Philly’s new ‘museum’ is free, outdoors, open 24-7 (AP)

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News

PHILADELPHIA – Ever walk by a statue and wonder, “What made this guy so important?” or pass by a modern sculpture in a park and think, “What on earth is that supposed to be?”

Now, in Philadelphia, there’s an app for that. And similar apps exist for art and landmarks in other cities ranging from Seattle to New York.

In Philadelphia, the month-old “Museum Without Walls” audio program was created to be used like a customizable museum that’s free and never closes. Its self-guided audio tours are available 24-7 in several different formats: You can call phone numbers listed with each sculpture, use a free smart phone app, download the audio at http:// to an MP3 player, or scan a special bar code (known as a QR or quick response code) on the free “Museum Without Walls” map at locations around the city.

The project’s first phase includes 51 outdoor sculptures at 35 stops along a three-mile stretch of the bustling Benjamin Franklin Parkway from downtown to leafy Fairmount Park, a route popular with bicyclists, runners and walkers.

The first stop is Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture. Others along the way include Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” and Emmanuel Fremiet’s “Joan of Arc,” and works by Henry Moore, Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Three- to-five minute segments voiced by people connected to the works — historians, curators, the artist himself (they’re all men so far) or a living relative — explain each piece and give context. On the website, visitors can upload their own pictures and add their own thoughts about the sculptures.

Indiana, for example, explains how his early years as a newspaper copy boy sparked his interest in the typography that became a recurring theme in his work. In each case, the segments sound like a conversation instead of a lecture.

City resident Ann Sebatino plugged into the Indiana podcast during her lunch hour and gave it high marks: “You get a lot of cool information in just a couple of minutes.”

“Our main goal was to make the content really great,” said Penny Balkin Bach of the Fairmount Park Art Association, a 128-year-old nonprofit that acquires, interprets and maintains more than 200 works of art citywide. “Technology is always changing … the important thing is what you find after you’ve dialed the number.”

Museum Without Walls, which was funded by grants, is geared both toward tourists as well as locals who have always wondered about particular works of art — or barely noticed them at all. Another 35 sculptures may be added next year if grant funding comes through, Bach said.

Meanwhile, several museums around the country are using the Philadelphia program as a model.

“The excellent quality of the recordings and innovative use of multiple media in the Museum Without Walls make it a valuable model to learn from,” said Kyrie Thompson Kellett of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles offers similar technology to visitors of its outdoor sculpture garden, and Seattle has a virtual tour of historic landmarks, but perhaps the largest such program is in New York City.

After the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a group of architects and planners began an endeavor to document the art and architecture of lower Manhattan. That developed into a nonprofit called CultureNOW, which has since created five different maps, a website and a $1.99 iPhone app that includes 200 podcasts narrated by the city’s movers and shakers.

Abby Suckle, an architect and the president of CultureNOW, calls the survey the most comprehensive to date of New York’s cultural landscape, including 2,000 public art works, plus thousands more museums, galleries, historic buildings, theaters and parks.

“All of it is online and all of it is documented,” Suckle said, from art in public schools and subways to grand public spaces like Rockefeller Center and the United Nations.



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When to book Europe flights for next spring and summer

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

If you want to travel to Paris within the next few months, you can find some good deals.

Enlarge image Enlarge
By Jacques Demarthon, AFP/Getty Images

If you want to travel to Paris within the next few months, you can find some good deals.

Airfares are up

Make no mistake. Transatlantic airfares (and most others) are up sharply this year. You see reports in the business press about the big airlines racking up big profits, and one of the reasons they’ve been able to avoid the most severe price competition is that several of them have merged. Certainly, despite all the flak about “consumer benefits,” those big mergers have made it much easier for airlines to hike prices.

Hotwire’s TripStarter function gives you a clear picture of what’s happened. It graphs daily figures for what customers actually paid for air tickets in 2009 and in 2010 to date, and the 2010 figures are all higher. On the sample routes I examined, peak-season fares from the U.S. to Europe this year were 30 to 40% higher, on average, than in 2009. On a few routes (Chicago-Frankfurt, for example) summer fares were almost 80% higher this year.

Certainly, much of the airlines’ newfound prosperity is because of a rebound in expensive business class travel rather than a huge increase in tourism. But tourists, too, paid a lot more.

Everybody I know in the business believes that next summer’s fares will not be any lower than this year’s. But nobody expects another 30 to 40% jump, either. At best, we can expect prices next summer to be roughly on a par with 2010.

