Archive for September, 2008

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Harry Potter Theme Park Delayed

September 26, 2008

Last year Universal Studios announced that they would be opening the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park within the existing Universal Resort in 2009. Now the date has been pushed to 2010, so if you’ve already planned your trip, you might want to push your dates back as well. Here’s the original story:

Harry Potter theme parkMaybe you’re already planning to be one of the first in line when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens its doors at the Universal Orlando Resort in 2009. But if you’re really serious about your theme parks, consider delaying your trip by a few months and doing an around the world trip to take in a few more.

Universal has just announced another new park, this one a bigger and fancier version of the Hollywood-themed Universal Studios, to open in 2010. Location? South Korea, about 20 miles south of Seoul. From there it will be just a hop and a skip to Tokyo Disneyland, and then you may as well head south to Australia’s Gold Coast to do the full theme park tour. They have Sea World, Wet ‘n’ Wild Water World, Movie World, and Dreamworld.

Still haven’t had enough? Take another long flight to reach Ratanga Junction in Capetown, South Africa. Then swing up north again for a stop in Paris and (no, not Disneyland Paris), Parc Asterix, based on the popular French cartoon character.

Alright, so that might be a lot for one trip, especially if you don’t have $10K or so to drop all at once, but for a tired backpacker, or a traveler who’s feeling a little museum-ed out, a day of rollercoasters, costumes, and parades can be a nice treat. Always check for student discounts as well, so that you’ll have a little extra to spend on postcards.

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Break Some Eggs in Louisiana

September 24, 2008

That sounds like a good way to spend a weekend, doesn’t it?

November brings us the annual Giant Omelette Celebration in Abbeville, Louisiana where 5000 eggs will be whipped up in a giant breakfast. Even if you live in Louisiana, attending this kind of event is like a mini vacation because it’s so weird that you brain will think you’re somewhere else entirely – somewhere that food comes bigger and fancier, with music and art and some kind of tractor event.

Ok, the tractor event may not be so different from daily life. But an egg cracking contest? Now that’s worth a road trip.

Visit http://www.giantomelette.org/ for more information.

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Start Planning Your Terrifying Halloween Travels

September 23, 2008

Halloween is one of the best times of the year to get out of the house and find something different to do. You’d be hard pressed to find a corn maze around Easter, and there’s hardly any point at all in visiting Salem in July. Here’s a rundown of things you can do to make the most of October and the spooky season.

Haunted Happenings in Salem, MA
Salem wasn’t the only place to hold witch trials, but it’s the most famous. Whether you’re seriously into the Wicca thing or you just want to see masses of people dressed up and eating caramel apples, Salem is a great place to spend the holiday. There are arts and crafts, haunted houses, psychics, games, and even a pirate museum. Yar! I spent a couple of Halloweens here when I was a student in Boston, and it was always a good time.

Voodoo and Beignets in New Orleans
For a truly terrifying trip, why not combine a graveyard adventure with vampires and voodoo down south in New Orleans? The above-ground tombs, built to prevent the dead from floating away when the water levels rise under this below sea-level city, are like nothing you’ve ever seen. If you escape the cemetery, you can lurk around Anne Rice’s house and attend the Witching Hour Ball put on by her fan club. Learn more about gris-gris and the voodoo priestess who made it famous (Marie Laveau), or visit Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant, NOLA (Sure, the food is heavenly, but those prices? Yikes!). Catch some jazz in the French Quarter to mellow out afterward, and use your ISIC for discounts on tours, lodging, and meals.

All Over the Map
Want something dark and dank? Try Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern in Chattanooga, try out one of 600 corn mazes in North America, or use www.hauntedhouseonline.com to find a haunted place near you.

Out on the West Coast
There’s nowhere eerier, and nowhere with a better view of San Francisco, than the former island prison of Alcatraz. Is that the Birdman I hear, or just some seagulls? Head south to L.A. for a visit to Knott’s Scary Farm, and have a scream on their ghoulish roller coasters.

Sun and Rum
If you prefer to plan ahead, check out Fantasy Fest 2008 in Key West, held from October 17 through 26. There will be street parties, costume balls, beach games, a pet parade, plus all the usual spring breakish activities, but you get to wear a mask.

Finally, if none of these suggestions work for you, well, you can go to Hell. (It’s in Michigan.)

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National Geographic Film Fest Hits L.A. and D.C.

September 19, 2008
All Roads Film Festival

All Roads Film Festival

Too broke to leave the country, or even your zip code? If you’re near Los Angeles or Washington D.C., you can indulge your wanderlust with a film festival that shows off cultures from around the world.

All Roads is a National Geographic program created to provide an international platform for indigenous and underrepresented minority-culture artists to share their cultures, stories, and perspectives through the power of film and photography. The festival begins September 25 at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, California, with a live performance by Somali-born hip-hop artist K’NAAN and runs through September 28. The festival comes to Washington, D.C., from October 2-5 at the National Geographic headquarters.

Some events are free, others run $8 or $10. That’s about as cheap as world travel gets, even for an armchair traveler. Visit National Geographic to learn more about the 2008 All Roads Film Festival.

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Keep Your Part of the World Worth Seeing

September 17, 2008

Bill Bryson's African DiaryI think Bill Bryson could save the world. I’m not exaggerating. I think with enough money and power and help, his kindness and passion for the wellness of the whole world (the people, the places, the environment) would create compassion and curiosity about other cultures which would translate into a warm, fuzzy feeling for all humanity and therefore an end to war and peace on earth. Easy peasy.

