20ooohh Indoor Family Waterpark, includes hot tubs, three large slides, a wave pool, a three-story tree house with squirting water toys and dumping buckets, and the Komodo Dragon, Pennsylvania’s first indoor FlowRider, which simulates waves suitable for surfing. The park also includes a play area for toddlers, a food court and tiki bar.

The park offers day passes, $40 for general admission and $35 for children 42 inches and under (children 2 and under are free). If you arrive after 4 p.m., prices are $8 cheaper. Guests must bring their own towels. Lockers may be rented for $5.

The resort also offers a variety of packages that include accommodations and waterpark admission. Midweek stays start at $100.50 per person, per night with a two-night minimum; weekends start at $133 per person, per night, with a two-night minimum.

A grand opening special, for Oct. 31-Nov. 2, begins at $191 a night, double occupancy, plus $53 per child ages 5-15, including admission to the waterpark, a free game of bowling and a tour of Split Rock’s Nightmare Inn.

The park will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Weather permitting, the Split Rock golf course is expected to remain open until Thanksgiving. Indoor recreation at the resort includes bowling, billiards, basketball, a movie theater, spa and fitness center. The resort is also hosting the Great Brews of America Classic Beer Festival, Nov. 22-23.

Details at http://www.splitrockresort.com.

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