Spring “sale” prices are great

If you want to travel within the next few months, you can find some good deals. Several big airlines are currently offering “sale” prices for spring-season travel to Europe. Typically, the purchase windows are short—some may have closed in the time it took to write and publish this column—but some good ones will remain open at least through November 16. Some samples:

Air France‘s current promotion is for departures through March 31 (except for the holidays); buy tickets through November 16. Sample fare: Houston-Paris $581.

American Airlines‘ current promotion also covers departures through March 31; buy tickets by November 16. Sample fare: Boston-Zurich, $540.

British Airways‘ sale covers some dates through June 30; buy tickets through November 9. Sample fare: New York-London, $412.

Aer Lingus, Delta, and Icelandair just closed similar sale windows.

What’s the outlook for summer?

So far, nobody is dealing for travel into the peak season. For a quick look at what to expect, I compared current sale prices, currently quoted prices for travel next July, and Hotwire’s data on fares last July. Here’s what I found on two of the routes I tested for sales:

• Houston-Paris: $581 this spring, $1,320 next summer, about $1,250-$1,400 last summer.

• New York-London: $412 this spring, $944 next summer, about $900-$1,000 last summer.

I found similar results on other routes: Current advance prices for next summer are about the same as prices last summer. Because final prices seldom increase over advance prices, I anticipate that, without a sale, final prices will remain about the same as current advance prices. Sale prices, if any, will be lower.

The key question then becomes simple: Will any big airlines kick off a peak-season sale? In years past, they’ve often announced summer sales between January and May. Of course, we have no way of knowing if they will do that again. That probably depends on how many of you buy summer tickets at their current and very high prices.

Beyond 2011

Normally, I wouldn’t even be thinking about 2012 prices. But one price indicator is already available. According to trade sources, hotels in London are already quoting rates for the 2012 Olympics that are basically double regular rates. I haven’t seen anything from any airlines yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some combination of higher fares and cutbacks in the number of seats allocated to the lowest fares. Clearly, unless you plan to attend some Olympic events, 2012 will be a very bad summer to visit London.

In some previous blockbuster events —Olympic Games, World’s Fairs, and such —the overreaching hotels have had their gouges backfire. Although the events were well attended, most of the business came from locals, and by the time the games started, the hotels were scratching for guests. I’m not predicting that will happen in London. But history does tell me that it’s already too late to “lock in” any good prices. Instead, if you want to attend, wait to see if the gouge collapses.

Airfare strategies for 2011

For now, 2011 is the main concern. And, as I said, the outcome is a crapshoot. If I were planning to visit Europe next summer, I would conclude that list price airfares won’t get any higher; that the chances for an increase are much lower than the chances for some price cuts. So I’d wait into spring for a future sale rather than buy at today’s stiff prices. But I’d probably buy the first time I saw a reasonable price cut, rather than gamble on further cuts later. The perfect is the enemy of the good enough. However, that’s a personal gamble, and one you might not want to take.

As a disclaimer, this position is my personal one, not SmarterTravel’s “official” pronouncement. My good colleagues here may well disagree.

But, whichever way we think fares are going, we’d all agree that anyone planning to head for Europe next summer—or anywhere else, for that matter —should sign up for our relevant newsletters. Sign up for others, too, if you want. But with the short purchase windows you see for so many airfare sales, keeping up on a day-to-day basis is the only way to make sure you won’t miss a great opportunity.

Read previous columns features expert travel advice and unbiased coverage of travel deals.

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Veterans Day: Carefree RV Resorts salutes military with year-round discounts

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Carefree RV Resorts has a Veterans Day special that lasts far longer than the holiday. Active, retired and veteran military servicemen and women will receive 50% off the cost of renting recreational vehicle sites year-round at the company’s chain of parks.

The deal: The offer from Carefree RV Resorts is for military members, past and present, and their immediate family members (children, parents and siblings) who are traveling with them. The discount applies to 35 parks in California, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey and Texas. Carefree’s one California park, Indian Wells RV Resort in Indio, has 299 sites.

When: The discount is subject to availability and can’t be combined with other offers.

Tested: To receive the discount, you must show an active military ID or a completion of military service form. The half-off prices are a good savings because the company’s RV sites usually rent for $26 to $48 per night, depending on the season. I recommend making reservations at Carefree’s website, where you’ll find a complete list of RV parks, or by phone (call the individual RV parks) so that  you don’t come up empty-handed when you’re on vacation.

Contact: Carefree RV Resorts

Article source:,0,4133420.story

Veterans Day: Fee-free day at national parks and forests — and ceremony at …

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Veterans Day may be best spent outdoors because national parks and forests offer free admission Thursday and state parks are marking the day with some special events.