Ok, maybe it wouldn’t be that simple.

Bill isn’t big on power and politics anyway, so don’t look for him to start campaigning for world domination. He is campaigning for cleaner streets and rivers and fields (and probably happier cows as a result). I wrote about this campaign once before. It was so successful (the campaign, not my post about it) that Bill wrote a thank you note to all those who got involved. Here’s what he had to say: 

Dear friends

I’m glad so many of you were able to watch the Panorama programme on litter last month. I was delighted to learn that an average of 4.2 million people watched it, the biggest audience of this series – showing again that people care hugely about litter and fly-tipping, and want to see action.

It’s great, and rather humbling, to see so many of you leaving your messages of support for the Stop the Drop campaign. Making the programme gave me a chance to re-visit parts of the country I haven’t been to for a long while, and reminded me again (as if I could forget it!) what a breathtakingly beautiful country this is, and why we need to clean up the tide of trash that threatens to engulf too much of it. I was truly inspired by many of the people I met – tireless campaigners in the fight against litter.

In fact, if any of you were inspired to take some direct action, http://www.litteraction.org.uk/ has 120 groups across the UK. These litter heroes have been collecting 8,000 bags of rubbish and lobbying their local authorities since April. If you aren’t yet part of the litteraction army, it’s easy to find a local group and join up…or start your own!

You can also write to your MP to ask them to sign the Early Day Motion (EDM) 1634 in support of Stop the Drop – this EDM will remain ‘live’ until the Queen’s Speech in December, and it already has the backing of 124 MPs. Go to http://www.cpre.org.uk/campaigns/stop-the-drop/litter-and-fly-tipping/litter-take-action to send an email to your MP.

I am currently touring and speaking at the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences, urging all the parties to back Stop the Drop. And after that I am told by the ever patient and charming fellows at CPRE that I am authorized to take Christmas off.

Thank you again for all your wonderful and inspiring support, and apologies to those of you who will have already seen this news in more detail in my Stop The Drop bulletin (sign up at web address I gave earlier)

All best wishes, Bill

PS A belated but heart-felt thanks for your wonderful response to my last-ditch plea for help with the South Downs petition. Because so many of you made the effort we got hundreds more signatures, making it, I’m told, one of the most successful environmental petitions in the UK. Special thanks to the valiant attempts of those of you from outside this small island to join in (Marija, Paula, Matthew and others) – I didn’t realise that the petition was for British citizens and residents only, but am truly heartened by your efforts all the same. In fact, reward yourselves by doing something fun and frivolous!

Anytime, Bill.

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2009 People to People Student Travel Ambassadors Wanted

September 15, 2008

School has just started, but now’s the time to start thinking about your Summer 2009 travel plans. People to People has its list of 2009 travel programs available for junior high and high school students who would like to spend two or three weeks as a student ambassador in Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, or all over Europe.

The People to People Student Ambassador Program was founded by President Eisenhower in 1956 and has sent thousands of junior high and high school students abroad in the 50 years since then. The focus of the program isn’t just travel, but cultural exchange, and many of their adventures include homestays with local families, meetings with influential politicians and business people, and visits to significant organizations and landmarks.

Another difference with this program is that you don’t just sign up and pay the price like you do with tour company; you have to apply and go through an interview. Don’t let that stop you though. If you have a passion to travel around the world, you’re probably just who they’re looking for. (I’m pretty sure I bumbled my way through my interview many years ago, but I still got to spend some of the best weeks of my life traveling through Australia one summer and Europe the next.)

The Program has drawn some big names over the years (not just me), so you’ll be in good company. According to their website, “Walt Disney created the “It’s a Small World” attraction in 1964 after his participation in the People to People International White House conference. This attraction has now introduced over 250 million people to the concept that we may have our differences, but underneath we all share the same core values.”

Student Ambassadors can travel to Asia, Australia, Europe, or even to Canada (it’s always good to stay friendly with the neighbors). Teachers are also needed to lead the student groups, so if you know a teacher who might be interested, let him or her know about the program too. The fees include all of your meals and transportation, and if you come up with some creative fundraising ideas (yard sale, bake sale, car wash, Internet start-up), you can at least reduce the amount coming out of your pocket.

You’re never too young to get out there and develop a lifelong travel habit. Good luck, and have fun!

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Vancouver and Toronto: Get Ready to Go Abroad

September 11, 2008

If you’re in Vancouver or Toronto and are thinking about going abroad, you can’t afford to miss the free Go Abroad Fair.  You’ll learn how to save money without spending any.

The fair will help you learn more about:

  • Study abroad and student exchange programs
  • Universities, Colleges and Technical Institutes from around the world offering full-degree, diploma, professional and short-term programs
  • Eco/adventure and language travel opportunities
  • Internship and volunteer abroad opportunities
  • Work abroad programs for students and youth
  • International job opportunities with an emphasis on teaching English as a foreign language
  • Scholarship and financial aid information, travel deals, housing and cultural information
  • Information seminars on a range of topics to help you choose and get the most out of your international experience: 
  • Catch the fair in one of these locations:

  • Vancouver
    Saturday, September 13, 2008 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
    Sunday, September 14, 2008 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Toronto
    Saturday, September 20, 2008 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
    Sunday, September 21, 2008 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Visit goabroadfair.ca for more information. Happy planning!