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Carowinds' Fury 325 joins an elite club of world's tallest coasters

The $30-million Fury 325 coming to Carowinds in 2015 will be among the fastest, tallest and longest roller coasters in the world.

Set to debut in spring 2015, the 325-foot-tall giga coaster will fly over and under a new entrance plaza planned for the amusement park located on the North Carolina-South Carolina state line.

Built by Swiss-based Bolliger and Mabillard, the Fury 325 will reach a top speed of 95 mph over a 6,600-foot-long track featuring airtime hills and overbanked turns.

After climbing to the top of the 32-story lift hill, riders will descend an 81-degree first drop into a 190-foot-tall barrel turn and a high-speed S-curve.

After racing over Carowinds’ front gate, Fury will whip around a 157-foot-tall, 91-degree overbanked horseshoe turn before diving under a pedestrian bridge near the entrance plaza.

Following a 101-foot-tall curve and a 111-foot-tall hill, the last leg of the ride concludes with a double helix carousel and a pair of camelback hills.

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Small aircraft to take to Palm Springs' streets for Parade of Planes

Small airplanes will taxi down Palm Spring's streets on Thursday in an annual Parade of Planes that begins a three-day aviation expo in the desert city.

Pilots who attend Aviation Expo 2014 can drive their planes from the airport to the Palm Springs Convention Center where the event is held. Visitors can watch the parade from 10 a.m. to noon as aircraft whir their way for about a mile along East Alejo Road and North Avenida Caballeros.

The planes will be on display 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday before they reverse the parade route from 2 to 4 p.m. and return to the airport.

Seminars at the expo cover topics as diverse as "10 Ways Your iPad Can Cause an FAA Violation or Accident" to "Aviation and the Neurology of Thinking."

Among the keynote speakers: Brian Shul, a pilot who flew the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and who was inducted into the Air Force Legends Hall of Fame in 2011.  Advance tickets to the expo cost $45 for one day to $240 for three days....

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Deal: Free nights, half-off deals during Preferred Hotels sale

Well ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Preferred Hotel Group is starting a winter sale on rooms at 110 hotels worldwide that offers a third night free or takes up to half off the room rate. 

The deal: I like this sale because it works for a nearby getaway and a faraway trip. Some examples of prices and savings:

The Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa in Los Olivos, Calif., offers a third night free for rooms that come with breakfast and wine-tasting. In an online check, I found availability for a garden or spa room Dec. 15 to 18 that breaks down to $250 a night plus tax when you figure in the free night; comparable rates for the same reservation start at $395 a night plus tax.

Military-base-turned-posh-hotel at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, Calif., features discounted room prices as part of the sale. I found a historic room with a queen bed Dec. 12 to 15 for $337 a night plus a $25 daily resort fee and tax; the room would usually cost $395 a night plus tax and fees. The fees...

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Siberia: Winter tour features sled dogs and shamans

Hear the word “Siberia” and you think despair and desolation, but hardy travelers on Mir Corp.’s Siberian Winter Escapade will discover that it is actually a land of great beauty.

The eight-day tour begins (and ends) in Irkutsk, one of Siberia’s largest cities and home to beautiful rebuilt churches and 19th century architecture. Then it’s on to Lake Baikal -- the oldest and deepest lake in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- for dogsled racing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and steaming in a traditional Russian banya, or sauna.

Other highlights include a hovercraft ride over Lake Baikal to see Bronze Age petroglyphs, a Baikal horse ranch and sacred Olkhon Island for a sunrise shaman ceremony. Group size is limited to 12.

Dates: Feb. 21-28

Price: $4,695 per person, double occupancy; single supplement $595. Includes accommodations, most meals, English-speaking tour manager, local guides and entrance fees. International airfare not included.

Info: Mir Corp. (800) 424-7289

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Lottery opens for skiers who want to stay in Yosemite backcountry hut

The lottery has opened for those who want to bunk down this winter in the Ostrander Ski Hut in Yosemite National Park's backcountry.

The trek from Badger Pass Ski Area to the hut at 8,500 feet is not for beginners. "All routes require considerable stamina and cross-country skiing experience," the Yosemite Conservancy says on its website.

The conservancy runs the lottery because of the high demand from skilled skiers who want to enjoy the solitude of the remote winter site in Yosemite. The lottery opened Tuesday and continues until Nov. 19, 

"It's the perfect winter retreat to leave crowds behind and head into isolated backcountry with breathtaking views of Half Dome, the Clark Range and Mount Hoffmann," Mike Tollefson, the conservancy's president, says in a statement.

It costs $35 a night per person to stay Mondays through Thursdays, and $55 a night to stay Fridays through Sundays. The money goes for upkeep of the hut, which was built in 1941 and is listed on the National Register of...

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African tour operator eases trip refund policy over Ebola travel fears

Boston-based Overseas Adventure Travel announced Monday that travelers with reservations on upcoming trips to Africa may cancel their trips without penalty up until the day of departure.

The cancellation policy change was made because of the Ebola outbreak in which thousands have died in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea -- places where Overseas Adventure doesn't go.

"To date, zero cases of Ebola have been reported in the African countries OAT visits on our adventures (Morocco, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa)," the company's website says.

Still, travelers who have reservations with the small-group travel outfitter to parts of Africa far from the Ebola outbreak may ask for a full refund or switch to another destination without any additional charges.

"Based on the feedback we've received last week and this week from our travelers on our [web] forums and through calls and e-mails, we know that we have offered travelers some peace of mind by allowing...

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