National parks will waive admission fees Thursday in honor of Veterans Day. In addition, some will have special ceremonies. For example, Valley Forge National Historic Park in Pennsylvania will have a moment of silence and wreath-laying ceremony in tribute to Revolutionary War veterans. Go to the National Park Service website to find out more.

National forests also will waive entrance fees for Veterans Day. About 6,000 of the 17,000 sites managed by the National Forest Service normally charge fees. Go to the National Forest Service website to learn more. In Southern California, the forest fee is known as the Adventure Pass. One exception: The Santa Barbara Ranger District’s Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area will require an Adventure Pass on Thursday.

  • An overlook at Mount Tamalpais State Park near San Francisco will be dedicated to veterans as “a place for healing” during a 1 p.m. ceremony Thursday. The overlook is accessed via a half-mile walk on the Old Mine Trail, where a plaque will posted.
  • State parks in the Orange Coast District, which includes Bolsa Chica State Beach, Crystal Cove State Park and others sites, are waiving fees for active military and veterans Thursday. In addition, the district is hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the 1930s-era cottages at San Clemente State Beach.

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Flying in the face of Google Travel

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Google Campus, Mountain View, California
Online travel companies fear that if Google succeeds in buying ITA it could become unfairly dominant in the flight search market. Photograph: Kim Kulish/Corbis

Last week, some of the biggest names in online travel came together to make a stand against Google’s $700m deal to buy ITA, a US-based company that produces flight information software.

Expedia, Kayak and Sabre Holdings (Travelocity) are among those to have formed the Fair Search coalition to voice their objections to the deal. They fear that if Google owns ITA, it will not only become unfairly dominant, it could also limit access to ITA’s software, which is used to power the majority of online flight searches.

“We welcome competition, but we don’t understand why Google can’t license the software, instead of buying it,” says Kayak’s chief marketing office Robert Birge.

Google – which is now waiting to have its deal passed by regulators in the US – has responded to critics by saying it has no plans to move into selling flights and that it will honour all deals with existing ITA clients.

The company has also stated – as ever – that they are primarily motivated by simplifying consumer searches. So were you to type, for example, “London to New York flight” into the search bar, instead of getting a list of links to travel sites, you would get more tailored information, with prices and times showing up immediately.

Some consumers – frustrated with current flight-search technology – welcome the deal. Influential travel writer Arthur Frommer is among them. “If the airfare search business was presently doing its job, I might want Google to be defeated. But the current situation is untenable. It needs Google to straighten things out,” he wrote.

Google spokesperson Adam Kovacevich points out that there are already alternatives to ITA on the market, adding that Expedia and Travelocity don’t actually rely on ITA themselves.

Google continually denies that it is trying to break into the travel market, but as travel generates some of the highest volumes of online queries, many industry insiders are convinced the corporation will soon take a more active role.

Kevin May, editor of travel-tech website, says the ITA deal is “just the tip of the iceberg” of what might be to come. “ITA has also been playing around with hotel search and Google has been playing with hotel prices on Google Maps,” says May. “They are changing the way they want people to search for things. The days of typing in a keyword and getting 10 results on a blank sheet are over.”

At the end of October, it was revealed that Google Ventures – the company’s investment arm – has also bought a stake in Home Away, a large and rapidly growing company that rents holiday homes.

Last week, the FairSearch coalition stepped up its campaign with a video in which an animated stickman named Bob urges consumers to take a stand against all-powerful companies that are collecting reams of personal data. Seemingly without irony, it ends its pitch by asking supporters to click “like’” on the campaign’s Facebook page.

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Travel-Site Gotchas

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

  • 10 Famous American UFO Reports: Fact or Fiction?

    10 Famous American UFO Reports: Fact or Fiction?

    10 Unresolved Incidents of Encounters, Real or Imagined, with UFOs Across the U.S.

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    SINA GD and Partner to Promote Macau in the Delta

    November 11, 2010 by  
    Filed under Travel Deals

    Macau (PRWEB) November 10, 2010

    The Ignite Media Group subsidiary and international online media company SINA GD are joining forces to provide Macau travel information to residents of Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta.

    A promotional campaign featuring a one-day resort pass from the Venetian Macau is kicking off the partnership.

    The cooperation calls for to produce extensive travel packages, hotels in Macau, hotels in Hong Kong, and to capture the excitement of current Macau attractions in textual, photo and video formats for the SINA GD Macau Travel Channel. The channel will become an important distribution platform for, the online travel product division of Ignite Media Group.

    Powered by, SINA GD will offer dynamic travel packages at special rates to online trip-planning viewers in Guangzhou and surrounding areas. Advertisers will be able to more effectively reach potential Pearl River Delta customers through specialized campaigns wedded to targeted travel packages.

