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Lily Tomlin, Carol Channing to attend Palm Springs trolley launch

Lily Tomlin, Carol Channing, Suzanne Somers and other celebrities will appear Friday at the splashy debut of free trolley service -- you heard right -- in Palm Springs.

"Yes, yes, they'll be here to christen the four trolleys," Hillary Angel, public relations manager of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, said of the starry lineup. 

Oh and film producer Jerry Weintraub, and actor Gavin MacLeod, and Harold Matzner, chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival too. You can come as the city rolls out the pink carpet and cuts the ribbon for a transportation service that's getting the Oscar treatment.

The star of the evening: Palm Springs Buzz, a free trolley that will connect the north and south sides of the city.

The route runs in a loop roughly from the Riviera Resort at 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive to Smoketree Lane. It will operate every 15 minutes on Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. (Download a Trolley Route Map here.)

You can hop on and off at 30 stops...

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Spend a weekend with 'Downton's' Mr. Molesley at Georgia resort

If you want to be invited to a "Downton Abbey"-style ball, pack your gown and head to the southern coast of Georgia in January.

The luxe Cloister at Sea Island resort will host a costume ball with a few notables from the PBS TV show Jan. 29 to 31 in a weekend devoted to all things "Downton."

Actors Kevin Doyle, who plays footman Joseph Molesley, and Raquel Cassidy, who plays Lady Grantham's lady's maid Phyllis Baxter, will attend what's billed simply as a "Downton Abbey"-Inspired Weekend. (It's linked to the series only in spirit.)

Jessica Fellowes, who wrote a companion book to the popular series called "The World of Downton Abbey" and is a niece of creator Julian Fellowes, and Nick Dawes, one of "Antiques Roadshow's" appraisers, join the lineup too.

During the weekend, guests will dine with the actors and speakers, attend a Q

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Southwest to start nonstop flights between Orange County, Austin, Texas

Orange County travelers will have more options to fly to Austin, Texas, next summer. An added bonus: Fliers who book by Monday can take advantage of low introductory airfares on the new service.

Southwest Airlines plans to start daily nonstop flights between John Wayne Airport (SNA) and Austin on June 28. It's also set to start nonstop daily service to Puerto Vallarta (San Jose del Cabo Airport) on June 7.

An airline announcement this week about the expanded service said flights still are subject to governmental approval.

In the meantime, travelers who book tickets by Monday for travel to Austin in June and July will be able to save. One-way fares start at $119. One-way fares to Puerto Vallarta start at $148 (tickets must be booked by Dec. 31).

I checked Southwest's website and found a $236 round-trip airfare between Orange County and Austin leaving July 11 and returning July 15. A comparative check on shows flights (with at least one stop and therefore longer) on the same...

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Las Vegas welcomes its 40 millionth visitor — it thinks

Las Vegas welcomed its 40 millionth visitor on Sunday, making 2014 a record year.

At least, it thinks it welcomed that person. No one really knows exactly when the milestone will be reached or whether it already has.

But entertainers including Penn & Teller randomly surprised tourists with prize packages, and Teller picked out two women from Texas strolling through the Linq promenade on Sunday as the ones that put Las Vegas over the top.

“We’re supposed to know exactly who the 40 millionth is because Teller was supposed to count,” Penn Jillette said.

“He was counting from the beginning of the year and then he lost count at 39 million so now we know that someone in this area now is probably the 40 millionth.”

The women were awarded makeovers at a local salon.

Reaching 40 million visitors a year has been an elusive target for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The recession hit the leisure travel and convention segments hard. The previous peak -- 39.73 million visitors --...

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What will 95 million U.S. holiday travelers look like? You'll find out

Got holiday cheer? You and almost 95 million Americans travelers will need lots of it to sustain you through road traffic and airport security checkpoints between Dec. 23 and Jan. 4.

AAA reports that 4% more of us than last year will be traveling at least 50 miles from home to celebrate the holidays. It's the highest travel volume predicted since the Auto Club began making forecasts in 2001.

Here are some more numbers worth noting as you make travel plans:

--91% of holiday travelers nationwide will be taking a road trip.
--5.7 million travelers nationwide will be flying to their destinations.
--1.1 million drivers will require a AAA rescue for dead batteries, flat tires and getting locked out of your car.
--the cost of hotels are up 4% to 5% over last year, and car rentals have increased 4% to an average $66 a day.
--lowest gas prices in five years show an average $2.55 a gallon.

Los Angeles International Airport announced it's expecting almost 3 million passengers between Dec. 19 and Jan....

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Deal: Sample Canada's best icewines with this pass -- and save

What's the upside to harvesting grapes in freezing temperatures? Icewine, of course, and Canada's Niagara Falls area celebrates with a festival held over three weekends in January.

Those intent on sampling the chilly good stuff should buy a pass that saves 50% on the cost of individual tastings.

The deal: The Niagara Icewine Festival will mark its 20th year in 2015. During the wintry harvest, grapes aren't  picked until temperatures plummet to around 18 degrees.

Regardless of when the harvest begins, the festival goes on.

More than 35 winemakers in Wine Country Ontario open their doors for tastings and specialties such as peaches and triple-cream brie tartlet paired with a 2013 Vidal Icewine, or icewine marshmallows to be roasted over an open fire.

Buy a Discovery Pass for $40 Canadian ($34 U.S.) and you can sample wine and food at eight stops along the Wine Route. You'll take home a souvenir wine glass too. (Download a Discovery Pass Guide for a description of each winery.)


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