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Legoland California adds huge Death Star model to 'Star Wars' Miniland

In the Legoland universe, everything is awesome -- even the planet-destroying Death Star weapon owned by the Empire in the "Star Wars" films.

Legoland California Resort on Wednesday evening will roll out a Death Star model for its "Star Wars" Miniland, which opened in 2011. In the films, the Death Star possesses lasers so powerful it can wipe out whole planets.

(It also ranked ninth in a 2008 poll by 20th Century Fox of top 10 favorite movie weapons. The lightsaber, also from "Star Wars" was No. 1.)

Leogland's model measures 8 feet wide, stands 13 feet high and weighs more than 1,900 pounds.

It's made from 500,000 Lego bricks and captures the scene in the 1977 "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" in which Luke Skywalker bravely guides his X-wing fighter through heavy combat to destroy the deadly mega-weapon.

The display includes other weapons and fighters, such as turbolaser turrets and starships.

The highly anticipated "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" is scheduled to open Dec....

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Sample wines from California to Italy on Sunset magazine's wine cruise

Sunset magazine's inaugural wine cruise is as much about what happens on board as it is about the ports of call. The Western lifestyle magazine has selected four Mediterranean countries to visit during a weeklong sailing in August.

Food editor Margo True and wine editor Sara Schneider are scheduled to play host aboard Oceania Cruises' Riviera, which has a professional cooking center on board. It's to set sail from Barcelona, Spain, on Aug. 5 and make stops in France and Italy before ending in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Special events include a welcome party, tasting of gold medal-winning wines from the 2014 Sunset International Wine Competition, a food-and-wine pairing seminar, and wine history and culture talks from author Paul Wagner.

Schneider is to oversee some of the six optional on-board seminars: tasting top California Cabernets ($99), a "wine tour" of Sonoma County wines ($39), sparkling wines from around the world ($59), Napa Valley wines ($39), wines from the Pacific Northwest...

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Spaces available on volunteer trips to clean up Lake Powell

If you don't mind some hard work, here's a chance to secure a spot on a free houseboat trip on Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border. But act fast if you're interested,  volunteer trips are filling quickly.

The program is called Trash Tracker, and it's organized by the National Park Service and Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas.

Here's how it works: You volunteer to pick up garbage and debris that collects on the shore of the dammed lake in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and you receive free accommodations on a houseboat.

Trips take just four volunteers each and last five to seven days anywhere along the lake's 1,960-mile shoreline. Participants bring their own food, sleeping bag and personal supplies.

The park's online website shows just a few spots left on trips from May 12 to 18 and Aug. 11 to 17. Trips leave from the Wahweap Marina in Page, Ariz., and the Bullfrog Marina on the Utah side of the lake.

Volunteers must provide a doctor's note of fitness (which has to be included in...

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Mexico: Just in time for spring, Puerto Vallarta for singles

Check out one of Mexico's liveliest resort destinations on a five-night singles tour in Puerto Vallarta, known for its beaches, shops and restaurants. The excursion, arranged by the Singles Travel Co., includes a sunset cruise, candlelight dinner show and several group get-togethers. Accommodations are at Secrets Vallarta Bay Resort & Club, an all-inclusive resort that has five restaurants, three bars and three pools.

Dates: April 25-30

Price: $1,250 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $400), including a junior suite, meals, excursions, taxes and gratuities.

Info: Singles Travel Co., (888) 286-8687

Follow us on Twitter at @latimestravel

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Alaska: Sparse snow forces start of Iditarod to Fairbanks

The official start of the legendary Iditarod dog sled race on Monday is being moved to Fairbanks because of a lack of snow.

It’s only the second time in 40 runnings that the competition has been moved. The widely watched race is held each March, typically between Anchorage and Nome. This year, however, the starting line was moved more than 250 miles north.

Officials decided that a lack of snow in the Alaska Range northwest of Anchorage would have made the usual route unsafe.

The ceremonial start of the race will remain in Anchorage. It will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at 4th Avenue and D Street.

 The mushers and their dogs -- 79 teams in total -- will then be transported to Fairbanks, from which the trek to Nome will begin at 10 a.m. Monday, March 9, outside Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. It will also serve as race headquarters.

It generally takes teams nine to 15 days to cover the 1,000-mile course.

The race was inspired by the 1925 “Serum Run” during which mushers and their dogs stopped an...

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If winter lingers (and it has), here's where to find fun in Chicago

In some parts of the country March brings a hint of spring, but not in Chicago, where the forecast calls for a wintry mix of rain and snow for Tuesday and temperatures dipping by week's end to the teens. Yeah, that's fun.

But the Windy City still has plenty to offer, indoors and, yes, outdoors. If you're in Chicago these last weeks of frigid weather, here are some  affordable and enjoyable options that will help make the most out of your stay. 

Ice skating

In downtown, two popular ice rinks  provide a beautiful backdrop of Chicago’s skyline.

Millennium Park's McCormick-Tribune ice rink, 55 N. Michigan Ave., is below the Cloud Gate sculpture and attracts tourists and locals alike.

Just east of Millennium Park, in the new Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St., is a skating option that deviates from the standard ice rink:  an ice ribbon that loops for a quarter of a mile. Admission to both rinks is free; skate rentals cost $12.

If you're looking to venture south of downtown, head to Hyde...

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