    “Travelers from Guangzhou love to visit Macau and now they will have access to more insider information and better deals than ever before,” says Yanni Wu, General Editorial Director of SINA GD. During the channel’s launch it will offer visitors a new Venetian Macau one-day resort pass that offers exclusive discounts and benefits at Venetian’s recreation, entertainment, and food and beverage facilities.

    SINA Corp. and hope to extend this initial cooperation to effectively reach other Macau-inbound markets in Greater China and around the world. Carrie Law, Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development for Ignite Media Group, sees added value for clients as well as consumers: “Through SINA GD’s new channel, advertisers will be able to trace user behavior and deploy targeted, user-specific messages, dramatically increasing the cost-effectiveness of their online promotional campaigns.” is owned by the Ignite Media Group, which is comprised of wide-ranging media assets that include online, print, TV, outdoor and video production.


    SINA is an online media company and MVAS provider in the People’s Republic of China and the global Chinese communities. With a branded network of localized websites targeting Greater China and overseas Chinese, the Company provides services through five major business lines including (online news and content), SINA Mobile (MVAS), SINA Community (Web 2.0-based services and games), (search and enterprise services) and SINA E-Commerce (online shopping).


    Macau Ignite Media Group is a growing family of online and print enterprises dedicated to promoting Macau as an entertainment destination in Asia. The Group includes 14 Macau brands:,, Destination Macau, The Macau Guide, Directel Macau, EC-Ad,, PRISM, Qoos,, macauHR, Engage, New Macau Box Office, and Ignite Digital Asia.

    ABOUT MACAU.COM is the premier web portal and online travel agency for hotel accommodation, shows, and packaged tour products for Macau, Hong Kong and Southern China. With a secure and technologically advanced online booking engine,’s services are targeted at Macau-bound travelers coming from Mainland China, Hong Kong and high growth-tourist areas including Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Australia and North Asian markets such as Japan and Korea. is a member of Ignite Media Group, Macau’s leading media group with leadership positions in out-of-home, online, print media and publishing, and entertainment.


    Ms. Bonnie Kou

    Tel: +853 2875 3126 ext. 846

    Fax: +853 2875 3173


    For the original version on PRWeb visit:

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    LivingSocial Escapes: Travel Deals Take Group Buying to New Heights

    November 11, 2010 by  
    Filed under Travel Deals

    • Email

    November 10, 2010
    By the ZippyCart Shopping Cart Reviews Content Team

    Living Social Travel Deals: LivingSocial Escapes2010 has been a big year for the daily deal group buying industry, with sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Tippr taking this new ecommerce niche by storm.  Group buying sites offer a unique opportunity for members to get their hands on the best local deals.  This is done by displaying a daily deal with a purchase threshold.  Once enough sales of the deal have been made, the deal becomes active and working.  If you buy into a daily deal, but not enough people jump on board to buy the deal as well, you won’t be charged.  This system creates that win-win-win scenario that Michael Scott once worked so hard to achieve.  Companies win because they get hundreds of new customers, consumers win because they get great deals, and the group buying site wins because it takes a cut off the top for all the sales.

    As competition has heated up among the top group buying sites out there, the major companies have rushed to provide their own unique innovations to make them stand out in the crowd.  Groupon, for instance, launched personalized deals and teamed with eBay to keep their brand growing. Specialty daily deal sites like Ethical Deal have also popped up, which take the group buying idea and spin it in a new direction.  Now, LivingSocial is taking group buying to a whole new level with their launch of weekly travel deals, called LivingSocial Escapes.

    Once a week, members of LivingSocial will receive an email with the latest and greatest travel deal, featuring weekend getaways at discounts up to 90% off.  This is somewhat similar to Travelocity’s last-minute packages, but with a group buying spin.  The LivingSocial travel packages include both local getaways and destinations around the world.  This keeps with the theme of daily deals for local establishments, but lets users find a nice weekend getaway that’s right around the corner.  Unlike group buying though, these deals do not require a minimum number of purchases before the package is “active,” which makes some wonder if these are really the best possible travel deals out there.

    LivingSocial has always had one perk that makes them unique in the space, which is the option to get the deal for free.  If you buy the deal, and then suggest it to your friends and 3 of them also buy the deal, you get yours for free.  This works great for local fair, but LivingSocial is carrying the same theme over to their travel section, giving you a chance to hit up your rich friends and get a free vacation out of your hard work.

    Overall, this is a nice new twist to the world of group buying and daily deals, but one wonders how likely it is to succeed.  Consumers frequent group buying sites for the incredible deals that require little planning and allow for a quick, no-guilt purchase.  The no guilt comes from the prices resting around two digits.  LivingSocial is about to test whether people are willing to dig deeper into their pocket books, which requires more commitment and some possible regret when monthly bills come due.  The timing is also questionable, as not many consumers plan on spending beyond their holiday shopping budgets this time of year, so that extra self splurge may not come as readily as it will in 2011.  Time will tell whether this new system will work or not, but if Groupon jumps on the bandwagon, then we’ll all know that there’s even more money to be made in the space.

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    Utah ski season begins with Brighton opening (AP)

    November 11, 2010 by  
    Filed under Travel News

    SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s ski season is about to start.

    Brighton Resort will open for the season on Thursday, making it the first in the state to open its chair lifts to customers.

    Brighton will open the Majestic and Snake Creek Express chair lifts with limited trail access.

    Solitude is expected to be the second resort to open, on Friday.

    Both resorts are in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

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    Slow tow home for thousands on disabled ship (AP)

    November 11, 2010 by  
    Filed under Travel News

    SAN DIEGO – Two tugboats slowly pulled a disabled cruise ship with nearly 4,500 passengers and crew toward San Diego on Wednesday.

    The 952-foot Carnival Splendor crept into cell phone range and the onboard phone system started working on a limited basis, allowing passengers mostly cut off from communication since an engine fire Monday to finally reach their loved ones.

    Officials said the ship could arrive in San Diego as early as mid-day Thursday.

    Among those making calls was David Zambrano, who phoned his employer, Denver TV station 9NEWS, to describe what was happening on the ship. He said people were trying to keep their spirits up by singing, socializing and playing cards.

    The ship’s bars, casinos, pools and the upper deck were closed. Rooms in the interior of the ship were pitch black and passengers propped open their doors to let in air and emergency lighting from the hallways.

    “So really, all we’re doing is just kind of hanging out on a boat waiting for the next mealtime,” Zambrano said.

    Mealtime requires a two-hour wait for cold food. Passengers have been subsisting on Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crabmeat flown in by Navy helicopters.

    “It’s almost like a diet cruise because we’ve been eating salads and fruit and small sandwiches,” Zambrano said. “It’s nothing like anyone expected, no.”

    The Splendor left Long Beach on Sunday for a seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera.

    On Wednesday, it was 125 miles south of San Diego and was expected to arrive Thursday afternoon or evening if the weather remained good, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Rick Foster said. No storms were forecast.

    The journey hit more glitches when a second tugboat sent to help the first was forced to turn back because it wasn’t powerful enough, and a third was hooked up Wednesday morning and pulling with no problem, Coast Guard officials said.

    Carnival first planned to haul the ship to the Mexican port of Ensenada, not far from a movie studio complex used to film “Titanic,” and bus passengers to the U.S. But the cruise line decided they would be more comfortable on board, spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.

    Zambrano said passengers were overjoyed to hear they were heading straight back to California and wouldn’t have to go through the tedious customs process at the border.

    “When they said they were towing us to San Diego instead of Ensenada, the cheer could be heard all the way around the boat,” he said. “Everybody was screaming and then every time the rescues boat shows up, people run to the side and they cheer and they wave and they take pictures.”

    The ship was 200 miles south of San Diego and about 44 miles off shore when the engine room fire killed its power.

    No one was hurt, but those on board were left without air conditioning, hot water or Internet service. Most telephone service also was out.

    The ship’s auxiliary power allowed for working toilets and cold water, Gulliksen said.

    The U.S. Navy resupplied the ship on Tuesday with thousands of pounds of food and other supplies ferried by helicopter from the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier diverted from maneuvers nearby.

    Passengers were being entertained with acoustic music, board games, dancing, trivia contests and even a scavenger hunt for children, Gulliksen said.

    “Overall, generally, the mood on the ship is good,” he said. “The passengers have been very understanding.”

    Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said the ship’s command is able to communicate with outsiders on a backup system.

    The situation will be costly for Miami-based Carnival Corp., which is refunding passengers, offering vouchers for future cruises and may have to dry dock the ship if the damage is extensive.

    “We know this has been an extremely trying situation for our guests and we sincerely thank them for their patience,” Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said in a statement.

    The last major cruise accident was in 2007 when a ship with more than 1,500 people sank after hitting rocks near the Aegean island of Santorini, Mathisen said. Two French tourists died.

    In May, a machine room fire in a cruise ship off the coast of Norway forced off the 607 people on board.


    Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and photographer Greg Bull aboard the USS Ronald Reagan contributed to this report.

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